11 March, Saturday – Love triumphs hate

11 March 2017

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Deuteronomy 26:16-19

Moses said to the people: ‘The Lord your God today commands you to observe these laws and customs; you must keep and observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.
‘You have today made this declaration about the Lord: that he will be your God, but only if you follow his ways, keep his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and listen to his voice. And the Lord has today made this declaration about you: that you will be his very own people as he promised you, but only if you keep all his commandments; then for praise and renown and honour he will set you high above all the nations he has made, and you will be a people consecrated to the Lord, as he promised.’

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Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

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… [L]ove your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

Hatred is like a parasite which feeds on the energy within the hearts of people and causes much grief. Whilst some parasites do not announce their presence, the host will eventually wear out and disappear. The readings of today remind us of the need to stay close to God and to allow Him to be the centre of our lives and actions.

Jesus reminds us of the need to be counter-intutive to the ways of the world. As children who are believers of the light, we need to realise that our lives are being held to account by non-believers. They look to us for examples of how to behave and can be quite cruel if they find out that our behaviours do not align with the beliefs we are supposed to hold. The Jews were reminded by Moses of the need to remain faithful to the Lord so that the people will be consecrated by God. I believe that we also need to remind ourselves that we have been separated for a very unique and special purpose which God has planned for us.

As we come to the end of the first week of Lent, we are in a very special time to pause and ask God what exactly do we need to do to be closer to Him in His journey towards Calvary? What are the issues and challenges in our lives which we need to let go of so that He can come in? In this point of reflection, we can then discover what it means to stay closer to God and how we can then demonstrate to the world the wonderful love which God has shown us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace to be honest in our failings and be courageous in facing them.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who love us.

10 March, Friday – Gentleness and Compassion

10 March 2017

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Ezekiel 18:21-28

Thus says the Lord:
‘If the wicked man renounces all the sins he has committed, respects my laws and is law-abiding and honest, he will certainly live; he will not die. All the sins he committed will be forgotten from then on; he shall live because of the integrity he has practised. What! Am I likely to take pleasure in the death of a wicked man – it is the Lord who speaks – and not prefer to see him renounce his wickedness and live?

‘But if the upright man renounces his integrity, commits sin, copies the wicked man and practises every kind of filth, is he to live? All the integrity he has practised shall be forgotten from then on; but this is because he himself has broken faith and committed sin, and for this he shall die. But you object, “What the Lord does is unjust.”

Listen, you House of Israel: is what I do unjust? Is it not what you do that is unjust? When the upright man renounces his integrity to commit sin and dies because of this, he dies because of the evil that he himself has committed. When the sinner renounces sin to become law-abiding and honest, he deserves to live. He has chosen to renounce all his previous sins; he shall certainly live; he shall not die.’

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Matthew 5:20-26

Jesus said to his disciples, If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire.

So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.’

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Am I likely to take pleasure in the death of a wicked man?

There are some who believe that the death penalty is a sentence which can be used to ensure that people who have committed much evil be punished. It appears to be the suitable punishment for a person that has done something terrible. However, the readings of today allow us to see a different perspective – one which is filled with love and kindness.

Ezekiel’s message may seem contrary to the Jews at a point in time where they expected everything to follow the principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The love of God transcends this principle because we are all God’s children. It is not his point to see us die. No parent would like to see their child die because of the transgressions which they have done. Instead, they would rather the child repent and return to them; always willing to forgive the faults of the child.

God calls us to live a life which is in line with what He wants for us. Sometimes we think we know better than Him but in reality, we feel we know better. In this season of Lent, sometimes we feel that the resolutions we make are not being met and this causes us to despair and falter. Let us not lose heart but instead, ask God to grant us the grace to be able to accept the frailty of our wounded selves and make us whole again.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for your healing power to make us whole.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who journey with those who face struggles in their daily lives.

