Monthly Archives: June 2016

30 June, Thursday – Have Faith for the Forgiveness of Others

30 June 

Dear Readers, we apologise for the late despatch of today’s readings and reflections due to oversight to publish the post on my part. We wish you a blessed Thursday and weekend ahead. 

God bless,
Debbie

First Martyrs of the Church of Rome

These holy men and women are also called the ‘Protomartyrs of Rome’. They were accused of burning Rome by Nero, who burned Rome to cover his own crimes. Some martyrs were burned as living torches at evening banquets, some crucified, and others were fed to wild animals. These martyrs died before Sts. Peter and Paul, and are called “disciples of the Apostles. . . whom the Holy Roman church sent to their Lord before the Apostles’ death”.

Source: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=3385

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Amos 7:10-17

Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent word to Jeroboam king of Israel as follows. ‘Amos is plotting against you in the heart of the House of Israel; the country can no longer tolerate what he keeps saying. For this is what he says, “Jeroboam is going to die by the sword, and Israel go into exile far from its country.”’ To Amos, Amaziah said, ‘Go away, seer;’ get back to the land of Judah; earn your bread there, do your prophesying there. We want no more prophesying in Bethel; this is the royal sanctuary, the national temple.’ ‘I was no prophet, neither did I belong to any of the brotherhoods of prophets,’ Amos replied to Amaziah ‘I was a shepherd, and looked after sycamores: but it was the Lord who took me from herding the flock, and the Lord who said, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” So listen to the word of the Lord.

‘You say:
‘“Do not prophesy against Israel,
utter no oracles against the House of Isaac.”
‘Very well, this is what the Lord says,

‘“Your wife will be forced to go on the streets,
your sons and daughters will fall by the sword,
your land be parcelled out by measuring line,
and you yourself die on unclean soil
and Israel will go into exile far distant from its own land.”’

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Matthew 9:1-8

Jesus got in the boat, crossed the water and came to his own town. Then some people appeared, bringing him a paralytic stretched out on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, ‘Courage, my child, your sins are forgiven.’ And at this some scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’ Knowing what was in their minds Jesus said, ‘Why do you have such wicked thoughts in your hearts? Now, which of these is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ – he said to the paralytic – ‘get up, and pick up your bed and go off home.’ And the man got up and went home. A feeling of awe came over the crowd when they saw this, and they praised God for giving such power to men.

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Then some people appeared, bringing him a paralytic stretched out on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Courage, my child, your sins are forgiven.”

It is easy to pray for ourselves. Truth be told, I do it all the time. Almost every prayer of mine is dotted with, or centred around, what I want. Rarely, and I say this shamefully, do I remember to include what others have asked me to pray for. It is not done deliberately but out of forgetfulness. And it does make me feel bad. Especially if the other person is going through a very tough time and is seeking the power of communal prayer to help ease their burden or pain.

In today’s passage, Matthew says that Jesus sees the faith of the paralytic’s friends and bestows healing just because his friends believed in Jesus’ healing powers. Think about it, they travelled so far, carrying their poor friend on a stretcher and probably had to push and beg their way through an enormous crowd just to get to Jesus. Sure, the one who was healed would also have believed in Jesus; but, he wouldn’t have been able to get to Him if it hadn’t been for his friends.

This is also what praying together as a community can do for others. It makes our prayers more powerful, almost magnified, yet not being magnified in the sense that it gets louder and becomes practically like shouting in God’s ears. Instead, it is the fact that more than one person is asking for a certain miracle. It reflects our call to servitude. It is us asking God to free someone else of their troubles so that they can also experience the joys that come from living as one of God’s miracles.

 (Today’s Oxygen by Rebecca Grace)

Prayer – Lord, we pray for those who have asked us to pray for them. Let us not forget that we are all part of the Body of Christ and interconnected with each other.

Thanksgiving – We give thanks for your merciful love and forgiveness. For the very fact that just having faith in You is enough to heal us from any affliction. Amen.

29 June, Wednesday – Church Building and Wedding Planning

29 June – Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, apostles

Peter (c.1–64) was a professional fisherman. He was the brother of St. Andrew the Apostle, the man who led him to Christ. Given the name Simon, he was renamed “Peter” (rock) by Jesus to indicate that Peter would be the rock-like foundation on which the Church would be built. He later became a bishop and was the first pope. He was also a miracle worker.

Paul (c.3–c.65) was a Jewish Talmudic student and a Pharisee. He was a tent-maker by trade. Saul the Jew hated and persecuted the Christians as heretical, even assisting at the stoning of St. Stephen the Martyr. On his way to Damascus, Syria, to arrest another group of faithful, he was knocked to the ground, struck blind by a heavenly light, and given the message that in persecuting him, causing his conversion to Christianity.

He was baptized, changed his name to Paul to reflect his new persona, and began travelling, preaching, and teaching. His letters to the churches he help found form a large percentage of the New Testament. He knew and worked with many of the earliest saints and Fathers of the Church. He died a martyr for the faith.

