14 March, Wednesday – All Work And No Play

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

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

14 March

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Isaiah 49:8-15

Thus says the Lord:

At the favourable time I will answer you,
on the day of salvation I will help you.
(I have formed you and have appointed you
as covenant of the people.)
I will restore the land
and assign you the estates that lie waste.
I will say to the prisoners, ‘Come out’,
to those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’

On every roadway they will graze,
and each bare height shall be their pasture.
They will never hunger or thirst,
scorching wind and sun shall never plague them;
for he who pities them will lead them
and guide them to springs of water.
I will make a highway of all the mountains,
and the high roads shall be banked up.

Some are on their way from afar,
others from the north and the west,
others from the land of Sinim.
Shout for joy, you heavens; exult, you earth!
You mountains, break into happy cries!
For the Lord consoles his people
and takes pity on those who are afflicted.

For Zion was saying, ‘The Lord has abandoned me,
the Lord has forgotten me.’
Does a woman forget her baby at the breast,
or fail to cherish the son of her womb?
Yet even if these forget,
I will never forget you.

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John 5:17-30

Jesus said to the Jews, ‘My Father goes on working, and so do I.’ But that only made them even more intent on killing him, because, not content with breaking the sabbath, he spoke of God as his own Father, and so made himself God’s equal.
To this accusation Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
the Son can do nothing by himself;
he can do only what he sees the Father doing:
and whatever the Father does the Son does too.
For the Father loves the Son
and shows him everything he does himself,
and he will show him even greater things than these,
works that will astonish you.
Thus, as the Father raises the dead and gives them life,
so the Son gives life to anyone he chooses;
for the Father judges no one;
he has entrusted all judgement to the Son,
so that all may honour the Son
as they honour the Father.
Whoever refuses honour to the Son
refuses honour to the Father who sent him.
I tell you most solemnly,
whoever listens to my words,
and believes in the one who sent me,
has eternal life;
without being brought to judgement
he has passed from death to life.
I tell you most solemnly,
the hour will come – in fact it is here already –
when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God,
and all who hear it will live.
For the Father, who is the source of life,
has made the Son the source of life;
and, because he is the Son of Man,
has appointed him supreme judge.
Do not be surprised at this,
for the hour is coming when the dead will leave their graves
at the sound of his voice:
those who did good will rise again to life;
and those who did evil, to condemnation.
I can do nothing by myself;
I can only judge as I am told to judge,
and my judging is just,
because my aim is to do not my own will,
but the will of him who sent me.’

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My Father goes on working, and so do I.

We have had a ‘tumultuous’ few weeks in our ministry, culminating in a change (and expansion) in the leadership. Inevitably, many of us have been called to step up and to assume leadership roles, some even ‘double hatting’ in two sections. The past few meetings have been rather intense and we are close to executing the plans/strategies for the year, trusting that our hard work will lead the ministry onwards and forward.

This period has also coincided in a ‘dark’ time at work, with one or two tough decisions having to be made about underperforming staff. The morale of the team at work has taken a hit and I have been trying to encourage those around me to look ahead and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Then, as I started to reflect on today’s verses, I received the news that an offer of employment had been accepted by a desired candidate. Hallelujah!

I am sure that many of us in ministry have fallen into the trap of ‘doing’ that we lose sight of the initial joy of serving. We get so caught up in performing our tasks or ensuring a project comes together that we forget to let God take over and guide us. Over the years, I have learnt that at some point, we have to be mindful of the little successes and blessings that come our way; and to simply rejoice. Because even play takes a bit of work in the context of our hustle and bustle lives (yes, even in ministry).

Brothers and sisters, even in our darkest hours, even when we are desolate or in a state that weighs heavy in our hearts, we must always look to the Lord to provide the glimmer of hope. For the Lord always works to bring joy into our lives, no matter how wretched we are feeling. It may not be that one million dollars falling into your lap, nor that promotion you have been craving. It may just be a simple dinner shared with a spouse, or a hug from one of your children. Never discount that warmth you feel rising in your heart or that lump in your throat when a stranger offers a helping hand. We must all learn to be mindful of how God works to assure us that no matter the circumstances around us, He will never fail us. He will lead us through our desolation and bring us to the promised land. Each and every day we live and breathe on this earth.

