Category Archives: Lent

24 March, Saturday – Understanding Comes Later

24 March

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Ezekiel 37:21-28

The Lord says this: ‘I am going to take the sons of Israel from the nations where they have gone. I shall gather them together from everywhere and bring them home to their own soil. I shall make them into one nation in my own land and on the mountains of Israel, and one king is to be king of them all; they will no longer form two nations, nor be two separate kingdoms. They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and their filthy practices and all their sins. I shall rescue them from all the betrayals they have been guilty of; I shall cleanse them; they shall be my people and I will be their God. My servant David will reign over them, one shepherd for all; they will follow my observances, respect my laws and practise them. They will live in the land that I gave my servant Jacob, the land in which your ancestors lived. They will live in it, they, their children, their children’s children, for ever. David my servant is to be their prince for ever. I shall make a covenant of peace with them, an eternal covenant with them. I shall resettle them and increase them; I shall settle my sanctuary among them for ever. I shall make my home above them; I will be their God, they shall be my people. And the nations will learn that I am the Lord, the sanctifier of Israel, when my sanctuary is with them for ever.’

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John 11:45-56

Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what Jesus did believed in him, but some of them went to tell the Pharisees what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and Pharisees called a meeting. ‘Here is this man working all these signs’ they said ‘and what action are we taking? If we let him go on in this way everybody will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy the Holy Place and our nation.’ One of them, Caiaphas, the high priest that year, said, ‘You do not seem to have grasped the situation at all; you fail to see that it is better for one man to die for the people, than for the whole nation to be destroyed.’ He did not speak in his own person, it was as high priest that he made this prophecy that Jesus was to die for the nation – and not for the nation only, but to gather together in unity the scattered children of God. From that day they were determined to kill him. So Jesus no longer went about openly among the Jews, but left the district for a town called Ephraim, in the country bordering on the desert, and stayed there with his disciples.

  The Jewish Passover drew near, and many of the country people who had gone up to Jerusalem to purify themselves looked out for Jesus, saying to one another as they stood about in the Temple, ‘What do you think? Will he come to the festival or not?’

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He did not speak in his own person, it was as high priest that he made this prophecy.

I recently read a book by Jacques Philippe entitled ‘In the School of the Holy Spirit’. It was an excellent book and it shared how the movements of the Holy Spirit happens. It shared how sometimes, we feel a tugging in our hearts to do something and even if we don’t know it, we do it out of obedience. Sometimes, we will not know if it made a difference, but sometimes, God will give us consolation and let us know that our obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit bore fruit.

I remember when I used to feel suspicious whenever a friend said with conviction that he felt in his heart that the Holy Spirit instructed him to do something. I thought that he might just be overspiritualizing things. After all, I’m not one for doing something when I don’t understand things. I liked to experiment, but I didn’t want to experiment with my life. Also, I would rationalize that I need to be certain that it was indeed the Holy Spirit who was moving me. I would agonize if I was really being moved by the Holy Spirit or if it was just my own will that was moving me.

There are also instances where events happen in our lives and we cannot make sense of why they have to happen. There was this school I was aiming for when I was in the Philippines. It was the top high school and it provided a scholarship with a living allowance; the other high schools did not provide living allowances. I didn’t get it and, two and a half years later, I understood that it was for the best. You see, two and a half years later, I had the opportunity to get a scholarship to Singapore. Had I been enrolled in that top high school, I would have been bonded and I would have had to pay huge sum just to be able to come here.

What I’m trying to say is that even if we don’t fully understand what the Holy Spirit is moving us to do, or the things that are happening in our present lives, we should still move forward if we really feel called to. The understanding will come later. I bet Caiaphas thought he understood what he was saying, but he really didn’t.

If we still have doubts, we should consult with a spiritual director. He will help us see things from a different perspective.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, how difficult it is to move forward when I don’t understand what you want me to do, or when I can’t make out what is happening in my life right now. Please give me the grace to move forward and to trust that everything happens for a reason.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for putting all these reminders and inspirations in my heart. Even if I can’t understand them, they direct me towards your purpose in my life.

23 March, Friday – Sharing Jesus

23 Mar – Memorial for St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, bishop

St. Turibius (1538-1606) was born a noble and became a lawyer, and then a professor of law at Salamanca. He was ordained in 1578, and was a judge of the Court of the Inquisition at Granada. He was later appointed Archbishop of Lima, Peru on May 15, 1579. He founded the first seminary in the Western hemisphere, and fought for the rights of the natives against the Spanish masters. He also organized councils and synods in the New World.

Prayer to St. Turibius

Lord, through the apostolic work of St. Turibius and his unwavering love of truth, you helped your Church to grow. May your chosen people continue to grow in faith and holiness. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 20:10-13

Jeremiah said:

I hear so many disparaging me,
‘“Terror from every side!”
Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’
All those who used to be my friends
watched for my downfall,
‘Perhaps he will be seduced into error.
Then we will master him
and take our revenge!’
But the Lord is at my side, a mighty hero;
my opponents will stumble, mastered,
confounded by their failure;
everlasting, unforgettable disgrace will be theirs.