–       Patron Saint Index

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Acts 12:1-11

King Herod started persecuting certain members of the Church. He beheaded James the brother of John, and when he saw that this pleased the Jews he decided to arrest Peter as well. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread, and he put Peter in prison, assigning four squads of four soldiers each to guard him in turns. Herod meant to try Peter in public after the end of Passover week. All the time Peter was under guard the Church prayed to God for him unremittingly.

On the night before Herod was to try him, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, fastened with double chains, while guards kept watch at the main entrance to the prison. Then suddenly the angel of the Lord stood there, and the cell was filled with light. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him. ‘Get up!’ he said ‘Hurry!’ – and the chains fell from his hands. The angel then said, ‘Put on your belt and sandals.’ After he had done this, the angel next said, ‘Wrap your cloak round you and follow me.’ Peter followed him, but had no idea that what the angel did was all happening in reality; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed through two guard posts one after the other, and reached the iron gate leading to the city. This opened of its own accord; they went through it and had walked the whole length of one street when suddenly the angel left him. It was only then that Peter came to himself. ‘Now I know it is all true’ he said. ‘The Lord really did send his angel and has saved me from Herod and from all that the Jewish people were so certain would happen to me.’

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2 Timothy 4:6-8,17-18

My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.

The Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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Matthew 16:13-19

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’

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I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith

By the grace of God, my sister will be married this afternoon. It might seem frivolous to talk about wedding planning on the Solemnity of our Church’s pillars. Those of you who have planned weddings will know that the dynamics that occur during the course of wedding planning are a precursor to what happens to a couple’s marriage thereafter. Start it well, with love, compassion, honesty and understanding and that goodwill is carried into the first innings of the marriage. Start it poorly, with resentment, frustration and deceit and that ill will can fester if left untended. The choice of a life partner is possibly the single most important decision we make in life. More precious than the individual needs of both husband and wife, are the needs of the relationship that the couple pledge to protect from this day forth. For the rest of us who are family, our job is to help shepherd and support the new couple, as they begin to build their life together. We might have our differences (and since we don’t get to choose our family, there can be many disagreements) but our needs take second place to helping the new couple protect and preserve their new happiness.

Saints Peter and Paul were given the singular roles of protecting and shepherding the fledgling new Church that Christ had left them. Both men were from disparate backgrounds. St Peter was called by Christ when he was running a humble fishing business with his brother Andrew. Designated by Christ as “the rock on which I will build my Church” (Matthew 16: 18), Peter presided over critical moments in the early Church’s development. He welcomed into the fold the first non-Jewish believers (Acts 10:1-48, the baptism of Cornelius the Roman). He was a vocal proponent of freedom from the restrictions of the Jewish traditions – “God… put Himself on their side by giving the Holy Spirit to them just as He did to us. He made no distinction between us and them and cleansed their hearts through faith…”(Acts 15: 7-11) Peter helped the Jewish believers break away from the bondage of their old beliefs so they could embrace His word through the conversion of their hearts. St Paul, born a Pharisee and Roman citizen started as an overzealous persecutor of the early Church and its disciples. Touched by God’s grace on his way to Damascus, Paul’s conversion and missionary journeys drew the Gentiles to the Word. The Acts of the Apostles documents faithfully, Paul’s arduous journey from Jerusalem to Syria, Asia, Greece and finally Rome, spreading the Word through the Roman Empire – “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength to proclaim the word fully, that all the Gentiles might hear it” (2 Timothy 4:17).

Both men met for the first time only three years after Paul’s conversion in Damascus (Galatians 1:16-20). Here Paul gives an account of his travels and the authority by which he preaches the Gospel, “The Churches in Judea did not know me personally; they had only heard of me: “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith he tried to uproot”. And they praised God because of me” (Galatians 1: 22-24). For both men, even if they had their differences, their focus remained the furtherance of the Gospel and the growth of the Church. It was never about ego or face or their selfish needs. As we celebrate the Solemnity of St Paul and St Peter today, let’s remind ourselves to put aside our differences. By God’s grace, we have been called and our hearts cleansed through faith. Our differences – cultural, racial or otherwise, do not matter. What matters is the love that we feel for one another as brothers and sisters in the family of Christ.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

P.S. This reflection is pulled from our Archives of 2013. 
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Prayer: We pray for that those who work towards the furtherance of the Gospel not let their own needs cloud the bigger picture of what they are trying to achieve for God.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to all who put aside their own needs to faithfully follow God’s calling wherever it might take them.

28 June, Tuesday – Just A Father’s Love

28 June – St. Irenaeus, bishop, martyr

Irenaeus (c.130–202) was a disciple of St. Polycapr of Smyrna. He was ordained in 177. He was Bishop of Lugdunum, Gaul (modern Lyons, France). He worked and wrote against Gnosticism, basing his arguments on the works of St. John the Apostle, whose gospel is often cited by Gnostics. He dispatched evangelists, including St. Ferreolus of Besancon, and St. Ferrutio of Bescancon. He is considered the first great Western ecclesiastical writer and theologian, and he emphasized the unity of the Old and New Testaments, as well as Christ’s simultaneous human and divine nature, and the value of tradition. He is a Father of the Church, and was martyred for his faith.

