Monthly Archives: August 2018

1 September, Saturday – Called to Greatness

1 September

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1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Take yourselves for instance, brothers, at the time when you were called: how many of you were wise in the ordinary sense of the word, how many were influential people, or came from noble families? No, it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame what is strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything. The human race has nothing to boast about to God, but you, God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom. As scripture says: if anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord.

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Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.

‘The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.”

‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”’

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…those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything

I must admit, for the longest time, I struggled with today’s Gospel text. I never understood why the last servant was punished for being prudent. I guess, being a risk averse person, I totally identified with the servant that hid his 1 talent to safeguard what little he has — afraid to, or perhaps not willing to work towards multiplying the talents given by God.

However, in my journey out of corporate life and walking towards the path God has paved for me, I began to appreciate what Jesus is teaching in this parable. My talents are not mine to keep and bury. By limiting myself and not showing up as who I really am or could be — sharing with the world the gifts and talents that God has blessed me with — I am doing God a huge disservice. You can even say I have sinned by refusing to partake in His plan for me!

Yet, many times I struggle. I lack the faith and courage to step into the possibilities that God has given me and shrink into my old way of being. How could I, this imperfect being, be called to greatness? Surely not? And yet, He reminds us that “those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything.”

I still have a long way to go with this. I am humbled by this calling and yet, in my humanness, I walk with trepidation towards the ultimate purpose God has planned for me. I must constantly remind myself that it is only through His grace and His alone, that I do what I do. I need Jesus in my life to nourish and guide me, “God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness and our freedom”. I need His wisdom and strength, to shine for the world. Writing today’s reflection reminded me of a beautiful gift I received from a friend when I started on my journey:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’

Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others”. —- Marianne Williamson

(Today’s OXYGEN by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer:  Jesus, you are my wisdom, my virtue, my holiness and freedom. Teach me dear Lord, to lean on you and seek your counsel so that I not only embrace the talents given by my Heavenly Father, but be a beacon of light to others and in turn, encourage others to shine for God.

Thanksgiving:  Thank you my Heavenly Father, for your grace and mercy; for choosing me to be a little light in the world.

31 August, Friday – God’s foolishness and weakness

31 August

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1 Corinthians 1:17-25

Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the Good News, and not to preach that in the terms of philosophy in which the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed. The language of the cross may be illogical to those who are not on the way to salvation, but those of us who are on the way see it as God’s power to save. As scripture says: I shall destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing all the learning of the learned. Where are the philosophers now? Where are the scribes? Where are any of our thinkers today? Do you see now how God has shown up the foolishness of human wisdom? If it was God’s wisdom that human wisdom should not know God, it was because God wanted to save those who have faith through the foolishness of the message that we preach. And so, while the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

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Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven will be like this: Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible: the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps. The bridegroom was late, and they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But at midnight there was a cry, “The bridegroom is here! Go out and meet him.” At this, all those bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, “Give us some of your oil: our lamps are going out.” But they replied, “There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.” They had gone off to buy it when the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall and the door was closed. The other bridesmaids arrived later. “Lord, Lord,” they said “open the door for us.” But he replied, “I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.” So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.’

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“For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”

Having worked in the corporate world for more than 25 years, there was a time I recall feeling so invincible and untouchable, life was good and all the material wealth we possessed made me feel even more indestructible. But deep down, there was an unexplainable vacuum of emptiness. The constant desire for significance took me further from it.

Truly, how could I have been so proud as to think I have the wisdom and strength to conquer it all in the world by myself? Our wisdom is nothing compared to God’s foolishness. So why would anyone go to such great length of suffering and even dying on the cross for others? To the eyes of the world, this is craziness, unfathomable! But Jesus has shown me that in vulnerability and total weakness, He has conquered the world! He has saved many, and many have turned to follow Him!

