9 March, Friday – Walking The Talk

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 many of the 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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Hosea 14:2-10
The Lord says this:
Israel, come back to the Lord your God;
your iniquity was the cause of your downfall.
Provide yourself with words
and come back to the Lord.
Say to him, ‘Take all iniquity away
so that we may have happiness again
and offer you our words of praise.
Assyria cannot save us,
we will not ride horses any more,
or say, “Our God!” to what our own hands have made,
for you are the one in whom orphans find compassion.’
– I will heal their disloyalty,
I will love them with all my heart,
for my anger has turned from them.
I will fall like dew on Israel.
He shall bloom like the lily,
and thrust out roots like the poplar,
his shoots will spread far;
he will have the beauty of the olive
and the fragrance of Lebanon.
They will come back to live in my shade;
they will grow corn that flourishes,
they will cultivate vines
as renowned as the wine of Helbon.
What has Ephraim to do with idols any more
when it is I who hear his prayer and care for him?
I am like a cypress ever green,
all your fruitfulness comes from me.
Let the wise man understand these words.
Let the intelligent man grasp their meaning.
For the ways of the Lord are straight,
and virtuous men walk in them,
but sinners stumble.
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Mark 12:28-34
One of the scribes came up to Jesus and put a question to him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to him, ‘Well spoken, Master; what you have said is true: that he is one and there is no other. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.’ Jesus, seeing how wisely he had spoken, said, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And after that no one dared to question him any more.
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“You must love your neighbour as yourself”

I grew up in a 3-room HDB flat, living with my grandaunt and her son, my uncle. We had no real consistent means of income and my grandaunt made her money by being a babysitter, looking after about five children at any one time.

Despite the fact that we were rather poor, we had wonderfully generous neighbours. I remember them bringing food over to share with us on an almost daily basis. Another laundered and ironed our clothes daily. Yet another came over to spend time with my grandaunt, spending time with her and listening to her share her daily woes.

During the 30-plus years I spent there, I felt the love that our neighbours had for us and knew that whatever the circumstances we had to face, we had their support. In fact, whenever we had any financial difficulty, the neighbours readily loaned us money.

In today’s Gospel, our Lord Jesus talks about the two greatest commandments; to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.

The bible has many examples about how we should be interacting and helping our neighbours. These passages all talk about how our behaviour should reflect our faith, and that this faith should not be theoretical.

Such an example were my former neighbours. They never needed to tell us they cared, or even what they thought about us. All they did was to show us, every day. Even though they were all not Christians, they demonstrated what it was like to show Christian love.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, we pray that we will learn what it means to love God; by loving our neighbours. Help us to resist the temptation to keep our faith in our minds, and to live it everyday.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for showing us how to manifest our faith and love in You. Thank You for helping us know the way to heaven.

8 March, Thursday – Shedding Our Hardness

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

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

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

The following readings are available for reflection:

Holy Saturday

1st Reading + Responsorial Psalm

2nd Reading + Responsorial Psalm

3rd Reading + Responsorial Psalm

4th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

5th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

6th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

7th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

Epistle + Responsorial Psalm

Gospel

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

God bless

Oxygen Core Team

 

8 March

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Jeremiah 7:23-28

These were my orders: Listen to my voice, then I will be your God and you shall be my people. Follow right to the end the way that I mark out for you, and you will prosper. But they did not listen, they did not pay attention; they followed the dictates of their own evil hearts, refused to face me, and turned their backs on me. From the day your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until today, day after day I have persistently sent you all my servants the prophets.

But they have not listened to me, have not paid attention; they have grown stubborn and behaved worse than their ancestors. You may say all these words to them: they will not listen to you; you may call them: they will not answer. So tell them this, “Here is the nation that will not listen to the voice of the Lord its God nor take correction. Sincerity is no more, it has vanished from their mouths.”

