27 April, Wednesday – Declaring Our Dependence

27 April

_____________________

Acts 15:1-6

Some men came down from Judaea and taught the brothers, ‘Unless you have yourselves circumcised in the tradition of Moses you cannot be saved.’ This led to disagreement, and after Paul and Barnabas had had a long argument with these men it was arranged that Paul and Barnabas and others of the church should go up to Jerusalem and discuss the problem with the apostles and elders.

  All the members of the church saw them off, and as they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria they told how the pagans had been converted, and this news was received with the greatest satisfaction by the brothers. When they arrived in Jerusalem they were welcomed by the church and by the apostles and elders, and gave an account of all that God had done with them.

  But certain members of the Pharisees’ party who had become believers objected, insisting that the pagans should be circumcised and instructed to keep the Law of Moses. The apostles and elders met to look into the matter.

_____________________

John 15:1-8

Jesus said:

‘I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in me that bears no fruit
he cuts away,
and every branch that does bear fruit
he prunes to make it bear even more.
You are pruned already,
by means of the word that I have spoken to you.
Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.
As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself,
but must remain part of the vine,
neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me, with me in him,
bears fruit in plenty;
for cut off from me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers;
these branches are collected and thrown on the fire,
and they are burnt.
If you remain in me
and my words remain in you,
you may ask what you will
and you shall get it.
It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit,
and then you will be my disciples.’

_____________________

Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.

As a father, I really like it when my kids come to me to ask for help. It makes me feel like I’m needed in their lives. It’s good to know that my kids place their trust in me to help them through the problems that they otherwise couldn’t (yet) solve on their own. However, as a son, I find it quite difficult to turn to my own parents for help. The last thing I want them to think is that I’m incapable of figuring out problems for myself. The dilemma we all face is our constant desire for independence, while still remaining in a loving situation with the ones closest to us.

In the Gospel reading from today, Jesus is trying to teach His disciples about the importance of remaining connected to Him through the Word. Even Jesus declared that He was only doing what His Father had commanded Him “so that the world may learn that I (Jesus) love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” Whoever loves Christ should lean on Him for strength, ask Him for wisdom and obey His commands.

That is quite a contrast to how most of us are conditioned to live by our society. We are told that as individuals, we need to be independent and to love ourselves first; that our primary goal is for our own self-fulfillment. That we are entitled to the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Is there anything wrong with that?

Nothing. Except that it fails to see that the road to eternal happiness is the road paved by the Lord. And as we travel that road, we either opt to follow the world or be led by Jesus Christ. Even as undeserving, sinful people, we are blessed with the goodness and mercy of a God who has promised us eternal salvation when we remain in Him. As the United States Declaration of Independence states – “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

Brothers and sisters, let us be reminded that the Lord has granted us numerous blessings, especially the freedom of choice. Do we choose to worship the fleeting things of this world or be slaves to Christ?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Steven Su)

Prayer – Lord, we ask that You soften our stubborn hearts and help us to constantly seek You out in our daily lives.

Thanksgiving – Father, we thank you for being an eternal God that has blessed us more than we can possibly understand. May the truth of Your sacrifice be self-evident to all men and women of this world.

26 April, Tuesday – Challenges Are Part Of The Journey

26 April

_____________________

Acts 14:19-28

Some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium, and turned the people against the apostles. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the town, thinking he was dead. The disciples came crowding round him but, as they did so, he stood up and went back to the town. The next day he and Barnabas went off to Derbe.

Having preached the Good News in that town and made a considerable number of disciples, they went back through Lystra and Iconium to Antioch. They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith. ‘We all have to experience many hardships’ they said ‘before we enter the kingdom of God.’ In each of these churches they appointed elders, and with prayer and fasting they commended them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.

They passed through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. Then after proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia and from there sailed for Antioch, where they had originally been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.

On their arrival they assembled the church and gave an account of all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the pagans. They stayed there with the disciples for some time.

_____________________

John 14:27-31

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you,
a peace the world cannot give,
this is my gift to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me say: I am going away, and shall return.
If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father,
for the Father is greater than I.
I have told you this now before it happens,
so that when it does happen you may believe.
I shall not talk with you any longer,
because the prince of this world is on his way.
He has no power over me,
but the world must be brought to know
that I love the Father
and that I am doing exactly what the Father told me.’

_____________________

…”We all have to experience many hardships,” they said, “before we enter the kingdom of God.”