But you, O Lord of Hosts, you who probe with justice,
who scrutinise the loins and heart,
let me see the vengeance you will take on them,
for I have committed my cause to you.
Sing to the Lord,
praise the Lord,
for he has delivered the soul of the needy
from the hands of evil men.

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John 10:31-42

The Jews fetched stones to stone him, so Jesus said to them, ‘I have done many good works for you to see, works from my Father; for which of these are you stoning me?’ The Jews answered him, ‘We are not stoning you for doing a good work but for blasphemy: you are only a man and you claim to be God.’ Jesus answered:

‘Is it not written in your Law:
I said, you are gods?
So the Law uses the word gods
of those to whom the word of God was addressed,
and scripture cannot be rejected.
Yet you say to someone the Father has consecrated and sent into the world,
“You are blaspheming,”
because he says, “I am the son of God.”
If I am not doing my Father’s work,
there is no need to believe me;
but if I am doing it,
then even if you refuse to believe in me,
at least believe in the work I do;
then you will know for sure
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’

They wanted to arrest him then, but he eluded them.

He went back again to the far side of the Jordan to stay in the district where John had once been baptising. Many people who came to him there said, ‘John gave no signs, but all he said about this man was true’; and many of them believed in him.

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John gave no signs, but all he said about this man was true.

I was having a conversation with a friend recently, and he told me that he would only convert to Catholicism if he could see a great sign. I thought that I’m just me, a mere mortal, and miracles are out of my capability. I asked myself if it was really the dead-end, if there was no chance of me being able to invite him to see what the Catholic Church had to offer.

Just the other day, another friend was telling me that she knew of a family who converted to Catholicism after a miraculous healing of their child. I knew it was a good story and I also knew that while every conversion is a miracle, not every conversion is made up of a spectacular miracle.

In today’s Gospel, John gave no signs. Instead, he did something very well – that is sharing about the Truth of Jesus so much so that when the people who heard him talk about Jesus saw Jesus, they knew he was the one John was talking about. So while I cannot perform a miracle, I know that my sharing of who Jesus really is will help people in their conversion.

Pope Francis wrote about the Joy of the Gospel. Some of us, at some points in our lives, live like the Gospel is a chain that binds us and makes Catholics unhappy. The reality is, the Gospel can really be demanding and we are not always happy to obey. This paints a very different reality because instead of a chain, the Gospel is a bitter pill that helps us live well. Our lack of joy in our lives does not make us good witnesses to the Gospel. It does not really tell the Truth of who Jesus is. I know that if I want to tell the Truth about Jesus, I should do it with a smile.

Let me end this reflection by sharing something another friend told me. She shared that one of her office colleagues wanted to join the RCIA. She was surprised because it seemed to come out of the blue. When she asked her colleague why she decided to do so, the colleague replied that she noticed that all the Catholics in their office seemed to be exuding joy and peace. They didn’t even do any preaching. They just smiled and stayed happy despite the office stress.

What does your life say about Jesus? What does it say about our Catholic Faith? When people around us finally find Jesus, will they say that we said what is true about him?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, I do not always know how to introduce you to other people except through how I live my life. Someone said that my life might be the only bible other people will read. Help me live my life in a way that introduces you to them well.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, for the many things in my life that make me smile. I know that while this joy is also for me, it is also to witness the love you have for everyone.

22 March, Thursday – Am I A Liar?

22 March

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Genesis 17:3-9

Abram bowed to the ground and God said this to him, ‘Here now is my covenant with you: you shall become the father of a multitude of nations. You shall no longer be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I make you father of a multitude of nations. I will make you most fruitful. I will make you into nations, and your issue shall be kings. I will establish my Covenant between myself and you, and your descendants after you, generation after generation, a Covenant in perpetuity, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land you are living in, the whole land of Canaan, to own in perpetuity, and I will be your God.’

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John 8:51-59

Jesus said to the Jews:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
whoever keeps my word
will never see death.’

The Jews said, ‘Now we know for certain that you are possessed. Abraham is dead, and the prophets are dead, and yet you say, “Whoever keeps my word will never know the taste of death.” Are you greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? The prophets are dead too. Who are you claiming to be?’ Jesus answered:

‘If I were to seek my own glory
that would be no glory at all;
my glory is conferred by the Father,
by the one of whom you say, “He is our God”
although you do not know him.
But I know him,
and if I were to say: I do not know him,
I should be a liar, as you are liars yourselves.
But I do know him, and I faithfully keep his word.
Your father Abraham rejoiced
to think that he would see my Day;
he saw it and was glad.’

The Jews then said, ‘You are not fifty yet, and you have seen Abraham!’ Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
before Abraham ever was,
I Am.’

At this they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself and left the Temple.

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…and if I were to say: I do not know him, I should be a liar, as you are liars yourselves.