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Luke 11:14-23

Jesus was casting out a devil and it was dumb; but when the devil had gone out the dumb man spoke, and the people were amazed. But some of them said, ‘It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils.’ Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven; but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses. So too with Satan: if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? – Since you assert that it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils. Now if it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out? Let them be your judges then. But if it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you. So long as a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he is attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.

‘He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.’

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“I will be your God, and you shall be my people”

I have often wondered what it would have been like living as a Jew at the time of the great Exodus. In my mind’s eye, I imagine the great plagues in Egypt, seeing the waters of the River Nile turn into blood, or personally witnessing the plague of locusts as they swarmed the land. Even more powerfully, seeing the blood of the sacrificial lambs painted above the front doors of the Jews, and consequently, the deaths of the first-born among the Egyptians. I see myself scrambling to leave Egypt and walking in between the walls of sea water as they are parted.

It would have been amazing and would have cemented my belief and trust in God for His deliverance.

It is difficult for me, therefore, to understand how the early Jews chose to turn their backs on our Father God and trust, instead, on other ‘gods’ such as Baal. How does one even do that after witnessing these miraculous events where God repeatedly shows His faithfulness and His might?

I guess a big part of it is how open we are to witnessing God’s works. No matter how much He does around us and for us, we will continue to fail to recognise the impact God has on us and our lives if we choose to be closed to Him. Because of our closed, hardened hearts and minds, we would continue to question and discount Him.

In fact, the Gospel and readings today show God our Father, and our Lord Jesus, admonishing the people for having hardened hearts. Without removing this ‘hardness’, we would never be able to develop a true relationship with our God.

Lent is a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with God. Through fasting, penance and the giving of alms, we gradually strip ourselves of our hardness and indifference. Coupled with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we gradually become one with God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Lord, we pray that we may be able to cast aside our indifference and learn to always turn to You. Teach us to trust in You totally and to depend on You.

Thanksgiving: Father God, thank You for correcting us, for teaching and guiding us.

7 March, Wednesday – The Truth In Scripture

7 Mar – Memorial for Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, martyrs

Perpetua (d. 203) was a lay woman born to a noble pagan family. She was a convert, a wife and a mother. She was martyred with her maid, friend, and fellow convert Felicitas. In centuries past, their story was so popular that St. Augustine of Hippo warned against giving it the weight of scripture.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Deuteronomy 4:1,5-9

Moses said to the people:

‘Now, Israel, take notice of the laws and customs that I teach you today, and observe them, that you may have life and may enter and take possession of the land that the Lord the God of your fathers is giving you.

‘See, as the Lord my God has commanded me, I teach you the laws and customs that you are to observe in the land you are to enter and make your own. Keep them, observe them, and they will demonstrate to the peoples your wisdom and understanding. When they come to know of all these laws they will exclaim, “No other people is as wise and prudent as this great nation.” And indeed, what great nation is there that has its gods so near as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call to him? And what great nation is there that has laws and customs to match this whole Law that I put before you today?

‘But take care what you do and be on your guard. Do not forget the things your eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your heart all the days of your life; rather, tell them to your children and to your children’s children.’

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Matthew 5:17-19

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.’

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“…the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven”

I was not born into the Catholic faith. One of the things I learned when I started attending the Church was the concept of abstinence on Fridays. At first, I was troubled to learn that I could not eat meat, but was totally elated that I could eat fish! I began to seek out tasty recipes to cook fish so I could ‘abstain’ enjoyably!

It was later that I learned that the rationale behind eating fish was that it was seen as a poor quality meat in the West, unlike the fresh fish we have here in Singapore. Over time, I understood that abstinence is an important part of repentance and helps us in our efforts to turn away from sin and to reconnect with God.

As Christians, we need to understand what God’s laws for us mean and have to be careful that we do not undermine the essence of what these laws mean. I began to understand what this meant when I trained as an accountant.

One of the tenets I learned was the importance of ‘substance over form’.

In interpreting any accountancy principle, one had to look at the substance of what that principle was meant to cover, rather than just the wording. I have seen many instances where many fail to understand the underlying meaning and still end up violating the principle in its essence.