-Patron Saint Index

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Amos 3:1-8,4:11-12

Listen, sons of Israel, to this oracle the Lord speaks against you, against the whole family I brought out of the land of Egypt:

You alone, of all the families of earth, have I acknowledged,
therefore it is for all your sins that I mean to punish you.
Do two men take the road together
if they have not planned to do so?
Does the lion roar in the jungle
if no prey has been found?
Does the young lion growl in his lair
if he has captured nothing?
Does the bird fall to the ground
if no trap has been set?
Does the snare spring up from the ground
if nothing has been caught?
Does the trumpet sound in the city
without the populace becoming alarmed?
Does misfortune come to a city
if the Lord has not sent it?
No more does the Lord do anything
without revealing his plans to his servants the prophets.
The lion roars: who can help feeling afraid?
The Lord speaks: who can refuse to prophesy?

I overthrew you as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,
and you were like a brand snatched from the blaze;
and yet you never came back to me.
It is the Lord who speaks.

This therefore, Israel, is what I plan to do to you,
and because I am going to do this to you,
Israel, prepare to meet your God!

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Matthew 8:23-27

Jesus got into the boat followed by his disciples. Without warning a storm broke over the lake, so violent that the waves were breaking right over the boat. But he was asleep. So they went to him and woke him saying, ‘Save us, Lord, we are going down!’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened, you men of little faith?’ And with that he stood up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and all was calm again. The men were astounded and said, ‘Whatever kind of man is this? Even the winds and the sea obey him.’

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You alone have I favored, more than all the families of the earth; therefore, I will punish you for all your crimes.

Upon reflecting on today’s Old Testament reading, I was reminded of a Facebook posting a good friend of mine had written several years ago. It was originally written to someone who was undergoing a difficult time emotionally and spiritually. The message came to my friend through the Holy Spirit and was meant to be shared with all those in need of some encouragement. Re-posted without any edits…

God the Father is so much in love with you. From your afflictions, I can sense that He has been trying to strengthen you for the times to come. Maybe you have elected to serve Him and surrender to His will; remember that God the Father only chastises His sons and daughters, and leaves the unrepentant to the final chastening. If you would find love, you must meet God the Father halfway. He trusts you more than any human will, and thus loves you more than you will ever know. You also are a channel for His love. Maybe there is someone in your life or your social circle that is waiting to feel His love through you.

There will be a time of strength when you will look back on these days and laugh, when you allowed yourself to appreciate equally both the chastisements and the graces with which He showers you daily, as tokens of His love for you. Again, He is so much in love with you, as His child of infinite potential, gradually perfected by His hand.

As a father myself, I can truly appreciate the need to provide loving discipline to my children — loving them for who they are, while correcting them when they are wrong. This only gets harder as children grow older and are exposed to the broader society, ultimately needing to determine for themselves what their own belief systems entails. My wife and I have definitely had many difficult moments trying to balance between the loving and patient approach with the righteous and chastising approach. Yet, we are reminded that God had called us to be His representatives in the home. He created the family as one of the most important teaching venues for spiritual learning.

Friends, we are to be reminded that God chose each of us individually to be a part of His family. In all that we face and are challenged with, trust that the Lord will provide and lovingly chastise us where needed.

(Today’s Oxygen by Steven Su)

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we ask that You grant us wisdom to be good and faithful servant leaders to the children whom You have ve generously placed in our care.

Thanksgiving – Lord, we give thanks to You for the many times we witness Your works through friends, family and others. We thank you for always being at work and inviting us to participate so that we may know You better.

27 June, Monday – The Cost-Benefit of Following Him

27 June – Memorial for St. Cyril of Alexandria, bishop and Doctor of the Church

Cyril (376–444) was the nephew of Theophilus the Patriarch. He was a monk and a priest who became Bishop of Alexandria, Egypt in 412, and later the Patriarch of Alexandria. He suppressed the Novatians. He worked at the Council of Ephesus. He fought against Nestorius who taught the heresy that there were two persons in Christ.

He was a catechetical writer, and wrote a book opposing Julian the Apostate. He is a Greek Father of the Church, and is a Doctor of the Church.

-Patron Saint Index

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Amos 2:6-10,13-16

The Lord says this:
For the three crimes, the four crimes, of Israel
I have made my decree and will not relent:
because they have sold the virtuous man for silver
and the poor man for a pair of sandals,
because they trample on the heads of ordinary people
and push the poor out of their path,
because father and son have both resorted to the same girl,
profaning my holy name,
because they stretch themselves out by the side of every altar
on clothes acquired as pledges,
and drink the wine of the people they have fined
in the house of their god…
Yet it was I who overthrew the Amorites when they attacked,
men tall as cedars and strong as oaks,
I who destroyed them,
both fruit above ground
and root below.
It was I who brought you out of the land of Egypt
and for forty years led you through the wilderness
to take possession of the Amorite’s country.
See then how I am going to crush you into the ground
as the threshing-sledge crushes when clogged by straw;
flight will not save even the swift,
the strong man will find his strength useless,
the mighty man will be powerless to save himself.
The bowman will not stand his ground,
the fast runner will not escape,
the horseman will not save himself,
the bravest warriors will run away naked that day.
It is the Lord who speaks.

