Monthly Archives: June 2018

1 July, Sunday – All Through Life

1 July

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Wisdom 1:13-15,2:23-24

Death was not God’s doing,
he takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living.
To be – for this he created all;
the world’s created things have health in them,
in them no fatal poison can be found,
and Hades holds no power on earth;
for virtue is undying.
Yet God did make man imperishable,
he made him in the image of his own nature;
it was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world,
as those who are his partners will discover.

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2 Corinthians 8:7,9,13-15

You always have the most of everything – of faith, of eloquence, of understanding, of keenness for any cause, and the biggest share of our affection – so we expect you to put the most into this work of mercy too. Remember how generous the Lord Jesus was: he was rich, but he became poor for your sake, to make you rich out of his poverty. This does not mean that to give relief to others you ought to make things difficult for yourselves: it is a question of balancing what happens to be your surplus now against their present need, and one day they may have something to spare that will supply your own need. That is how we strike a balance: as scripture says: The man who gathered much had none too much, the man who gathered little did not go short.

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Mark 5:21-43

When Jesus had crossed in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered round him and he stayed by the lakeside. Then one of the synagogue officials came up, Jairus by name, and seeing him, fell at his feet and pleaded with him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is desperately sick. Do come and lay your hands on her to make her better and save her life.’ Jesus went with him and a large crowd followed him; they were pressing all round him.

Now there was a woman who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years; after long and painful treatment under various doctors, she spent all she had without being any the better for it, in fact, she was getting worse. She had heard about Jesus, and she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his cloak. ‘If I can touch even his clothes,’ she had told herself ‘I shall be well again.’ And the source of the bleeding dried up instantly, and she felt in herself that she was cured of her complaint. Immediately aware that power had gone out from him, Jesus turned round in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ His disciples said to him, ‘You see how the crowd is pressing round you and yet you say, “Who touched me?”’ But he continued to look all round to see who had done it. Then the woman came forward, frightened and trembling because she knew what had happened to her, and she fell at his feet and told him the whole truth. ‘My daughter,’ he said ‘your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free from your complaint.’

While he was still speaking some people arrived from the house of the synagogue official to say, ‘Your daughter is dead: why put the Master to any further trouble?’ But Jesus had overheard this remark of theirs and he said to the official, ‘Do not be afraid; only have faith.’ And he allowed no one to go with him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. So they came to the official’s house and Jesus noticed all the commotion, with people weeping and wailing unrestrainedly. He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and crying? The child is not dead, but asleep.’ But they laughed at him. So he turned them all out and, taking with him the child’s father and mother and his own companions, he went into the place where the child lay. And taking the child by the hand he said to her, ‘Talitha, kum!’ which means, ‘Little girl, I tell you to get up.’ The little girl got up at once and began to walk about, for she was twelve years old. At this they were overcome with astonishment, and he ordered them strictly not to let anyone know about it, and told them to give her something to eat.

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His anger lasts a moment; his favour all through life. At night there are tears, but joy comes with dawn.

The gift of retrospect is precious but often fleeting and easily brushed aside, if we do not consider that God has answered our prayers at only the most propitious time.

As I prepared my reflections for today’s readings, I was surprised by the fact that the Responsorial Psalm is exactly the same as the one I had been assigned for six months ago in March. Most importantly, this verse struck me: ‘His anger lasts a moment; his favour all through life. At night there are tears, but joy comes with dawn.’ I cannot help but see this as God’s message for me at this very point of my life, of my day, in my heart. It can only mean one thing – that God is real, He listens, He speaks, He loves me.

The gospel today tells of two girls in need of healing – Jairus’ twelve-year-old daughter, who was thought to be terminally ill, and a woman in the crowd, who was suffering from a twelve-year long bleeding in her womb. Is this any coincidence?

To me, these two characters represented a ‘life-course’ of faith. Metaphorically-speaking, the little girl points to the start of my Christian journey and the older lady of the desire to continue seeking and holding onto my faith in God all through my life.