I am very grateful that God showed me a different path, because coming home to my vulnerability gave me strength; strength and power to do His will. The feeling of invincibility comes not from material possessions, status or fame, but from a place of deep knowing — that I am loved by Him. It’s ironic that through embracing my weaknesses and acknowledging that I am nothing without Him, there is this tremendous driving force that propels me forward and this feeling of truly being untouchable.

Stepping into the world now with this new-found understanding means a strong purpose and commitment, but it also means I need to constantly draw upon God’s wisdom and power. It reminds me that I cannot do this on my own, nor need I. The Gospel reading reminds us once again to stay alert and be prepared; to me, it means I need to cling on to Jesus, my redeemer and friend so I can draw from the source of life in my journey of life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer:  Oh God my Father, you are our source of wisdom and power. Help us to always turn to you and not rely on our human foolishness in this journey of life; to seek wisdom and understanding through your eyes which are perfect and emit love. For only through your eyes, will we be able to see the goodness around us and be your instrument of love.

Thanksgiving:  Our Father in Heaven, you are our amazing Abba Father, who in your greatness never fails to meet us where we are in our faith journey, forever patient and kind. Thank you for seeing me, this small little creation of yours! For believing in my possibility as part of your great plan of salvation, and for never giving up on me, foolish though I may be.

30 August, Thursday – Witness for Christ

30 August

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1 Corinthians 1:1-9

I, Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle, together with brother Sosthenes, send greetings to the church of God in Corinth, to the holy people of Jesus Christ, who are called to take their place among all the saints everywhere who pray to our Lord Jesus Christ; for he is their Lord no less than ours. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send you grace and peace.

I never stop thanking God for all the graces you have received through Jesus Christ. I thank him that you have been enriched in so many ways, especially in your teachers and preachers; the witness to Christ has indeed been strong among you so that you will not be without any of the gifts of the Spirit while you are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed; and he will keep you steady and without blame until the last day, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, because God by calling you has joined you to his Son, Jesus Christ; and God is faithful.

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Matthew 24:42-51

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming. You may be quite sure of this that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house. Therefore, you too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

‘What sort of servant, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their food at the proper time? ‘Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you solemnly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the dishonest servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time,” and sets about beating his fellow servants and eating and drinking with drunkards, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.’

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Let us first receive the seeds of the Gospel in our own hearts and then work with the Divine Gardener to scatter His seeds of truth and love to all we meet.

Stay awake says the Lord! Yes, this gospel reminds us of the work needed on our interior life, as we prepare for the day we are called. Such is the importance of our readiness that Jesus reminds us to not neglect our spiritual life, but enrich it through prayer, fasting, and obedience to His word.

In the first reading today, something else struck me — the witnessing to one another which we tend to down play as Catholics. What St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians “the witness to Christ has indeed been strong among you so that you will not be without any of the gifts of the Spirit while you are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed”.

Witness, what does it mean for me to witness? Am I a good witness to Christ? This is a big responsibility, as it is not about just taking care of my own spiritual growth but scriptures have indicated that while I wait for my Lord to be revealed, I need to help my fellow brothers and sisters to grow in faith too. To connect, to instruct, in relationship with one another and in relationship with God!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer:  Dear Lord, continue to shine your light into my soul, as I step out of my own darkness in order that I may stand witness for you!

Thanksgiving:  Our Father in Heaven, thank you for first loving us so that in your perfect love, we may learn to embrace and love one another.

29 August, Wednesday – Work as Our Gifts to God

29 August – Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

To endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather is was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward. Since death was ever at hand, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: “You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake.” He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that His chosen ones should suffer for Him: “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.”

– from a homily by Saint Bede the Venerable on the death of John the Baptist

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2 Thessalonians 3:6-10,16-18

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we urge you, brothers, to keep away from any of the brothers who refuses to work or to live according to the tradition we passed on to you.

You know how you are supposed to imitate us: now we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we ever have our meals at anyone’s table without paying for them; no, we worked night and day, slaving and straining, so as not to be a burden on any of you. This was not because we had no right to be, but in order to make ourselves an example for you to follow.