As I’m writing this, “Victor’s Crown”, a praise and worship song, is playing on Youtube and this particular verse seems so relevant to today’s first reading.

“You will wear the victor’s crown. You will overcome.”

To follow Jesus is to abandon what the world wants and to do what God desires. Jesus did tell us to pick up our cross and follow Him. To do so, is to go through a lot of challenges. Practically everything that God wants seems to be against what the world tells us we should ACTUALLY want.

Brothers and sisters, facing trials and tribulations are necessary to shape us. We cannot grow if we do not leave our comfort zones. No one became successful without having to jump over at least one obstacle. More often than not, there were a lot more than just ONE obstacle to overcome. Scientists failed many experiments before discovering an effective drug. Inventors created plenty of junk before designing the perfect product. Even a butterfly has to break open its cocoon to be able to fly and reveal its beauty.

However, just because things can get tough for us at times, it doesn’t mean God has left us to fend for ourselves. He never asks us to take on more than we can shoulder. Instead, He presents us with difficulties so that we may develop or sharpen a “skill” that would help us in our mission. For example, He makes us humble through taking away a source of income (something we considered very important) so that we can be compassionate towards those who don’t have it.

It may be hard to see or believe but when all hope seems lost, God is still present. He gives us His grace so that we can get through the rough patch in our lives. He wants us to turn to Him. Depend on Him. Know that He is God. The secret is in prayer.

He does this so that we can receive and enjoy eternal life with Him in heaven. This is, without a doubt, the greatest reward of all. It is our “Victor’s Crown”.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Rebecca Grace)

Prayer – Lord, we pray for the strength to overcome the challenges You present to us so that we may grow in faith and love for both You and humankind.

Thanksgiving – We give thanks for Your unending grace that help us face the obstacles in this life. We also thank you for the comfort in the knowledge to know that You never abandon us in our times of need.

25 April, Monday – Humility and Miracles

25 April – Feast of Saint Mark, Evangelist

St. Mark is believed to be the young man who ran away when Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:51-52), and the “John whose other name was Mark” (Acts 12:25). He was a disciple of St. Peter who travelled with him to Rome, and was referred to as “my son Mark” by the first Pope. He was the author of the earliest canonical Gospel. He travelled with his cousin St. Barnabas, and with St. Paul through Cyprus. He evangelized in Alexandria, established the Church there, and founded the first famous Christian school.

-Patron Saint Index

_____________________

1 Peter 5:5-14

All wrap yourselves in humility to be servants of each other, because God refuses the proud and will always favour the humble. Bow down, then, before the power of God now, and he will raise you up on the appointed day; unload all your worries on to him, since he is looking after you. Be calm but vigilant, because your enemy the devil is prowling round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to eat. Stand up to him, strong in faith and in the knowledge that your brothers all over the world are suffering the same things. You will have to suffer only for a little while: the God of all grace who called you to eternal glory in Christ will see that all is well again: he will confirm, strengthen and support you. His power lasts for ever and ever. Amen.

I write these few words to you through Silvanus, who is a brother I know I can trust, to encourage you never to let go this true grace of God to which I bear witness.

Your sister in Babylon, who is with you among the chosen, sends you greetings; so does my son, Mark.

Greet one another with a kiss of love.

_____________________

Mark 16:15-20

Jesus showed himself to the Eleven, and said to them: ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.’

And so the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven: there at the right hand of God he took his place, while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.

_____________________

Seeing the miracles of Jesus

In the gospel text today Jesus mentioned miracles that would come with those who believed in Him – “in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover”. As a Catholic for six years now, though six years could be seen as a short period, I find that I have gotten used to the habits and rituals of being a Catholic and forget that Jesus is all about miracles. He not only performed miracles of manifestations and healing; the fact that God would become man to live among us and die as a sinless human being to atone for our sins, is one big miracle itself.

Because God came as flesh in all humility, so too are we reminded to keep humble and serve God and one another. We are never too big or high to help someone in need. And we will never be bigger or higher than the Lord our God. Humility keeps us grounded so that we can see rightly, and in seeing rightly recognize the miracles that God performs in our everyday lives. For there is no reason that flowers should bloom, or that the ocean knows where its limits are, or that you and I should be alive and enjoying our meals; these things that we take for granted are our everyday miracles that we ought to thank God for.

