Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We give thanks to God for your steadfast following of Oxygen.
As we enter into the Paschal Mystery of the Church, we invite our readers who want to help contribute a reflection to come forward.
The following readings are available for reflection:
7th Reading + Responsorial Psalm
Epistle + Responsorial Psalm
This is a good time for you to share with our readers the joys you have had in reading Oxygen. Do drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org who will be in touch with you on how to proceed.
Oxygen Core Team
11 March 2018
2 Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23
All the heads of the priesthood, and the people too, added infidelity to infidelity, copying all the shameful practices of the nations and defiling the Temple that the Lord had consecrated for himself in Jerusalem. The Lord, the God of their ancestors, tirelessly sent them messenger after messenger, since he wished to spare his people and his house. But they ridiculed the messengers of God, they despised his words, they laughed at his prophets, until at last the wrath of the Lord rose so high against his people that there was no further remedy.
They burned down the Temple of God, demolished the walls of Jerusalem, set fire to all its palaces, and destroyed everything of value in it. The survivors were deported by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon; they were to serve him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power. This is how the word of the Lord was fulfilled that he spoke through Jeremiah, ‘Until this land has enjoyed its sabbath rest, until seventy years have gone by, it will keep sabbath throughout the days of its desolation.’
And in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, to fulfil the word of the Lord that was spoken through Jeremiah, the Lord roused the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue a proclamation and to have it publicly displayed throughout his kingdom: ‘Thus speaks Cyrus king of Persia, “the Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth; he has ordered me to build him a Temple in Jerusalem, in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him! Let him go up.”’
God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ – it is through grace that you have been saved – and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus.
This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how infinitely rich he is in grace. Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.
Jesus said to Nicodemus:
‘The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned; but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already, because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.
On these grounds is sentence pronounced: that though the light has come into the world men have shown they prefer darkness to the light because their deeds were evil.
And indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it, for fear his actions should be exposed; but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light, so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.’
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.
In today’s first reading, we read about the sad account of the ruin of Judah and Jerusalem – the slaughter of multitudes, plundering and burning of the temple and all the palaces, the desolation of the city, the idolatry of the people, as well as other shameful and sacrilegious practices. God, in all His goodness, sent messengers to his people but they would not listen. Though God is loving and compassionate, He too has his ‘limits’ and a terrible punishment befell the people.
Recently, our ministry had been going through a rather rough patch. Members have started to lose their energy and zeal, many of us have lost sight of why we were serving, attendance for our programmes has been gradually coming down. This did not happen overnight. It had been so for the past 5 months. Our ministry isn’t the only one encountering this desolate state; we are one of the last few to fall into such a dismal state. The other ministries in our community have seen similar ‘trends’, but much earlier. How did we end up this way?
I could offer up some rational reasons – we got tired from all the doing, we lost focus, our leaders lost focus (or, worse still, some feel our leadership lacked focus), our programmes are no longer attractive, we are a divided group etc. We could just as easily put the blame on the other team i.e. Satan Corp. But, as I reflected on today’s first reading and also the state of our ministry, I feel that the state of our ministry (and I daresay many of our church ministries or our own vocations), we are where we are because we have rejected God’s word. It is human nature to blame everyone else and external forces when things don’t go well. Yes, we even blame God. But if we got down to it to the core and, if we are true to ourselves, it’s all our own doing. Have we ‘mocked the messengers of God, despising his words, and scoffing at his prophets.’? Did we let pride, hardness of heart and worldly influence get in our way?
On 1st January this year, after we said goodbye to 2017, feeling disheartened and tired with all that’s been ‘not happening’ on our ministry front, I whispered a prayer to God and asked if it was time to move on, if my gifts were better utilised elsewhere. God indeed wasn’t going to let me move on so quickly. He sent a messenger in the form of one of our leaders. Long story short, a few of us were called to be part of a forward team in our ministry. Much as I struggle to make sense of this (and also fight against it), I know in my heart that the Lord is telling me to persevere, to leave my pride and sloth at the door and quit standing by the sidelines. How could I, this weak, floundering, disobedient and spiritually dry child be called to do this work? I felt unprepared, unworthy, unmotivated and frankly I felt intimidated too. All eyes were upon us – people waiting for us to fail.
We’ve had several meetings with this new team since its formation, sometimes late into the night. But I feel alive, though there will be pain but new hope and new birth. And as I read the second reading today; ‘We are saved not through our own efforts but through the mercy of God.’ So as I plod on and feel good about what I ‘bring to the table’, I remember that it’s not my work nor my effort, but God’s grace that calls me and enables me to continue to be part of his ministry.
Brothers and sisters, many of us are blessed with material success, power and position in the secular world. Some of us are so blessed with the ability to serve as leaders in our parish community. Do not let pride and hardness of heart get in the way. For it is by God’s grace that we are given this ability.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: Lord, because we have been saved, healed and made whole, make us agents and channels of your salvation, hope and love. Help us not give in to the worldly ways and prideful thoughts. May we keep our eyes and hearts firmly focused on You. By Your grace, may our works be blessed.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for your grace and mercy. Thank you for saving us time and time again. For sending us your Son, Jesus Christ, such a visible and tangible example of your love.