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Matthew 8:18-22

When Jesus saw the great crowds all about him he gave orders to leave for the other side. One of the scribes then came up and said to him, ‘Master, I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’

Another man, one of his disciples, said to him, ‘Sir, let me go and bury my father first.’ But Jesus replied, ‘Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their dead.’

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Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.

In the corporate world, the concept of ‘cost-benefit analysis’ is a standard examination to evaluate whether to undertake a project or not. The principle entails figuring out what are the positives and negatives of a particular decision, or course of action. Should the benefits outweigh the costs – then we’re given the go-ahead to advance with the project.

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus, in several instances, warns prospective disciples of the cost of following Him. Following Him means giving up on our old ways and prioritizing Him over others (especially ourselves). It could mean dropping everything and going places where we might not want to go. It could mean losing relationships, giving up our material possessions or even our lives.

The difficulty with the ‘cost-benefit analysis’ here is that our rewards for following Christ may seem like a lifetime away and can be unquantifiable (in worldly terms). Yet, the costs can be obvious and immediate. Those who have not done their proper due diligence will end up like the seeds that are planted on the rocky soil. These seeds can never grow into healthy plants without the spiritual nourishment they acquire through their deep roots.

As Jesus explains, there will be trials and rewards when we follow Him. “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – along with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)

Brothers and sisters, Jesus promises multiples in return when we take up our cross and surrender our lives to Him. Let us factor that into our analysis.

(Today’s Oxygen by Steven Su)

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we pray for diligence to study Your Word.  May we have a constant passion to read the Bible and be reminded of the benefits, as well as the costs, of following You.

Thanksgiving – Lord, we give thanks to You presenting us situations You know we can handle.  May we call on the name of Jesus to help us through each challenge and be witness to Your glory.

26 June, Sunday – Having No Regrets

26 June 

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1 Kings 19:16,19-21

The Lord said to Elijah, ‘Go, you are to anoint Elisha son of Shaphat, of Abel Meholah, as prophet to succeed you.’

Leaving there, Elijah came on Elisha son of Shaphat as he was ploughing behind twelve yoke of oxen, he himself being with the twelfth. Elijah passed near to him and threw his cloak over him. Elisha left his oxen and ran after Elijah. ‘Let me kiss my father and mother, then I will follow you’ he said. Elijah answered, ‘Go, go back; for have I done anything to you?’ Elisha turned away, took the pair of oxen and slaughtered them. He used the plough for cooking the oxen, then gave to his men, who ate. He then rose, and followed Elijah and became his servant.

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Galatians 5:1,13-18

When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. My brothers, you were called, as you know, to liberty; but be careful, or this liberty will provide an opening for self-indulgence. Serve one another, rather, in works of love, since the whole of the Law is summarised in a single command: Love your neighbour as yourself. If you go snapping at each other and tearing each other to pieces, you had better watch or you will destroy the whole community.

Let me put it like this: if you are guided by the Spirit you will be in no danger of yielding to self-indulgence, since self-indulgence is the opposite of the Spirit, the Spirit is totally against such a thing, and it is precisely because the two are so opposed that you do not always carry out your good intentions. If you are led by the Spirit, no law can touch you.

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Luke 9:51-62

As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem and sent messengers ahead of him. These set out, and they went into a Samaritan village to make preparations for him, but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem. Seeing this, the disciples James and John said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?’ But he turned and rebuked them, and they went off to another village.

As they travelled along they met a man on the road who said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus answered, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’

Another to whom he said, ‘Follow me’, replied, ‘Let me go and bury my father first.’ But he answered, ‘Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.’

Another said, ‘I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say goodbye to my people at home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’

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No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God

Regret can be quite a debilitating emotion. Most people suffer from bouts of regret from time to time.  Whether feeling like some decision or action could have been taken differently, which would have made a change to a particular situation. Or whether things could have been handled differently or said more gently. These ‘what-if’ scenarios play over and over in our minds… potentially to the point that it questions our sense of purpose, ability or sincerity. As a result, we can become paralyzed in these thoughts and actions.

Yet, regret can also give us a great opportunity for self-reflection and improvement. We just need to realize that when we’re looking back, we are considering the past with all the added benefits of experiences of the present. So, rather than beating ourselves up today for something we might have done yesterday, we should use these experiences to figure out what we can do better at tomorrow.

God wants us to live a life without regret, shame and guilt. That is why He gave us the Bible that contains His life restoring Word. That is why He promised us eternal salvation. That is why He sent his one and only son Jesus to die for our sins. As Paul (who wouldn’t have been able to do Christ’s works if he remained paralyzed by guilt for his prior persecution of the early Christians) writes – “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” (Phil 3:13-15)

(Today’s Oxygen by Steven Su)

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we ask that You examine our hearts and help us to get rid of any guilt or doubts that might linger. Help us to look back at our decision to follow You as the most important decision in our lives.