And so I offer the flip side. What are WE doing as Christians to bring God into the lives of those around us? How are we working just as Jesus did to bring joy, love and peace into the lives of those we care about. And those who we interact with regularly? Are we truly working hard at being true living examples of Jesus Christ?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, teach us to appreciate your hand in our lives so that we in turn may then reach out to those in need of your loving touch.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for all those who have helped us on our faith journeys, and for giving us a heart that beats for you.

13 March, Tuesday – Drink Up

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

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

 

13 March

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Ezekiel 47:1-9,12

The angel brought me to the entrance of the Temple, where a stream came out from under the Temple threshold and flowed eastwards, since the Temple faced east. The water flowed from under the right side of the Temple, south of the altar. He took me out by the north gate and led me right round outside as far as the outer east gate where the water flowed out on the right-hand side. The man went to the east holding his measuring line and measured off a thousand cubits; he then made me wade across the stream; the water reached my ankles. He measured off another thousand and made me wade across the stream again; the water reached my knees. He measured off another thousand and made me wade across again; the water reached my waist. He measured off another thousand; it was now a river which I could not cross; the stream had swollen and was now deep water, a river impossible to cross. He then said, ‘Do you see, son of man?’ He took me further, then brought me back to the bank of the river. When I got back, there were many trees on each bank of the river. He said, ‘This water flows east down to the Arabah and to the sea; and flowing into the sea it makes its waters wholesome. Wherever the river flows, all living creatures teeming in it will live. Fish will be very plentiful, for wherever the water goes it brings health, and life teems wherever the river flows. Along the river, on either bank, will grow every kind of fruit tree with leaves that never wither and fruit that never fails; they will bear new fruit every month, because this water comes from the sanctuary. And their fruit will be good to eat and the leaves medicinal.’

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John 5:1-3,5-16

There was a Jewish festival, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now at the Sheep Pool in Jerusalem there is a building, called Bethzatha in Hebrew, consisting of five porticos; and under these were crowds of sick people – blind, lame, paralysed – waiting for the water to move; One man there had an illness which had lasted thirty-eight years, and when Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had been in this condition for a long time, he said, ‘Do you want to be well again?’ ‘Sir,’ replied the sick man ‘I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is disturbed; and while I am still on the way, someone else gets there before me.’ Jesus said, ‘Get up, pick up your sleeping-mat and walk.’ The man was cured at once, and he picked up his mat and walked away.

Now that day happened to be the sabbath, so the Jews said to the man who had been cured, ‘It is the sabbath; you are not allowed to carry your sleeping-mat.’ He replied, ‘But the man who cured me told me, “Pick up your mat and walk.”’ They asked, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Pick up your mat and walk”?’ The man had no idea who it was, since Jesus had disappeared into the crowd that filled the place. After a while Jesus met him in the Temple and said, ‘Now you are well again, be sure not to sin any more, or something worse may happen to you.’ The man went back and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had cured him. It was because he did things like this on the sabbath that the Jews began to persecute Jesus.

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It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes.

I never appreciated rain until I lived in the Middle East, where the weather is dry and land is rather barren. Summer is oppressively hot, you could fry an egg on the bonnet of your car – temperatures soar to almost 50 °C (though it’s rarely reported). You can hardly walk from the car to the office without a mini meltdown. It’s so hot you can hardly breathe. So on the odd chance that it rains, I am always very happy. Never mind that the roads start to flood but rain provides a welcome respite. A time of refreshing coolness, washing the dust and dirt away.

The common theme in today’s first reading and gospel is water. In the first reading, the Prophet Ezekiel is given a glimpse of what Israel will be like when the Lord returns and establishes his kingdom. What starts out as a gentle stream from under the temple, flowing through the temple, to the outer gate, and finally a raging river as it flowed to the Dead Sea. In a barren and parched land like the Middle East, water is a symbol of great blessing; ever flowing life giving and refreshing. And everything that is by this river bed is teeming with abundance and life. Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes.

