23 June, Thursday – Heaven Is Not A Club Membership

23 June

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2 Kings 24:8-17

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for three months in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Nehushta, daughter of Elnathan, from Jerusalem. He did what is displeasing to the Lord, just as his father had done.

At that time the troops of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched on Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon himself came to attack the city while his troops were besieging it. Then Jehoiachin king of Judah surrendered to the king of Babylon, he, his mother, his officers, his nobles and his eunuchs, and the king of Babylon took them prisoner. This was in the eighth year of King Nebuchadnezzar.

The latter carried off all the treasures of the Temple of the Lord and the treasures of the royal palace, and broke up all the golden furnishings that Solomon king of Israel had made for the sanctuary of the Lord, as the Lord had foretold. He carried off all Jerusalem into exile, all the nobles and all the notables, ten thousand of these were exiled, with all the blacksmiths and metalworkers; only the poorest people in the country were left behind. He deported Jehoiachin to Babylon, as also the king’s mother, his eunuchs and the nobility of the country; he made them all leave Jerusalem for exile in Babylon. All the men of distinction, seven thousand of them, the blacksmiths and metalworkers, one thousand of them, all of them men capable of bearing arms, were led into exile in Babylon by the king of Babylon.

The king of Babylon made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in succession to him, and changed his name to Zedekiah.

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Matthew 7:21-29

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘It is not those who say to me, “Lord, Lord,” who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven. When the day comes many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out demons in your name, work many miracles in your name?” Then I shall tell them to their faces: I have never known you; away from me, you evil men!

‘Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against that house, and it did not fall: it was founded on rock. But everyone who listens to these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and struck that house, and it fell; and what a fall it had!’

Jesus had now finished what he wanted to say, and his teaching made a deep impression on the people because he taught them with authority, and not like their own scribes.

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“It is not those who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ who will enter the kingdom of heaven”

In the gospel yesterday, our Lord talked about bearing good fruits. Today, he teaches that not all who call Him “Lord, Lord” will get to enter heaven.  When I first heard this teaching, I was concerned; I wondered if I would qualify for entry into Heaven when it was finally my time.  At an early stage in my life, I believed that because I believed in Jesus, I was assured of my place in heaven. In the course of studying the bible, I came across James 2:14-16, talking about faith and works.

I have come to realize that our “status” as a Christian is not a club membership and does not guarantee direct admission to heaven. We do have to do good works as part of our faith, but not as payment of an “entrance fee”! Our works is not a “pay-as-you-go” system into heaven. No… our entrance into heaven is given to us by God based purely on grace. No other reason.

As we continue to grow as children of God, let us remember that we have to do good, even when seemingly unwarranted. We simply must because our faith demands it.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Father, help us to remember to do our best in our efforts as Christian men and women. Help us remember that whatever we do, we do it purely for You and not for our own needs.

Thanksgiving – Thank You for Your grace for being always there for us; for showing us what it means to be a good Christian and teaching us that our place in heaven is not meant to be earned.

22 June, Wednesday – Bearing Good Fruit

22 June  – Memorial for St. Paulinus of Nola, bishop; Memorial for St. John Fisher, Bishop & St. Thomas More, martyrs

Paulinus (c.354–431) was a friend of St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Nicetas of Remesiana, and was mentioned for his holiness by at least six of his contemporary saints.

He was a distinguished lawyer who held several public offices in the Empire, then retired from public ministry with his wife, Therasia, first to Bordeaux, where they were baptised, and then to Therasia’s estate in Spain. After the death of their only son at the age of only a few weeks, the couple decided to spend the rest of their lives devoted to God. They gave away most of their estates and dedicated themselves to increasing their holiness.

Paulinus became a priest and with Therasia, moved to Nola and gave away the rest of their property. They dedicated themselves to helping the poor. Paulinus was chosen bishop of Nola by popular demand. He governed the diocese for more than 21 years while living in his own home as a monk and continuing to aid the poor. His writings contain one of the earliest examples of a Christian wedding song.

– Patron Saint Index

John Fisher (1469–1535) studied theology at Cambridge University, receiving degrees in 1487 and 1491. He was parish priest in Northallerton, England from 1491–1494. He gained a reputation for his teaching abilities. He was proctor of Cambridge University. He was confessor to Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, in 1497. He was ordained Bishop of Rochester, England in 1504; he worked to raise the standard of preaching in his see. He became chancellor of Cambridge. He was tutor of the young King Henry VIII. He was an excellent speaker and writer.