In looking back at the past six years since my baptism, I have my personal miracles to thank God for, which I would like to share with you all. When I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, I thought that would be the end of me. How wrong I was! As I learned to trust in God, follow His promptings and rest in His love, I found myself growing a sense of rootedness, identity and self-confidence that had not been there before. I found a job and got promoted while at it. I regained old friends whom I had lost touch with, because they were true friends and wanted to see me get better. I found medication that suited me and worked well with my brain chemistry. And of all the miracles God has performed in my life, I am most thankful for Him granting me my husband, who has been healing and loving and good in my life.

Keep growing in God’s wisdom and have faith that your own miracle is around the corner. God bless you all!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Serene Frances Wong)

Prayer – Dear Jesus, help us see You as our own personal miracle – God’s gift to us to redeem us from our sins – and guide us to be strong in faith and knowledge so that we may be gifts to one another. Amen.

Thanksgiving – We give thanks for the gift of nature and for those who love us.

24 April, Sunday – Love Everyone

24 April – Fifth Sunday of Easter

_____________________

Acts 14:21-27

Paul and Barnabas went back through Lystra and Iconium to Antioch. They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith. ‘We all have to experience many hardships’ they said ‘before we enter the kingdom of God.’ In each of these churches they appointed elders, and with prayer and fasting they commended them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.

  They passed through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. Then after proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia and from there sailed for Antioch, where they had originally been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.

  On their arrival they assembled the church and gave an account of all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the pagans.

_____________________

Apocalypse 21:1-5

I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared now, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, and the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, as beautiful as a bride all dressed for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice call from the throne, ‘You see this city? Here God lives among men. He will make his home among them; they shall be his people, and he will be their God; his name is God-with-them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone.’

  Then the One sitting on the throne spoke: ‘Now I am making the whole of creation new.’

_____________________

John 13:31-33,34-35

When Judas had gone Jesus said:

‘Now has the Son of Man been glorified,
and in him God has been glorified.
If God has been glorified in him,
God will in turn glorify him in himself,
and will glorify him very soon.

‘My little children,
I shall not be with you much longer.
I give you a new commandment:
love one another;
just as I have loved you,
you also must love one another.
By this love you have for one another,
everyone will know that you are my disciples.’

_____________________

I give you another commandment; love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.

In the book of Exodus, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Fast forward to the New Testament and Jesus gives his disciples this new (and final) commandment – Love one another just as I have loved you. This order from our REAL Commander-In-Chief sums up the original Ten Commandments, and is also (to me anyway) the toughest one to follow. To love someone seems easy, especially if it is someone whom we actually like. We willingly dish out respect, honour their wishes, and do almost anything to make and keep them happy. We’re also willing to forgive their mistakes at the slightest hint of an apology. Sometimes, no apology is even necessary.

When I saw this verse, the first thing that popped in my head was my vengefulness. I have real issues with people who have wronged me. Even if it was just once many years ago, that demon known as Vengeance will still come back to torment me. I have tried many times to let go, but trust me when I say it is not easy. Sometimes, I think I have finally let go but if they do just one tiny thing wrong, I will immediately be fuming on the inside.

This is where turning to the Bible has helped me a lot. It has revealed to me how Jesus truly lived. Not just what I learnt in Sunday School. Although those early Sunday morning lessons did help shape some of my Christianity, it cannot compare to what actually reading, and absorbing, the Word has done for my faith. Prayer has also been a source of soul-comfort.

In today’s Gospel, we are called to follow Jesus’ example and Jesus was all about love. He was sent to save the downtrodden, the hurt, the misguided, the marginalised, the hated. In a nutshell, the ones who are the most difficult to love. He performed so many miracles for them much to the chagrin of many of his disciples. Yet, He didn’t care because He knew that God created us to love each other, just as God loves us.

Brothers and sisters, let us emulate the same type of love that Jesus showed everyone more than 2,000 years ago. Let us be willing to treat everyone the same way we treat our own loved ones. Let us spread the same love God shows us to the rest of the world.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Rebecca Grace)

Prayer – Lord, we pray for the courage to give the same kind of love that Your son showed us. There will be many times when our egos get in the way of doing your works of love. When this happens, Lord, we beg for your forgiveness. Enable us, Lord, to show the world the same kind of forgiveness You give us. Amen.

Thanksgiving – Lord, we give you thanks for the gift of the Word. The Word that heals and the Word that guides us as we take each and every step closer to you. Amen.