I have been fortunate to have known people who inspire me to live up to the Catholic values. I have a friend who refuses to watch any pirated movie or pirate any songs even though it’s the usual practice. I have another friend who told me that he chose to run the full 2.4 km instead of following the lead of his classmates of just adding one more round to their runs. They knew what was the right thing to do, and did it, even in these ‘simple’ circumstances. They didn’t compromise.

Sometimes, some of us lie about knowing what we should be doing. We feign ignorance, or we justify that since everyone is doing the same thing, that must be right. For example, we know that we should show up on time, but since everyone else is late, we let that dictate what is right. We know that saying something bad about a person and passing it off as a joke is not respectful, but we close our eyes if it gives us a good laugh. We know the right thing to do more times than we would admit but we have come up with reasons why another ‘truth’ is acceptable.

Jesus did not compromise. No matter what people told him, he told them about God and His will for us. He did not waiver just because other people are not ready to hear what they ought to hear. Jesus is Truth, and we are called to witness to the truth.

I am confident to say that most of us would like to live in the truth, although it is not easy to always live in the truth. I’ve had people at work who seem ok with doing something we would consider unethical, just because it is the industry practice. It’s either do what they do or risk losing your job. So what do we do? I found consolation talking to a spiritual director. It was difficult for me to share how I am on the verge of doing what I knew was not right, and he was able to advise me what to do.

How can we live our lives in truth? How can we not be liars in our Faith? It’s not an easy answer. Let us seek God’s help, the guidance of spiritual directors, and always pray for God to give us the strength.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, I know you understand how difficult it is to live in the Truth that you have asked us to. I also know that you have given us help and ensured that we receive the graces that we need. Forgive us every time we ‘lie’ about our Faith, and help us not be discouraged to live in the Truth.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, sending Jesus to show us the Truth, and to show us that the Truth can be lived out no matter how difficult it is. For Jesus died for the Truth.

21 March, Wednesday – Trust In The Lord Wholeheartedly

21 March

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Daniel 3:14-20,24-25,28

King Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, is it true that you do not serve my gods, and that you refuse to worship the golden statue I have erected? When you hear the sound of horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, or any other instrument, are you prepared to prostrate yourselves and worship the statue I have made? If you refuse to worship it, you must be thrown straight away into the burning fiery furnace; and where is the god who could save you from my power?’ Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘Your question hardly requires an answer: if our God, the one we serve, is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace and from your power, O king, he will save us; and even if he does not, then you must know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue you have erected.’ These words infuriated King Nebuchadnezzar; his expression was very different now as he looked at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He gave orders for the furnace to be made seven times hotter than usual, and commanded certain stalwarts from his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the burning fiery furnace.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar sprang to his feet in amazement. He said to his advisers, ‘Did we not have these three men thrown bound into the fire?’ They replied, ‘Certainly, O king.’ ‘But,’ he went on ‘I can see four men walking about freely in the heart of the fire without coming to any harm. And the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’

Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: he has sent his angel to rescue the servants who, putting their trust in him, defied the order of the king, and preferred to forfeit their bodies rather than serve or worship any god but their own.’

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John 8:31-42

To the Jews who believed in him Jesus said:

‘If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples, you will learn the truth and the truth will make you free.’

They answered, ‘We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone; what do you mean, “You will be made free”?’ Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly, everyone who commits sin is a slave. Now the slave’s place in the house is not assured, but the son’s place is assured. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

I know that you are descended from Abraham; but in spite of that you want to kill me because nothing I say has penetrated into you. What I, for my part, speak of is what I have seen with my Father; but you, you put into action the lessons learnt from your father.’

They repeated, ‘Our father is Abraham.’ Jesus said to them:

‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would do as Abraham did. As it is, you want to kill me when I tell you the truth as I have learnt it from God; that is not what Abraham did. What you are doing is what your father does.’

‘We were not born of prostitution,’ they went on ‘we have one father: God.’ Jesus answered:

‘If God were your father, you would love me, since I have come here from God; yes, I have come from him; not that I came because I chose, no, I was sent, and by him.’

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“Blessed be the God … who sent his angel to deliver the servants who trusted in him”

It is often easy to say, “I trust in the Lord”, when things get difficult. But how many of us really trust in the Lord entirely during such situations? For many, including myself, trusting in the Lord entirely does not come naturally or easily, and more often than not, this phrase denotes a theoretical understanding rather than an applied one.

Since young, trusting in the Lord has been extremely difficult for me. I have had my fair share of disappointments from the people in my life while I was growing up, and I extended this disappointment to God as well. I would often question Him and why life was the way it was for me. I found it hard to trust God and had always wanted to control my life the way I wanted it to be. That led me to leave the church in 2009 and I only returned in 2016.

I suffered from depression growing up, and it worsened after I left the Church. I was hitting roadblocks as I journeyed through life, and despite experiencing frequent suicidal thoughts, I always found the last ounce of strength to move beyond these obstacles. When I returned to the Church and became a Catholic, I realized that the 7 years I was away from Him, He was still next to me, intercepting my life with His hand whenever I could not manage, and helping me when I was at my lowest. This new-found revelation brought me closer to God and despite this, it still took me quite some time to relinquish control and to trust in the Lord more wholeheartedly.