When in 1527 he was asked to study the problem of Henry’s marriage, he became the target of Henry’s wrath by defending the validity of the marriage and rejecting Henry’s claim to be head of the Church in England. He was imprisoned in 1534 for his opposition, and he spent 14 months in prison without trial. While in prison, he was created cardinal in 1535 by Pope Paul III. He was martyred for his faith.

– Patron Saint Index

Thomas More (1478–1535) studied at London and Oxford, England. He was a page for the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was a lawyer. Twice married, and a widower, he was the father of one son and three daughters, and a devoted family man. He was a writer, most famously of the novel which coined the word ‘utopia’. It was translated with the works of Lucian.

He was known during his own day for his scholarship and the depth of his knowledge. He was a friend to King Henry VIII, and Lord Chancellor of England from 1529–1532, a position of political power second only to the king.

He fought any form of heresy, especially the incursion of Protestantism into England. He opposed the king on the matter of royal divorce, and refused to swear the Oath of Supremacy which declared the king the head of the Church in England. He resigned the Chancellorship, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was martyred for his refusal to bend his religious beliefs to the king’s political needs.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Kings 22:8-13,23:1-3

The high priest Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the Temple of the Lord.’’’ And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, who read it. Shaphan the secretary went to the king and reported to him as follows, ‘Your servants’ he said ‘have melted down the silver which was in the Temple and have handed it over to the masters of works attached to the Temple of the Lord.’ Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book’; and Shaphan read it aloud in the king’s presence.

On hearing the contents of the Book of the Law, the king tore his garments, and gave the following order to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s minister: ‘Go and consult the Lord, on behalf of me and the people, about the contents of this book that has been found. Great indeed must be the anger of the Lord blazing out against us because our ancestors did not obey what this book says by practising everything written in it.’

The king then had all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem summoned to him, and the king went up to the Temple of the Lord with all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, priests, prophets and all the people, of high or low degree. In their hearing he read out everything that was said in the book of the covenant found in the Temple of the Lord. The king stood beside the pillar, and in the presence of the Lord he made a covenant to follow the Lord and keep his commandments and decrees and laws with all his heart and soul, in order to enforce the terms of the covenant as written in that book. All the people gave their allegiance to the covenant.

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Matthew 7:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Beware of false prophets who come to you disguised as sheep but underneath are ravenous wolves. You will be able to tell them by their fruits. Can people pick grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, a sound tree produces good fruit but a rotten tree bad fruit. A sound tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor a rotten tree bear good fruit. Any tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown on the fire. I repeat, you will be able to tell them by their fruits.’

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“Open my eyes, O Lord”

In my life, I have been called brash, emotional, funny and wear my heart firmly on my sleeve. My emotions show up in all facets of my life; my work, family life and most of all, when I’m driving.

Many times, I am overcome with brief flashes of anger. When these occasions strike me, I tended to lash out with unkind words. I remember the times when my wife gently telling me that the children were in the car and were watching, and learning from how I was behaving.

This was one of the realizations that I had when I attended the Conversion Experience Retreat early this year. I realized that because I was feeling angry and at times, felt worried and anxious, and these feelings were manifesting themselves negatively.

Jesus reminds us today that a sound tree must produce good fruit. Thus, how we think, act and behave, our fruits, reflects how we attuned we are to God and how well we are walking in His path. These provide a very important feedback mechanism and personally, a daily examination of our conscience helps us evaluate where we are and where we need to be.

In our daily lives as Christians, let us continue to turn to God for the strength and wisdom to continue learning how to develop “good fruit”, so that we will have the temperance and fortitude as we go through the growth process.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Father, may we continue to be open to Your corrections as we learn to become good fruit. Help us Lord to recognize instances when we may not be the best that we can be.

Thanksgiving – Thank You Father for blessing us with a conscience and giving us loving people in our lives who will correct us in our efforts to become better children of Yours.