23 April, Saturday – Seeking the Father through Jesus

23 April – Memorial of Saint George, Martyr; or Saint Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr

_____________________

St. George (d. 304) was a soldier who was martyred for his faith. That’s all we know for sure.

Several stories have been attached to St. George, the best known of which is the “Golden Legend”. In it, a dragon lived in a lake near Silena, Libya. Whole armies had gone up against this fierce creature, and had gone down in painful defeat. The monster ate twoo sheep each day; when mutton was scarce, lots were drawn in local villages, and maidens were substituted for sheep. Into this country came St. George. Hearing the story on a day when a princess was to be eaten, he crossed himself, rode to battle against the serpent, and killed it with a single blow with his lance. George then held forth with a magnificent sermon, and converted the locals. Given a large reward by the king, George distributed it to the poor, then rode away.

Due to his chivalrous behaviour (protecting women, fighting evil, dependence on faith and might of arms, largesse to the poor), devotion to St. George became popular in Europe after the 10th century. In the 15th century, his feast day was as popular and important as Christmas. Many of his areas of patronage have to do with life as a knight on horseback. The celebrated “Knights of the Garter” are actually “Knights of the Order of St. George”. The shrine built for his relics at Lydda, Palestine, was a popular point of pilgrimage for centuries.

He is also one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

-Patron Saint Index

Adalbert (957–997) was born to the Bohemian nobility. He took the name of St. Adalbert of Magdeburg, the archbishop who healed, educated and converted him. He became Bishop of Prague (in the modern Czech Republic) on Feb 10, 982. He was a friend of Emperor Otto III.

Adalbert encouraged the evangelization of the Magyars, and worked on it with St. Astricus. He was opposed by the nobility in Prague and unpopular in the area, so he withdrew to Rome, Italy and became a Benedictine monk, making his vows on Apr 17, 990. But Pope John XV sent him back to Prague anyway.

He founded the monastery of Brevnov, met more opposition from the nobility and returned to Rome. There being no hope of his working in Prague, he was allowed to (unsuccessfully) evangelise in Pomerania, Poland, Prussia, Hungary and Russia. He and his fellow missionaries were martyred by Prussians near Koenigsberg or Danzig at the instigation of a pagan priest. Not long before his death, Adalbert met and was a great inspiration to St. Boniface of Querfurt.

-Patron Saint Index

_____________________

Acts 13:44-52

The next sabbath almost the whole town assembled to hear the word of God. When they saw the crowds, the Jews, prompted by jealousy, used blasphemies and contradicted everything Paul said. Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly. ‘We had to proclaim the word of God to you first, but since you have rejected it, since you do not think yourselves worthy of eternal life, we must turn to the pagans. For this is what the Lord commanded us to do when he said:

I have made you a light for the nations,
so that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth.’

It made the pagans very happy to hear this and they thanked the Lord for his message; all who were destined for eternal life became believers. Thus the word of the Lord spread through the whole countryside.

But the Jews worked upon some of the devout women of the upper classes and the leading men of the city and persuaded them to turn against Paul and Barnabas and expel them from their territory. So they shook the dust from their feet in defiance and went off to Iconium; but the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

_____________________

John 14:7-14

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘If you know me, you know my Father too.
From this moment you know him and have seen him.’

Philip said, ‘Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.’
     ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip,’ said Jesus to him, ‘and you still do not know me?

‘To have seen me is to have seen the Father,
so how can you say, “Let us see the Father”?
Do you not believe
that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words I say to you I do not speak as from myself:
it is the Father, living in me, who is doing this work.
You must believe me when I say
that I am in the Father and the Father is in me;
believe it on the evidence of this work, if for no other reason.
I tell you most solemnly,
whoever believes in me
will perform the same works as I do myself,
he will perform even greater works,
because I am going to the Father.
Whatever you ask for in my name I will do,
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If you ask for anything in my name,
I will do it.’

_____________________

“To have seen me is to have seen the Father”

I grew up apart from my parents, who divorced when I was about 5. Over the years, I often wondered especially about my mother, whom I did not know, as she had gone on to live a separate, new life.

In my teens, I somehow found out that she was living in a particular housing estate in Singapore and one day, I set about going there to walk around, hoping that I could at least catch a glimpse of her. I never did see her that day, despite walking around aimlessly throughout the whole estate. I felt particularly downcast, and alone that day.