Recently, things at work have become slightly more hectic and sometimes unmanageable, and coupled with the new responsibility within my ministry, I found myself craving the Lord’s consolation more and more. Each morning, I would offer my day to the Lord and the worries of the day got lesser and became more manageable. I realized that when I stop trying to control my life, the obstacles and stressors of daily life become easier to bear. I would seek His advice when things get tough and I found myself becoming more hopeful and at peace amidst the storms that I experience.

Brothers and sisters, the Lord reminds us in today’s reading that He will protect His servants and those who trust Him wholeheartedly, as seen in the lives of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Similarly, Jesus reminded us that a son will always remain in the household of his parents, and as children of God, we are given the utmost privilege to remain in the house of God, protected and loved by the all-encompassing and merciful Father.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the desire to trust in You. And to learn how to surrender the urge to control our lives, because You know the plans You have for us and You will never let us down.

Thanksgiving: Dear loving Father, we thank you for welcoming us into your house even though at times we want things to be our way. Thank you for protecting us from harm and for always looking out for us.

20 March, Tuesday – Being Beacons Of Light

20 March

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Numbers 21:4-9

The Israelites left Mount Hor by the road to the Sea of Suph, to skirt the land of Edom. On the way the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.’

At this God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel. The people came and said to Moses, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede for us with the Lord to save us from these serpents.’ Moses interceded for the people, and the Lord answered him, ‘Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live.’ So Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard, and if anyone was bitten by a serpent, he looked at the bronze serpent and lived.

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John 8:21-30

Again Jesus said to the Pharisees:

‘I am going away; you will look for me and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.’

The Jews said to one another, ‘Will he kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, “Where I am going, you cannot come”?’ Jesus went on:

‘You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I have told you already: You will die in your sins. Yes, if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.’

So they said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Jesus answered:

‘What I have told you from the outset. About you I have much to say and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is truthful, and what I have learnt from him I declare to the world.’

They failed to understand that he was talking to them about the Father. So Jesus said:

‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He and that I do nothing of myself: what the Father has taught me is what I preach; he who sent me is with me, and has not left me to myself, for I always do what pleases him.’

As he was saying this, many came to believe in him.

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“The one who sent me is with me…”

Today’s society has a very low tolerance for imperfection. This can be seen by the countless number of feedback channels readily available on websites, survey forms and on social media. It has become extremely easy for one to lodge an official complaint against the poor quality of service received from any staff. Due to the convenience of handphones and other personal devices, there is the instant gratification of lodging a complaint within the same breath of experiencing the bad service.

I know I am guilty of such behaviour, especially when I was younger, and my lesson came when I first started work. I had received a complaint from a client who wasn’t happy that I contacted her family, despite her not giving consent as there were safety issues involved. I was immediately summoned by my boss for an interrogation and scrutiny on what I did, and whether I did the right thing as the Public Relations Office had to respond to the complaint. That experience made me realize that although I might feel satisfied in airing my grievances from the ‘bad service’ I received, my actions might have caused not only unnecessary stress to the person, but the person might be fired from the job they needed to sustain their family.

In today’s first reading, the Israelites were unhappy with the ‘service’ provided by God and Moses, and they did not hesitate in complaining. Although the Lord punished the Israelites, He also showed them mercy when they were repentant. In today’s culture, where feedback and reviews can harm the status and social standing of a particular company, how many employers would show mercy to an employee who had received a complaint from a customer?

Brothers and sisters, let us take a step back to reflect on our words and actions when we are dissatisfied by a particular service provider, and ask ourselves whether we would be causing more harm than good by instantly providing our negative feedback. Jesus also reminds us that God is always with us because we are sent by Him, and thus we should always be beacons of light to those around us, guiding others back to the love of God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the restraint to hold our tongue when we want to provide negative feedback and to give us the spirit of understanding and patience when we are faced with such situations.

Thanksgiving: Dear loving Father, thank you for giving us the chance to be light in the world and to show your love and generosity to the people we meet. Thank you for placing people in our paths as we learn to love as You loved.

19 March, Monday – Father/Husband

19 Mar – Solemnity of St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Joseph is a descendant of the house of David. A layman and a carpenter, he was the earthly spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and foster and adoptive father of Jesus Christ. He was a visionary who was visited by angels, and is noted for his willingness to immediately get up and do what God told him.

Prayer to St. Joseph

Blessed Joseph, husband of Mary, be with us this day.
You protected and cherished the Virgin;
loving the Child Jesus as your Son,
you rescued Him from the danger of death.
Defend the Church, the household of God,
purchased by the blood of Christ.

Guardian of the Holy Family,
be with us in our trials.
May your prayers obtain for us
the strength to flee from error
and wrestle with the powers of corruption
so that in life we may grow in holiness
and in death rejoice in the crown of victory. Amen.