In today’s gospel, water is represented as a pool. People who were sick sought healing when they dipped into the water when it is stirred. The paralyzed man had been waiting for 38 years for someone to put him in the pool. Are we like that man, just waiting and waiting to be healed of our paralysis, our deafness, our hurts, anger, sorrow and unforgiveness? But isn’t living water always available to us – though our baptism, His Word? Did Jesus not promise us living water that flows from within us to those who believe in him? Jesus is the source of living water that we can draw from. “To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment” and “the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb”. Wherever the water goes, it brings life. Jesus tells us whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. – John 4:14

So today, will we draw from the living waters that Jesus so freely gives us? Do you want to get well? All we need to do is drink up my brothers and sisters.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: In the dryness of our lives, during the days of heat and thirst; when regrets and life choices leave us empty, when we doubt your love – give us your life giving water, Lord.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, that through you we experience physical and spiritual wholeness. Let us not forsake the living waters that you so freely give us, bringing us to life, unblemished, clean and new. We thank you and praise you, O God, that however we may thirst, whatever we may need to satisfy our souls, you offer it freely and abundantly in Christ.

12 March, Monday – We will be reborn, renewed, and very much alive.

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

 

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

 

12 March

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Isaiah 65:17-21

Thus says the Lord: Now I create new heavens and a new earth, and the past will not be remembered, and will come no more to men’s minds. Be glad and rejoice for ever and ever for what I am creating, because I now create Jerusalem ‘Joy’ and her people ‘Gladness.’ I shall rejoice over Jerusalem and exult in my people. No more will the sound of weeping or the sound of cries be heard in her; in her, no more will be found the infant living a few days only, or the old man not living to the end of his days. To die at the age of a hundred will be dying young; not to live to be a hundred will be the sign of a curse. They will build houses and inhabit them, plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

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John 4:43-54

Jesus left Samaria for Galilee. He himself had declared that there is no respect for a prophet in his own country, but on his arrival the Galileans received him well, having seen all that he had done at Jerusalem during the festival which they too had attended.

He went again to Cana in Galilee, where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a court official there whose son was ill at Capernaum and, hearing that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judaea, he went and asked him to come and cure his son as he was at the point of death. Jesus said, ‘So you will not believe unless you see signs and portents!’ ‘Sir,’ answered the official ‘come down before my child dies.’ ‘Go home,’ said Jesus ‘your son will live.’ The man believed what Jesus had said and started on his way; and while he was still on the journey back his servants met him with the news that his boy was alive. He asked them when the boy had begun to recover. ‘The fever left him yesterday’ they said ‘at the seventh hour.’ The father realised that this was exactly the time when Jesus had said, ‘Your son will live’; and he and all his household believed.

This was the second sign given by Jesus, on his return from Judaea to Galilee.

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Be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating

We all think that we know best, but God constantly reminds me that ‘In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.’ – Proverbs 16:9.

I have been going through a period of drought in ministry life and was praying if it was time for me to move on. I questioned what my contributions were, how I was adding any value and, if my ‘gifts’ were of better use in some other ways. I was complaining no end as to why things were so ‘lacklustre’, so cold and empty and kept asking – so what is the leadership doing about this? I was angry and disappointed with people within the ministry for refusing to do their part. How proud that sounds but that was how I felt.

Our spirituality centre and also many of our ministries are going through a dry period. Early this year, our ministry leaders called for a meeting among some of us, to plan the way forward. Long story short, I find myself now a part of the leadership team – a team that will steer the ministry forward. How funny God is. It’s His way of saying ‘Quit complaining, do something!’ So now I am not in a position to ask what ‘the leadership’ is doing. Today’s first reading tells us that ‘I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.’ In a chat with a friend, she told me that perhaps we need to just let things naturally happen – that it is from ashes that the phoenix can rise.

Life throws us curve balls. And very often, in trying to make sense of it, we long for the turmoil to be over. We muster up all we have to pick ourselves up and move forward, we make plans to gain control of the situation. We are so busy making things happen that we actually overlook what is happening in the present. We let ourselves get into a frenzy. We pray that God will help us and change the situation. Nothing. Then we get discouraged and wonder if God actually heard us. But God knows everything and hears our prayers. I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. Sometimes, we need to simply let go and stop controlling; allow ourselves to go through the process of frustration, impatience, admit that there is so much we didn’t know and let go of trying to figure things out.