We gave you a rule when we were with you: do not let anyone have any food if he refuses to do any work. May the Lord of peace himself give you peace all the time and in every way. The Lord be with you all.

From me, PAUL, these greetings in my own handwriting, which is the mark of genuineness in every letter; this is my own writing. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

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Mark 6:17-29

Herod sent to have John arrested, and had him chained up in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife whom he had married. For John had told Herod, ‘It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife.’ As for Herodias, she was furious with him and wanted to kill him; but she was not able to, because Herod was afraid of John, knowing him to be a good and holy man, and gave him his protection. When he had heard him speak he was greatly perplexed, and yet he liked to listen to him.

An opportunity came on Herod’s birthday when he gave a banquet for the nobles of his court, for his army officers and for the leading figures in Galilee. When the daughter of this same Herodias came in and danced, she delighted Herod and his guests; so the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me anything you like and I will give it you.’ And he swore her an oath, ‘I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.’ She went out and said to her mother, ‘What shall I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the Baptist’ The girl hurried straight back to the king and made her request, ‘I want you to give me John the Baptist’s head, here and now, on a dish.’ The king was deeply distressed but, thinking of the oaths he had sworn and of his guests, he was reluctant to break his word to her. So the king at once sent one of the bodyguard with orders to bring John’s head. The man went off and beheaded him in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard about this, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

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“We worked night and day… so as not to be a burden on any of you…”

After I left my corporate job some 4 years ago, I explored doing various businesses. One that was particularly alluring promised lots of fun, travel, money and a complete life of leisure. I was taken with the idea and for a while, dabbled in this.

My wife and I soon went for a couple of holidays, but soon realised that there was only so much time one could spend in leisure. I missed spending time working. With work, I enjoyed interacting with other people. I enjoyed putting in a hard day’s work to earn my living. What I found, also, was that by doing my work and doing it well, I was glorifying God.

The Apostle Paul was teaching this to the Thessalonians — that there is value in work. Only by working together, can everyone contribute to and grow with the community. The specific instructions given by the disciples were to avoid associating with those who choose to leech off others and not working for their keep.

Another point that struck me from the First Reading of today was the fact that the Apostle Paul and the leaders of the early Church not only gave guidance to the followers, but strove hard to be good examples as leaders. Instead of mere lip service, these men demonstrated, like Jesus, what it means to be servant leaders.

Brothers and sisters, let us all be thankful for the work that God gives us in our daily lives so that in achieving our goals, we can glorify Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer:  We pray we may always do our best at our work, and to lift our work as our gifts to God.

Thanksgiving:  We thank You Father, for giving us work, so that we may find ways of continuing to glorify You.

28 August, Tuesday – True Repentence

28 August – Memorial for St. Augustine, Bishop, Doctor

After investigating and experimenting with several philosophies, Augustine (354-430) became a Manichaean for several years; it taught of a great struggle between good and evil, and featured a lax moral code. A summation of his thinking at the time comes from his Confessions: “God, give me chastity and continence – but not just now.”

Augustine finally broke with the Manichaeans and was converted by the prayers of his mother and the help of St. Ambrose of Milan, who baptised him. Upon the death of his mother he returned to Africa, sold his property, gave the proceeds to the poor, and founded a monastery. He founded religious communities and fought heresies. His later thinking can also be summed up in a line from his writings: Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.

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2 Thessalonians 2:1-3,14-17

To turn, brothers, to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we shall all be gathered round him: please do not get excited too soon or alarmed by any prediction or rumour or any letter claiming to come from us, implying that the Day of the Lord has already arrived. Never let anyone deceive you in this way.

It cannot happen until the Great Revolt has taken place and the Rebel, the Lost One, has appeared. Through the Good News that we brought he called you to this so that you should share the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Stand firm, then, brothers, and keep the traditions that we taught you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father who has given us his love and, through his grace, such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope, comfort you and strengthen you in everything good that you do or say.