In my journey of faith, I learned many ‘do’s and don’ts’ in the Old Testament. Often, I found these challenging (and numerous!). As a new Christian previously attending a Protestant church, I spent much time mulling and debating over what I was supposed, and not supposed, to do.

In the New Testament, however, I found my answer. It is the ‘substance’ of my faith and drives my understanding of the Old Testament. The two greatest commandments our Lord Jesus taught us completes my grasp of my faith.

Now, when I look at the circumstances I face in my life, I ask myself if I am loving my God with all my heart, with all my soul and with all my mind. Next, I ask myself if I have loved my neighbour as myself.

Let us pray that we may continue to always turn to these 2 basic principles in trying to grow in our faith.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, we pray that we may always be ‘plugged in’ to Your promptings. Help us to always head towards You.

Thanksgiving: We praise and thank You, Father, for teaching us what is it You want us to be and to learn.

6 March, Tuesday – Forgiveness, Ad Infinitum

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

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

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

The following readings are available for reflection:

Holy Saturday

1st Reading + Responsorial Psalm

2nd Reading + Responsorial Psalm

3rd Reading + Responsorial Psalm

4th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

5th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

6th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

7th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

Epistle + Responsorial Psalm

Gospel

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

God bless

Oxygen Core Team

 

6 March

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Daniel 3:25,34-43

Azariah stood in the heart of the fire, and he began to pray:

Oh! Do not abandon us for ever,
for the sake of your name;
do not repudiate your covenant,
do not withdraw your favour from us,
for the sake of Abraham, your friend,
of Isaac your servant,
and of Israel your holy one,
to whom you promised descendants as countless as the stars of heaven
and as the grains of sand on the seashore.
Lord, now we are the least of all the nations,
now we are despised throughout the world, today, because of our sins.
We have at this time no leader, no prophet, no prince,
no holocaust, no sacrifice, no oblation, no incense,
no place where we can offer you the first-fruits
and win your favour.

But may the contrite soul, the humbled spirit be as acceptable to you
as holocausts of rams and bullocks,
as thousands of fattened lambs:
such let our sacrifice be to you today,
and may it be your will that we follow you wholeheartedly,
since those who put their trust in you will not be disappointed.
And now we put our whole heart into following you,
into fearing you and seeking your face once more.

Do not disappoint us;
treat us gently, as you yourself are gentle
and very merciful.
Grant us deliverance worthy of your wonderful deeds,
let your name win glory, Lord.

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Matthew 18:21-35

Peter went up to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.

‘And so the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants. When the reckoning began, they brought him a man who owed ten thousand talents; but he had no means of paying, so his master gave orders that he should be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, to meet the debt. At this, the servant threw himself down at his master’s feet. “Give me time” he said “and I will pay the whole sum.” And the servant’s master felt so sorry for him that he let him go and cancelled the debt. Now as this servant went out, he happened to meet a fellow servant who owed him one hundred denarii; and he seized him by the throat and began to throttle him. “Pay what you owe me” he said. His fellow servant fell at his feet and implored him, saying, “Give me time and I will pay you.” But the other would not agree; on the contrary, he had him thrown into prison till he should pay the debt. His fellow servants were deeply distressed when they saw what had happened, and they went to their master and reported the whole affair to him. Then the master sent for him. “You wicked servant,” he said “I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?” And in his anger the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt. And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.’

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“Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times”

 I have a lovely wife to whom I have been married 21 years, and we have 2 beautiful teenage children.

The first lesson I learnt after we got married is how to forgive. In fact, we spent every weekend arguing during the first six months of our marriage! Over the last 21 years, we have learnt over and over how to forgive each other; we NEVER stop learning how to forgive.