One can sense a similar insecurity (and fear) that the apostles were feeling in today’s gospel. Jesus had been talking about leaving and the apostles were eager to know where exactly he was going. When I was walking through the estate, I did so without knowing exactly where she was and felt anxious. Unlike the situation I was in, however, Jesus assures us that He and God the Father are in each other. While He does not say where He is exactly, Jesus assures us that whatever we ask for in His name, He would do.

The traditional, Old Testament, understanding of God the Father was that He was a somewhat distant God. He was to be worshipped, and feared. Yet, Jesus, Son of God, teaches us that God the Father is OUR Father. By Jesus’ example, he shows us an intimacy with God that had not been normally seen. We are also privy to this intimacy by virtue of our relationship with Jesus. What blessed assurance we have!

All we need to do is to seek Jesus and we would find our Father God!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Help us Father to always have a deep desire to seek Your son Jesus, for when we find Him we will always find You. We ask that You will always send Your Spirit to be with us and to guide us in this wonderful journey.

Thanksgiving – Thank you Father sending us Your son Jesus and for revealing Yourself through Him. Thank you for filling us with Your love through the Holy Spirit. We thank also for sending Jesus to repair and build our broken links back to You!

22 April, Friday – Being Faithful

22 April

_____________________

Acts 13:26-33

Paul stood up in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia, held up a hand for silence and began to speak:

‘My brothers, sons of Abraham’s race, and all you who fear God, this message of salvation is meant for you. What the people of Jerusalem and their rulers did, though they did not realise it, was in fact to fulfil the prophecies read on every sabbath. Though they found nothing to justify his death, they condemned him and asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out everything that scripture foretells about him they took him down from the tree and buried him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had accompanied him from Galilee to Jerusalem: and it is these same companions of his who are now his witnesses before our people.

‘We have come here to tell you the Good News. It was to our ancestors that God made the promise but it is to us, their children, that he has fulfilled it, by raising Jesus from the dead. As scripture says in the second psalm: You are my son: today I have become your father.’

_____________________

John 14:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Trust in God still, and trust in me.
There are many rooms in my Father’s house;
if there were not, I should have told you.
I am going now to prepare a place for you,
and after I have gone and prepared you a place,
I shall return to take you with me;
so that where I am
you may be too.
You know the way to the place where I am going.’

Thomas said, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus said:

‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
No one can come to the Father except through me.’

_____________________

“Do not let your hearts be troubled”

I often joke with people that I had done a full tour of the education system. In my life, I had gone through primary and secondary schools, polytechnic and university. I have even gone through night classes for a professional diploma (although I never did qualify for the diploma!)

Having been brought up by a relative, I found my early life very challenging. I was worried about finances throughout the course of my education and had to work hard to earn enough. I would often wonder why I had such a difficult life when my classmates seemed to coast through.

As the late Steve Jobs once said, you can only connect the dots with hindsight. My experiences showed me my resilience and more importantly, where God was, in the darkest moments of my early life. It was only after the fact that I realised that I was gifted with many friends and loving relatives to help me on the journey. These experiences made me the person I am today and I would not trade them for anything in the world!

Our Lord, in the gospel today, assures us by telling us not to be troubled. He had come to prepare the way, and to show us the way. God is with us all the time and our responsibility is to fully trust in Him.

When Jesus went through the Passion and was crucified for all to see, the situation was at its bleakest. To all, it appeared that He had failed and yet this was His greatest victory!

Let us all keep our eyes on our Lord and our God. We just need to keep the faith!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Father, we pray that our faith will continue endure and be stronger! Help us to always keep close to You in prayer and remember that You love and sustain us! Always!

Thanksgiving – We thank you God for sending us your Son, Jesus, to show us the way. Thank you for Your promise of eternal faithfulness and for not abandoning us in spite of our sinful nature. We praise and thank You for the grace that you have given us.

21 April, Thursday – Remembering to Be Servants

21 April – Memorial of Saint Anselm, Bishop and Doctor

Anselm (1033-1109) was born of Italian nobility. After a childhood devoted to piety and study, he wanted to enter religious life, but his father prevented it, and Anselm became rather worldly for several years. Upon his mother’s death, Anselm argued with his father, fled to France, and became a Benedictine monk at Bec, Normandy. He studied under and succeeded Lanfranc as abbot, before later becoming Archbishop of Canterbury.