21 June, Tuesday – Choose the Hard Road

21 June – Memorial for St. Aloysius Gonzaga, religious

St. Aloysius (1568-1591) was an Italian noble who grew up in a castle as the son of a compulsive gambler. He suffered from kidney disease, but considered it a blessing as it left him bed-ridden with time for prayer. While still a boy himself, he taught catechism to poor boys. At age 18 he signed away his legal claim to his family’s lands and title to his brother, and became a Jesuit novice. He tended to plague victims in Rome in the outbreak of 1591, and died of the plague himself with the desire to see God.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Kings 19:9-11,14-21,31-36

Sennacherib, King of the Assyrians, sent messengers to Hezekiah saying, ‘Tell this to Hezekiah king of Judah, “Do not let your God on whom you are relying deceive you, when he says: Jerusalem shall not fall into the power of the king of Assyria. You have learnt by now what the kings of Assyria have done to every country, putting them all under the ban. Are you likely to be spared?’

Hezekiah took the letter from the hands of the messenger and read it; he then went up to the Temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. Hezekiah said this prayer in the presence of the Lord, ‘O Lord of Hosts, God of Israel, enthroned on the cherubs, you alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth, you have made heaven and earth.

‘Give ear, Lord, and listen.
Open your eyes, Lord, and see.
Hear the words of Sennacherib
who has sent to insult the living God.

‘It is true, O Lord, that the kings of Assyria have exterminated all the nations, they have thrown their gods on the fire, for these were not gods but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, and hence they have destroyed them. But now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, I pray you, and let all the kingdoms of the earth know that you alone are God, the Lord.’

Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah. ‘The Lord, the God of Israel,’ he said, ‘says this, “I have heard the prayer you have addressed to me about Sennacherib king of Assyria.” Here is the oracle that the Lord has pronounced against him:

‘“She despises you, she scorns you,
the virgin, daughter of Zion;
she tosses her head behind you,
the daughter of Jerusalem.”
‘This, then, is what the Lord says about the king of Assyria:
‘“He will not enter this city,
he will let fly no arrow against it,
confront it with no shield,
throw up no earthwork against it.
By the road that he came on he will return;
he shall not enter this city. It is the Lord who speaks.
I will protect this city and save it
for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”’

That same night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. Sennacherib struck camp and left; he returned home and stayed in Nineveh.

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Matthew 7:6,12-14

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls in front of pigs, or they may trample them and then turn on you and tear you to pieces.
‘So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.
‘Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’

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“The road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious”

In the previous day’s gospel, Jesus gives us a framework for fraternal correction. While we do our best in reconciling with our brother or sister, today’s gospel tells us that what is holy must not be cast before dogs and that one should not cast pearls before swine.

Jesus also talks about the taking the narrow gate which leads to heaven, versus the wider gate which leads to perdition, or a state of eternal damnation.

In our daily lives, it is always easier to take the path of least resistance. Such a path is easier as one would not be required to stand up for one’s values. The moral question of whether one is right (or wrong) does not come into play… for choosing the wide gate means choosing something that is easy and politically expedient.

I have found myself in previous work environments where colleagues (and myself) had found ourselves agreeing with the bosses even though we felt the decisions were either wrong or morally questionable. Rather than defending what is right, we find that it is easier simply to agree. This happens also in our social relationships. Situations where we need to take the narrow gate may tend to be compromised because it is simply more difficult and challenging.

Let us pray to our God for moral courage and strength to do the right thing.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Father, let us to be strong to make the right choice; to walk the path that is more difficult and to enter heaven through the narrow gate. Help us to understand what is required and to act in Your Will.

Thanksgiving – Thank You Father for showing us the path to Your eternal kingdom. Thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit, who speaks to us in our spirit, guiding our choices and conscience along the way.

20 June, Monday – Correct Lovingly

20 June

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

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

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

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

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Matthew 7:1-5

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

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“Do not judge”

In today’s gospel, Jesus asks us not to “see the splinters” in the eyes of our fellow brothers and sisters without seeing the splinters in our own. Yet, in Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus also instructs us in the steps of brotherly correction.

I had often pondered on the two passages and wondered what the differences were.

The answer came to me one day when someone told me about one of the experiences of St Augustine. The latter was contemplating the mystery of the Holy Trinity, walking along a beach when he saw a boy repeatedly bringing water from the ocean to pour into a hole he had dug in the sand. It was then St Augustine realized that he was like the hole in the sand, and the Trinity was like the ocean; the hole was simply too small to contain the vastness of the ocean!