Thanksgiving – Lord, we give thanks to You for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That only through Him, can we look forward to Your promise of eternal salvation.

25 June, Saturday – Heal Us, O Jesus

25 June

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Lamentations 2:2,10-14,18-19

Beth
The Lord has pitilessly destroyed
all the homes of Jacob;
in his displeasure he has shattered
the strongholds of the daughter of Judah;
he has thrown to the ground,
he has left accursed the kingdom and its rulers.

Yod
Mutely they sit on the ground,
the elders of the daughter of Zion;
they have put dust on their heads,
and wrapped themselves in sackcloth.
The virgins of Jerusalem hang their heads
down to the ground.

Kaph
My eyes wasted away with weeping,
my entrails shuddered,
my liver spilled on the ground
at the ruin of the daughters of my people,
as children, mere infants, fainted
in the squares of the Citadel.

Lamed
They kept saying to their mothers,
‘Where is the bread?’
as they fainted like wounded men
in the squares of the City,
as they poured out their souls
on their mothers’ breasts.

Mem
How can I describe you, to what compare you,
daughter of Jerusalem?
Who can rescue and comfort you,
virgin daughter of Zion?
For huge as the sea is your affliction;
who can possibly cure you?

Nun
The visions your prophets had on your behalf
were delusive, tinsel things,
they never pointed out your sin,
to ward off your exile.
The visions they proffered you were false,
fallacious, misleading.

Sade
Cry aloud, then, to the Lord,
groan, daughter of Zion;
let your tears flow like a torrent,
day and night;
give yourself no relief,
grant your eyes no rest.

Qoph
Up, cry out in the night-time,
in the early hours of darkness;
pour your heart out like water
before the Lord.
Stretch out your hands to him
for the lives of your children
who faint with hunger at the entrance to every street.

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Matthew 8:5-17

When Jesus went into Capernaum a centurion came up and pleaded with him. ‘Sir,’ he said ‘my servant is lying at home paralysed, and in great pain.’ ‘I will come myself and cure him’ said Jesus. The centurion replied, ‘Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; just give the word and my servant will be cured. For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.’ When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those following him, ‘I tell you solemnly, nowhere in Israel have I found faith like this. And I tell you that many will come from east and west to take their places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven; but the subjects of the kingdom will be turned out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.’ And to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go back, then; you have believed, so let this be done for you.’ And the servant was cured at that moment.

And going into Peter’s house Jesus found Peter’s mother-in-law in bed with fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

That evening they brought him many who were possessed by devils. He cast out the spirits with a word and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah:

He took our sicknesses away and carried our diseases for us.

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“He took our sicknesses away and carried our diseases for us”

A very good friend of mine was talking with me about his illness; he had been diagnosed with terminal illness. One of the things we had discussed was what he should be asking of God: His Will or His Healing?

For me, I have always prefixed my healing petitions, or any petition for that matter, with the words, “Father, if it is Your Will, please…”, and then attach my petition. In the midst of it all, however, we tend to forget that our Lord Jesus is also known as the Great Physician.

Today’s gospel reminds us that we should always turn to Him to ask for healing. The words that strike me in the gospel today is “You have believed, so let this be done for you”. When we ask for healing, we tend to do so in our prayers but many of us tend to lack the belief and conviction.

There was a story of a great famine and the decision was to gather all the people to pray to God for rain.  The villagers all gathered and were prepared to begin their prayers.  Just as they were about to begin their prayers, they saw a little girl scurrying to the front. Breathless, the little girl opened her umbrella.  Annoyed at the delay in the proceedings, the village head chided the little girl, “Why are you bringing your umbrella little girl? There is no need for an umbrella now and you have caused everyone to be late”.

The little girl looked at the Village Head in his eyes and said gently: “I believe in God, so I have brought my umbrella for when the rain begins to fall”.

Do we have faith like the centurion in today’s gospel and the little girl in the story? Do we bring our umbrellas along when we ask for rain?

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Father, please give us, Your children, faith like little children. Help us to have faith even when things seem insurmountable. Let us have the strong belief in You my Lord.

Thanksgiving – Jesus Lord, You are our Great Physician. Thank You for bearing our pain and for healing in our physical and spiritual illness.  Thank You for giving us the gift of faith.

24 June, Friday – True Humility

24 June – The Birthday of St John the Baptist

Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

John the Baptist (d.30) was the cousin of Jesus Christ. His father, Zachary, was a priest of the order of Abia whose job in the Temple was to burn incense; and of Elizabeth, a descendant of Aaron. As Zachary was ministering in the Temple, an angel brought him news that Elizabeth would bear a child filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment of his birth. Zachary doubted and was struck dumb until John’s birth.

John began his ministry as prophet around age 27, wearing a leather belt and a tunic of camel hair, living off locusts and wild honey, and preaching a message of repentance to the people of Jerusalem. He converted many, and prepared the way for the coming of Jesus. After baptizing Christ, he told his disciples to follow Jesus.