9 March, Thursday – In God we Trust

9 Mar – Memorial for St. Frances of Rome, religious

St. Frances (1384-1440) was an aristocrat by birth. She married at the age of 12, and her marriage lasted 40 years. She was a mother of three before becoming a widow. She joined the Benedictines, and was the foundress of the ‘Oblates of the Tor de’ Specchi’ (Collatines). She is said to have been guided by an archangel only she could see. She spent her life and fortune, both as a laywoman and a religious, in the service of the sick and the poor, including the founding of the first home in Rome for abandoned children. She dictated 97 ‘Visions’, in which she saw the many pains of Hell.

On her feast day, priests bless cars due to her patronage of cars and drivers. Frances certainly never drove, but legend says that when she went abroad at night, her guardian angel went before her lighting the road with a headlight-live lantern, keeping her safe in her travels.

Prayer to St. Frances

Dear Frances, you were an exemplary wife, ever faithful to your husband. After his death, you founded and governed the Congregation of Mount Olivet, revealing your great devotion to our Lord’s Passion. Your faith in Angels was rewarded by frequent visions of them. Please pray for Catholics in our day that they may be as dedicated to God as you were. Amen.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Esther 4:17

Queen Esther took refuge with the Lord in the mortal peril which had overtaken her. She besought the Lord God of Israel in these words:

‘My Lord, our King, the only one,
come to my help, for I am alone
and have no helper but you
and am about to take my life in my hands.

‘I have been taught from my earliest years, in the bosom of my family,
that you, Lord, chose
Israel out of all the nations
and our ancestors out of all the people of old times
to be your heritage for ever;
and that you have treated them as you promised.

‘Remember, Lord; reveal yourself
in the time of our distress.

‘As for me, give me courage,
King of gods and master of all power.
Put persuasive words into my mouth
when I face the lion;
change his feeling into hatred for our enemy,
that the latter and all like him may be brought to their end.

‘As for ourselves, save us by your hand,
and come to my help, for I am alone
and have no one but you, Lord.’

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Matthew 7:7-12

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. Is there a man among you who would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or would hand him a snake when he asked for a fish? If you, then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
‘So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.’

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Remember Lord; reveal yourself in the time of our distress.

I have been asked where God is in our lives during the moments where we are down, or going through a difficult patch in our lives. We face various challenges at work or at home and sometimes, all these come along together to make our lives seemingly unbearable. Yet the readings of today remind us that God always hears our prayers; though his response to us may not be in our desired manner.

Esther was facing a situation where the Jews were about to be eliminated because of the evil plot of Haman. She knew that it fell upon her to become the person to speak up for the entire Jewish race and she did indeed go about doing so, at risk to her personal life. It is her strong faith in God which allowed her to continue with what she needed to do. Having faith in God is important because it allows us to entrust to the good Lord all the issues which we are struggling with.

Jesus reminds us that the Heavenly Father wants the best of us. We may not be able to see it in our lives but when we look back, the various events which have occurred in our lives which have brought us to where we are, is a possible opportunity for us to trust God to make a decision which will be in line with His plans. Let us now take this opportunity to enter into a deep reflection and converse with God on what He wants for us, and grant us the strength to accept the plans He has for us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear God, we pray for strength to accept your will for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who show us what it means to give up everything for God.

8 March, Wednesday – Compassion and Love

8 Mar – Memorial for St. John of God, religious

Juan (1495-1550) grew up working as a shepherd in the Castile region of Spain. He led a wild and misspent youth, travelling over much of Europe and North Africa as a soldier in the army of Charles V, and a mercenary. He fought through a brief period of insanity. He peddled religious books and pictures in Gibraltar, though without any religious conviction himself.

In his 40s, he received a vision of the Infant Jesus who called him ‘John of God’. To make up for the misery he had caused as a soldier, he left the military, rented a house in Granada, Spain, and began caring for the sick, poor, homeless and unwanted. He gave what he had, begged for those who couldn’t, carried those who could not move on their own, and converted both his patients and those who saw him work with them.