We have all had that moment of encounter in the beginning of our new-found faith that might have changed the course of our life. Yet, faith is not one moment in time, but an undulating path through all kinds of terrain as we try to follow and cling to Christ. How have I embraced and reflected on the successes and disappointments in my life along the way? I have definitely suffered moments of unbelief and despair. I have certainly contemplated giving up on trusting God after facing repetitive setbacks. Nonetheless, I have also experienced a renewal and revival of my faltering faith. He never leaves me. He waits for me. He pursues me.

What matters most is not how dramatically my faith life begins, but that I choose to keep on walking with Christ until the end. It matters more that I, like the older woman, am steadfast and persistent in entrusting my life and its uncertainties into the Father’s hands. It matters that I surrender my pride and stubbornness to respond to Him.

This is just like love in marriage. It matters less how we first fell in love, but most that we strive to keep dying to ourselves at the altar of mutual selfless love. That we persist in loving and honouring each other, in spite of the tribulations and differences, all through life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, help me to remain steadfast in my love for you and faithful in love for my husband/wife.

Thanksgiving: I give thanks for the love from God that I receive in and through my husband/wife.

30 Jun, Saturday – Being With God

Jun 30 – 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”.

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

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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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“I will come myself and cure him”

My wife and I recently went through a course where I validated my suspicion that I am kinesthetic, which means I experience the world through my feelings and emotions. I look at the world and basically ask myself how I feel about it, unconsciously of course. If it does not sit well with me, then I never quite get comfortable.

It is that way with my faith too. I started going to church (a Protestant one) when I was about 12, but for many years, I never actually felt God’s presence. In my mind, I prayed and prayed but never really experienced HIS presence. Years later, I spoke with a priest, who advised me that we do face periods of dryness and that all I needed to do was to work through the period. Over time, I came to believe it was natural for one to feel no one was listening when one was praying.

My experience of God changed dramatically when I attended the Conversion Experience Retreat. While not giving away the contents of the retreat, I came out experiencing God differently. Every time I pray now, I feel God is there with me, listening to and being with me.

In the Gospel of today, we see how our Lord Jesus interacted with the centurion, Peter and his mother-in-law as well as the other people. We see how people interacted with Jesus in His daily life as a person.

The people of Jesus’ time got to learn from and experience Him because they actually got to meet with Him. Perhaps, if we could also do the same, we would be able to experience our faith to a fuller extent. Many times, we forget that our God is there simply because we are unable to see Him. If we imagined Him physically with us in the same room with us, it would be a whole new experience.

Our faith was never meant to be a mental exercise. Instead, it should be fully experienced physically, intellectually, spiritually and emotionally; in all aspects of our lives. It is only then we can fully learn what it means to be a Christian.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we will be able to experience God in all aspects of our lives. We pray for a deeper and more complete understanding of our faith.

Thanksgiving: We praise You and thank You, Lord, for showing the way to live as Christians. Thank You for being the best example for us.

29 June, Friday – Quiet Faith

Jun 29 – 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 will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven…”

I started out my career after graduating from polytechnic with a Diploma in Accounting, working as an audit assistant in one of the bigger local firms. I did well at the firm and got on well with the partners and colleagues at the firm.

While I did enjoy the time working there, I did notice certain things about myself that troubled me.

Because my temperament was quite outgoing, I realised that I could influence my colleagues and bosses with my energy. Pretty soon however, without realizing it, I had begun to crave the attention and the validation from getting my ideas accepted. Soon, I was unconsciously thinking about what else I could do to get my ‘regular dose of attention’.

In today’s first reading, we read about how King Herod had been motivated to have Peter arrested after he realised how popular his decision was to execute James, the brother of John. His motivation was positive public opinion, rather than any other internal values.

Beyond all the scheming and planning by Herod, this was no challenge for God’s plans! We read how an angel of the Lord came and freed Peter, all without him having to plan anything. This, in my mind, does not mean that God would get us out of any challenging situation. What it does mean, however, is that I am confident that whatever happens, He is looking out for us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Let us, Father, always have faith in You; that You are there taking care of us. Help us to always experience the full extent of the love You have for us.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for being there for us, Father, no matter if we realise it or not. We are grateful for all the blessings in our lives!

