Monthly Archives: July 2017

21 July, Friday – Going Beyond the Superficial

Jul 21 – Memorial for St. Lawrence of Brindisi, priest, religious, doctor

St. Lawrence (1559-1619) joined the Capuchin Friars in 1575. He studied theology, the Bible, French, German, Greek, Spanish, Syriac, and Hebrew. He was an effective and forceful preacher in any of his several languages, founded convents and wrote catechisms.

As the chaplain of the army of the Holy Roman Empire in 1601, he led the army into battle against the Turks carrying only a crucifix and defeated them. Later, he carried out important and successful diplomatic peace missions. He was the spiritual director of the Bavarian army. St Lawrence was proclaimed Apostolic Doctor of the Church by Pope John XXIII in 1959.

– Patron Saint Index

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Exodus 11:10-12:14

Moses and Aaron worked many wonders in the presence of Pharaoh. But the Lord made Pharaoh’s heart stubborn, and he did not let the sons of Israel leave his country.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:

‘This month is to be the first of all the others for you, the first month of your year. Speak to the whole community of Israel and say, “On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock, one for each family: one animal for each household. If the household is too small to eat the animal, a man must join with his neighbour, the nearest to his house, as the number of persons requires. You must take into account what each can eat in deciding the number for the animal. It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may take it from either sheep or goats. You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel shall slaughter it between the two evenings. Some of the blood must then be taken and put on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where it is eaten. That night, the flesh is to be eaten, roasted over the fire; it must be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled, but roasted over the fire, head, feet and entrails. You must not leave any over till the morning: whatever is left till morning you are to burn. You shall eat it like this: with a girdle round your waist, sandals on your feet, a staff in your hand. You shall eat it hastily: it is a passover in honour of the Lord. That night, I will go through the land of Egypt and strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, man and beast alike, and I shall deal out punishment to all the gods of Egypt, I am the Lord! The blood shall serve to mark the houses that you live in. When I see the blood I will pass over you and you shall escape the destroying plague when I strike the land of Egypt. This day is to be a day of remembrance for you, and you must celebrate it as a feast in the Lord’s honour. For all generations you are to declare it a day of festival, for ever.”

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Matthew 12:1-8

Jesus took a walk one sabbath day through the cornfields. His disciples were hungry and began to pick ears of corn and eat them. The Pharisees noticed it and said to him, ‘Look, your disciples are doing something that is forbidden on the sabbath.’ But he said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he and his followers were hungry – how he went into the house of God and how they ate the loaves of offering which neither he nor his followers were allowed to eat, but which were for the priests alone? Or again, have you not read in the Law that on the sabbath day the Temple priests break the sabbath without being blamed for it? Now here, I tell you, is something greater than the Temple. And if you had understood the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless. For the Son of Man is master of the sabbath.’

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“What I want is mercy, not sacrifice.”

‘Substance over form’ was a mantra I first learned about in my basic law course in the polytechnic. Interestingly, this saying came up repeatedly over the 30 odd years of my working life, beginning in audit, investment research and finally, in banking.

In my first job as an auditor, I focused on both financial and internal audits. Many times, I would find transactions in companies structured one way or another to meet the requirements of some law or to avoid some legal constraints. In essence, however, these transactions still achieved the same goals although appearing to be different on the surface.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus said: “What I want is mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless.” Too often we look at following the ‘rules’, without thinking about the implications or equity if we were to follow this rules.

As Christians, we must always prioritise people above the rules; to be merciful as asked by our Lord. Rather than purely administering the regulations, we need to look at the issues through lenses of love.

I recently read about how a retail store worker in the United States was fired because he had worked with the police to prevent a kidnapping. The reason? All because in doing so, he had gone against company policy. It may sound incredible, but true!

We need to always look at people and situations through lenses of love and mercy, for it is only through this that we can be true Christians and followers of God’s Word.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father, thank You for showing us what it means to be a true Christian. Help us to go beyond what is on the surface and go into the ‘substance’ and give us the courage to do so.

Thanksgiving Lord Jesus, thank You for giving us a compass in our lives. We thank You also for providing a faith community to support us to do so.