He was a friend of St. John of Avila, on whom he tried to model his life. John founded the Order of Charity and the Order of Hospitalers of St. John of God.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Jonah 3:1-10

The word of the Lord was addressed a second time to Jonah: ‘Up!’ he said ‘Go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach to them as I told you to.’ Jonah set out and went to Nineveh in obedience to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was a city great beyond compare: it took three days to cross it. Jonah went on into the city, making a day’s journey. He preached in these words, ‘Only forty days more and Nineveh is going to be destroyed.’ And the people of Nineveh believed in God; they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least.

The news reached the king of Nineveh, who rose from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth and sat down in ashes. A proclamation was then promulgated throughout Nineveh, by decree of the king and his ministers, as follows: ‘Men and beasts, herds and flocks, are to taste nothing; they must not eat, they must not drink water. All are to put on sackcloth and call on God with all their might; and let everyone renounce his evil behaviour and the wicked things he has done. Who knows if God will not change his mind and relent, if he will not renounce his burning wrath, so that we do not perish?’

God saw their efforts to renounce their evil behaviour, and God relented: he did not inflict on them the disaster which he had threatened.

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Luke 11:29-32

The crowds got even bigger and Jesus addressed them, ‘This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign. The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.

On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.’

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God saw their efforts to renounce their evil behaviour, and God relented.

I am always intrigued by the television dramas which feature the lives of the imperial family of the various Chinese dynasties. There is a usual punishment where the entire clan of the offender is killed. It is the way the Emperor exerts his influence and prevents any possible threat of revenge from coming along. Perhaps the readings of today are instructive to us regarding the unnecessary need to begrudge the woes of our enemies and, instead, to focus on the sincere desire to repent.

God the Father loves His children but Prophet Jonah felt that He was too merciful. I sometimes do have this Jonah complex, where I believe in the mercy of God but wish ill upon my enemies. This season of Lent is a good opportunity for us to reflect upon the need to be empathetic to the people around us. All of us are facing tough and difficult challenges at work and in our personal lives. We need to learn from God to be gentle and forgiving to all who hurt us because sometimes, they may not know what they are doing.

Jesus said that this was a wicked generation and sometimes I feel that it is due to the fact that we do not recognise that the kingdom of God is near at hand and, in fact, is amongst us. We look for extraordinary signs for indications of something wonderful which will happen in our lives but perhaps God is acting in our lives now. The gift of health and life, the gift of speech, the opportunity to repent in the midst of the evil before us are all chances that we have to enjoy the mercy of God. We who desire this mercy of God must then, in turn, extend it to the people around us. As we enter into the middle of the first week of Lent, let us take time to pause to encounter the Lord Jesus in the silence of our hearts.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear God, we pray for the grace to forgive all who have hurt us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who help us see the light of forgiveness.

7 March, Tuesday – A Loving Father

7 March 2017

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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.

6 March, Monday – Purpose of our Lives

6 March 2017

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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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In so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.

I once overheard a question being asked on the bus, “What do you see in him? There is nothing in him which is worth knowing and befriending.” We live in a world where people judge and assess us on the basis of our material outcomes and status. Indeed, it does appear that all these external appearances are the ones which people assess and judge us on; which is why we decide to do things to improve this part of our life. The readings of today remind us that we should not do so but instead focus on the human person for who he is – a fellow child of God.

The first reading of today is all about instructions on how to ensure that our neighbour is given a just response to a world where might is right. Indeed it may appear that there are many laws being enacted to make it cumbersome for us to live our lives, but I believe that the basis of the commandments can be summarised in the last verse where God calls us to love our neighbour. This commandment is easy to hear but it is difficult to live out. Indeed, I believe that if we all bothered to abide by this for half of the time when we meet others, the world will indeed become a better place.