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Matthew 23:23-26

Jesus said, ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who pay your tithe of mint and dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law – justice, mercy, good faith! These you should have practised, without neglecting the others. You blind guides! Straining out gnats and swallowing camels!

‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who clean the outside of cup and dish and leave the inside full of extortion and intemperance. Blind Pharisee! Clean the inside of cup and dish first so that the outside may become clean as well.’

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“… so that you should share the glory…”

Funny as it sounds, one of my favourite movies is ‘Shallow Hal’, a comedy starring Jack Black as Hal. Because of a childhood trauma, he sought the company of women who were very beautiful in terms of physical beauty.

So spoilers ahead for those of you planning to watch this particular movie.

Hal chances upon a hypnotist (the ever affable Tony Robbins) who then helps him see the real beauty in the ladies he meets. From then on, he meets with many beautiful women, who also find him attractive. He also meets with a few who not only are less attractive, but also turn out to extremely nasty individuals.

Fast forward to the end of the movie and Hal begins to see the world normally again. It turns out that the beautiful women were not the ravishing beauties he initially saw, and the nasty ladies were actually physically beautiful. Understandably, he was confused, as he could no longer see just the superficial, physical aspects.

Our Lord Jesus speaks in the Gospel today about how, like Hal, many of us focus on the unimportant aspects of our faith. I remember a priest once sharing about how people are concerned about whether they ate meat on a Friday, but were making wrong choices in terms of their faith, lifestyle or moral decisions.

In my spiritual life, I find it tempting to focus on my ‘less serious’ sins in order to cover up the sins that I am truly ashamed of. And yet, when I rely on God’s grace and face my sins head on, I find that I experience the full experience of His Mercy.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer:  We pray that we may be able to trust in the Holy Spirit to guide us and to help us discern what is truly important to our faith.

Thanksgiving:  Thank You Lord Jesus, for teaching us. Thank You for always showing us what we need to focus on as God’s children.

27 August, Monday – Understanding True Worth

27 August – Memorial for St. Monica, Married Woman

Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted a heresy and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted.

When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan, where she became a leader of the devout women there.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Thessalonians 1:1-5,11-12

From Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, to the Church in Thessalonika which is in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; wishing you grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We feel we must be continually thanking God for you, brothers; quite rightly, because your faith is growing so wonderfully and the love that you have for one another never stops increasing; and among the churches of God we can take special pride in you for your constancy and faith under all the persecutions and troubles you have to bear. It all shows that God’s judgement is just, and the purpose of it is that you may be found worthy of the kingdom of God; it is for the sake of this that you are suffering now.

Knowing this, we pray continually that our God will make you worthy of his call, and by his power fulfil all your desires for goodness and complete all that you have been doing through faith; because in this way the name of our Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified in you and you in him, by the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Matthew 23:13-22

Jesus said, ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who shut up the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to.

‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who travel over sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when you have him you make him twice as fit for hell as you are.

‘Alas for you, blind guides! You who say, “If a man swears by the Temple, it has no force; but if a man swears by the gold of the Temple, he is bound.” Fools and blind! For which is of greater worth, the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? Or else, “If a man swears by the altar it has no force; but if a man swears by the offering that is on the altar, he is bound.” You blind men! For which is of greater worth, the offering or the altar that makes the offering sacred? Therefore, when a man swears by the altar he is swearing by that and by everything on it. And when a man swears by the Temple he is swearing by that and by the One who dwells in it. And when a man swears by heaven he is swearing by the throne of God and by the One who is seated there.’

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“You make him twice as fit for hell as you are”

When my children were very young, I used to be quite the authoritarian with them. I remember barking orders about what they could or could not do. This went on without much incident until the day my son asked me: ”But Dad, you asked me to do it, why do you not do it?”

Indeed, this was precisely the thing that my wife had been telling me; that my children were watching me all the time. That, in their minds, they would be matching what they see against what I was saying.