I help guide certain children in Catechism and there was this particularly difficult child. The child was extremely disruptive in class, often speaking out of turn and shouting as and when he liked. The educators (myself included) were irritated, frustrated that the child could not be “controlled”. Threats were issued to ban the child should he not “behave”. One day, however, we heard the story behind the child’s life which helped me understand the reasons behind the behavior. Suddenly, I no longer found the child’s behavior irritating. Instead, the other educators and myself found ourselves trying hard to help the child. We became cheerleaders, counsellors and more importantly, friends of the child.

Upon reflection, I realized that I had taken a position of “superiority” and judged the child. I had not approached the situation with an attitude of love. I lacked the perfect knowledge that God alone has, and therefore I am incapable of passing judgement on my fellow man as God could. Truly, as our Pope Francis famously said, “Who am I to judge?”

In Matthew 18:15-17, the approach is noticeably different. We do not condemn our brother for his actions. Instead, we approach our brother and correct him gently and if he does not accept the correction, we are to bring others to speak with him. It is only after these steps have failed that one is to move on.

Ultimately, what we are required to do is to correct with a heart of love, and not be the judge and juror of our brothers and sisters. May we have the wisdom to understand the difference!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Help us Father to correct our brothers and sisters with love. May we not be tempted to take a position of power and superiority and to let You guide our attitudes and actions.

Thanksgiving – Thank You Father for loving us and for showing us the way to build our community here on earth. We are grateful that we have the Holy Spirit as our guide!

19 June, Sunday – Trusting in the Lord

19 June

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Zechariah 12:10-11,13:1

It is the Lord who speaks: ‘Over the House of David and the citizens of Jerusalem I will pour out a spirit of kindness and prayer. They will look on the one whom they have pierced; they will mourn for him as for an only son, and weep for him as people weep for a first-born child. When that day comes, there will be great mourning in Judah, like the mourning of Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. When that day comes, a fountain will be opened for the House of David and the citizens of Jerusalem, for sin and impurity.’

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Galatians 3:26-29

You are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.

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Luke 9:18-24

One day when Jesus was praying alone in the presence of his disciples he put this question to them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ And they answered, ‘John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ It was Peter who spoke up. ‘The Christ of God’ he said. But he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.

‘The Son of Man’ he said ‘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.’

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“My soul clings to You”

My family and I have just gone to watch Les Misérables. This was a fantastic experience and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Despite having watched this in earlier productions on stage and the theatre, the story continues to enthrall us.

When watching the story, one cannot help but wonder how Jean Valjean, the main character, is able to always choose to do the right thing despite the challenges he faced. He chose to forgive, and in fact, help, Javert, the policeman who oversaw his nineteen year stay in a French prison. He chose to make the tough decisions in helping those around him, putting himself at risk when doing so. I have imagined what I would have done had I found myself in the same position.

It is one of the main reasons why this musical continues to resonate with me.

Just a warning for those who do not know the storyline of Les Misérables; spoilers are coming up ahead.

The theme of “renouncing oneself” can be seen in what Jesus taught in today’s gospel, and He asks us to do this exact thing. When I first heard this passage, I found it difficult to accept; it felt very much like a motherhood statement; which sounds great on paper and seriously difficult to carry out. Yet when we look at the life of our Lord Jesus, we see Him doing as he preached; praying for those who had hurt Him and put Him on the cross, while dying on that same cross.

A daily choice has to be made when “renouncing oneself”. Jean Valjean demonstrated this in his decision to confess to the court that they had, in fact, arrested the wrong man. He could have kept quiet and allowed the man to be sentenced in his stead. He would then have been able to wipe his slate clean and to enjoy his status as a politician and a businessman! Yet, he chose to do the right thing! Such a choice certainly did not come easy. However, we see that at the end, the decision Jean Valjean made to renounce himself had set him free instead.

Similarly, we need to be able to surrender ourselves. It is only in doing so that we demonstrate our trust in our God. We truly give up “control” over our own situations and leave it to our God to provide and to protect us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Help us Father to always have the courage and strength to do the right thing and surrender ourselves. That we may be filled with the wisdom to recognize areas in our lives where we can continue to grow.

Thanksgiving – Thank You Father for guiding and loving us. Thank You for always taking care of us as we continue to grow in faith in You.