Jesus asks that we bear the joy of knowing the Gospel to all around us. We need to realise that Christianity is a practical religion which demands that our Faith be put into action towards our neighbours. Our lives are meant to be a witness to the people around us. A witness can stand up to the scrutiny of others because he is very clear of the Truth in His heart. We need to communicate to God daily in prayer and to discover what it means to remain faithful to him. This may entail the stripping away of all things that shackle us from enjoying true freedom to live as a child worthy of Christ. It may be painful but I believe that it will be a worthwhile process which will see us grow deeper in Christ.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that you allow us to be open to your promptings and put our Faith in action.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who are Spiritual Directors.

5 March, Sunday – Focus of our Life

5 March 2017

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Genesis 2:7-9,3:1-7

The Lord God fashioned man of dust from the soil. Then he breathed into his nostrils a breath of life, and thus man became a living being.
The Lord God planted a garden in Eden which is in the east, and there he put the man he had fashioned. The Lord God caused to spring up from the soil every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat, with the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden.

Now the serpent was the most subtle of all the wild beasts that the Lord God had made. It asked the woman, ‘Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?’ The woman answered the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden. But of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, “You must not eat it, nor touch it, under pain of death.” ‘ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘No! You will not die! God knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.’ The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye, and that it was desirable for the knowledge that it could give. So she took some of its fruit and ate it. She gave some also to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realised that they were naked. So they sewed fig-leaves together to make themselves loin-cloths.

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Romans 5:12-19

Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned. Sin existed in the world long before the Law was given. There was no law and so no one could be accused of the sin of ‘law-breaking’, yet death reigned over all from Adam to Moses, even though their sin, unlike that of Adam, was not a matter of breaking a law.

Adam prefigured the One to come, but the gift itself considerably outweighed the fall. If it is certain that through one man’s fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift. The results of the gift also outweigh the results of one man’s sin: for after one single fall came judgement with a verdict of condemnation, now after many falls comes grace with its verdict of acquittal. If it is certain that death reigned over everyone as the consequence of one man’s fall, it is even more certain that one man, Jesus Christ, will cause everyone to reign in life who receives the free gift that he does not deserve, of being made righteous.

Again, as one man’s fall brought condemnation on everyone, so the good act of one man brings everyone life and makes them justified. As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

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Matthew 4:1-11

Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, after which he was very hungry, and the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves.’ But he replied, ‘Scripture says:

Man does not live on bread alone
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

The devil then took him to the holy city and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple. ‘If you are the Son of God’ he said ‘throw yourself down; for scripture says:

He will put you in his angels’ charge,
and they will support you on their hands
in case you hurt your foot against a stone.’

Jesus said to him, ‘Scripture also says:

You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘I will give you all these’ he said, ‘if you fall at my feet and worship me.’ Then Jesus replied, ‘Be off, Satan! For scripture says:

You must worship the Lord your God,
and serve him alone.’

Then the devil left him, and angels appeared and looked after him.

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You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.

One of the first things I learnt when I was studying Economics in junior college was that there are always tradeoffs to be made in our lives, which then requires individual people to make choices in their lives. The readings of today remind us that as a Christian, our lives must be centred upon Jesus Christ. There can be no compromise nor trade-off with any other opposing need because if we do so, our focus on the Lord Jesus will be lost and we may end up being distracted from the things that truly matter to us.

The three temptations of Jesus today are the same challenges which we face in our lives. The desire to want to possess material goods, recognition from others and to test the Lord’s patience are all issues which we will face at one time or another. The Evil One is also able to quote Scripture against us but we need to know the purpose and intent of the author. This is where a continued trust in God is necessary as we allow Him to enlighten our hearts and share with us what it means to be His follower. Jesus Christ was a man of action; he went through the same problems which everybody faced in their lives and showed us the way to cope with it.

