Category Archives: Ordinary Time

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.

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.

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.

4 March, Sunday – Bright As Day

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

1st Reading + Responsorial Psalm

2nd Reading + Responsorial Psalm

3rd Reading + Responsorial Psalm

4th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

5th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

6th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

7th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

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

 

4 March 2018

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Exodus 20:1-17

God spoke all these words. He said, ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

‘You shall have no gods except me.

‘You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God and I punish the father’s fault in the sons, the grandsons, and the great-grandsons of those who hate me; but I show kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

‘You shall not utter the name of the Lord your God to misuse it, for the Lord will not leave unpunished the man who utters his name to misuse it.

‘Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath for the Lord your God. You shall do no work that day, neither you nor your son nor your daughter nor your servants, men or women, nor your animals nor the stranger who lives with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that these hold, but on the seventh day he rested; that is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it sacred.

‘Honour your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God has given to you.

  ‘You shall not kill.

 ‘You shall not commit adultery.

  ‘You shall not steal.

  ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

  ‘You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his servant, man or woman, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is his.’

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1 Corinthians 1:22-25

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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John 2:13-25

Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money changers sitting at their counters there. Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon-sellers, ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.’ Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: Zeal for your house will devour me. The Jews intervened and said, ‘What sign can you show us to justify what you have done?’ Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary: are you going to raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body, and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the words he had said.

During his stay in Jerusalem for the Passover many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he gave, but Jesus knew them all and did not trust himself to them; he never needed evidence about any man; he could tell what a man had in him.

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“He could tell what a man had in him”

Growing up, one of my favourite comedies was ‘The Life of Brian’ by Monty Python. It was the story of a man named Brian, who was mistaken for the Messiah, being born just next door to Jesus.

A particularly memorable scene was one where a whole platoon of centurions stormed Brian’s residence in the hope of capturing him and his disciples. Caught unawares, the whole group scrambled for all available hiding places, including one behind the curtains and another pretending to be the lamp, lamp-shade included! It was hilarious because it was so obvious people were hiding in those spots!

What made the scene particularly funny was the fact that all the centurions failed to spot any of the disciples, including those who were hiding in plain sight! What amazing humour!

In today’s Gospel, Jesus “never needed evidence about any man; he could tell what a man in him”. I wonder if our efforts to conceal ourselves from our God are as funny as the Monty Python movie. Despite our best efforts to keep our actions and thoughts in the dark, I am sure they appear as bright as day.

Because our God can see us clearly for who we are, and what we are capable of, He gives us the 10 commandments. Like children, we rebel and think that we are beyond rules. Yet, like children, it often turns out that the commandments will keep us along the straight and narrow path to eternal life.

Let us be humble and continue to allow ourselves to be led by our God. We need to remember that no matter what, God loves us and loves us completely, warts, imperfections and all.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Lord, help us depend on You and to trust in You completely. We pray that we will exercise our free will responsibly and with love, in line with Your commandments for us.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for allowing us to make our own choices. Thank You for being there, whatever the circumstances.

20 February, Tuesday – A Loving Father

20 February

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Isaiah 55:10-11

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

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Matthew 6:7-15

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So you should pray like this:

‘Our Father in heaven,
may your name be held holy,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us.
And do not put us to the test,
but save us from the evil one.

‘Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.’

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Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him

I used to think that prayers should be lengthy and contain many words so that the good Lord could hear me and understand what I need to know. However, over time, I discovered that sometimes saying nothing may actually be the best thing that could happen. Words have a way of influencing others but in the case of prayer, I find that sometimes just being silent and soaking in the presence of the Lord may be the best thing that could happen. The readings of today remind me of the need to stay close to God through prayer which is succinct.

God the Father loves us as His children and knows what we need. The tension which arises is due to the fact that sometimes what we want is different from what we need. Some may want to be established in our careers and to become individuals who are recognised by others. However, what is important for us to note is that there is a need to ask God to see if that is what He wants for us. The good Lord will always ensure that His plans for us will be accomplished as He assures us in the First Reading and this requires us to be receptive to His plans.