20 July, Thursday – Daily Unburdening to God

Jul 20 – Memorial for St. Apollinaris, Bishop & Martyr

According to tradition, Apollinaris was a native of Antioch in the Roman Province of Syria. He was made the first Bishop of Ravenna by St. Peter, during the persecutions of Emperor Vespasian (or Nero, depending on the source).

On his way out of the city, he was identified and arrested as being the leader, tortured and martyred by being run through with a sword. Centuries after his death, he appeared in a vision to St. Romuald. He was a noted miracle worker, and is considered especially effective against gout and epilepsy.

– Wikipedia

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Exodus 3:13-20

Moses, hearing the voice of God coming from the middle of the bush, said to him, ‘I am to go, then, to the sons of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you.” But if they ask me what his name is, what am I to tell them?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I Am who I Am. This’ he added ‘is what you must say to the sons of Israel: “I Am has sent me to you.”’ And God also said to Moses, ‘You are to say to the sons of Israel: “The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.” This is my name for all time; by this name I shall be invoked for all generations to come.

‘Go and gather the elders of Israel together and tell them, “The Lord, the God of your fathers, has appeared to me, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; and he has said to me: I have visited you and seen all that the Egyptians are doing to you. And so I have resolved to bring you up out of Egypt where you are oppressed, into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, to a land where milk and honey flow.” They will listen to your words, and with the elders of Israel you are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, “The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has come to meet us. Give us leave, then, to make a three days’ journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifice to the Lord our God.” For myself, knowing that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless he is forced by a mighty hand, I shall show my power and strike Egypt with all the wonders I am going to work there. After this he will let you go.’

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Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus exclaimed, ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

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“My yoke is easy and my burden light”

This year, my wife and I celebrate 20 years of marriage and 23 years of togetherness. She is the person who best understands and loves me. 23 years IS a long time!

We were speaking recently and I was distracted, thinking about the work tasks that I had to do. She took one look at me and commented that I had a tendency to “go inside”. I knew exactly what she meant… I do indeed have a tendency to run things over and over in my head. Unknowingly, I tend to carry these thoughts in my head. If I catch myself doing that (and I seldom do), I would lift my concerns up to the Lord.

Similarly, our Lord exhorts us to cast our burdens on Him. Very often though, I find it most challenging, especially if I have not been closely connected to God. We see this in the first reading of today, where Moses has a close relationship with God. He listens to God, who guides Moses through the exact things that he has to do and say. Yes, the prerequisite for casting our cares onto our Lord is that we have an ongoing relationship with Him. Otherwise, such ‘surrender’ would be rendered meaningless.

This is where the daily practices come into play — a daily quiet time, prayer, meditation, the daily examen and so forth. All these create a conversation between us and our Lord, and helps us to deepen our relationship with Him. I find these daily practices tough, but have also found that when I am able to perservere, it becomes easier for me to ‘place my burdens’ on Him.

Let us all continue on this journey together and endeavour to be in constant touch with God!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Lord Jesus, give us strength to walk with You every day. Help us to be closer with You as we travel on our journey of life.

Thanksgiving We thank You Jesus, for sharing our lives and our burdens with us. We are grateful for Your love!

19 July, Wednesday – Learning to be God’s children

19 July

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Exodus 3:1-6, 9-12

Moses was looking after the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, priest of Midian. He led his flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in the shape of a flame of fire, coming from the middle of a bush. Moses looked; there was the bush blazing but it was not being burnt up. ‘I must go and look at this strange sight,’ Moses said, ‘and see why the bush is not burnt.’

Now the Lord saw him go forward to look, and God called to him from the middle of the bush. ‘Moses, Moses!’ he said. ‘Here I am,’ Moses answered. ‘Come no nearer,’ he said. ‘Take off your shoes, for the place on which you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your fathers,’ he said, ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ At this Moses covered his face, afraid to look at God.

And the Lord said, ‘The cry of the sons of Israel has come to me, and I have witnessed the way in which the Egyptians oppress them, so come, I send you to Pharaoh to bring the sons of Israel, my people, out of Egypt.’

Moses said to God, ‘Who am I to go to Pharaoh and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?’ ‘I shall be with you,’ was the answer ‘and this is the sign by which you shall know that it is I who have sent you… After you have led the people out of Egypt, you are to offer worship to God on this mountain.’

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Matthew 11:25-27

Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

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“You shall know that it is I who have sent you…”

I have been blessed to have been able to teach and mentor children at home catechism for the last seven years. I am also blessed with two beautiful children; one a teen, and the other a pre-teen.