Life may appear to be about compromises and drawing a balance between the practical and the reality of life. Jesus reminds us that there can be no compromise in matters of our Faith but instead we should let our Faith illuminate every action and word which we speak in our life. This season of Lent is a good opportunity for us to discover what it means to re-connect with God and to allow Him to be the centre of our Life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the courage to admit our faults and allow us to remember that you are the centre of our lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who plan and prepare for retreats.

4 March, Saturday – Humble enough to let Him lead

4 Mar – Memorial for St. Casimir

Casimir (1458-1484) was a 15th century Polish prince who became Grand Duke of Lithuania in 1471. He was third in line for the throne.

Hungarian nobles had prevailed upon Casimir’s father to send his 15-year-old son to be their king. Casimir obeyed, taking the crown, but refusing to exercise power. His army was outnumbered, and his troops deserted because they were not paid. Casimir returned home, and was a conscientious objector from that time on.

He returned to prayer and study, maintained his decision to remain celibate even under pressure to marry the emperor’s daughter. He reigned briefly as king during his father’s absence.

He lived a highly disciplined, even severe life, sleeping on the ground, spending a great part of the night in prayer, and dedicating himself to lifelong celibacy. He had a great devotion to Mary, supported the poor, and lived a virtuous life amid the dissolute court.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 58:9-14

The Lord says this:

If you do away with the yoke,
the clenched fist, the wicked word,
if you give your bread to the hungry,
and relief to the oppressed,
your light will rise in the darkness,
and your shadows become like noon.
The Lord will always guide you,
giving you relief in desert places.

He will give strength to your bones
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water
whose waters never run dry.

You will rebuild the ancient ruins,
build up on the old foundations.
You will be called ‘Breach-mender’,
‘Restorer of ruined houses.’

If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,
and doing business on the holy day,
if you call the Sabbath ‘Delightful’,
and the day sacred to the Lord ‘Honourable’,
if you honour it by abstaining from travel,
from doing business and from gossip,
then shall you find your happiness in the Lord
and I will lead you triumphant over the heights of the land.
I will feed you on the heritage of Jacob your father.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

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Luke 5:27-32

Jesus noticed a tax collector, Levi by name, sitting by the customs house, and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And leaving everything he got up and followed him.
In his honour Levi held a great reception in his house, and with them at table was a large gathering of tax collectors and others. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples and said, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus said to them in reply, ‘It is not those who are well who need the doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the virtuous, but sinners to repentance.’

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Follow me and leaving everything, he got up and followed him.

I have just concluded my tenure as Co-Chairperson of our parish’s fund raising committee with the culmination of an event called ’10,000 Reasons’. It was an evening of music and testimonies – a thanksgiving for our parish, our shepherds and the community. We were so blessed with people who came forward to give of their time and talent. They were producers, creative directors, musicians and yet, when we asked them to be involved in our ‘little’ production, they said a resounding yes! The months of work culminated with a wondering evening — a huge production, it was almost like a concert. The singing and the people who shared their life stories are testimonies of God’s gift to us. It was a fitting event to mark the end of my tenure.

When my other half and I started on this journey, we were wet behind the ears and had no idea where we should start. Actually we were ‘tricked’ by our parish priest into the role. He kind of said “Follow me.” And we blindly did. At the start when we planned the events, we were in the driving seat. We felt we needed to take on the responsibility that was given to us, to ‘lead’ the way.

However, ’10,000 Reasons’ taught me a lesson in humility by humbly ‘following’ people who were better positioned to put this evening together. I will admit I was uncomfortable at first. The whole event took on a life of its own and I was not part of the ‘steering team’, I was not in control. But I finally learnt that I had to let go and let the professionals do the work. I had to admit that I had no clue how to even begin putting this whole event together. And because I followed their lead, the results speak for itself. It was simply awesome. My biggest contribution for the evening was to ring the bell to signal the start of the evening!