18 June, Saturday – Day after Today

18 June

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2 Chronicles 24:17-25

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

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

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

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Matthew 6:24-34

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

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

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So do not worry about tomorrow.

Before getting off from work, I write down things to do for the following day.  That way I will not miss any important task.  I become worrisome and worked up whenever I am experiencing tight deadlines at work.  I tend to multitask and end up feeling exhausted by the end of the day.  What did I accomplish?  It is a very difficult question.

It says in the Gospel, “No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.”  Actually this is true.  There is this word, “focus”, which signifies singularity.  It is either this one or that one.  It can never be both.  It will be too tiring and will end up not focusing to neither.  Choosing God over money does not mean not doing anything and just wait for God to feed us.  It says in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “We gave you a rule when we were with you: do not let anyone have any food if he refuses to do any work.”  There is no blessing to those who are lazy.  We will starve to death if we do not buy food and water.  Our bills will not pay for themselves.  So definitely we do need money.

Yet, attachment to money is dangerous.   It also includes attachment to fame, power, and possessions.  It may turn us into a greedy person that leads to negative relationship with others.  And these instances push us away from God.  We might be thinking that we are working to live a comfortable life.  But the end result is we are living to work.  Do we work hard to earn more in order to serve the Lord?  Or do we work hard to earn more in order to serve ourselves?  Or do we live our life everyday, working so hard and wearing ourselves out?

Money is not bad as it is.  It becomes the root of evil if we choose it over God.  It is bad if we become greedy, have hatred, and become an unforgiving person because of it.  We must make money a tool so that whatever we do, we offer it to God.  This will make our Lord the center of our everything.

Before we sleep each night, let us try to reflect what happened that day.  Let us ask ourselves, “What did I accomplish?  Did I do something that is pleasing to God?  Do I see God in what I do?”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, please grant us joy while facing our daily struggles.  Please allow our hearts to choose to serve the Lord over our desire to material wealth.  We pray that we will not be too attached with our money but rather be generous to share it with others.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord for the blessings and graces we received.  We thank you Father for all things that we have that sustains our daily life.

17 June, Friday – Jewel of the Heart

17 June

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2 Kings 11:1-4,9-18,20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Matthew 6:19-23

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

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

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If then, the light inside you is darkness, what darkness that will be!

Storing.  According to google search, it is to “keep or accumulate (something) for future use.”  In common situation, we store things inside and not outside.  We store leftover food inside the fridge to prolong its shelf life.  This is an act of preserving that food for later consumption.  We store things to be used at a later time.  It is actually good to save up for our future.  However, if the storage is not big enough anymore, some will become waste.  It can be food, clothes, shoes, or gadgets.  We cannot use all of our things simultaneously if there are too many.

Jesus said in the Gospel, “Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and woodworms destroy them and thieves can break in and steal.”  It can be understood that Jesus is pertaining to the material things on Earth.  One may reason that we have temporal needs to sustain.  Yes, I agree that we also need earthly things to survive in life.  But we cannot only prepare for our life on earth.  We also have this afterlife that we need to prepare for.  And this is implied in our Gospel. “But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor woodworms destroy them and thieves cannot break in and steal.”  Jesus is telling us to prepare ourselves in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  How can we do that?  There are many things that cannot be lost.  The non-tangible things.  There is love, faith, forgiveness, and other more.  It is not only keeping the love, faith, and forgiveness.  We invest and share these with others.  And these are only a few treasures that cannot be destroyed nor stolen from us.  What we keep in ourselves will manifest eventually whether we are aware or not.  So if we keep only the good things, then good things will come out from us.  Others will see.

We cannot bring our riches with us after we die.  All our material wealth will be left here.  Similar to what the Gospel is telling us, this is the reality.  The reality that whatever things that we have, it will be gone and is not permanent in this world.  The money that we have is not forever.

Our life is short.  Therefore, we must strive to live it for ourselves, for others, and for God.   Our life is a great treasure from God.  How we live it is a treasure that we can bring in heaven.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please grant that we may live a life for You.  May our daily life be filled sharing with others Your goodness and Your love.

Thanksgiving:  Father God, thank you for the graces in our daily life.  Thank you for the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the money we earn, and the life we have.