One of the reasons I enjoy teaching cathecism is to see the confidence of the children increase over time as they grow into the knowledge of their competence. While they may initially possess feelings of inadequacy, they are open to listening to advice and guidance.

In the first reading today, God led Moses to liberate the Israelites from the control of the Egyptians. This was despite Moses’ background, having been brought up in the Egyptian royal family, then subsequently disgraced and exiled from the land of Egypt. Under such circumstances, we certainly understand why he would feel as such.

Moses was about forty years old when exiled, and spent forty years in the desert being a shepherd, which means that he was about eighty years of age when God first spoke to him. At eighty, far removed from his childhood years, Moses allowed himself to be led by God.

In my own experience, growing up in an environment without my parents, I have not had the benefit of a mentor-mentee relationship in my growing years. Instead, I have had to depend on myself, being an only child. Much of what I had done as a child, I have had to figure out on my own. However, as I grew into adulthood, I began to value my own opinions more than the opinions of those around me. This approach led me to many a wrong decision.

Like Moses, and others like Abraham, we need to learn to set aside our ‘adult-ness’ and be like children again. It is only when we surrender our will that our God can guide us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father, teach us to be able to surrender ourselves to Your will. Help us, Father God, to walk in Your path.

Thanksgiving Thank You for Your presence in our lives, and thank You for sending us signposts to guide us.

18 July, Tuesday – Focussing our eyes on God

18 July

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Exodus 2:1-15

There was a man of the tribe of Levi who had taken a woman of Levi as his wife. She conceived and gave birth to a son and, seeing what a fine child he was, she kept him hidden for three months. When she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him; coating it with bitumen and pitch, she put the child inside and laid it among the reeds at the river’s edge. His sister stood some distance away to see what would happen to him.

Now Pharaoh’s daughter went down to bathe in the river, and the girls attending her were walking along by the riverside. Among the reeds she noticed the basket, and she sent her maid to fetch it. She opened it and looked, and saw a baby boy, crying; and she was sorry for him. ‘This is a child of one of the Hebrews’ she said. Then the child’s sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and find you a nurse among the Hebrew women to suckle the child for you?’ ‘Yes, go’ Pharaoh’s daughter said to her; and the girl went off to find the baby’s own mother. To her the daughter of Pharaoh said, ‘Take this child away and suckle it for me. I will see you are paid.’ So the woman took the child and suckled it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter who treated him like a son; she named him Moses because, she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.’

Moses, a man by now, set out at this time to visit his countrymen, and he saw what a hard life they were having; and he saw an Egyptian strike a Hebrew, one of his countrymen. Looking round he could see no one in sight, so he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. On the following day he came back, and there were two Hebrews, fighting. He said to the man who was in the wrong, ‘What do you mean by hitting your fellow countryman?’ ‘And who appointed you’ the man retorted, ‘to be prince over us, and judge? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’ Moses was frightened. ‘Clearly that business has come to light’ he thought. When Pharaoh heard of the matter he would have killed Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and made for the land of Midian.

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Matthew 11:20-24

Jesus began to reproach the towns in which most of his miracles had been worked, because they refused to repent.

‘Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard on Judgement day with Tyre and Sidon as with you. And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted as high as heaven? You shall be thrown down to hell. For if the miracles done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have been standing yet. And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard with the land of Sodom on Judgement day as with you.’

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“For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago.”

I love watching movies and one of the most common themes is the love between a man and a woman. One of my favourite movies is ‘50 First Dates’, which starred Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.

(Warning : Spoilers Ahead)

Because the female protagonist is an amnesiac, the male protagonist finds that he has got to start over every day, getting the girl to reacquaint herself with him. More importantly, he has got to demonstrate his love for her on a daily basis, and to get her to fall in love with him all over again. Amazingly, he never gets tired of doing this. If anything, his love for her seems to grow stronger over time.

In the Old Testament, we read about how God repeatedly shows His protection for the Israelites. In fact, immediately after leaving Egypt in Exodus 14 (through the parted Red Sea), God cared for and provided for His people. He fed them with manna and quail. All these signs were clear and evident to the Jews.

Despite this constant demonstration by God of His love for them, the Israelites, by Exodus 32, had smelted their gold and built a gold calf for worship!