Just like what my ministry is going through, perhaps in our own lives, we need to let God take over and execute His plan. Even if it means letting everything burn to the ground (and that’s very scary I know), and like the phoenix rising from the ashes – we will be reborn, renewed, and very much alive. Remember my brothers and sisters, God says ‘I am about to create new heavens and a new earth’ Can we take courage and know that whatever situation or circumstance we are going through will pass?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, forgive us when we keep asking for signs & wonders. We pray for deeper faith, and courage to take a closer walk with you. Help us Lord, to trust in your greater plan.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for healing the broken and wounded parts of our lives. Thank you for your promise of new heavens and new earth. That the old ways shall pass and we can look forward to fresh new starts every single day as long as we stay close to you. Come Lord Jesus, come.

11 March, Sunday – Pride, hardness of heart and worldly influence got in the way?

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

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

 

11 March 2018

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2 Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23

All the heads of the priesthood, and the people too, added infidelity to infidelity, copying all the shameful practices of the nations and defiling the Temple that the Lord had consecrated for himself in Jerusalem. The Lord, the God of their ancestors, tirelessly sent them messenger after messenger, since he wished to spare his people and his house. But they ridiculed the messengers of God, they despised his words, they laughed at his prophets, until at last the wrath of the Lord rose so high against his people that there was no further remedy.

They burned down the Temple of God, demolished the walls of Jerusalem, set fire to all its palaces, and destroyed everything of value in it. The survivors were deported by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon; they were to serve him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power. This is how the word of the Lord was fulfilled that he spoke through Jeremiah, ‘Until this land has enjoyed its sabbath rest, until seventy years have gone by, it will keep sabbath throughout the days of its desolation.’

And in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, to fulfil the word of the Lord that was spoken through Jeremiah, the Lord roused the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue a proclamation and to have it publicly displayed throughout his kingdom: ‘Thus speaks Cyrus king of Persia, “the Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth; he has ordered me to build him a Temple in Jerusalem, in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him! Let him go up.”’

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Ephesians 2:4-10

God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ – it is through grace that you have been saved – and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus.

This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how infinitely rich he is in grace. Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.

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Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.

Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.

For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.

No one who believes in him will be condemned; but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already, because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.

On these grounds is sentence pronounced: that though the light has come into the world men have shown they prefer darkness to the light because their deeds were evil.

And indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it, for fear his actions should be exposed; but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light, so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.’

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For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

In today’s first reading, we read about the sad account of the ruin of Judah and Jerusalem – the slaughter of multitudes, plundering and burning of the temple and all the palaces, the desolation of the city, the idolatry of the people, as well as other shameful and sacrilegious practices. God, in all His goodness, sent messengers to his people but they would not listen. Though God is loving and compassionate, He too has his ‘limits’ and a terrible punishment befell the people.

Recently, our ministry had been going through a rather rough patch. Members have started to lose their energy and zeal, many of us have lost sight of why we were serving, attendance for our programmes has been gradually coming down. This did not happen overnight. It had been so for the past 5 months. Our ministry isn’t the only one encountering this desolate state; we are one of the last few to fall into such a dismal state. The other ministries in our community have seen similar ‘trends’, but much earlier. How did we end up this way?

I could offer up some rational reasons – we got tired from all the doing, we lost focus, our leaders lost focus (or, worse still, some feel our leadership lacked focus), our programmes are no longer attractive, we are a divided group etc. We could just as easily put the blame on the other team i.e. Satan Corp. But, as I reflected on today’s first reading and also the state of our ministry, I feel that the state of our ministry (and I daresay many of our church ministries or our own vocations), we are where we are because we have rejected God’s word. It is human nature to blame everyone else and external forces when things don’t go well. Yes, we even blame God. But if we got down to it to the core and, if we are true to ourselves, it’s all our own doing. Have we ‘mocked the messengers of God, despising his words, and scoffing at his prophets.’? Did we let pride, hardness of heart and worldly influence get in our way?