Our Lord Jesus in the Gospel talked about this, chastising the scribes and Pharisees, for such a thing, requiring the converts to follow faith standards higher than even what these teachers were required to do. Many times, I have found myself doing the same thing. On many occasions, I find myself unconsciously judging others for their actions. Yet, upon further reflection, I often find that I am unable to behave better than those I am critical of.

I have long mulled over the deeper meaning behind the second part of today’s Gospel. For the longest time, I figured that we should not be so taken with the superficial aspects our lives, and should instead focus on the deeper, more spiritual aspects. However, it was when I was preparing for today’s reflection when another meaning struck me.

I realised that it goes beyond the difference between superficiality and deepness. Instead, it was that all the good and everything in our lives comes from God. We spend too much time attributing this success to ourselves; what schools we went to, who we know or whether we are at the right place at the right time. What should happen instead, however, is that we should look at the “gold behind the temple”; that whatever we have comes from our God.

When we do good, it comes from God. When we have an idea for a way to do good in the world, it comes from God. When we invent something, it comes from God.

Simply put, ALL good comes from God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer:  We pray that no matter what, we will continue to recognize the true value of everything in our lives. Help us Father, to have wisdom.

Thanksgiving:  We thank You Father, for giving us the gift of discernment. Thank You for reminding us not to be arrogant but to always rely on Him.

26 August, Sunday – True Love

26 August 2018

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Joshua 24:1-2,15-18

Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel together at Shechem; then he called the elders, leaders, judges and scribes of Israel, and they presented themselves before God. Then Joshua said to all the people, ‘If you will not serve the Lord, choose today whom you wish to serve, whether the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are now living. As for me and my House, we will serve the Lord.’
The

people answered, ‘We have no intention of deserting the Lord and serving other gods! Was it not the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors out of the land of Egypt, the house of slavery, who worked those great wonders before our eyes and preserved us all along the way we travelled and among all the peoples through whom we journeyed? What is more, the Lord drove all those peoples out before us, as well as the Amorites who used to live in this country. We too will serve the Lord, for he is our God.’

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Ephesians 5:21-32

Give way to one another in obedience to Christ. Wives should regard their husbands as they regard the Lord, since as Christ is head of the Church and saves the whole body, so is a husband the head of his wife; and as the Church submits to Christ, so should wives to their husbands, in everything. Husbands should love their wives just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her to make her holy. He made her clean by washing her in water with a form of words, so that when he took her to himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless. In the same way, husbands must love their wives as they love their own bodies; for a man to love his wife is for him to love himself. A man never hates his own body, but he feeds it and looks after it; and that is the way Christ treats the Church, because it is his body – and we are its living parts. For this reason, a man must leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one body. This mystery has many implications; but I am saying it applies to Christ and the Church.

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John 6:60-69

After hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’ Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, ‘Does this upset you? What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?

‘It is the spirit that gives life,
the flesh has nothing to offer.
The words I have spoken to you are spirit
and they are life.

‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the outset those who did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. He went on, ‘This is why I told you that no one could come to me unless the Father allows him.’ After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.
Then Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.’

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“… Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her…”

I remember speaking with a colleague years ago about marriage and we were discussing about the challenges that married couples go through. I cannot remember much of this conversation, but I do remember how it ended.  “If it doesn’t work out”, she said, “can always divorce. I mean, if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.”

I have heard similar views being shared by many others and, in many cases, these marriages ended up in divorce. Friends caught up in such a situation have often shared the extreme difficulties they faced while being still married. They speak of disagreements and arguments, about rifts in relationships, about how their spouse no longer understood nor loved them and how both in the relationship finally decided it was no longer worth fighting for.

However, the irony is that when we speak to those marriages who have stood the test of time, we too hear about the same difficulties. They too, go through extremely challenging circumstances which had placed stresses on the marriage. Yet, these marriages survive.

Very often, the difference between the two is this — commitment to the marriage, and commitment to continue working on the relationship, no matter what both parties go through.

In today’s second reading, we read about perfect, giving love. About how Jesus gave of Himself, totally, to His Church and for His Church. The focus is not on Himself, but on us, His spouse. Instead of being concerned about Himself and His own needs, Our Lord ministered to the people, and did everything He could for them. It was this selfless love that attracted many to the early community.