  • Patron Saint Index

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2 Samuel 7:4-5,12-14,16

The word of the Lord came to Nathan:

‘Go and tell my servant David, “Thus the Lord speaks: “When your days are ended and you are laid to rest with your ancestors, I will preserve the offspring of your body after you and make his sovereignty secure. (It is he who shall build a house for my name, and I will make his royal throne secure for ever.) I will be a father to him and he a son to me; if he does evil, I will punish him with the rod such as men use, with strokes such as mankind gives. Yet I will not withdraw my favour from him, as I withdrew it from your predecessor. Your House and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me and your throne be established for ever.”’

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Romans 4:13,16-18,22

The promise of inheriting the world was not made to Abraham and his descendants on account of any law but on account of the righteousness which consists in faith. That is why what fulfils the promise depends on faith, so that it may be a free gift and be available to all of Abraham’s descendants, not only those who belong to the Law but also those who belong to the faith of Abraham who is the father of all of us. As scripture says: I have made you the ancestor of many nations – Abraham is our father in the eyes of God, in whom he put his faith, and who brings the dead to life and calls into being what does not exist.

Though it seemed Abraham’s hope could not be fulfilled, he hoped and he believed, and through doing so he did become the father of many nations exactly as he had been promised: Your descendants will be as many as the stars. This is the faith that was ‘considered as justifying him.’

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Matthew 1:16,18-21,24

Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary; of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.

This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do.

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When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

What is it really to be a husband and father in this day and age? In the olden days, the perception of fathers was always of one who was the breadwinner and very much an alpha male figure that shouldn’t be messed with. Many people have described their relationship with this kind of father as distant, as he was usually a disciplinarian without much of a soft side.

This view of the father figure often led to a distorted image of God the Father. But our God revealed himself differently, more like the father that Jesus describes in the story of the prodigal son that we are so familiar with, from Luke 15. And we see this too in the man of Joseph, the spouse of Mary.

St Joseph knew that if he divorced Mary, she would be stoned to death, so he decided to do it quietly; already showing signs that he was a man who did not think of himself, not of his own shame, not of his own wellbeing, nor of his own future, but of the wellbeing of Mary and her future. And we know that thereafter, he took care of his family and even passed on his trade skills to his son, Jesus.

We know very little about St Joseph from scripture and a little bit more from sacred tradition. From there we derive that he was, a husband and father par excellence. Apart from wanting to spare Mary from being stoned, he also, dropped everything he had and fled his home when the angel told him that his family’s life was in danger.

There are entire religious orders built on his patronage, like the Oblates of St Joseph and Sisters of St Joseph. We even have 2 churches here in Singapore named after him. His name, in light of how he was the protector and provider of the holy family, is an often innovated name. In the divine praises and Eucharistic prayer he even gets a mention.

Especially in a time where many men are losing their identity, St Joseph stands as a model that we can all follow, to realise what it means to be a husband and father; even if we do not have children.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer: St Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and patron of the Universal Church. Be in our domestic churches so we may benefit from your intercession and help all the men in our lives to model themselves after you.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord, for the gift of my own father and father figures in my life. In them, I know there is this true man that the spirit of God has guided and moulded, as we all need good father figures in our lives. Help us too, to forgive them if they have fallen short and let them not give up.

18 March, Sunday – The Praying Servant

18 March 2018

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Jeremiah 31:31-34

See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel (and the House of Judah), but not a covenant like the one I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant of mine, so I had to show them who was master. It is the Lord who speaks. No, this is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel when those days arrive – it is the Lord who speaks. Deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I will be their God and they shall be my people. There will be no further need for neighbour to try to teach neighbour, or brother to say to brother, ‘Learn to know the Lord!’ No, they will all know me, the least no less than the greatest – it is the Lord who speaks – since I will forgive their iniquity and never call their sin to mind.

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Hebrews 5:7-9

During his life on earth, Christ offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard. Although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation.

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John 12:20-33

Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. These approached Philip, who came from Bethsaida in Galilee, and put this request to him, ‘Sir, we should like to see Jesus.’ Philip went to tell Andrew, and Andrew and Philip together went to tell Jesus. Jesus replied to them:

‘Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

I tell you, most solemnly, unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.

Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life.

If a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too. If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him. Now my soul is troubled.

What shall I say: Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name!’

A voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ People standing by, who heard this, said it was a clap of thunder; others said, ‘It was an angel speaking to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not for my sake that this voice came, but for yours.

‘Now sentence is being passed on this world; now the prince of this world is to be overthrown.

And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men to myself.’

By these words he indicated the kind of death he would die.

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“Whoever serves me must follow me…”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus was talking to Andrew and Philip and He reminded them that “whoever serves me must follow me”. Jesus was not talking about just following Him from place to place, but it is also important to follow Him by praying unceasingly.

The ministry that I am serving in is currently undergoing a change in its leadership, and I have been asked to step up and take on a leadership role. Despite my initial apprehension (I was afraid of the backlash from some members as I was considered newer in the ministry), I knew my heart wanted to serve and decided to take courage and respond to the invitation after praying and finding peace. I was talking to a friend about how I was feeling and she told me to continue praying, not only for the leadership team, but also for the members who were feeling negative about this new team that has been formed.