16 June, Thursday – In Prayer

16 June

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Ecclesiasticus 48:1-15

The prophet Elijah arose like a fire,
his word flaring like a torch.
It was he who brought famine on the people,
and who decimated them in his zeal.
By the word of the Lord, he shut up the heavens,
he also, three times, brought down fire.
How glorious you were in your miracles, Elijah!
Has anyone reason to boast as you have? –
rousing a corpse from death,
from Sheol by the word of the Most High;
dragging kings down to destruction,
and high dignitaries from their beds;
hearing reproof on Sinai,
and decrees of punishment on Horeb;
anointing kings as avengers,
and prophets to succeed you;
taken up in the whirlwind of fire,
in a chariot with fiery horses;
designated in the prophecies of doom
to allay God’s wrath before the fury breaks,
to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children,
and to restore the tribes of Jacob,
Happy shall they be who see you,
and those who have fallen asleep in love;
for we too will have life.

Elijah was shrouded in the whirlwind,
and Elisha was filled with his spirit;
throughout his life no ruler could shake him,
and no one could subdue him.
No task was too hard for him,
and even in death his body prophesied.
In his lifetime he performed wonders,
and in death his works were marvellous.

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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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Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“I do not know how to pray.”  I hear that a lot.  When asked to lead a prayer, there is a lot of pinpointing who will say it.  There are people who do not pray.  There are others who do not realize that they are already praying.  We have our own individual perception when it comes to prayer.  There are prayers that we learned from home, school, and at church.  There are also specific personal prayers that we say to God.  A hope for a wonderful day is a prayer.  Wishing someone a good health is a prayer.  If we ask God, “Why…?”, it is already a prayer.

How do I pray?  To answer that, I have a one-sentence prayer as I open my eyes in the morning.  I thank God for giving me another day to live.  Aside from that, I have other prayers like asking for God’s help to keep us safe, to have a meaningful day, and other prayers seeking the Lord’s assistance.  I have a very long list of prayer request and there are many petitions that I received a “NO” answer.  There were times that I get frustrated with a “NO” answer.  But eventually I accepted it thinking that God has better plans for me.  And He never fails me.  But the feeling of getting a “NO” right on my face really hurts.

Today’s Gospel is very wonderful.  It is about the Lord’s prayer.  Many people know this prayer.  The first line is, “Our Father in heaven, may Your name be held holy”.  This line indicates that we profess and recognize the Holiness of God the Father above any other.  This shows how much we revere our God.  Though it seems we are putting God first, there are times that we give more priorities to what we want.

We have our own desires and we pray to God to fill our temporal needs.  Most of our prayers are about what we need and want for our life.  We sometimes forget to pray for what God wants for us.  It also says there in the Gospel, “Your will be done, on earth as in heaven.”  Anything that happens to us is God’s will.  Not because of our own doings.  We must always thank the Lord for all the graces that we received.  We should also thank the Lord for our struggles as well.  We must believe that our loving God gives us challenges that only we can handle.  When we feel that God does not seem to answer our request, we do not hang-up.  Rather, we hang-on.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, grant that we may not cease in our prayer life.  Please make us accept the things we cannot change, be grateful to what we have, and to desire what You desire for us.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Father for my prayer life and Your continuous blessings.

15 June, Wednesday – Love Shown Through Action

15 June

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2 Kings 2:1,6-14

This is what happened when the Lord took Elijah up to heaven in the whirlwind: Elijah and Elisha set out from Gilgal, Elijah said, ‘Elisha, please stay here, the Lord is only sending me to the Jordan.’ But he replied, ‘As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you!’ And they went on together.

Fifty of the brotherhood of prophets followed them, halting some distance away as the two of them stood beside the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water; and the water divided to left and right, and the two of them crossed over dry-shod. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Make your request. What can I do for you before I am taken from you?’ Elisha answered, ‘Let me inherit a double share of your spirit.’ ‘Your request is a difficult one’ Elijah said. ‘If you see me while I am being taken from you, it shall be as you ask; if not, it will not be so.’ Now as they walked on, talking as they went, a chariot of fire appeared and horses of fire, coming between the two of them; and Elijah went up to heaven in the whirlwind. Elisha saw it, and shouted, ‘My father! My father! Chariot of Israel and its chargers!’ Then he lost sight of him, and taking hold of his clothes he tore them in half. He picked up the cloak of Elijah which had fallen, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.