The reason for this was because the Israelites only cared for themselves. In Egypt, they complained about their cruel Egyptian overloads. When crossing the desert, they complained about being hungry and expressed regrets about leaving Egypt in the first place. Such ingratitude!

In the Gospel of today, the Lord reminds us to always be grateful. In order to recognise the wonders that God does for us, we need to look without instead of within. Such a strong reminder to keep our eyes on God!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father God, let us never be blind to the miracles that You perform in our lives on a daily basis. Help us never to be so blasé that we dwell in the blessings of Your love.

Thanksgiving We are grateful for the Holy Trinity. Thank You for Your presence in our lives and for the Your involvement in our lives.

17 July, Monday – God as Number One

17 July

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Exodus 1:8-14, 22

There came to power in Egypt a new king who knew nothing of Joseph. ‘Look,’ he said to his subjects ‘these people, the sons of Israel, have become so numerous and strong that they are a threat to us. We must be prudent and take steps against their increasing any further, or if war should break out, they might add to the number of our enemies. They might take arms against us and so escape out of the country.’ Accordingly they put slave-drivers over the Israelites to wear them down under heavy loads. In this way they built the store-cities of Pithom and Rameses for Pharaoh. But the more they were crushed, the more they increased and spread, and men came to dread the sons of Israel. The Egyptians forced the sons of Israel into slavery, and made their lives unbearable with hard labour, work with clay and with brick, all kinds of work in the fields; they forced on them every kind of labour.

Pharaoh then gave his subjects this command: ‘Throw all the boys born to the Hebrews into the river, but let all the girls live.’

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Matthew 10:34-11:1

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be those of his own household.

‘Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.

‘Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me.

‘Anyone who welcomes a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes a holy man will have a holy man’s reward.

‘If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.’

When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples he moved on from there to teach and preach in their towns.

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“Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.”

One of the stories I heard growing up was of three old men sitting outside a house. When invited into the house by the owner, the men introduced themselves as ‘Success, Wealth and Love’, and said that only one of them could enter the house. In short, the owner had to choose.

The gospel passage today had troubled me when I first read it. Was I really to put everyone else as a lower priority to God? Wasn’t my responsibility to my family, my grandaunty and those whom I loved dearly?

As I matured as a Christian, however, I began to understand from the stories in the Bible. I read about how Daniel chose to worship God rather than bow down before the king. I read about how God was faithful to Abraham, and stopped him from sacrificing his son Isaac, providing instead, a white ram for the sacrifice.

Since then, I have seen many examples of God’s love and faithfulness to me, and to those around me. I have found that in times when I have chosen the (much more difficult) path that God desires us to follow, things have often turned out much better than if I had taken the alternative routes. Very often, these final outcomes were unexpected!

Still, despite our faith in our God, it remains extremely difficult to put Him as Number One in our lives. It is this that Jesus reminds us to do constantly. May we continue to turn to Him to bless us with wisdom to continue to do so.

Oh, returning to the original story, the owner chose ‘Love’, and with that choice, all three men entered the house. ANY other choice would have resulted in only one man entering the house.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Lord Jesus, may we learn from you how to place Father God above all else in our lives; above other people, possessions, desires and thoughts.

Thanksgiving We thank You, Father God, for Your faithfulness and for always providing all that we need. We are grateful for Your love.

16 July, Sunday – Pruned for greatness

16 July 2017

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Isaiah 55:10-11

Thus says the Lord: ‘As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.’

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Romans 8:18-23

I think that what we suffer in this life can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us. The whole creation is eagerly waiting for God to reveal his sons. It was not for any fault on the part of creation that it was made unable to attain its purpose, it was made so by God; but creation still retains the hope of being freed, like us, from its slavery to decadence, to enjoy the same freedom and glory as the children of God. From the beginning till now the entire creation, as we know, has been groaning in one great act of giving birth; and not only creation, but all of us who possess the first-fruits of the Spirit, we too groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free.

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Matthew 13:1-23

Jesus left the house and sat by the lakeside, but such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat there. The people all stood on the beach, and he told them many things in parables.