I initially struggled with my friend’s suggestion as I found it hard to pray for those who were against the team and I found myself wanting to be in control. But as today’s Gospel reminds us, unless we die to ourselves, God cannot work through us for the betterment of His people. I slowly started surrendering how I felt and tried to focus on praying for this ministry, the leaders, and everyone impacted by this new change. Gradually, I noticed that my apprehension of being a leader reduced significantly and I felt more at peace. Likewise, my fear of being picked on by others also started to reduce and my perspective started to shift – I was able to look at feedback from the giver’s point of view instead of becoming defensive or angry. I still struggle, but instead of being frustrated with myself and others, I would gently remind myself that it is okay to struggle, as long as I continue to persevere in my prayers to God. I was also thrilled when I saw that Pope Francis had dedicated the month of March to praying for spiritual discernment for both personal and communitarian levels, as I felt that God was reassuring me and reinforcing that prayer is taking a step in the right direction.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus did not have it easy during His ministry either, yet He persevered by fervently praying not only for Himself, but for the people He was preaching to and for the nations He hoped to reach out to. Jesus reminded us in today’s Gospel that as followers of Christ, it is important to emulate Him in our daily lives and in order for God to work through us, it is important that we do not give up when we struggle, but to continue surrendering our entirety to Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the desire to enrich our lives by praying for ourselves, our loved ones, as well as those who we struggle with. Open our hearts to be loving to all and not discriminate anyone because You love everyone.

 Thanksgiving: Dear loving Father, we thank you for your timely reminder to pray for those who hurt us as Jesus prayed for those who persecuted Him. Thank you for your gift of Jesus and His sacrifice.

17 March, Saturday – Getting Over Betrayal

17 Mar – Memorial for St. Patrick, bishop

St. Patrick (387-390 – 461-464) was kidnapped from the British mainland when he was about 16, and shipped to Ireland as a slave. He was sent to the mountains as a shepherd, and spent his time in prayer. After six years of this life, he had a dream in which he was commanded to return to Britain. Seeing it as a sign, he escaped.

He studied in several monasteries in Europe. He was a priest, then a bishop. He was sent by Pope St. Celestine to evangelize England, then Ireland, during which his chariot driver was St. Odran, and St. Jarlath was one of his spiritual students.

In 33 years, he effectively converted Ireland. In the Middle Ages, Ireland become known as the ‘Land of Saints’, and during the Dark Ages, its monasteries were the great repositories of learning in Europe, all a consequence of Patrick’s ministry.

Christ shield me this day:
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me

– Saint Patrick, from his breastplate

  • Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 11:18-20

The Lord revealed it to me; I was warned.

O Lord, that was when you opened my eyes to their scheming. I for my part was like a trustful lamb being led to the slaughter-house, not knowing the schemes they were plotting against me, ‘Let us destroy the tree in its strength, let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name may be quickly forgotten!’

But you, the Lord of Hosts, who pronounce a just sentence,
who probe the loins and heart,
let me see the vengeance you will take on them,
for I have committed my cause to you.

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John 7:40-52

Several people who had been listening to Jesus said, ‘Surely he must be the prophet’, and some said, ‘He is the Christ’, but others said, ‘Would the Christ be from Galilee? Does not scripture say that the Christ must be descended from David and come from the town of Bethlehem?’ So the people could not agree about him. Some would have liked to arrest him, but no one actually laid hands on him.

The police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees who said to them, ‘Why haven’t you brought him?’ The police replied, ‘There has never been anybody who has spoken like him.’ ‘So’ the Pharisees answered ‘you have been led astray as well? Have any of the authorities believed in him? Any of the Pharisees? This rabble knows nothing about the Law – they are damned.’ One of them, Nicodemus – the same man who had come to Jesus earlier – said to them, ‘But surely the Law does not allow us to pass judgement on a man without giving him a hearing and discovering what he is about?’ To this they answered, ‘Are you a Galilean too? Go into the matter, and see for yourself: prophets do not come out of Galilee.’

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…not knowing the schemes they were plotting against me…

As the ‘official’ spokesperson of our university, I sometimes find myself caught in situations where I have to manage two differing opinions or points of view in order to present a more balanced view or position to the media or the public. Thankfully, most times, the solution(s) end up being acceptable to all parties involved and we move on. However, I recently found myself in a situation which made me start to question my own abilities as a leader. Effectively, I was ‘betrayed’ by someone who I had thought I was helping over the past year.

In trying to help an underperforming senior staff understand his errors and coach him out of his rather ‘warped’ way of approaching work and leadership, I cited a lot of my own personal experiences and inevitably exposed myself a bit too much, especially when I got a bit passionate about his weaknesses and lack of certain qualities which I expected from a supposedly seasoned professional. To cut a long story short, HR is now involved as there has now been feedback about me to my boss.