In the Gospel today, Peter asks our Lord what the limit is to forgiving others. Was it seven times? The answer was, in fact, seventy times seven times. In Judaism, the number ‘7’ signifies completion. Thus, ‘seventy-seven’ raises this even further, perhaps to infinity. Our Lord Jesus tells us that we should treat our brothers (and sisters) like our own families — to never give up on them. In effect, we have to be able to ‘outlast’ our brothers and sisters. Upset us a hundred times? We need to be able to forgive a hundred and one times.

In our relationship with God, we ourselves are the recipients of this recurrent forgiveness. Like the servant who owes his master the 10,000 talents (based on the income of the day, it would take 16 years to accumulate 1 talent!), we are beneficiaries of this ‘debt forgiveness’.

And yet, we need to remember that we cannot take this forgiveness for granted. As people who enjoy this immense gift, we need to be able to pass it on. The ‘100 denarii’ in the parable of today represents only a day’s wage for the average worker! Imagine what a great deal we have; we get to trade 160,000 hours worth of wages for a day’s wage! Amazing!

May we learn to treat other just like how we treat our own blood family and forgive unconditionally. Our God has given us the greatest prize — eternal life. Let us pass it on…. All for a wonderful price!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we will forgive others like You have forgiven us. Help us Jesus to always learn from and be like You!

Thanksgiving Thank You Father, for loving us and for forgiving us regardless of how many times we continue to sin against You.

5 March, Monday – Trusting God

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

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

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

The following readings are available for reflection:

Holy Saturday

1st Reading + Responsorial Psalm

2nd Reading + Responsorial Psalm

3rd Reading + Responsorial Psalm

4th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

5th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

6th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

7th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

Epistle + Responsorial Psalm

Gospel

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

God bless

Oxygen Core Team

 

5 March

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2 Kings 5:1-15

Naaman, army commander to the king of Aram, was a man who enjoyed his master’s respect and favour, since through him the Lord had granted victory to the Aramaeans. But the man was a leper. Now on one of their raids, the Aramaeans had carried off from the land of Israel a little girl who had become a servant of Naaman’s wife. ‘She said to her mistress, ‘If only my master would approach the prophet of Samaria. He would cure him of his leprosy.’ Naaman went and told his master. ‘This and this’ he reported ‘is what the girl from the land of Israel said.’ ‘Go by all means,’ said the king of Aram ‘I will send a letter to the king of Israel.’ So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten festal robes. He presented the letter to the king of Israel. It read: ‘With this letter, I am sending my servant Naaman to you for you to cure him of his leprosy.’ When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his garments. ‘Am I a god to give death and life,’ he said ‘that he sends a man to me and asks me to cure him of his leprosy? Listen to this, and take note of it and see how he intends to pick a quarrel with me.’

When Elisha heard that the king of Israel had torn his garments, he sent word to the king, ‘Why did you tear your garments? Let him come to me, and he will find there is a prophet in Israel.’ So Naaman came with his team and chariot and drew up at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent him a messenger to say, ‘Go and bathe seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will become clean once more.’ But Naaman was indignant and went off, saying, ‘Here was I thinking he would be sure to come out to me, and stand there, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the spot and cure the leprous part. Surely Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, are better than any water in Israel? Could I not bathe in them and become clean?’ And he turned round and went off in a rage. But his servants approached him and said, ‘My father, if the prophet had asked you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? All the more reason, then, when he says to you, “Bathe, and you will become clean.”’ So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, as Elisha had told him to do. And his flesh became clean once more like the flesh of a little child.

Returning to Elisha with his whole escort, he went in and stood before him. ‘Now I know’ he said ‘that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel.’

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Luke 4:24-30

Jesus came to Nazara and spoke to the people in the synagogue: ‘I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.’

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

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“Bathe, and you will become clean”

When I was still employed in a bank some 10 years ago, I went on a retreat and received a message during one of my meditations that I was about to see some changes in my work life. Up till that point, I had been in sales, and had enjoyed the work I was engaged in.

Refreshed by the retreat, I came back to Singapore, not really expecting anything to pan out. On my first day back to work, a colleague came to me and congratulated me for having received a promotion. I was taken aback; surprised at how the Lord had spoken to me in such a powerful way.