28 June, Thursday – Contemplation And Action

Jun 28 – 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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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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“Everyone who listens to these words….and acts on them will be like a sensible man…”

Contemplation and Action are not mutually exclusive; if we contemplate on God’s words, it must surely lead us to action, to participate in His plan. Lately, I have grown very fond of silence. It is beautiful to be able to seek the Lord in prayer and to develop a closer relationship with our Divine Creator and seek knowledge, understanding and wisdom from Him. However, once we have gained this knowledge, we cannot just stop there. Such wisdom needs to translate into action; we need to act on these and fulfill His holy will. Nothing matters if we choose not to act upon His instructions. Today’s gospel reminds me that there is a purpose for me, for each and everyone of us, here on earth. We were not randomly created, but “have been fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps 139:14); intricately crafted so that we can be partakers of His plan for salvation.

Our Blessed Mother Mary is the perfect role model for us in saying ‘yes’ to God and being a willing participant in His divine plan.

An extract from Denise Levertov’s poem “Annunciation”, says it best….

Aren’t there annunciations of one sort or another in most lives? Some unwillingly undertake great destinies, enact them in sullen pride, uncomprehending.

More often those moments when roads of light and storm open from darkness in a man or woman, are turned away from in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair and with relief.

Ordinary lives continue. God does not smite them. But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.”

We all have our moments of mini annunciations, do we allow the gates to close and the pathway to vanish? Or do we undertake these great destinies, enact them even when they are hard to comprehend? What is our answer?

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Dear Mother Mary, you are the perfect disciple. Please intercede for us that we may learn to embrace the pathways of God just like you did; to take action towards them even though we may not fully comprehend His ways.

Thanksgiving: Our Father in Heaven, we praise and glorify your name, for your ways are perfect and your will be done.

27 June, Wednesday – Possessing A Teachable Spirit

Jun 27 – 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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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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“Go and consult the Lord…”

Being a parent, I have watched my kids grow from babies to the teenagers they are today.

I have been accused by my children of being a nag and candidly, I find it difficult to stop. Many times, my mind can almost see things happening before they actually do and my speaking out is my (normally futile) attempt to avoid these outcomes. Very often, I find that these warnings go unheeded! Over time, I have learned to keep quiet and allow the situations to play themselves out and allow my children to make the wrong choices.

Yet, there are other situations when children are tuned in. I remember occasions when they come to us and apologise for making wrong choices. When that happens, I am extremely happy. What makes me even more glad is when they are able to share why and where they did wrong, and what better choices they can make in the future.

We read in today’s first reading about how the king was told the contents of The Book of the Law, and had torn his garments in horror. He immediately reached out to the priest, asking him to pray to the Lord. The king gathered his people to recommit themselves to the Lord. What an amazing spirit!

With our fallen nature, we WILL fail and fail consistently. What is important, however, is that we remain teachable and constantly return to our God.

Let us learn from the king.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that for a teachable spirit O God. Help us to be always able to return to You and to hear Your voice.

Thanksgiving: We praise and thank You for always being ready to teach us Father. For being there for us when we realise our sins and return to You. Thank You for loving us!

26 June, Tuesday – Unfailing Faith

26 June

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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.”‘
“He will not enter this city,
he will let fly no arrow against it,
confront it with no shield

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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“Give ear, Lord, and listen. Open Your eyes, Lord, and see.”

One of the toughest periods in my life took place in 2006, after I had been working in my company for about 2 years. Soon after I joined the bank, a misunderstanding took place and the environment became hostile between some colleagues and myself. Things came to a head when I was due to be promoted, ironically to manage the same team which I was having the misunderstanding with.

At the point when the difficulties at work arose, I had been very active in church, my cell group as well as a church ministry. I was frustrated, and felt that God had abandoned me. I wondered why God had allowed me to go through these difficulties.