He took the cloak of Elijah and struck the water. ‘Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ he cried. He struck the water, and it divided to right and left, and Elisha crossed over.

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Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you; this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win men’s admiration. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

‘And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them; I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

‘When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.’

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I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward

There is this Malay word “wayang” which translates to a traditional performance in the Malay language. It is a colloquial term and commonly used amongst my friends as a term to illustrate how somebody seeks to engage in outward behaviour to impress others e.g. one’s peers or superiors. Jesus reminds us in today’s gospel that such action is not necessary and could in fact be counter-productive if we want to receive our eternal reward.

The Pharisees wanted to show to the people that they were a very holy bunch of people and this meant that they had to show it through their external behaviour. Yet Jesus judges us on our hearts and the motivations of why we do so. In our lives, we are often motivated by various emotions to drive our actions. Sometimes it is for want of recognition.  Maybe it could be due to pride or perhaps it could be a belief that we can definitely do better than others in our behaviours. The Gospel reminds us today of the need to identify what is the way to find the right motivation; through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

These three actions have been traditionally given by the church as a means for us to modify ourselves and to give meaning to the mortification. This meaning is to unite with Jesus’s passion and the mystery of suffering. Amidst our busy schedule, I ask that we take time every day to pray to God for the clarity of mind to continue to serve Him in the way He wants us to.  Without us worrying about putting on a show for others.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let all our actions be grounded in the Truth of your Word.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who continue to work for the cause of justice.

14 June, Tuesday – Love Liberates

14 June 

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1 Kings 21:17-29

After the death of Naboth, the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, ‘Up! Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, in Samaria. You will find him in Naboth’s vineyard; he has gone down to take possession of it. You are to say this to him, “the Lord says this: You have committed murder; now you usurp as well. For this – and the Lord says this – in the place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth, the dogs will lick your blood too.”’ Ahab said to Elijah, ‘So you have found me out, O my enemy!’ Elijah answered, ‘I have found you out. For your double dealing, and since you have done what is displeasing to the Lord, I will now bring disaster down on you; I will sweep away your descendants, and wipe out every male belonging to the family of Ahab, fettered or free in Israel. I will treat your House as I treated the House of Jeroboam son of Nebat and of Baasha son of Ahijah, for provoking my anger and leading Israel into sin. (Against Jezebel the Lord spoke these words: The dogs will eat Jezebel in the Field of Jezreel.) Those of Ahab’s family who die in the city, the dogs will eat; and those who die in the open country, the birds of the air will eat.’

And indeed there never was anyone like Ahab for double dealing and for doing what is displeasing to the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the most abominable way, adhering to idols, just as the Amorites used to do whom the Lord had dispossessed for the sons of Israel.

When Ahab heard these words, he tore his garments and put sackcloth next his skin and fasted; he slept in the sackcloth; he walked with slow steps. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, ‘Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Since he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; I will bring the disaster down on his House in the days of his son.’

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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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Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

There was a time when I was young, where I always wondered why the protagonists on TV dramas were always driven by hatred against their enemies to motivate them to accomplish their desired aim. Whilst one can put it down to good TV dramatics, I believe that hate as a motivation does allow a person to have a purpose of living. It is in the readings of today which remind us that it is love, and not hate, which will ultimately be liberation for the person.

Jesus reminds us that we need to love our enemies and do good to those who have persecuted us. Such an approach may seem counter-intuitive but the whole being and nature of Jesus is one of love. This love is one which is ever-forgiving and welcoming of the individual. We see a glimpse of this in the first reading where God was angry with Ahab for behaving in an unacceptable way through acts of murder and being a poor leader to the people of Israel. Yet God still forgave him when he repented despite his failings. In our eyes, he should have been punished severely for the sins he had committed, yet God forgives Ahab because he has shown himself to be repentant.

Love forgives the greatest fault of an individual but it is up to us to decide if we want to extend this love to the people around us. Sometimes, it is hard to do so especially if this hurt has accumulated over a period of time but we must realise that hate will consume us and make us feel angry unnecessarily. Only love can free us from the pain in our lives and the grief which we have been holding onto for the longest time.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we ask for the grace to forgive our enemies.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all confessors for the gift of helping each of us to see God’s love in action.