On 1st January this year, after we said goodbye to 2017, feeling disheartened and tired with all that’s been ‘not happening’ on our ministry front, I whispered a prayer to God and asked if it was time to move on, if my gifts were better utilised elsewhere. God indeed wasn’t going to let me move on so quickly. He sent a messenger in the form of one of our leaders. Long story short, a few of us were called to be part of a forward team in our ministry. Much as I struggle to make sense of this (and also fight against it), I know in my heart that the Lord is telling me to persevere, to leave my pride and sloth at the door and quit standing by the sidelines. How could I, this weak, floundering, disobedient and spiritually dry child be called to do this work? I felt unprepared, unworthy, unmotivated and frankly I felt intimidated too. All eyes were upon us – people waiting for us to fail.

We’ve had several meetings with this new team since its formation, sometimes late into the night. But I feel alive, though there will be pain but new hope and new birth. And as I read the second reading today; ‘We are saved not through our own efforts but through the mercy of God.’ So as I plod on and feel good about what I ‘bring to the table’, I remember that it’s not my work nor my effort, but God’s grace that calls me and enables me to continue to be part of his ministry.

Brothers and sisters, many of us are blessed with material success, power and position in the secular world. Some of us are so blessed with the ability to serve as leaders in our parish community. Do not let pride and hardness of heart get in the way. For it is by God’s grace that we are given this ability.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, because we have been saved, healed and made whole, make us agents and channels of your salvation, hope and love. Help us not give in to the worldly ways and prideful thoughts. May we keep our eyes and hearts firmly focused on You. By Your grace, may our works be blessed.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for your grace and mercy. Thank you for saving us time and time again. For sending us your Son, Jesus Christ, such a visible and tangible example of your love.

10 March, Saturday – Being Authentic

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

 

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

 

10 March

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Hosea 5:15-6:6

The Lord says this:

They will search for me in their misery. ‘Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces, but he will heal us; he has struck us down, but he will bandage our wounds; after a day or two he will bring us back to life, on the third day he will raise us and we shall live in his presence.

Let us set ourselves to know the Lord; that he will come is as certain as the dawn his judgement will rise like the light, he will come to us as showers come, like spring rains watering the earth.’

What am I to do with you, Ephraim?What am I to do with you, Judah? This love of yours is like a morning cloud, like the dew that quickly disappears.

This is why I have torn them to pieces by the prophets, why I slaughtered them with the words from my mouth, since what I want is love, not sacrifice; knowledge of God, not holocausts.

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Luke 18:9-14

Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else: ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.” The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

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“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted”

I recently decided to play a game and began counting the number of people who were looking at their smartphones one day. I knew that we, as a people, were into our technology, but was surprised when I counted at least 80%. Imagine that — at least 8 out of 10 people were staring into their phones!

What tickled me most was what happened one Christmas season. My wife and I had met with a good friend for dinner along Orchard Road. We thought it would be a great experience to take a walk after that to take in the sights.

What happened after that was surprising, funny and, if I am to be honest, sad.

We saw many people walking with their phones on video mode, smiling and laughing into their devices. Yet others were posing in front of the bright lights, choosing their best sides to be shown in their selfies or wefies.

What happened consistently was how after their photographs and videos were taken, the smiles and enthusiasm disappeared, as if all the previous gaiety was brought up specially for the world to see. In fact, when we scrutinise our social media accounts, we realise that we have a tendency of only wanting to show the world our best sides. We want to show the world how good we are, or what good we have done. We want the world to respect us, to love us.

In fact, when I was working in the corporate world, I was told, repeatedly, that I had to work harder to impress senior management with my abilities and that I had to ensure that I had projects that would bring my talents under the spotlight.

In the Gospel today, Jesus warns us that we should guard against such a tendency. The only difference is that instead of the ‘world’, we want to showcase our good sides to God. We want God to love us for the good that we do and we try to earn our ways to heaven. There simply is no reason to do this; our place in heaven has been given to us, by Grace. We cannot, and need not, ‘earn’ this.

(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.

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.