The main way I handled this was to pray even harder, reflecting on the possible reasons behind the whole dismal chain of events. Finally, unable to come up with an answer, I ended up just lifting it all to Him, and praying for understanding and deliverance.

Ultimately, it turned out that the whole series of events, while painful to go through, was important for me. The whole experience, ultimately, turned out positive for me.

In the first reading of today, Hezekiah, king of Judah, experienced doubt, fear and confrontation with the Assyrian king Sennacherib. The latter derided and attempted to cast doubt on God. Rather than lamenting and worrying, Hezakiah instead brought this difficulty up to God, praying and asking for deliverance, and asking for victory. The Assyrians were ultimately defeated when the Lord struck down one hundred and eighty five thousand men from the Assyrian camp in one night.

Let us learn to be like Hezekiah, to lift all our challenges to our Lord, no matter how daunting and difficult these challenges are.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, please give us strength to meet all our challenges in our lives and to have unfailing faith in You.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for always knowing what is best for us and for loving us.

25 June, Monday – A Truly Christian Attitude

25 June

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2 Kings 17:5-8,13-15,18

The king of Assyria invaded the whole country and, coming to Samaria, laid siege to it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah on the Habor, a river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

This happened because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the grip of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshipped other gods, they followed the practices of the nations that the Lord had dispossessed for them.

And yet through all the prophets and all the seers, the Lord had given Israel and Judah this warning, ‘Turn from your wicked ways and keep my commandments and my laws in accordance with the entire Law I laid down for your fathers and delivered to them through my servants the prophets.’ But they would not listen, they were more stubborn than their ancestors had been who had no faith in the Lord their God. They despised his laws and the covenant he had made with their ancestors, and the warnings he had given them. They pursued emptiness, and themselves became empty through copying the nations round them although the Lord had ordered them not to act as they did. For this, the Lord was enraged with Israel and thrust them away from him. There was none left but the tribe of Judah only.

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Matthew 7:1-5

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; because the judgements you give are the judgements you will get, and the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given. Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? How dare you say to your brother, “Let me take the splinter out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.’

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“The judgements you give are the judgements you will get…”

Today’s Gospel shows our Lord Jesus warning His disciples against judging others, about how one would be similarly judged as a consequence.

This has always been my struggle; I tend to have (fleeting) judgmental thoughts as I go about my day. Very often, I catch myself judging people and I have to spend some time rationalising myself out of such thoughts. I realise, over years of reflecting on this Gospel passage, that the essence of this teaching is not that we hold back from voicing our thoughts, but that we not have them in the first place.

In recent months, I have been travelling to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam very regularly, and I have now realised that my Father God may have sent me there to learn an important lesson.

Those of us who are familiar with Vietnam will share about the traffic situation there. The vehicles there follow a lax traffic code; anything goes as long as you make sure that others can see you doing it. I remember a particular day when I took a ride on a motorcycle as a pillion rider. That fateful day, I remember riding against traffic, mounting curbs along the way and travelling against the direction of one-way streets. It was terrifying. Interestingly though, while there was gentle chiding by passersby, no one got really upset nor angry, despite the less-than-responsible actions of my rider.

Over my time in Vietnam, I have never seen a traffic situation where people get angry. When speaking with a Vietnamese friend, he explained that people don’t get angry because they are always expecting the others to do the unexpected, often riding slowly so as to be prepared to take defensive measures. Their attitude is that they can always take actions to avoid any potential accident. Even if such incidents were to take place, the people just move on unaffected.

As Christians, we should take the same attitude; rather than looking for and being critical about any infringements by others, we should instead work on ourselves and prepare ourselves for any potential challenges in our Christian journey.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that in our faith journey, we will learn to be inward-looking when it comes to our failings. May we learn not to be on the lookout for weaknesses in others, choosing to understand that everyone has their own backstory in every situation.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for Your teaching us to not judge others, Lord Jesus. We praise and thank You for also showing us how to do this in our lives.