Being receptive to the plans of Jesus is not an easy task because it requires us to surrender the plans we want in our lives. Taking time to be closer to God and discovering what He wants from us may be a painful process and something which we may not want to encounter at all. It is in such times like this that we should ask God to enter into every part of our heart to heal whatever is holding us back. In doing so, we will be able to be ready to face the evil of the world, knowing that it is in the plan of God for us to remain close to Him despite all these challenges.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear God, help us to forgive all the hurts we have in our lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people who bring us life.

19 February, Monday – Separating Sheep From Goats

19 February 

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Leviticus 19:1-2,11-18

The Lord spoke to Moses. He said: ‘Speak to the whole community of the sons of Israel and say to them:

‘“Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.

‘“You must not steal nor deal deceitfully or fraudulently with your neighbour. You must not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God. I am the Lord. You must not exploit or rob your neighbour. You must not keep back the labourer’s wage until next morning. You must not curse the dumb, nor put an obstacle in the blind man’s way, but you must fear your God. I am the Lord.

‘“You must not be guilty of unjust verdicts. You must neither be partial to the little man nor overawed by the great; you must pass judgement on your neighbour according to justice. You must not slander your own people, and you must not jeopardise your neighbour’s life. I am the Lord. You must not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. You must openly tell him, your neighbour, of his offence; this way you will not take a sin upon yourself. You must not exact vengeance, nor must you bear a grudge against the children of your people. You must love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”’

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Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

‘Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

‘Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.” Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?” Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.”

‘And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.’

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“I am the Lord”

Today’s scripture readings indicate to us how God will judge us on the final day. In the gospel, we are told that He will place the virtuous on His right and the others on his left. There is no one in the middle, no room for negotiation. Because ultimately, where we end up will be a reflection of how we have lived our life on earth and whether we have indeed heeded His commandments and acknowledged Him as Lord.

When God speaks to Moses, He gives a list of ‘things not to do’ before ending with the one thing that means everything, “You must love your neighbour as yourself.” This edict is further expounded in Matthew’s gospel, where the Lord welcomes those who have provided for him when he was in need. Yesterday, I encouraged each of us to look deep within our hearts and discern what we want to offer up this Lenten season. Today, let us offer to God our pride.

Brothers and sisters, wherever we are in our lives, there are others who are much more in need than ourselves. And sometimes, those people are closer to us than we think – a cousin, an in-law, the colleague in the next cubicle, and yes, perhaps even our own parents or siblings. For many of us, it is not in our nature to reach out or offer help because ‘they don’t need my help’, or we are afraid of being rejected. Perhaps these people are simply waiting for us to make the first move, to offer a helping hand or a kind word.

When God made his covenant with man, He was taking a huge risk because He knew full well what we would put Him through. And yet, because He loved us so much, He offered Jesus to us – no less than His only son.

This Lenten season, let us learn to be like sheep and give up our pride so that we can truly obey His call for each and every one of us. Let us all learn to appreciate what it truly means to be a son or daughter of the living God, a God who loves us unconditionally, is ever-merciful and never quick to judge. A God who walks with us and grieves with us, who celebrates our achievements and lifts us up when we open up our hearts to him. A God who is waiting patiently for us to run to Him and to acknowledge him as Lord, Father and Saviour.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, you have given us so much in order to show how much you love us. Give us the humility and courage to give of ourselves to those around us so that we can manifest your love through our actions.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for all that you’ve done for us.

13 February, Tuesday – Know What Is Enough

13 February 

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James 1:12-18

Happy the man who stands firm when trials come. He has proved himself, and will win the prize of life, the crown that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

Never, when you have been tempted, say, ‘God sent the temptation’; God cannot be tempted to do anything wrong, and he does not tempt anybody. Everyone who is tempted is attracted and seduced by his own wrong desire. Then the desire conceives and gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it too has a child, and the child is death.

Make no mistake about this, my dear brothers: it is all that is good, everything that is perfect, which is given us from above; it comes down from the Father of all light; with him there is no such thing as alteration, no shadow of a change. By his own choice he made us his children by the message of the truth so that we should be a sort of first-fruits of all that he had created.

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Mark 8:14-21

The disciples had forgotten to take any food and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. Then he gave them this warning, ‘Keep your eyes open; be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.’ And they said to one another, ‘It is because we have no bread.’ And Jesus knew it, and he said to them, ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you not yet understand? Have you no perception? Are your minds closed? Have you eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear? Or do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?’ They answered, ‘Twelve.’ And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?’ And they answered, ‘Seven.’ Then he said to them, ‘Are you still without perception?’