I truly never expected such a slap in the face from someone I thought I was helping. How could I have been so naïve?! Especially having come across such situations when I was living in Dubai a decade ago. But lo and behold, it is when people are desperate and grasping at straws that they forget all about professional courtesy and decency. Whether they have been ill-advised or are acting out of sheer desperation, it brought to my mind some appreciation of how Jesus must have felt being betrayed by Judas and all of those who had a hand in his crucifixion. The best part is that Jesus knew exactly what He was getting himself into whereas we never do.

Brothers and sisters, we must never let such setbacks deter us from opening our hearts to others. Painful as it may be, the sting of betrayal can never be soothed by revenge. Instead, we must don the breastplate of faith and accept that as we journey with our wounded brothers and sisters, we must be prepared to face arrows, daggers, even bullets shot at us by those who may not be as ‘mature’ as we think.

Because if Jesus could forgive every one of us, who are we to condemn others who we deem ‘unworthy’? Can we, in good conscience, condemn those who hurt us? Or should we instead continue praying for them so that they may be redeemed?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, give us a heart that is filled with love, mercy and compassion for our brothers and sisters who are themselves wounded by pride and envy.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Jesus, for always showing us the depths of your love.

16 March, Friday – Passing Judgment

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We give thanks to God for your steadfast following of Oxygen.

As we enter into the Paschal Mystery of the Church, we invite our readers who want to help contribute a reflection to come forward.

The following readings are available for reflection:

Holy Saturday

Epistle + Responsorial Psalm

Gospel

This is a good time for you to share with our readers the joys you have had in reading Oxygen. Do drop an email to descksoon@yahoo.com who will be in touch with you on how to proceed.

God bless

Oxygen Core Team

16 March

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Wisdom 2:1,12-22

The godless say to themselves, with their misguided reasoning:

‘Our life is short and dreary,
nor is there any relief when man’s end comes,
nor is anyone known who can give release from Hades.
Let us lie in wait for the virtuous man, since he annoys us
and opposes our way of life,
reproaches us for our breaches of the law
and accuses us of playing false to our upbringing.
He claims to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a son of the Lord.
Before us he stands, a reproof to our way of thinking,
the very sight of him weighs our spirits down;
his way of life is not like other men’s,
the paths he treads are unfamiliar.
In his opinion we are counterfeit;
he holds aloof from our doings as though from filth;
he proclaims the final end of the virtuous as happy
and boasts of having God for his father.
Let us see if what he says is true,
let us observe what kind of end he himself will have.
If the virtuous man is God’s son, God will take his part
and rescue him from the clutches of his enemies.
Let us test him with cruelty and with torture,
and thus explore this gentleness of his
and put his endurance to the proof.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death
since he will be looked after – we have his word for it.’

This is the way they reason, but they are misled,
their malice makes them blind.
They do not know the hidden things of God,
they have no hope that holiness will be rewarded,
they can see no reward for blameless souls.

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John 7:1-2,10,25-30

Jesus stayed in Galilee; he could not stay in Judaea, because the Jews were out to kill him.

As the Jewish feast of Tabernacles drew near, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went up as well, but quite privately, without drawing attention to himself. Meanwhile some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, ‘Isn’t this the man they want to kill? And here he is, speaking freely, and they have nothing to say to him! Can it be true the authorities have made up their minds that he is the Christ? Yet we all know where he comes from, but when the Christ appears no one will know where he comes from.’

Then, as Jesus taught in the Temple, he cried out:

‘Yes, you know me
and you know where I came from.
Yet I have not come of myself:
no, there is one who sent me
and I really come from him,
and you do not know him,
but I know him because I have come from him
and it was he who sent me.’

They would have arrested him then, but because his time had not yet come no one laid a hand on him.

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…with their misguided reasoning

Most of us like to pigeonhole people and categorise them as being of a certain ‘kind’ or ‘type of character’. Then, when we encounter someone who doesn’t ‘fit the bill’ or conform to a stereotype in our minds, we either dismiss their views and/or keep them out of our circle of friends or maintain our distance.

Today’s readings smack of mistrust and judgment, values that I find prevalent in many organisations and even in church ministry (sad, but true). What I find unacceptable is how a group of ‘leaders’ (supposedly), can pass judgement and spread gossip about younger, newer members to the fold without even getting to know them or giving them a fair shake. It certainly reminds me of the Israelites who were so sceptical about Jesus that they even wished him dead.

Just this past weekend, I met up with a brother in Christ who spent considerable time with me and shared about his life experiences since we last met. The encounter was profound and certainly opened my mind up to the many possibilities that life has to offer. I had been going through a trying time at work and wanted to hear his perspective. He too lamented on how companies/organisations perpetuate unhealthy values and how that affects staff morale and contributes to stress at the workplace.

He spoke about how the word ‘company’ originated from the Latin ‘companio’ – meaning ‘one who breaks bread with you’. If you think about it, who do we share meals with? Those who we deem ‘worthy’ of our companionship and time, those who mean something to us. So how is it that companies eschew politics and backbiting? How can ministry members not encourage and support but, instead, tear others down with malicious gossip and innuendo?