Brothers and sisters, imagine if we learned to be just like Jesus in our relationships with our spouses. Imagine what would happen if we gave of ourselves selflessly, never thinking of what was in it for ourselves? What a way to build relationships of true love!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer:  Father God, we pray that You help us to always focus on those around You and on those around us. Help us to continue to grow in love for others.

Thanksgiving:  Thank You, Father, for showing what it truly means to love others.

25 August, Saturday – False Humility

25 August

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Ezekiel 43:1-7

The angel took me to the gate, the one facing east. I saw the glory of the God of Israel approaching from the east. A sound came with it, like the sound of the ocean, and the earth shone with his glory. This vision was like the one I had seen when I had come for the destruction of the city, and like the one I had seen on the bank of the river Chebar. Then I prostrated myself.

The glory of the Lord arrived at the Temple by the east gate. The spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; I saw the glory of the Lord fill the Temple. And I heard someone speaking to me from the Temple while the man stood beside me. The voice said, ‘Son of man, this is the dais of my throne, the step on which I rest my feet. I shall live here among the sons of Israel for ever.’

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Matthew 23:1-12

Addressing the people and his disciples Jesus said, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses. You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practise what they preach. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they! Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader phylacteries and longer tassels, like wanting to take the place of honour at banquets and the front seats in the synagogues, being greeted obsequiously in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi.
‘You, however, must not allow yourselves to be called Rabbi, since you have only one master, and you are all brothers. You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor must you allow yourselves to be called teachers, for you have only one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.’

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The greatest among you must be your servant.

What is the difference between a manager and a leader? A manager controls and delegates resources under his charge. A leader is somebody who inspires people to put in the best to achieve his potential. Jesus reminds us in the readings of today that we need to be role models in the Church.

People who hold leadership roles are meant to be examples of character and faith to the people around them. This requires the individual to treasure the faith they have been given and in humility to nourish those under it. This requires the leaders to have a strong faith and to always humbly seek the counsel of the people around them.

This is the reminder to all of us that we need to be open to correction. Be it as followers or leaders, there are people who are taking risks to correct us. Our attitude is important in the receiving of the correction. We should stay close to the ground and remain humble. As we continue in living on this world, let us find an opportunity in our life to apply this message in our lives.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace to be open to correction.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people who are our leaders.

24 August, Friday – The Fig Tree

24 August – Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle

Bartholomew was one of the Twelve Apostles. He was probably a close friend of St. Philip, as his name is always mentioned in the gospels in connection with Philip, and it was Philip who brought Bartholomew to Jesus. He may have written a gospel, now lost, as it is mentioned in other writings of the time.

Someone preached in Asia Minor, Ethiopia, India, and Armenia and left behind assorted writings. Local tradition says it was Bartholomew.

– Patron Saint Index

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Apocalypse 21:9-14

The angel came to speak to me, and said, ‘Come here and I will show you the bride that the Lamb has married.’ In the spirit, he took me to the top of an enormous high mountain and showed me Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down from God out of heaven. It had all the radiant glory of God and glittered like some precious jewel of crystal-clear diamond. The walls of it were of a great height, and had twelve gates; at each of the twelve gates there was an angel, and over the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel; on the east there were three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. The city walls stood on twelve foundation stones, each one of which bore the name of one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

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John 1:45-51

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, the one about whom the prophets wrote: he is Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.’ ‘From Nazareth?’ said Nathanael ‘Can anything good come from that place?’ ‘Come and see’ replied Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael coming he said of him, ‘There is an Israelite who deserves the name, incapable of deceit.’ ‘How do you know me?’ said Nathanael ‘Before Philip came to call you,’ said Jesus ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ Nathanael answered, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.’ Jesus replied, ‘You believe that just because I said: I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.’ And then he added ‘I tell you most solemnly, you will see heaven laid open and, above the Son of Man, the angels of God ascending and descending.’