Imprisoned by King Herod, John the Baptist died a victim of the vengeance of a jealous woman; he was beheaded, and his head brought to her on a platter. St. Jerome says Herodias kept the head for a long time after, occasionally stabbing the tongue with her dagger because of what John had said in life.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 49:1-6

Islands, listen to me,
pay attention, remotest peoples.
The Lord called me before I was born,
from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name.

He made my mouth a sharp sword,
and hid me in the shadow of his hand.
He made me into a sharpened arrow,
and concealed me in his quiver.

He said to me, ‘You are my servant (Israel)
in whom I shall be glorified’;
while I was thinking, ‘I have toiled in vain,
I have exhausted myself for nothing’;

and all the while my cause was with the Lord,
my reward with my God.
I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord,
my God was my strength.

And now the Lord has spoken,
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
to gather Israel to him:

‘It is not enough for you to be my servant,
to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel;
I will make you the light of the nations
so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’

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Acts 13:22-26

Paul said: ‘God deposed Saul and made David their king, of whom he approved in these words, “I have selected David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will carry out my whole purpose.” To keep his promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour, whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel. Before John ended his career he said, “I am not the one you imagine me to be; that one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo his sandal.”

‘My brothers, sons of Abraham’s race, and all you who fear God, this message of salvation is meant for you.’

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Luke 1:57-66,80

The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son; and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her joy.

Now on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother spoke up. ‘No,’ she said ‘he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘But no one in your family has that name’, and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called. The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they were all astonished. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea. All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.

Meanwhile the child grew up and his spirit matured. And he lived out in the wilderness until the day he appeared openly to Israel.

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“You shall go ahead of the Lord to prepare His ways before him”

I have mentioned previously that I grew up in a household that was less than well-to-do and we were always running short of money. It was always my goal to be totally financially successful. I wanted to be rich and be recognized as someone clever and powerful. In the corporate world, I would work hard to be seen as the best, so that I could attain the highest corporate title or job that I could obtain.

John the Baptist, on the other hand, lived his life knowing that he would spend his time preparing to herald the arrival of Jesus’ ministry. It was John, in fact, who recognized the divinity of our Lord Jesus by leaping with JOY in his mother, Elizabeth’s, womb.

I find John to be one the best models to be a great Christian. He prepared for the arrival of Christ in a couple of ways.  Firstly, John prepared the way for Jesus by preaching about the repentance of sin. He spoke out against sin without fear. Secondly, John also baptized the masses in addition to getting them to repent of their sins. In fact, it was John who baptized Jesus. In true humility, John originally declined to baptize our Lord, saying that he himself, should be baptized by Jesus instead.

Like John, we should be unafraid when proclaiming about our Lord. We need to be able to share our faith and to also step up to correct others when we seeing wrongdoings.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Father, help us to be like St John the Baptist, Your faithful servant. May we be as brave and courageous in proclaiming about our faith in You. Help us to also be as joyful when we do so.

Thanksgiving – Thank you for giving us a strong role model in St John. Thank you for giving us joy in our relationship with You and Your Son, Jesus.

23 June, Thursday – Heaven Is Not A Club Membership

23 June

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2 Kings 24:8-17

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for three months in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Nehushta, daughter of Elnathan, from Jerusalem. He did what is displeasing to the Lord, just as his father had done.

At that time the troops of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched on Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon himself came to attack the city while his troops were besieging it. Then Jehoiachin king of Judah surrendered to the king of Babylon, he, his mother, his officers, his nobles and his eunuchs, and the king of Babylon took them prisoner. This was in the eighth year of King Nebuchadnezzar.

The latter carried off all the treasures of the Temple of the Lord and the treasures of the royal palace, and broke up all the golden furnishings that Solomon king of Israel had made for the sanctuary of the Lord, as the Lord had foretold. He carried off all Jerusalem into exile, all the nobles and all the notables, ten thousand of these were exiled, with all the blacksmiths and metalworkers; only the poorest people in the country were left behind. He deported Jehoiachin to Babylon, as also the king’s mother, his eunuchs and the nobility of the country; he made them all leave Jerusalem for exile in Babylon. All the men of distinction, seven thousand of them, the blacksmiths and metalworkers, one thousand of them, all of them men capable of bearing arms, were led into exile in Babylon by the king of Babylon.

The king of Babylon made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in succession to him, and changed his name to Zedekiah.

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Matthew 7:21-29

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘It is not those who say to me, “Lord, Lord,” who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven. When the day comes many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out demons in your name, work many miracles in your name?” Then I shall tell them to their faces: I have never known you; away from me, you evil men!

‘Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against that house, and it did not fall: it was founded on rock. But everyone who listens to these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and struck that house, and it fell; and what a fall it had!’

Jesus had now finished what he wanted to say, and his teaching made a deep impression on the people because he taught them with authority, and not like their own scribes.