Brothers and sisters, as we approach our Jerusalem, let us be more aware of our words and actions towards others. Let us appreciate how a simple word can destroy, rather than affirm. And how it is never up to us to pass judgment on another fellow human being. For who are we to condemn when we ourselves are not ‘perfect’ nor devoid of sin?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that you give us the wisdom to appreciate the weaknesses of those around us and fill us with a heart that is open to guiding and lifting up those who need affirmation.

Thanksgiving: We thank you, O Holy Spirit, for your gift of counsel.

15 March, Thursday – Building On A Legacy

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We give thanks to God for your steadfast following of Oxygen.

As we enter into the Paschal Mystery of the Church, we invite our readers who want to help contribute a reflection to come forward.

The following readings are available for reflection:

Holy Saturday

Epistle + Responsorial Psalm

Gospel

This is a good time for you to share with our readers the joys you have had in reading Oxygen. Do drop an email to descksoon@yahoo.com who will be in touch with you on how to proceed.

God bless

Oxygen Core Team

15 March 2017

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Exodus 32:7-14

The Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down now, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostatised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice. “Here is your God, Israel,” they have cried “who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘I can see how headstrong these people are! Leave me, now, my wrath shall blaze out against them and devour them; of you, however, I will make a great nation.’

But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘why should your wrath blaze out against this people of yours whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with arm outstretched and mighty hand? Why let the Egyptians say, “Ah, it was in treachery that he brought them out, to do them to death in the mountains and wipe them off the face of the earth”? Leave your burning wrath; relent and do not bring this disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your servants to whom by your own self you swore and made this promise: I will make your offspring as many as the stars of heaven, and all this land which I promised I will give to your descendants, and it shall be their heritage for ever.’

So the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

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John 5:31-47

Jesus said to the Jews:

‘Were I to testify on my own behalf,
my testimony would not be valid;
but there is another witness who can speak on my behalf,
and I know that his testimony is valid.
You sent messengers to John,
and he gave his testimony to the truth:
not that I depend on human testimony;
no, it is for your salvation that I speak of this.
John was a lamp alight and shining
and for a time you were content to enjoy the light that he gave.
But my testimony is greater than John’s:
the works my Father has given me to carry out,
these same works of mine testify
that the Father has sent me.
Besides, the Father who sent me
bears witness to me himself.
You have never heard his voice,
you have never seen his shape,
and his word finds no home in you
because you do not believe in the one he has sent.

‘You study the scriptures,
believing that in them you have eternal life;
now these same scriptures testify to me,
and yet you refuse to come to me for life!
As for human approval, this means nothing to me.
Besides, I know you too well: you have no love of God in you.
I have come in the name of my Father
and you refuse to accept me;
if someone else comes in his own name
you will accept him.
How can you believe,
since you look to one another for approval
and are not concerned
with the approval that comes from the one God?
Do not imagine that I am going to accuse you before the Father:
you place your hopes on Moses,
and Moses will be your accuser.
If you really believed him
you would believe me too,
since it was I that he was writing about;
but if you refuse to believe what he wrote,
how can you believe what I say?’

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…of you, however, I will make a great nation.

Having recently stepped up to take on a leadership role in my ministry, I have found that the approach to the kind of ‘work’ we, as leaders, are supposed to do is a bit different from the corporate world. The legacies of immediate past leaders cannot be so easily dismissed and to do so would be extremely foolish, especially if they have contributed significantly for more than a decade (or even two).

Today, at a capability development workshop, one of the members of my senior management gave an interesting answer when asked about what sort of legacy he wanted to leave behind when he retired. He said, “When I step down, I would like to continue providing advice to whoever succeeds me but only if he wants me to be around. I certainly am not going to hang around and be some sort of emeritus professor because I hope that whoever succeeds me will be even better than me.”

In terms of ministry renewal however, I have begun to appreciate that we cannot simply sweep aside the previous leadership nor let them ‘fade into the sunset’. Despite our best efforts at succession planning, these ‘elders’ have amassed so much wisdom over the years that to not tap into it would be foolhardy. Yet, how are the new leaders supposed to function and lead in the shadows (some can be very long) of those who have paved the way?

Brothers and sisters, God did not create us to merely be followers. Each and every one of us has a ‘leader’ inside of us that makes all kinds of choices on a daily basis. And God, in His desire for us to rise up, has promised that He would make a great nation of us. I take great comfort in this verse as I navigate much more choppy waters of late; both at work, and in ministry. In both cases, there has been some collateral damage and while it has caused me some distress, I have not let it weigh me down too much.

Why? Simply because I believe that He has called upon me to be a conduit of change – to help turn a stagnant, desolate situation into something more vibrant, alive and filled with hope. For that is what the Lord called Moses to be as he led the Israelites out of Egypt. Today, let us look at those around us who are weakened and in need of help. Can each of us be that ‘change agent’ and turn someone’s desolation into consolation?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you created us for a purpose. Show us the way and be our strength and guide as we navigate our way through life here on earth.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for calling each of us to lead by example.