Strangely, things started falling apart then — my promotion almost got reversed as work politics came into play. However, a very supportive manager came out with an alternative solution; something I felt was not ideal, but felt I was forced to take.

Six months later, it turned out that this alternative was even better, and I was promoted to take over my manager who had moved to another, more senior role within the bank.

My experience was a very powerful lesson in trusting God. Very often, we have our own ideas about how and what He should provide for us, and anything not matching our expectations would be deemed as failure.

In today’s first reading, Naaman, the army commander to the king of Aram, had approached Elisha for a cure for his leprosy. He was upset at Elisha’s suggested cure of bathing in the River Jordan seven times. In his mind, two other rivers in Damascus were ‘superior’ to Jordan. Because Elisha’s instructions ran contrary to his expectations, Naaman refused to accept his instructions and almost deprived himself of the cure that he was seeking.

Just like Naaman, we have our own thoughts about what God ‘should’ do for us. We become upset when things don’t come our way. I once heard Archbishop William God saying that God always answers our petitions — perhaps His answer is simply a “No”, or a “Not Yet”.

Let us learn to set aside our pride and our expectations and come to the realisation that our God is not there to be our ‘order-taker’. He is not there to simply be our ATM (automated teller machine) to dispense what we need. Our God is simply our God, and we need to learn to be humble and to walk in His ways as He guides us gently along.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, we pray that we may set aside our expectations and trust in You. Teach us to be willing to do Your bidding, faithfully and willingly.

Thanksgiving: Father, we are grateful for you holding our hands as we journey towards eternal life. Thank You for always being there for us, although we may not always be able to see You.

4 March, Sunday – Bright As Day

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

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

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

The following readings are available for reflection:

Holy Saturday

1st Reading + Responsorial Psalm

2nd Reading + Responsorial Psalm

3rd Reading + Responsorial Psalm

4th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

5th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

6th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

7th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

Epistle + Responsorial Psalm

Gospel

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

God bless

Oxygen Core Team

 

4 March 2018

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Exodus 20:1-17

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

‘You shall have no gods except me.

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

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

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

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

  ‘You shall not kill.

 ‘You shall not commit adultery.

  ‘You shall not steal.

  ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

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

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1 Corinthians 1:22-25

While the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
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John 2:13-25

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

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

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“He could tell what a man had in him”

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

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

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

2 March, Saturday – God’s Love and Mercy

3 March

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Micah 7:14-15,18-20

With shepherd’s crook, O Lord, lead your people to pasture,
the flock that is your heritage,
living confined in a forest
with meadow land all around.
Let them pasture in Bashan and Gilead
as in the days of old.
As in the days when you came out of Egypt
grant us to see wonders.

What god can compare with you: taking fault away,
pardoning crime,
not cherishing anger for ever
but delighting in showing mercy?
Once more have pity on us,
tread down our faults,
to the bottom of the sea
throw all our sins.
Grant Jacob your faithfulness,
and Abraham your mercy,
as you swore to our fathers
from the days of long ago.

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Luke 15:1-3,11-32

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

‘A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.

‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.

‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.”

‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”’

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he was lost and is found

Have you ever been lost? Be it in a foreign country as a tourist or as a young child in a shopping mall, the feeling of fear which one may have experienced is certainly not something which you would like anyone to go through. Yet in the Gospel of today, we see how envy can lead one to wish others to remain lost as what the elder brother wished upon his prodigal younger brother.

The elder brother was certainly envious of how his father was very happy to have his younger son return. Perhaps this is a point which we can reflect upon – why was the reason the elder brother remain faithful to his father? It appears that he wanted to just obey all the commandments because of a sense of obligation rather than a genuine desire to love his father. This is something which we need to be aware in our own lives. Do we follow God because we are afraid of him or that we may suffer the consequences of breaking the rules?