Anselm was a theological writer and counsellor to Pope Gregory VII, Pope Urban II, and William the Conqueror. He opposed slavery and obtained English legislation prohibiting the sale of men. He fought King William Rufus’ encroachment on ecclesiastical rights and the independences of the Church, and was exiled. He resolved theological doubts of the Italo-Greek bishops at the Council of Bari in 1098. He strongly supported celibate clergy. King Henry I invited him to return to England, but they disputed over investitures, and Anselm was again exiled in 1106.

He was one of the great philosophers and theologians of the Middle Ages, and was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1720 by Pope Clement XI.

“No one will have any other desire in heaven than what God wills; and the desire of one will be the desire of all; and the desire of all and of each one will also be the desire of God.” ~St. Anselm, Opera Omnis, Letter 112

-Patron Saint Index

_____________________

Acts 13:13-25

Paul and his friends went by sea from Paphos to Perga in Pamphylia where John left them to go back to Jerusalem. The others carried on from Perga till they reached Antioch in Pisidia. Here they went to synagogue on the sabbath and took their seats. After the lessons from the Law and the Prophets had been read, the presidents of the synagogue sent them a message: ‘Brothers, if you would like to address some words of encouragement to the congregation, please do so.’ Paul stood up, held up a hand for silence and began to speak:

‘Men of Israel, and fearers of God, listen! The God of our nation Israel chose our ancestors, and made our people great when they were living as foreigners in Egypt; then by divine power he led them out, and for about forty years took care of them in the wilderness. When he had destroyed seven nations in Canaan, he put them in possession of their land for about four hundred and fifty years. After this he gave them judges, down to the prophet Samuel. Then they demanded a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin. After forty years, he deposed him and made David their king, of whom he approved in these words, “I have selected David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will carry out my whole purpose.” To keep his promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour, whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel. Before John ended his career he said, “I am not the one you imagine me to be; that one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo his sandal.” ’

_____________________

John 13:16-20

After he had washed the feet of his disciples, Jesus said to them:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
no servant is greater than his master,
no messenger is greater than the man who sent him.

‘Now that you know this, happiness will be yours if you behave accordingly. I am not speaking about all of you: I know the ones I have chosen; but what scripture says must be fulfilled: Someone who shares my table rebels against me.

‘I tell you this now, before it happens,
so that when it does happen
you may believe that I am He.
I tell you most solemnly,
whoever welcomes the one I send welcomes me,
and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.’

_____________________

“No servant is greater than his master”

I recently took an unusual business course. While the course did look at how to go about creating mission statements, setting up business strategies and focusing on the financial aspects of how to run one’s business, the attitude was one of servanthood and service.

In running a business, the typical mindset is that in order to be successful in business, one had to be mindful of the “ways of the world”. This course, however, focused on the fact that God was the owner of one’s business! The approach to the business was to be one of a steward and to run the business according to God’s rules.

I found this approach very exciting, while at the same time extremely challenging. Depending on which industry one was in, it could mean that one had to step away from practices which were “acceptable” (for instance in how we behave in our “dog-eat-dog world”), but were unacceptable according to the teachings of the Bible! In my mind, I was rebelling, thinking of how difficult it is to succeed if we didn’t do what our competitors did!

And yet, by remembering that we are stewards, and by submitting to our God and master, we learn to trust in Him totally. Whatever successes we have will be His successes and whatever challenges we face needs to be lifted up to Him. We learn not to be arrogant, and learn to truly be His servants.

In following God’s ways, we will always be mindful of the fact that He leads us, and that we would never be greater than our God. Freedom and happiness would be ours to have!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Father God, we pray that we will learn to totally submit to You. Help us to be led by You totally in all aspects of our lives; in our businesses, our relationships with others and in ALL aspects of our earthly lives. Give us a servant heart oh God!

Thanksgiving – Thank you God for all that You have given us materially and spiritually. Thank you for being in our lives and allowing us to be Your representatives here in the world.

20 April, Wednesday – Walking the Talk

20 April

_____________________

Acts 12:24-13:5

The word of God continued to spread and to gain followers. Barnabas and Saul completed their task and came back from Jerusalem, bringing John Mark with them.

In the church at Antioch the following were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. One day while they were offering worship to the Lord and keeping a fast, the Holy Spirit said, ‘I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them.’ So it was that after fasting and prayer they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

So these two, sent on their mission by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and from there sailed to Cyprus. They landed at Salamis and proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; John acted as their assistant.