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“It is not those who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ who will enter the kingdom of heaven”

In the gospel yesterday, our Lord talked about bearing good fruits. Today, he teaches that not all who call Him “Lord, Lord” will get to enter heaven.  When I first heard this teaching, I was concerned; I wondered if I would qualify for entry into Heaven when it was finally my time.  At an early stage in my life, I believed that because I believed in Jesus, I was assured of my place in heaven. In the course of studying the bible, I came across James 2:14-16, talking about faith and works.

I have come to realize that our “status” as a Christian is not a club membership and does not guarantee direct admission to heaven. We do have to do good works as part of our faith, but not as payment of an “entrance fee”! Our works is not a “pay-as-you-go” system into heaven. No… our entrance into heaven is given to us by God based purely on grace. No other reason.

As we continue to grow as children of God, let us remember that we have to do good, even when seemingly unwarranted. We simply must because our faith demands it.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Father, help us to remember to do our best in our efforts as Christian men and women. Help us remember that whatever we do, we do it purely for You and not for our own needs.

Thanksgiving – Thank You for Your grace for being always there for us; for showing us what it means to be a good Christian and teaching us that our place in heaven is not meant to be earned.

22 June, Wednesday – Bearing Good Fruit

22 June  – Memorial for St. Paulinus of Nola, bishop; Memorial for St. John Fisher, Bishop & St. Thomas More, martyrs

Paulinus (c.354–431) was a friend of St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Nicetas of Remesiana, and was mentioned for his holiness by at least six of his contemporary saints.

He was a distinguished lawyer who held several public offices in the Empire, then retired from public ministry with his wife, Therasia, first to Bordeaux, where they were baptised, and then to Therasia’s estate in Spain. After the death of their only son at the age of only a few weeks, the couple decided to spend the rest of their lives devoted to God. They gave away most of their estates and dedicated themselves to increasing their holiness.

Paulinus became a priest and with Therasia, moved to Nola and gave away the rest of their property. They dedicated themselves to helping the poor. Paulinus was chosen bishop of Nola by popular demand. He governed the diocese for more than 21 years while living in his own home as a monk and continuing to aid the poor. His writings contain one of the earliest examples of a Christian wedding song.

– Patron Saint Index

John Fisher (1469–1535) studied theology at Cambridge University, receiving degrees in 1487 and 1491. He was parish priest in Northallerton, England from 1491–1494. He gained a reputation for his teaching abilities. He was proctor of Cambridge University. He was confessor to Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, in 1497. He was ordained Bishop of Rochester, England in 1504; he worked to raise the standard of preaching in his see. He became chancellor of Cambridge. He was tutor of the young King Henry VIII. He was an excellent speaker and writer.

When in 1527 he was asked to study the problem of Henry’s marriage, he became the target of Henry’s wrath by defending the validity of the marriage and rejecting Henry’s claim to be head of the Church in England. He was imprisoned in 1534 for his opposition, and he spent 14 months in prison without trial. While in prison, he was created cardinal in 1535 by Pope Paul III. He was martyred for his faith.

– Patron Saint Index

Thomas More (1478–1535) studied at London and Oxford, England. He was a page for the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was a lawyer. Twice married, and a widower, he was the father of one son and three daughters, and a devoted family man. He was a writer, most famously of the novel which coined the word ‘utopia’. It was translated with the works of Lucian.

He was known during his own day for his scholarship and the depth of his knowledge. He was a friend to King Henry VIII, and Lord Chancellor of England from 1529–1532, a position of political power second only to the king.

He fought any form of heresy, especially the incursion of Protestantism into England. He opposed the king on the matter of royal divorce, and refused to swear the Oath of Supremacy which declared the king the head of the Church in England. He resigned the Chancellorship, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was martyred for his refusal to bend his religious beliefs to the king’s political needs.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Kings 22:8-13,23:1-3

The high priest Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the Temple of the Lord.’’’ And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, who read it. Shaphan the secretary went to the king and reported to him as follows, ‘Your servants’ he said ‘have melted down the silver which was in the Temple and have handed it over to the masters of works attached to the Temple of the Lord.’ Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book’; and Shaphan read it aloud in the king’s presence.

On hearing the contents of the Book of the Law, the king tore his garments, and gave the following order to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s minister: ‘Go and consult the Lord, on behalf of me and the people, about the contents of this book that has been found. Great indeed must be the anger of the Lord blazing out against us because our ancestors did not obey what this book says by practising everything written in it.’

The king then had all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem summoned to him, and the king went up to the Temple of the Lord with all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, priests, prophets and all the people, of high or low degree. In their hearing he read out everything that was said in the book of the covenant found in the Temple of the Lord. The king stood beside the pillar, and in the presence of the Lord he made a covenant to follow the Lord and keep his commandments and decrees and laws with all his heart and soul, in order to enforce the terms of the covenant as written in that book. All the people gave their allegiance to the covenant.

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Matthew 7:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Beware of false prophets who come to you disguised as sheep but underneath are ravenous wolves. You will be able to tell them by their fruits. Can people pick grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, a sound tree produces good fruit but a rotten tree bad fruit. A sound tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor a rotten tree bear good fruit. Any tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown on the fire. I repeat, you will be able to tell them by their fruits.’