24 June, Sunday – A Living Faith

Jun 24 – 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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“He spoke and praised God”

We have 2 children in their teenage years. When they were little, we did everything for them — feeding, cleaning and changing their clothes. Their needs were fully met by us, and if we missed their ‘cues’, they would have to go without.

As they grew up, we allowed them to do simple things, such as ordering their own food at the hawker centre, or running other simple errands. I remember the first times they did that; we started out by bringing them together, showing them how to place the orders. They soon progressed to doing it on their own, with us casting sereptitious glances to make sure they were ok.

So it is, with the early prophets, that our God chose to deliver His message to His people. While some of these prophets started out unsure, they soon came to the knowledge and confidence that their God was watching over them, that they would be shown what, and when to do.

Today, we celebrate the birthday of St John the Baptist, whose parents were Zechariah and Elizabeth, the latter whom our Mother Mary rushed to help upon hearing of her pregnancy. St John is literally the prophet that links the Old and New Testaments.

St John was one of the most fiery and fervent evangelists and we get a hint of where this faithfulness came from. In today’s Gospel, we get an idea about what kind of family environment Zechariah and Elizabeth allowed St John to grow in.

For one, we read about how Zechariah was quietly supportive of Elizabeth’s decision to name the baby “John”, in spite of the objections displayed by the others. Another important factor we see is how Zechariah praised and worshipped God, a trait and practice I am sure St John continued, and which deeply influenched him.

Let us pray that we may learn from the faith and examples of St John, Zechariah and Elizabeth.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, we pray that we will learn from the faith and examples of those who have walked the way, especially Your prophets.

Thanksgiving: We praise You and thank You Father, for always watching over us; for always being there for us.

23 June, Saturday – Staying close to God

23 June

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2 Chronicles 24:17-25

After the death of Jehoiada, the officials of Judah came to pay court to the king, and the king now turned to them for advice. The Judaeans abandoned the Temple of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, for the worship of sacred poles and idols. Because of their guilt, God’s anger fell on Judah and Jerusalem. He sent them prophets to bring them back to the Lord, but when these gave their message, they would not listen. The spirit of God took possession of Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood up before the people and said, ‘God says this, “Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord to no good purpose? You have deserted the Lord, now he deserts you.”’ They then plotted against him and by order of the king stoned him in the court of the Temple of the Lord. King Joash, forgetful of the kindness that Jehoiada, the father of Zechariah, had shown him, killed Jehoiada’s son who cried out as he died, ‘The Lord sees and he will avenge!’

When a year had gone by, the Aramaean army made war on Joash. They reached Judah and Jerusalem, and executed all the officials among the people, sending back to the king at Damascus all that they had plundered from them. Though the Aramaean army had by no means come in force, the Lord delivered into its power an army of great size for having deserted him, the God of their ancestors.

The Aramaeans treated Joash as he had deserved, and when they retired they left him a very sick man; and his officers, plotting against him to avenge the death of the son of Jehoiada the priest, murdered him in his bed. So he died, and they buried him in the Citadel of David, though not in the tombs of the kings.

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Matthew 6:24-34

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.

‘That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it. Surely life means more than food, and the body more than clothing! Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they are? Can any of you, for all his worrying, add one single cubit to his span of life? And why worry about clothing? Think of the flowers growing in the fields; they never have to work or spin; yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his regalia was robed like one of these. Now if that is how God clothes the grass in the field which is there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will he not much more look after you, you men of little faith? So do not worry; do not say, “What are we to eat? What are we to drink? How are we to be clothed?” It is the pagans who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’

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Each day has enough trouble of its own

I always wondered why the people coming back from the Central Business District Area always have this stressed look on their faces. This is a constant observation over the years and this has always made me ask if work is really such a drudge that people drag themselves everyday. The readings of today could suggest to us a way to re-orientate our beliefs to focus on God.

The people in Jesus’s time were already struggling with the challenge of wealth accumulation and staying faithful to God. Wealth provides us with the chance to secure the here and present because it is a material good. We can see and touch it which thus gives us security in our lives. Yet this is not the purpose of the Christian. The role of the Christian is to bring the knowledge of Christ to those who do not know Him.