_____________________

John 12:44-50

Jesus declared publicly:

‘Whoever believes in me
believes not in me
but in the one who sent me,
and whoever sees me,
sees the one who sent me.
I, the light, have come into the world,
so that whoever believes in me
need not stay in the dark any more.
If anyone hears my words and does not keep them faithfully,
it is not I who shall condemn him,
since I have come not to condemn the world,
but to save the world.
He who rejects me and refuses my words has his judge already:
the word itself that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day.
For what I have spoken does not come from myself;
no, what I was to say,
what I had to speak,
was commanded by the Father who sent me,
and I know that his commands mean eternal life.
And therefore what the Father has told me
is what I speak.’

_____________________

“…what I have spoken does not come from myself”

When I first started working some 25 years ago, there were the “5Cs” that was used to describe the list of material items “desired” by many, including: Cash, Credit Card, Condominium, Car and Country Club. I would like to focus on the last item – the Country Club.

The Country Club was seen as a status symbol, namely because membership is expensive and is exclusive. Being part of a club allowed one to use its facilities such as the restaurants, pools, gyms, tennis courts, etc. Members are simply entitled to use these for a club fee!

In today’s gospel, Jesus does warn us against having a “country-club” mentality. One does not automatically earn the right to enter heaven just because one professed to believe in Jesus. Instead, in addition to hearing His words, one had to “keep them faithfully”. One had to live the life of a Christian and not just be heard to speak like one.

We are also reminded of the intimacy between God the Father and Jesus; that the only way to the Father was through His son Jesus. In a fallen world (through Adam), we are reminded that our relationship with the Father can be made perfect through His Son, Jesus. We gain eternal life through Jesus!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Father God, we pray that we will remember that we should not just “talk the talk”, but instead “walk the talk”. We pray that we will grow in intimacy with You as we walk daily towards You.

Thanksgiving – We are grateful that You have sent Your Son Jesus to bring us back to You. We thank you for loving us despite our sinful nature. Thanks you for all that You teach us through your Jesus and for showing us how to rebuild our broken relationship with You Father.

19 April, Tuesday – Seeking the Gift of Faith

19 April

_____________________

Acts 11:19-26

Those who had escaped during the persecution that happened because of Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, but they usually proclaimed the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, who came from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch where they started preaching to the Greeks, proclaiming the Good News of the Lord Jesus to them as well. The Lord helped them, and a great number believed and were converted to the Lord.

The church in Jerusalem heard about this and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. There he could see for himself that God had given grace, and this pleased him, and he urged them all to remain faithful to the Lord with heartfelt devotion; for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith. And a large number of people were won over to the Lord.

Barnabas then left for Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. As things turned out they were to live together in that church a whole year, instructing a large number of people. It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians.’

_____________________

John 10:22-30

It was the time when the feast of Dedication was being celebrated in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the Temple walking up and down in the Portico of Solomon. The Jews gathered round him and said, ‘How much longer are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus replied:’

‘I have told you, but you do not believe.
The works I do in my Father’s name are my witness;
but you do not believe,
because you are no sheep of mine.
The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice;
I know them and they follow me.
I give them eternal life;
they will never be lost
and no one will ever steal them from me.
The Father who gave them to me is greater than anyone,
and no one can steal from the Father.
The Father and I are one.’

_____________________

I am deeply intrigued by today’s gospel.

The passage today specifically mentions the “Portico of Solomon”. This “portico”, or “porch”, was located on the east side of the temple of Herod. This was the place where justice was carried out and where the king would deliver his judgements. I find it very significant that our Lord would be having this conversation there.

I have always yearned to have a stronger faith since I was a young boy. In this search, I have read the Bible, religious books, attended retreats and searched hard. I must confess that I struggled spiritually and often felt that I was praying to a void; there was many times I often wondered if God was listening to me.

I recently attended the Conversion Experience Retreat (CER) held at the Catholic Spirituality Centre and came away discovering an intimacy with God that I have never experienced before. Ironically, I wasn’t even aware of such a lack but this realisation came to me, totally without effort on my part. This is truly something that was gifted me. A true act of grace from our God.

So it is with what Jesus speaks about in today’s gospel. Despite having explained His teachings and having demonstrated His divinity through miraculous acts, the people continue to demand that Jesus reaffirm that He is the Messiah. Clearly, faith is a gift from God and that without this gift, all of us would struggle to believe.