He said, ‘Imagine a sower going out to sow. As he sowed, some seeds fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on patches of rock where they found little soil and sprang up straight away, because there was no depth of earth; but as soon as the sun came up they were scorched and, not having any roots, they withered away. Others fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Others fell on rich soil and produced their crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Listen, anyone who has ears!’

Then the disciples went up to him and asked, ‘Why do you talk to them in parables?’ ‘Because’ he replied, ‘the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them. For anyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. So in their case this prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled:

You will listen and listen again, but not understand,

see and see again, but not perceive.

For the heart of this nation has grown coarse,

their ears are dull of hearing, and they have shut their eyes,

for fear they should see with their eyes,

hear with their ears,

understand with their heart,

and be converted

and be healed by me.

‘But happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear! I tell you solemnly, many prophets and holy men longed to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.

‘You, therefore, are to hear the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom without understanding, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart: this is the man who received the seed on the edge of the path. The one who received it on patches of rock is the man who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy. But he has no root in him, he does not last; let some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, and he falls away at once. The one who received the seed in thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this world and the lure of riches choke the word and so he produces nothing. And the one who received the seed in rich soil is the man who hears the word and understands it; he is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.’

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“The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them.”

The parable of the sower has always intrigued me from the time when I was young. The sower scatters the seeds onto various types of soil, with varying degrees of success. I have often wondered what kind of soil I was; was I the ‘rich soil’? Or did I possess a ‘thorny disposition’, resulting in the initial enthusiam for our God, only for it to slowly choke and die off?

When I started doing some research, I found that the gardener — in this case, the sower — would have taken steps to prep the ground onto which he sows the seeds. He would have first tilled the soil, taking care to remove the weeds and pebbles and rocks which would ultimately choke the sprouting seedlings. He would have done everything he could to ensure the success of his crop.

When I first started on my journey as a Christian, I felt close to God, and often felt His presence. I was the ‘good soil’! However, over time, I began to skip my daily quiet time and gradually began to drift and backslide. Over time, I felt more disengaged and no longer sensed the love and presence of our Father, Lord and the Holy Spirit. At that point, I felt that I was the ‘rocky soil’.

In the same gospel passage, Jesus talks about those who try to see and listen and yet fail to do so, regardless of how much effort they put into it. My experience was exactly that. While I called myself a Christian, I felt isolated from God.

When I attended the Conversion Experience Retreat, I rediscovered my intimacy with God and, with that, also realised that the state of being ‘good soil’ is not final. Instead, like the gardener, we need to continuously do weeding and work on our spiritual lives. We need to continually connect with God, spending time before Him. It is this consistency that helps us to remain in the right state to be so. We are always a ‘work in progress’.

We pray that we may always be on the lookout for the weeds in our lives, continually working on ourselves to connect with our God. May we not be arrogant and decide that we have already ‘made it’.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father God, may we always be open to Your pruning and preparation in order to grow closer to You every day.

Thanksgiving Thank You, Father, for always loving us and for never giving up on us. We are grateful for Your love and Grace.

15 July, Saturday – God’s plans for us

Jul 15 – Memorial for St. Bonaventure, bishop, religious, doctor

St. Bonaventure (1221-1274) entered the Franciscan Order when he was 22. At the age of 35, he was chosen General of his Order and restored a perfect calm where peace had been disturbed by internal dissensions. He did much for his Order and composed The Life of St. Francis. He also assisted at the translation of the relics of St. Anthony of Padua.

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=169

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Genesis 49:29-33, 50:15-26

Jacob gave his sons these instructions, ‘I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me near my fathers, in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave in the field at Machpelah, opposite Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite as a burial-plot. There Abraham was buried and his wife Sarah. There Isaac was buried and his wife Rebekah. There I buried Leah. I mean the field and the cave in it that were bought from the sons of Heth.’

When Jacob had finished giving his instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, and breathing his last was gathered to his people.

Seeing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, ‘What if Joseph intends to treat us as enemies and repay us in full for all the wrong we did him?’ So they sent this message to Joseph: ‘Before your father died he gave us this order: “You must say to Joseph: Oh forgive your brothers their crime and their sin and all the wrong they did you.” Now therefore, we beg you, forgive the crime of the servants of your father’s God.’ Joseph wept at the message they sent to him.