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Are your minds closed?

To act on temptation is to entertain the thought of wrong desires, which when acted upon will cause oneself to sin. With the accumulation of sins, death will take place in us. As tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, we begin the season of Lent, in preparation for Good Friday. We close our hearts to the temptations around us. We embrace the Lenten season looking back at all the faults and temptations that have caused us to sin and hurt those around us. The love of God, sending his Son Jesus to die for our sins, to wipe away all those wrong desires we have made, how great is that?

Are our minds closed to what Our Father in heaven has done for us? Are we like the disciples of Jesus who just could not trust what was in front of them, but had fear when Jesus worked miracles in front of them? What is considered to be enough? We are weak, and it takes prayers to build that faith and be strong in it to turn away temptation.

I do not deny the amount of temptation in more ways than one, which leads to selfishness and certainly does not build a better community. Look away from temptation, be among the righteous people. May our thoughts be all about building a strong person to stand up to trials, because we truly know Jesus provides and we should live that life that is deserving of all that is from Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: I may have belittled the power of you Lord Jesus, overwhelmed by things that are mere wrong desires. Make me turn away from them so I can be focused on being that person with a good and faithful heart.

Thanksgiving: Alleluia Alleluia, Praise the Lord for he is good. Praise the Lord who provides. Praise the Lord who forgives.

12 February, Monday – Christ Ignores Impatience

12 February 

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James 1:1-11

From James, servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Greetings to the twelve tribes of the Dispersion.

My brothers, you will always have your trials but, when they come, try to treat them as a happy privilege; you understand that your faith is only put to the test to make you patient, but patience too is to have its practical results so that you will become fully-developed, complete, with nothing missing.

If there is any one of you who needs wisdom, he must ask God, who gives to all freely and ungrudgingly; it will be given to him. But he must ask with faith, and no trace of doubt, because a person who has doubts is like the waves thrown up in the sea when the wind drives. That sort of person, in two minds, wavering between going different ways, must not expect that the Lord will give him anything.

It is right for the poor brother to be proud of his high rank, and the rich one to be thankful that he has been humbled, because riches last no longer than the flowers in the grass; the scorching sun comes up, and the grass withers, the flower falls; what looked so beautiful now disappears. It is the same with the rich man: his business goes on; he himself perishes.

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Mark 8:11-13

The Pharisees came up and started a discussion with Jesus; they demanded of him a sign from heaven, to test him. And with a sigh that came straight from the heart he said, ‘Why does this generation demand a sign? I tell you solemnly, no sign shall be given to this generation.’ And leaving them again and re-embarking, he went away to the opposite shore.

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His business goes on, he himself perishes

When I drive to work in the heavy morning traffic, stuck in a jam with the news on the radio, I happen to observe a lot of things through my rear view mirror. You actually see the impatience and grumpy faces of some drivers. If you can imagine, every time we come to a red light, you allow more cars into the line and I see the drivers behind waving their hands in big gestures. I would always laugh to myself and think to myself, those few cars would not have made a difference. What is point of getting all worked up?

This leads to James’ reminder to us in today’s reading. We all have our bad days, our frustrating moments that get us all worked up, inadvertently affecting those around us as well. We could vent our anger on an innocent party, whose feelings you would have hurt for the day. We are reminded to be patient and control our feelings that could hurt, and around situations that we have difficulty with. It teaches us that putting our faith and patience ahead of ourselves would make us become fully developed and complete, with nothing missing. This sort of wisdom gets forgotten in our fast-paced, impatient world.

Wisdom that we receive through faith enables us to differentiate between right and wrong, and only to know how to approach the people around us. Like Jesus, He does not entertain the signs that are being requested by the Pharisees. This is because He is not an entertainer, He does not show signs to prove His power. He reveals Himself to those with genuine faith. To those who carry on this faith through a long period of time, through hardships and deep trust in God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: O Jesus, always be there to remind me how selfless I have to be, to be patient with the miracles you promised for my own good. That I only deserve You when my faith has been tested.

Thanksgiving: Be grateful for the gifts, for the riches, for things that last, for things that matter.