Let us then, brothers and sisters, continue to pray fervently for this gift, and to look forward to reuniting with our Lord and God in his heavenly kingdom.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Dear Father. We pray that You will gift us with the gift of faith. Allow us to always desire for You and to always believe in You. Help us Lord to continue on this quest, even if there are periods of spiritual dryness.

Thanksgiving – Thank you dear God for allowing us to believe in You and for giving us a vision of what to expect when we reunite with you in Heaven. Thank you for loving us and for sending us the holy advocate in the Holy Spirit. May You be praised always!

18 April, Monday – Seeking Only Jesus

18 April 

_____________________

Acts 11:1-18

The apostles and the brothers in Judaea heard that the pagans too had accepted the word of God, and when Peter came up to Jerusalem the Jews criticised him and said, ‘So you have been visiting the uncircumcised and eating with them, have you?’ Peter in reply gave them the details point by point: ‘One day, when I was in the town of Jaffa,’ he began ‘I fell into a trance as I was praying and had a vision of something like a big sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners. This sheet reached the ground quite close to me. I watched it intently and saw all sorts of animals and wild beasts – everything possible that could walk, crawl or fly. Then I heard a voice that said to me, “Now, Peter; kill and eat!” But I answered: Certainly not, Lord; nothing profane or unclean has ever crossed my lips. And a second time the voice spoke from heaven, “What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane.” This was repeated three times, before the whole of it was drawn up to heaven again.

‘Just at that moment, three men stopped outside the house where we were staying; they had been sent from Caesarea to fetch me, and the Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going back with them. The six brothers here came with me as well, and we entered the man’s house. He told us he had seen an angel standing in his house who said, “Send to Jaffa and fetch Simon known as Peter; he has a message for you that will save you and your entire household.”

‘I had scarcely begun to speak when the Holy Spirit came down on them in the same way as it came on us at the beginning, and I remembered that the Lord had said, “John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” I realised then that God was giving them the identical thing he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ; and who was I to stand in God’s way?’

This account satisfied them, and they gave glory to God. ‘God’ they said ‘can evidently grant even the pagans the repentance that leads to life.’

_____________________

John 10:1-10

Jesus said: ‘I tell you most solemnly, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but gets in some other way is a thief and a brigand. The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice. They never follow a stranger but run away from him: they do not recognise the voice of strangers.’

Jesus told them this parable but they failed to understand what he meant by telling it to them.

So Jesus spoke to them again:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
I am the gate of the sheepfold.
All others who have come
are thieves and brigands;
but the sheep took no notice of them.
I am the gate.
Anyone who enters through me will be safe:
he will go freely in and out
and be sure of finding pasture.
The thief comes
only to steal and kill and destroy.
I have come
so that they may have life and have it to the full.’

_____________________

“I am the gate of the sheepfold”

I love great watches; I really enjoy how they keep time really well and love the look of how aesthetically pleasing they look. However, one of the things I baulk at is how pricey many of the watches are and have become.

Through the internet, I became aware of a huge market for imitation watches. What intrigued me was how similar many of these watches were to the originals, and how much cheaper these watches were when compared to the originals. Excitedly, I placed my order for one.

I really liked how my new watch looked and felt. It was extremely well-made! However, within me, I knew that this wasn’t an authentic watch. I began to notice the small areas this watch was different from the original. When “showing off” to my friends, I would invariably “confess” that the watch was fake. I was told on numerous occasions that no one would know the difference had I chosen to keep quiet. Yet, I knew. I stopped wearing the watch in a matter of days.

So it is with our faith and belief in God. Jesus tells us that it is only through Him that we can find heaven and yet we try to find heaven through our own efforts; through new-age practices, or through doing as much good as we can in order to “earn” our way to eternal salvation. No matter how much we try, it simply is never as good as the real thing.

Eternal salvation can never be earned, no matter what we think and how hard we try. We need to realize that it is only through a personal relationship with God that we can be saved. This is the gift of Grace that God gives us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Father God, help us to always yearn for, and seek you. Help us know that only You can quench our thirst for heaven eternally. Help us to always seek You and to grow in love for You every day.

Thanksgiving – Thank you, Father, for sending us Your Son Jesus to show us the way to heaven. Thank you for always being there, for loving us God!