His brothers came themselves and fell down before him. ‘We present ourselves before you’ they said ‘as your slaves.’ But Joseph answered them, ‘Do not be afraid; is it for me to put myself in God’s place? The evil you planned to do me has by God’s design been turned to good, that he might bring about, as indeed he has, the deliverance of a numerous people. So you need not be afraid; I myself will provide for you and your dependants.’ In this way he reassured them with words that touched their hearts.

So Joseph stayed in Egypt with his father’s family; and Joseph lived a hundred and ten years. Joseph saw the third generation of Ephraim’s children, as also the children of Machir, Manasseh’s son, who were born on Joseph’s lap. At length Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die; but God will be sure to remember you kindly and take you back from this country to the land that he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ And Joseph made Israel’s sons swear an oath, ‘When God remembers you with kindness be sure to take my bones from here.’

Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten; they embalmed him and laid him in his coffin in Egypt.

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Matthew 10:24-33

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘The disciple is not superior to his teacher, nor the slave to his master. It is enough for the disciple that he should grow to be like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, what will they not say of his household?

‘Do not be afraid of them therefore. For everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops.

‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.

‘So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.’

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The evil you planned to do me has, by God’s design, been turned to good.
My former parish priest used to share in his homily that God can write straight on crooked lines. It appears that despite all the great plans and intentions of Man, God can still intervene and create a situation in which we can never expect. The readings of today share with us the wonderful plan of God, which can fit in the lives of those around us.
Joseph’s siblings were rightfully scared that he would hurt them because of the bad things which they had done to him in the past. However, through Divine Providence, they learnt about the importance of the mercy of God in their lives. God cannot be outdone in mercy and this is why we need to realise the importance of co-operating with God’s will. There needs to be an action on our part to want to agree to work with God. This means we need to be willing to be upfront with the belief of our Catholic Faith even if it hurts publicly. We will need to show to others the importance of remaining steadfast in a world where every moral standard is changing.
God comes to us as we are with our flaws and weaknesses. Our flawed self can show to others that Christians understand the difficulties whom others face. He only wants us to accept Him for who He is by giving up our former ways of a sinful life and to love Him. Are we ready to do so?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)
 Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the courage to surrender our will to you.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who love us just as we are.

14 July, Friday – Loving God through our lives

Jul 14 – Memorial for St. Camillus de Lellis, Priest

St. Camillus (1550-1614) used to be a gambling addict. He lost so much he had to take a job working construction on a building belonging to the Capuchins; they converted him. Because of a persistent injury, he moved into San Giacomo Hospital for the incurable, and eventually became its administrator.

Lacking education, he began to study with children when he was 32 years old. St. Camillus founded the Congregation of the Servants of the Sick (the Camellians) who care for the sick both in hospital and home. He honoured the sick as living images of Christ, and hoped that the service he gave them did penance for his wayward youth.

– Patron Saint Index

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Genesis 46:1-7, 28-30

Israel left Canaan with his possessions, and reached Beersheba. There he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God spoke to Israel in a vision at night, ‘Jacob, Jacob’, he said. ‘I am here’, he replied. ‘I am God, the God of your father’, he continued. ‘Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I myself will go down to Egypt with you. I myself will bring you back again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.’ Then Jacob left Beersheba. Israel’s sons conveyed their father Jacob, their little children and their wives in the waggons Pharaoh had sent to fetch him.

Taking their livestock and all that they had acquired in the land of Canaan, they went to Egypt, Jacob and all his family with him: his sons and his grandsons, his daughters and his grand-daughters, in a word, all his children he took with him to Egypt.

Israel sent Judah ahead to Joseph, so that the latter might present himself to him in Goshen. When they arrived in the land of Goshen, Joseph had his chariot made ready and went up to meet his father Israel in Goshen. As soon as he appeared he threw his arms round his neck and for a long time wept on his shoulder. Israel said to Joseph, ‘Now I can die, now that I have seen you again, and seen you still alive.’

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Matthew 10:16-23

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Remember, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; so be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves.

‘Beware of men: they will hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you. ‘Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved. If they persecute you in one town, take refuge in the next; and if they persecute you in that, take refuge in another. I tell you solemnly, you will not have gone the round of the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.’