How can we then set our hearts on the kingdom of God and his righteousness first? We can do so by remembering to stay close to God in prayer. Prayer is the way we communicate to God and to allow the Lord to speak to us in the silence of our hearts. To do so, we need to put aside the items which distract us from the God – worries, concerns of the world and our emotions. This requires some effort on our part because it has been ingrained in our system. Let us ask God the Holy Spirit to come into our lives today and discover what it means to stay focused on the Lord.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit into our hearts to melt the coldness within it

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who accept us for our flaws.

22 June, Friday -Batteries not included?

Jun 22 – 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 11:1-4,9-18,20

When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah learned that her son was dead, she promptly did away with all those of royal stock. But Jehosheba, daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, secretly took away Jehoash, her brother’s son, from among the sons of the king who were being murdered, and put him with his nurse in the sleeping quarters; in this way she hid him from Athaliah, and he was not put to death. He stayed with her for six years, hidden in the Temple of the Lord, while Athaliah governed the country.

In the seventh year, Jehoiada sent for the commanders of hundreds of the Carians and of the guards, and had them brought to him in the Temple of the Lord. He made a pact with them and, putting them under oath, showed them the king’s son.

The commanders of hundreds did everything as Jehoiada the priest had ordered. They brought their men, those coming off duty on the sabbath together with those mounting guard on the sabbath, and came to Jehoiada the priest. The priest equipped the commanders of hundreds with King David’s spears and shields which were in the Temple of the Lord. The guards formed up, each man with his weapon in his hand, from the south corner to the north corner of the Temple, surrounding the altar and the Temple.’ Then Jehoiada brought out the king’s son, put the crown and armlets on him, and he anointed him king. They clapped their hands and shouted, ‘Long live the king!’

Athaliah, on hearing the shouts of the people made for the Temple of the Lord where the people were. When she saw the king standing there beside the pillar, as the custom was, with the captains and trumpeters at the king’s side, and all the country people rejoicing and sounding trumpets, Athaliah tore her garments and shouted, ‘Treason, treason!’ Then Jehoiada the priest gave the order to the army officers: ‘Take her outside the precincts and put to death anyone who follows her.’ ‘For,’ the priest had reasoned, ‘she must not be put to death in the Temple of the Lord.’ They seized her, and when she had reached the palace through the Entry of the Horses, she was put to death there.

Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and king and people, by which the latter undertook to be the people of the Lord; and also between king and people. All the country people then went to the temple of Baal and demolished it; they smashed his altars and his images and killed Mattan, priest of Baal, in front of the altars.

The priest posted sentries to guard the Temple of the Lord. All the country people were delighted, and the city made no move. And they put Athaliah to death in the royal palace.

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Matthew 6:19-23

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and woodworms destroy them and thieves can break in and steal. But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor woodworms destroy them and thieves cannot break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

‘The lamp of the body is the eye. It follows that if your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light. But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be all darkness. If then, the light inside you is darkness, what darkness that will be!’

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For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

As a young child, I was often fascinated by how car toys could move on their own at the turn of a button. It was not until I realised that it was this thing called a “battery” which managed to give it power for the whole device to move. The readings of today remind us of the need to stay close to the Lord and that He is supposed to be the centre of our lives.

Jesus reminds us that the things of this world is temporary and that we need to remain on what drives the Christian towards his daily life – his daily connection with God. This daily connection with God is powered up with prayer on a daily basis. The individual Christian is asked to continue to deepen the connection with God by entering into a deep and sincere relationship. This entails both a genuine desire to know what the good Lord wants for the individual as well as the ability to respond to that call.

The Lord loves each one of us and asks that we love Him back. The world distracts us with fame, prestige, money, position and title but what matters in the end is the treasure of having God in our lives. Unlike toys which have the disclaimer “Batteries not included”, Christians have a never-ending source of power within us, which is the love of God in our lives. We are then called to share this treasure with the people around us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Father, we ask for your forgiveness for the times we have forgotten you.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the people who accept our flaws