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“Open my eyes, O Lord”

In my life, I have been called brash, emotional, funny and wear my heart firmly on my sleeve. My emotions show up in all facets of my life; my work, family life and most of all, when I’m driving.

Many times, I am overcome with brief flashes of anger. When these occasions strike me, I tended to lash out with unkind words. I remember the times when my wife gently telling me that the children were in the car and were watching, and learning from how I was behaving.

This was one of the realizations that I had when I attended the Conversion Experience Retreat early this year. I realized that because I was feeling angry and at times, felt worried and anxious, and these feelings were manifesting themselves negatively.

Jesus reminds us today that a sound tree must produce good fruit. Thus, how we think, act and behave, our fruits, reflects how we attuned we are to God and how well we are walking in His path. These provide a very important feedback mechanism and personally, a daily examination of our conscience helps us evaluate where we are and where we need to be.

In our daily lives as Christians, let us continue to turn to God for the strength and wisdom to continue learning how to develop “good fruit”, so that we will have the temperance and fortitude as we go through the growth process.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Father, may we continue to be open to Your corrections as we learn to become good fruit. Help us Lord to recognize instances when we may not be the best that we can be.

Thanksgiving – Thank You Father for blessing us with a conscience and giving us loving people in our lives who will correct us in our efforts to become better children of Yours.

21 June, Tuesday – Choose the Hard Road

21 June – Memorial for St. Aloysius Gonzaga, religious

St. Aloysius (1568-1591) was an Italian noble who grew up in a castle as the son of a compulsive gambler. He suffered from kidney disease, but considered it a blessing as it left him bed-ridden with time for prayer. While still a boy himself, he taught catechism to poor boys. At age 18 he signed away his legal claim to his family’s lands and title to his brother, and became a Jesuit novice. He tended to plague victims in Rome in the outbreak of 1591, and died of the plague himself with the desire to see God.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Kings 19:9-11,14-21,31-36

Sennacherib, King of the Assyrians, sent messengers to Hezekiah saying, ‘Tell this to Hezekiah king of Judah, “Do not let your God on whom you are relying deceive you, when he says: Jerusalem shall not fall into the power of the king of Assyria. You have learnt by now what the kings of Assyria have done to every country, putting them all under the ban. Are you likely to be spared?’

Hezekiah took the letter from the hands of the messenger and read it; he then went up to the Temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. Hezekiah said this prayer in the presence of the Lord, ‘O Lord of Hosts, God of Israel, enthroned on the cherubs, you alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth, you have made heaven and earth.

‘Give ear, Lord, and listen.
Open your eyes, Lord, and see.
Hear the words of Sennacherib
who has sent to insult the living God.

‘It is true, O Lord, that the kings of Assyria have exterminated all the nations, they have thrown their gods on the fire, for these were not gods but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, and hence they have destroyed them. But now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, I pray you, and let all the kingdoms of the earth know that you alone are God, the Lord.’

Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah. ‘The Lord, the God of Israel,’ he said, ‘says this, “I have heard the prayer you have addressed to me about Sennacherib king of Assyria.” Here is the oracle that the Lord has pronounced against him:

‘“She despises you, she scorns you,
the virgin, daughter of Zion;
she tosses her head behind you,
the daughter of Jerusalem.”
‘This, then, is what the Lord says about the king of Assyria:
‘“He will not enter this city,
he will let fly no arrow against it,
confront it with no shield,
throw up no earthwork against it.
By the road that he came on he will return;
he shall not enter this city. It is the Lord who speaks.
I will protect this city and save it
for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”’

That same night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. Sennacherib struck camp and left; he returned home and stayed in Nineveh.

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Matthew 7:6,12-14

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls in front of pigs, or they may trample them and then turn on you and tear you to pieces.
‘So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.
‘Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’

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“The road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious”

In the previous day’s gospel, Jesus gives us a framework for fraternal correction. While we do our best in reconciling with our brother or sister, today’s gospel tells us that what is holy must not be cast before dogs and that one should not cast pearls before swine.

Jesus also talks about the taking the narrow gate which leads to heaven, versus the wider gate which leads to perdition, or a state of eternal damnation.

In our daily lives, it is always easier to take the path of least resistance. Such a path is easier as one would not be required to stand up for one’s values. The moral question of whether one is right (or wrong) does not come into play… for choosing the wide gate means choosing something that is easy and politically expedient.

I have found myself in previous work environments where colleagues (and myself) had found ourselves agreeing with the bosses even though we felt the decisions were either wrong or morally questionable. Rather than defending what is right, we find that it is easier simply to agree. This happens also in our social relationships. Situations where we need to take the narrow gate may tend to be compromised because it is simply more difficult and challenging.

Let us pray to our God for moral courage and strength to do the right thing.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Father, let us to be strong to make the right choice; to walk the path that is more difficult and to enter heaven through the narrow gate. Help us to understand what is required and to act in Your Will.

Thanksgiving – Thank You Father for showing us the path to Your eternal kingdom. Thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit, who speaks to us in our spirit, guiding our choices and conscience along the way.