The first reading of today reminds us that God is full of mercy and compassion. He wants us all to return to Him and will not hesitate to welcome us back. Indeed, this season of Lent is for us to grow closer to God and to discover what it means to experience the wonderful love which God is waiting to pour out upon us. Let us take time today to ask God to forgive us of all our faults and remove the fear of being lost from His love in exchange for his generous love and mercy.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear Lord, let us remain faithful to you despite all the challenges in life.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all confessors

2 March, Friday – Hidden Treasure

2 March

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Genesis 37:3-4,12-13,17-28

Israel loved Joseph more than all his other sons, for he was the son of his old age, and he had a coat with long sleeves made for him. But his brothers, seeing how his father loved him more than all his other sons, came to hate him so much that they could not say a civil word to him.
His brothers went to pasture their father’s flock at Shechem. Then Israel said to Joseph, ‘Are not your brothers with the flock at Shechem? Come, I am going to send you to them.’ So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.

They saw him in the distance, and before he reached them they made a plot among themselves to put him to death. ‘Here comes the man of dreams’ they said to one another. ‘Come on, let us kill him and throw him into some well; we can say that a wild beast devoured him. Then we shall see what becomes of his dreams.’

But Reuben heard, and he saved him from their violence. ‘We must not take his life’ he said. ‘Shed no blood,’ said Reuben to them ‘throw him into this well in the wilderness, but do not lay violent hands on him’ – intending to save him from them and to restore him to his father. So, when Joseph reached his brothers, they pulled off his coat, the coat with long sleeves that he was wearing, and catching hold of him they threw him into the well, an empty well with no water in it. They then sat down to eat.

Looking up they saw a group of Ishmaelites who were coming from Gilead, their camels laden with gum, tragacanth, balsam and resin, which they were taking down into Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, ‘What do we gain by killing our brother and covering up his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, but let us not do any harm to him. After all, he is our brother, and our own flesh.’ His brothers agreed.

Now some Midianite merchants were passing, and they drew Joseph up out of the well. They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty silver pieces, and these men took Joseph to Egypt.

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Matthew 21:33-43,45-46

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, ‘Listen to another parable. There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad. When vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son” he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance.” So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They answered, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:

It was the stone rejected by the builders
that became the keystone.
This was the Lord’s doing
and it is wonderful to see?

‘I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.’

When they heard his parables, the chief priests and the scribes realised he was speaking about them, but though they would have liked to arrest him they were afraid of the crowds, who looked on him as a prophet.

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This was the Lord’s doing and it is wonderful to see?

I am always fascinated by the Russian dolls toy where there are always hidden dolls within another. The anticipation of being able to see more dolls within the toy is in itself something which I look forward to. The readings of today remind us of that sometimes what we are going through may not be understandable at first but it is all within God’s plan for us.

Joseph in the first reading was being sold as a slave to Egypt but as we will discover, this was the start of the unfolding of God’s plan to save His people from famine. Yet the heart of Israel would be very broken because Joseph disappeared from his life. There are times where our hearts are broken because of an event in our life or perhaps someone whom we love has left us. These occasions provide us with an opportunity to trust God with our lives and to allow Him to work within us to let us fall on him.

Indeed, Jesus himself was to show us the way which we are to lead our lives. He has shown us what it means to lead a life of total abandonment to God through his actions and prayers. He knew that His purpose on this earth was to die for all of us yet he willingly went to do so. This is in itself an important point for us to remember, we may not like the plans God has for us but we can be assured that He will take care of us. Let us take this season of Lent to stay close to God and to remind ourselves that if we trust God, there can be no regrets.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us surrender our lives to you and may you work your grace in us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who love us.

1 March, Thursday – True Wealth

1 March

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Jeremiah 17:5-10

The Lord says this:

‘A curse on the man who puts his trust in man,
who relies on things of flesh,
whose heart turns from the Lord.
He is like dry scrub in the wastelands:
if good comes, he has no eyes for it,
he settles in the parched places of the wilderness,
a salt land, uninhabited.