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The Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you
Fear of public speaking is certainly an issue which many people grapple with. I believe that for us as Catholic Christians, it is perhaps the fear of publicly proclaiming the Word of God to the people around us. The readings today share with us that such a fear is unfounded and that we have Jesus with us who will guide us in what to do.
Jesus has shown us the importance of trusting in Him. Unfortunately, not all of us can remember this point well. Sometimes we go about our own actions and think that this is probably what God wants us to do, resulting in us engaging in behaviours which may not be the most prudent, nor the wisest to engage in. It is prudent for us to pause and ask ourselves if what we are doing is grounded in a solid foundation of love for God and love for our neighbour. The importance of this cannot be overstated because it will allow us to bear with the pain and suffering of persecution which is mentioned in the Gospel. Deepening our prayer life will allow us to trust in God and this will help guide our actions in our daily life.
The love of God must animate all our actions. We need not always speak out loud to the people around us, of how God has worked wonders within us; although, that is certainly one way. The way we treat our parents, siblings, relatives, friends, colleagues and strangers is perhaps the most visible way we can share the Gospel message to the people around us. Let us ask God to help us with this wonderful task.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the love to share your Word to all around us.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all missionaries.

13 July, Thursday – Freely, Freely

13 July – Memorial for St. Henry II

Henry II (972–1024) was the son of Gisella of Burgundy and Henry II the Quarrelsome, Duke of Bavaria. He was educated at the cathedral school in Hildesheim by Bishop Wolfgang of Regensburg. He became Duke of Bavaria himself in 995 upon his father’s death, which ended Henry’s thoughts of becoming a priest. He ascended to the throne of Germany in 1002, and was crowned King of Pavia, Italy on 15 May 1004. He married St. Cunegunda, but was never a father. Some sources claim the two lived celibately, but there is no evidence either way.

Henry’s brother rebelled against his power, and Henry was forced to defeat him on the battlefield, but later forgave him, and the two reconciled. Henry was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1014 by Pope Benedict VIII; he was the last of the Saxon dynasty of emperors. He founded schools, quelled rebellions, protected the frontiers, worked to establish a stable peace in Europe, and to reform the Church while respecting its independence.

He fostered missions, and established Bamberg, Germany as a centre for missions to Slavic countries. He started the construction of the cathedral at Basel, Switzerland; it took nearly 400 years to complete. Both Henry and St. Cunegunda were prayerful people, and generous to the poor.

At one point he was cured of an unnamed illness by the touch of St. Benedict of Nursia at Monte Cassino. He became somewhat lame in his later years. Following Cunegunda’s death, he considered becoming a monk, but the abbot of Saint-Vanne at Verdun, France refused his application, and told him to keep his place in the world where he could do much good for people and the advancement of God’s kingdom.

– Patron Saint Index

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Genesis 44:18-21, 23-29, 45:1-5

Judah went up to Joseph and said, ‘May it please my lord, let your servant have a word privately with my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself. My lord questioned his servants, “Have you father or brother?” And we said to my lord, “We have an old father, and a younger brother born of his old age. His brother is dead, so he is the only one left of his mother, and his father loves him.” Then you said to your servants, “Bring him down to me that my eyes may look on him.” But you said to your servants, “If your youngest brother does not come down with you, you will not be admitted to my presence again.” When we went back to your servant my father, we repeated to him what my lord had said. So when our father said, “Go back and buy us a little food,” we said, “We cannot go down. If our youngest brother is with us, we will go down, for we cannot be admitted to the man’s presence unless our youngest brother is with us.” So your servant our father said to us, “You know that my wife bore me two children. When one left me, I said that he must have been torn to pieces. And I have not seen him to this day. If you take this one from me too and any harm comes to him, you will send me down to Sheol with my white head bowed in misery.” If I go to your servant my father now, and we have not the boy with us, he will die as soon as he sees the boy is not with us, for his heart is bound up with him. Then your servants will have sent your servant our father down to Sheol with his white head bowed in grief.’

Then Joseph could not control his feelings in front of all his retainers, and he exclaimed, ‘Let everyone leave me.’ No one therefore was present with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers, but he wept so loudly that all the Egyptians heard, and the news reached Pharaoh’s palace.

Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph. Is my father really still alive?’ His brothers could not answer him, they were so dismayed at the sight of him. Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come closer to me.’ When they had come closer to him he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not grieve, do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here, since God sent me before you to preserve your lives.’