The Sunday that followed after the event, the Lord continued to teach me what it means to follow him. Again, He spoke to me at mass, in a way that I could understand – the unteachable, stubborn person that I am. The example He showed me was ’10,000 Reasons’. Just as I had to let go and let the professionals take over, He showed me that I too need to let go the steering wheel of my life and He (the professional and the writer of my life’s script) can finally do the work. And then shall you find happiness in the Lord and I will lead you triumphant over the heights of the land. 

It is not those who are well who need the doctor, but the sick. No I am not physically sick, but my heart is weak and my head keeps trying to take over – complete disaster. It’s indeed time to let go and follow.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, you are all-knowing and an awesome God. You know everything about us, what we think, what we feel, our hopes, dreams, fears and anxiety. Teach us to give it all to you, to surrender our lives to You. Teach us to know what it really means to follow you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for being so ever present to us. For being our Friend, Comforter, Cheerleader and Captain of our lives.

3 March, Friday – Check your interior being

3 March 2017

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Isaiah 58:1-9

Thus says the Lord:

Shout for all you are worth,
raise your voice like a trumpet.
Proclaim their faults to my people,
their sins to the House of Jacob.

They seek me day after day,
they long to know my ways,
like a nation that wants to act with integrity
and not ignore the law of its God.

They ask me for laws that are just,
they long for God to draw near:
‘Why should we fast if you never see it,
why do penance if you never notice?’

Look, you do business on your fast-days,
you oppress all your workmen;
look, you quarrel and squabble when you fast
and strike the poor man with your fist.

Fasting like yours today
will never make your voice heard on high.
Is that the sort of fast that pleases me,
a truly penitential day for men?

Hanging your head like a reed,
lying down on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call fasting,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me
 – it is the Lord who speaks –
to break unjust fetters and
undo the thongs of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free,
and break every yoke,
to share your bread with the hungry,
and shelter the homeless poor,

to clothe the man you see to be naked
and not turn from your own kin?
Then will your light shine like the dawn
and your wound be quickly healed over.

Your integrity will go before you
and the glory of the Lord behind you.
Cry, and the Lord will answer;
call, and he will say, ‘I am here.’

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Matthew 9:14-15

John’s disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?’ Jesus replied, ‘Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of mourning as long as the bridegroom is still with them? But the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them, and then they will fast.’

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You serve your own interest on your fast day

As a young Catholic, I never understood why we fasted, I just followed. The older folks in the family were dogged about it, especially on Good Friday. Everyone’s idea of fasting was different. Some completely abstained from food, some went on bread and water, others followed the 2 half meals and 1 full meal method. My own fast varied from year to year. Still, I never understood.

Years later, I learnt a little more about the Catholic fast. So for the past 3 Lents, I abstained from meat for the entire Lenten season. Why? Because I could never be vegetarian. I’ve got to have meat from time to time. I fast because I believe that by depriving myself from what I love brings me closer to Jesus and to feel with others what it means to not have the things that I take for granted. The only problem was – I got comfortable with not eating meat during Lent. Darn.

Anyway, today’s reflection is not about the laws of fasting. Sure, we fast because Canon Law specifies it. As we are in the season of Lent, I am called to reflect on the ‘quality’ of my fast. It’s not good enough that I simply abstain from meat. That’s just an action of deprivation. I am now constantly checking my interior being and motive for fasting.

Fasting is not to impress others. It’s not to show the world that I am in union with everyone during this season. In fact, my fast should only be known to God. My fast is, and should be, an expression of longing for Jesus. A hunger for Him to take centre stage in my life, that I want Him, need Him and trust that He will transform my life.

You may have read my previous reflections that I have been doing a fair bit of running away from the Lord. Just this past weekend, during Sunday mass, Jesus gave me a bit of a gentle ticking off. He revealed to me that it isn’t He who has abandoned me. He sadly told me that He has been so constant and persevering in His love for me. Yet it is I who choose to ignore it, push it aside, be blindsided and engulfed by a thick cloud of darkness I placed myself in. Yet despite my rejection, broken-hearted as He is, He keeps at it, every single day.