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I saw you under the fig tree.

The fig tree is one of the few trees mentioned specifically in the bible several times. It is symbolic and a sign of peace and prosperity. With its large leaves, the fig tree provides pleasant shade and shelter. I am making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in September, and might have a chance of visiting one of these fig trees.

God knows us before we know ourselves. How easy or difficult is it to trust in Him and in His plans for us? How do we even know what is His will for us? How do we discern His voice over others?

I’ve been struggling with faith of late. Thoughts have crossed my mind that perhaps it is easier to just follow the ways of the world and indulge in its hedonistic pleasures, rather than try and be Christian and follow the Word of God. After all, the rest of the world doesn’t think it to be wrong, right?

Struggling with relationships, with work, with life in general, I’m reminded that I can only draw strength from the Eucharist. But I am also reminded that I have to be in a state of grace in order to receive Jesus. In other words, most hedonistic pleasures would be considered sinful. Hence, the confliction.

But there is also God’s timing, or coincidence perhaps — struggling to write this reflection piece but still forcing it out anyway; wanting to take a back seat with my church community but having been asked by two different persons to serve in other roles in the ministry; is saying ‘no’ akin to saying ‘no’ to God? Is this God’s providence to give me a safe harbour should I be tempted to stray again?

So many questions, so how do I know what the answer is? How do I have the conviction like Nathanael to say “Yes, you are the Son of God.”? Is this what faith means?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Kristel Wang)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to grow in faith. Teach us to draw strength from you always, to run to you first. Guide us to trust in you and your will, especially when it is difficult.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for sending guardian angels to watch over us. May we recognise the good in all things big and small. Amen.

23 August, Thursday – Hearts of Flesh

23 August

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Ezekiel 36:23-28

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows: ‘I mean to display the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned among them. And the nations will learn that I am the Lord – it is the Lord who speaks – when I display my holiness for your sake before their eyes. Then I am going to take you from among the nations and gather you together from all the foreign countries, and bring you home to your own land. I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your defilement and all your idols. I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead. I shall put my spirit in you, and make you keep my laws and sincerely respect my observances. You will live in the land which I gave your ancestors. You shall be my people and I will be your God.’

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Matthew 22:1-14

Jesus began to speak to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a feast for his son’s wedding. He sent his servants to call those who had been invited, but they would not come. Next he sent some more servants. “Tell those who have been invited” he said “that I have my banquet all prepared, my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, everything is ready. Come to the wedding.” But they were not interested: one went off to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his servants, maltreated them and killed them. The king was furious. He despatched his troops, destroyed those murderers and burnt their town. Then he said to his servants, “The wedding is ready; but as those who were invited proved to be unworthy, go to the crossroads in the town and invite everyone you can find to the wedding.” So these servants went out on to the roads and collected together everyone they could find, bad and good alike; and the wedding hall was filled with guests. When the king came in to look at the guests he noticed one man who was not wearing a wedding garment, and said to him, “How did you get in here, my friend, without a wedding garment?” And the man was silent. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’

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For many are called, but few are chosen.’

Pain is something that only a rson who has flesh can experience. The first reading of today reminds us that God will replace a heart of stone with a heart of flesh. However, how is it possible for a normal human being to have a heart of stone? I believe that this is possible through the intention to remain obstinate in the face of the truth

What pains God the most is when we choose to go on a way of sin when the path of right is present before us. Perhaps this obstinacy is due to the desire to enjoy the temporary pleasures which the world can offer. As we continue down this path, it gradually coarsens our heart and makes us less sensitive to God’s calling us to return to Him.

The Gospel today reminds us that God the Father wants us to return to the Heavenly Banquet which He has prepared for us. We need to be in the right disposition to be able to receive it. We can do this by nourishing our soul through the reading of Scripture and also frequent reception of the Sacraments. As we continue in the daily challenges in our lives, let us always put God in the centre of our life.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us discover the beauty of your ways through a deep encounter with you in the Sacraments

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