‘A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord,
with the Lord for his hope.
He is like a tree by the waterside
that thrusts its roots to the stream:
when the heat comes it feels no alarm,
its foliage stays green;
it has no worries in a year of drought,
and never ceases to bear fruit.

‘The heart is more devious than any other thing,
perverse too: who can pierce its secrets?
I, the Lord, search to the heart,
I probe the loins,
to give each man what his conduct
and his actions deserve.’

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Luke 16:19-31

Jesus said to the Pharisees: ‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

‘In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.” “My son,” Abraham replied “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”

‘The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too.” “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham “let them listen to them.” “Ah no, father Abraham,” said the rich man “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”’

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A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord

Would you believe if a dead person whom you know comes to you in a dream? The story which Jesus shared with the Pharisees reflects the obstinacy of heart which they had towards being open to the truth. Even a dead man would not move their hearts to accept the message of God’s love. They were unwilling to accept that Jesus was the Messiah and instead believed that He was a fraud. Perhaps we have the benefit of hindsight to help address this issue but there could be things in our own lives today that prevent us from becoming closer to God.

The world now comes before us with many other attractions which distract us away from God. This could be the use of the various apps within the smartphone, the television or many other things which prevent us from becoming closer to God. Jesus asks that we return to him and depend on him for the various things in our lives. Regardless of whether we are going through sorrows or joys, God wants us to depend on him.

The prophet Jeremiah reminds us that depending on God is the surest way to obtain a blessing from God. Indeed, our lives will continue to be nourished and grow in the assurance of God’s love for us. As we continue in our Lenten journey, let us discover what it means to put aside all other distractions to remain focused on God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the fortitude to continue with our Lenten journey.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all Spiritual Directors

28 February, Wednesday – Patient Suffering

28 February

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Jeremiah 18:18-20

‘Come on,’ they said, ‘let us concoct a plot against Jeremiah; the priest will not run short of instruction without him, nor the sage of advice, nor the prophet of the word. Come on, let us hit at him with his own tongue; let us listen carefully to every word he says.’

Listen to me, O Lord,
hear what my adversaries are saying.
Should evil be returned for good?
For they are digging a pit for me.
Remember how I stood in your presence
to plead on their behalf,
to turn your wrath away from them.

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Matthew 20:17-28

Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, and on the way he took the Twelve to one side and said to them, ‘Now we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the chief priests and scribes. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the pagans to be mocked and scourged and crucified; and on the third day he will rise again.’

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came with her sons to make a request of him, and bowed low; and he said to her, ‘What is it you want?’ She said to him, ‘Promise that these two sons of mine may sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your kingdom.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus answered. ‘Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ ‘Very well,’ he said ‘you shall drink my cup, but as for seats at my right hand and my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted by my Father.’

When the other ten heard this they were indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that among the pagans the rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

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[J]ust as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve

The role of the Christian is not to glorify himself but to serve as a witness to the world about the wonderful love of Christ. This means the Christian must be prepared to suffer tremendous amount of persecution. Positions of glory and honour are not to be sought after because they run counter to what the purpose of the role of the Christian.

Jesus reminds us in the Gospel of today that positions of honour are not the way of the Christian but instead suffering is often the main issue which we must face. The Zebedee brothers never could have imagined that their yes to drink the cup which Jesus was to drink was a cup of suffering. They indeed suffered for Jesus because of their belief in the Christian faith. What then allows us to continue to bear with this suffering?

It is the faith in the Lord that He will be present for us and will care for us. The suffering is tremendous but He will never abandon us. Suffering may involve pain either emotionally or physically but we must learn to channel this suffering towards God. It is difficult because not everyone can understand why any human being should be made to suffer. I would like to the think that this is to remind us of our need to rely on God and not abandon him. As we continue with our Lenten journey, let us not lose sight of what God desires of us but instead remain focused on the Cross of Christ.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the strength to stay close to you despite the troubles which we may face

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who provide relief to those in pain.