So I am hoping that my fast and prayer this season can restore my ‘first love’ for the Lord and result in the intimate relationship with Jesus again. In turn, I hope to see beyond myself and be a source love and comfort to someone who is in need and is hurting.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

 Prayer: Lord Jesus, during this season of Lent, may our sacrifice be worthy of the love you give us. May we be humbled and may the Holy Spirit reveal our true spiritual condition, resulting in brokenness, repentance, and a transformed life.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for mending our brokenness. For pouring steadfast love into our hungry and empty hearts.

2 March 2017, Thursday – I never promised you a rose garden

02 March 2017

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Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Moses said to the people: ‘See, today I set before you life and prosperity, death and disaster. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I enjoin on you today, if you love the Lord your God and follow his ways, if you keep his commandments, his laws, his customs, you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to make your own. But if your heart strays, if you refuse to listen, if you let yourself be drawn into worshipping other gods and serving them, I tell you today, you will most certainly perish; you will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today: I set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live, in the love of the Lord your God, obeying his voice, clinging to him; for in this your life consists, and on this depends your long stay in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob he would give them.’

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Luke 9:22-25

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The Son of Man is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’

Then to all he said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to have won the whole world and to have lost or ruined his very self?’

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Take up his cross every day and follow me.

When things are going hunky dory, when life runs smoothly, following Jesus is easy. It’s when we face trials and difficulties that is when our true commitment is revealed.

‘I beg your pardon I never promised you a rose garden

Along with the sunshine there’s gotta be a little rain sometime’

I remember my dad singing that song when I was a wee toddler. A catchy tune but when you actually read the lyrics, it’s a profound truth of what life is and also what it means to follow Jesus. He assured us that trials will come to His followers. Discipleship demands sacrifice, and Jesus does not make the path of discipleship sound easier or less costly than it really is. Jesus gave His life in total surrender to the will of God, that we might, through his death, come to realize the forgiveness of our sins and our acceptance as a child of God. To follow Jesus, to become his disciple, means that we embrace the road he walked. It means that we surrender and are called to live our lives to according to the will of God.

I know first-hand that with discipleship comes heartache and sacrifice. Reading this passage of scripture has often freaked me out. I am human. I have my trappings and attachments to stuff. Sure I have also given up quite a bit since my conversion some 5 years ago. But as I mature in my faith, the harder it becomes to follow Him. Many a time, it’s really painful as well. There is nothing entertaining about Christ’s call to discipleship. Following Jesus is not always fun nor easy. Sometimes the choices he asks us to make are tough.

We say ‘Yes’ when we are fervent and on the high. But when the Lord moulds and prunes us and leads us down His way, we hesitate. And we are not sure if we really want to be His disciple. We plead and bargain with Jesus, often try to adjust His teachings and call to follow Him to our life and expectations, when it is our lives that require change and transformation.

Are we willing to give up all our human comforts? Loss of friends, family, career, reputation, and yes perhaps give up your life? This is what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.” Commitment to Christ means taking up your cross daily. Sometimes we have been faithful to our Lord’s call. Sometimes we have not. But the good news is He doesn’t expect us to get it right all at once and He doesn’t expect us to do it alone either. But once we make up our minds to follow Him, we must never look back. Following Him requires us to make a commitment that is real and permanent; in total obedience and trust. Do you have the courage to abandon yourself and follow Him?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace to make a lasting and permanent commitment to take up our cross daily. In good and in rough times, let us keep persevering, keep strong in or faith. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, help us to hear Your Word with open hearts and minds, and grant us courage to follow You. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Lord Jesus, thank you for coming to us in your humanity. For bearing all our sins. Thank you for your total obedience to Our Father and giving up your life for us. We pray that we may be worthy of your love and selflessness.