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Matthew 10:7-15

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘As you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils. You received without charge, give without charge. Provide yourselves with no gold or silver, not even with a few coppers for your purses, with no haversack for the journey or spare tunic or footwear or a staff, for the workman deserves his keep.

‘Whatever town or village you go into, ask for someone trustworthy and stay with him until you leave. As you enter his house, salute it, and if the house deserves it, let your peace descend upon it; if it does not, let your peace come back to you. And if anyone does not welcome you or listen to what you have to say, as you walk out of the house or town shake the dust from your feet. I tell you solemnly, on the day of Judgement it will not go as hard with the land of Sodom and Gomorrah as with that town.’

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You received without charge, give without charge.
The talents we have received in our lives may all appear to be of our own doing. Be it the wondrous intelligence we have, the great culinary skills or even that of a good voice, we often believe that these traits are our own gifts and sometimes forget that it is God who has granted us the use of these gifts.
One may then wonder why God has put at our disposal these gifts? These gifts are given to us to glorify the name of God to the people around us. Through our intellect, we can share with others the reasons for believing in God and the use of culinary skills could be the starting point for a discussion over a meal on how God has worked within our lives. The voice we possess could be the way in which others hear the Gospel through the joyful proclamation of the mercies and grace which God has granted to us.
We need to realise that the talents we have are meant to be the leaven of God’s word in a world thirsty and hungry for the Good News. Jesus offers to each one of us a wonderful opportunity to enter into a journey of love and communion with Him. This journey will then become for each one of us the source of which we can continue to spread the Word of God to those around us.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer: Dear Lord, let us discern on how to use the gifts we have to spread your Word.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all Spiritual Directors.

12 July, Wednesday – Authority to be used wisely

12 July 2017

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Genesis 41:55-57,42:5-7,17-24

When the whole country of Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread. But Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, ‘Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.’ There was famine all over the world. Then Joseph opened all the granaries and sold grain to the Egyptians. The famine grew worse in the land of Egypt. People came to Egypt from all over the world to buy grain from Joseph, for the famine had grown severe throughout the world.

Israel’s sons with others making the same journey went to buy grain, for there was famine in the land of Canaan. It was Joseph, as the man in authority over the country, who sold the grain to all comers. So Joseph’s brothers went and bowed down before him, their faces touching the ground. When Joseph saw his brothers he recognised them. But he did not make himself known to them, and he spoke harshly to them. Then he kept them all in custody for three days.

On the third day Joseph said to them, ‘Do this and you shall keep your lives, for I am a man who fears God. If you are honest men let one of your brothers be kept in the place of your detention; as for you, go and take grain to relieve the famine of your families. You shall bring me your youngest brother; this way your words will be proved true, and you will not have to die!’ This they did. They said to one another, ‘Truly we are being called to account for our brother. We saw his misery of soul when he begged our mercy, but we did not listen to him and now this misery has come home to us.’ Reuben answered them, ‘Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy? But you did not listen, and now we are brought to account for his blood.’ They did not know that Joseph understood, because there was an interpreter between them. He left them and wept.

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Matthew 10:1-7

Jesus summoned his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and sickness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, the one who was to betray him.

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them as follows: ‘Do not turn your steps to pagan territory, and do not enter any Samaritan town; go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’

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He left them and wept.

What is the purpose of power and authority given to us? Is it meant to help us enable others to discover the full potential within themselves? Perhaps it is a chance for us to display the capabilities we often had in ourselves. I believe that the Christian understanding of power and authority requires us to discover that it is our way of evangelising to others all in our midst.

When Jesus appointed his Twelve disciples, He gave them power over the evil spirits. God has shown us that we ourselves possess the ability to overcome all the challenges and issues which has been put before us. The good Lord sometimes put before us people or challenges which make us wonder why they are placed there. Joseph in today’s First Reading would never have known that he would become second in command in Egypt. The very brothers whom caused him to sold into Egypt are now at his mercy.

The typical human reaction is to respond in the same vein as what the other party did. Yet Joseph did not do so. Here was his opportunity to go take revenge at his brothers but yet he chose not to do so. I believe his actions are instructive for us as he shows us that our actions reflect the beliefs in our lives. This means that we need to take time to ask ourselves what are the beliefs which motivate our actions and words. Do these actions and words point towards God?

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the courage to face with our inner fears and learn how to overcome them.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all Spiritual Directors.