Saturday, 4 July – Scent of the Son

Dear Readers,

We apologize for the delay in the posting and sending of today’s reflection, due to a technical error that we experienced last night. Thank you for your patience and continued support. God bless you!

– The Oxygen team

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4 July – St Elizabeth of Portugal

Elizabeth (1271-1336) was a princess with a pious upbringing who became Queen of Portugal before she was a teenager. Elizabeth suffered through years of her husband’s abuse and adultery, praying all the while for his conversion, and working with the poor and sick. She rode onto the battlefield to reconcile her family members twice; once between her husband and son when they clashed in civil war, and between her son and his son-in-law years later, preventing bloodshed. This led to her patronage as a peacemaker, and as one invoked in time of war and conflict.

– Patron Saint Index

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Genesis 27:1-5,15-29

Isaac had grown old, and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see. He summoned his elder son Esau, ‘My son!’ he said to him, and the latter answered, ‘I am here.’ Then he said, ‘See, I am old and do not know when I may die. Now take your weapons, your quiver and bow; go out into the country and hunt me some game. Make me the kind of savoury I like and bring it to me, so that I may eat, and give you my blessing before I die.’

Rebekah happened to be listening while Isaac was talking to his son Esau. So when Esau went into the country to hunt game for his father, Rebekah took her elder son Esau’s best clothes, which she had in the house, and dressed her younger son Jacob in them, covering his arms and the smooth part of his neck with the skins of the kids. Then she handed the savoury and the bread she had made to her son Jacob.

He presented himself before his father and said, ‘Father.’ ‘I am here;’ was the reply ‘who are you, my son?’ Jacob said to his father, ‘I am Esau your first-born; I have done as you told me. Please get up and take your place and eat the game I have brought and then give me your blessing.’ Isaac said to his son, ‘How quickly you found it, my son!’ ‘It was the Lord your God’ he answered ‘who put it in my path.’ Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Come here, then, and let me touch you, my son, to know if you are my son Esau or not.’ Jacob came close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, ‘The voice is Jacob’s voice but the arms are the arms of Esau!’ He did not recognise him, for his arms were hairy like his brother Esau’s, and so he blessed him. He said, ‘Are you really my son Esau?’ And he replied, ‘I am.’ Isaac said, ‘Bring it here that I may eat the game my son has brought, and so may give you my blessing.’ He brought it to him and he ate; he offered him wine, and he drank. His father Isaac said to him, ‘Come closer, and kiss me, my son.’ He went closer and kissed his father, who smelled the smell of his clothes.

He blessed him, saying:

‘Yes, the smell of my son
is like the smell of a fertile field blessed by the Lord.
May God give you
dew from heaven,
and the richness of the earth,
abundance of grain and wine!
May nations serve you
and peoples bow down before you!
Be master of your brothers;
may the sons of your mother bow down before you!
Cursed be he who curses you;
blessed be he who blesses you!’

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Matthew 9:14-17

John’s disciples came to him and said, ‘Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?’ Jesus replied, ‘Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of mourning as long as the bridegroom is still with them? But the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunken cloth on to an old cloak, because the patch pulls away from the cloak and the tear gets worse. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; if they do, the skins burst, the wine runs out, and the skins are lost. No; they put new wine into fresh skins and both are preserved.’

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The smell of my son is like the smell of a fertile field blessed by the Lord

Rebekah’s first born was clearly her favourite. After all, she wanted him to be the leader of their clan and wanted him to be exalted, despite knowing that God wanted Esau to be the one who would carry out God’s promises. She went to the deceitful extent of allowing her Jacob to wear Esau’s clothes and because of this, she received a punishment unbearable to any mother — to be separated from her son, Jacob. Sometimes, when we alter God’s plan, we suffer because we have moved away from His perfect plan.

Today, the Pharisees continue to ask Jesus why his disciples don’t adhere to the law of fasting, more to find fault with them; they are not really interested to learn about His will or His ways. In prayer, do we have the same motive when we ask God, ‘why me’ accusing Him of forsaking us? Is it our way of mocking Him because we cannot trust Him enough?

Our relationship with the Lord is likened to many things. While He is our Father who knows how we smell, He is the shepherd and we are His sheep who know His voice; He is the bridegroom at a feast and we celebrate Him. Jesus uses so many ways to illustrate who He is to us.

If we draw parallels to our human relationships, we can understand how our God who truly loves us, adores us and nurtures us. He is as real as any other member of our family. He sees us when we are evading His call and He knows when we are being manipulative to get our way. He also sees us with great mercy because He knows we are trying to reach Him in a way we know best.

Today, are we blinded by favouritism in our household and in the workplace? Are we honest to our elderly parents who are dependent on us? Are we truthful to our spouses, by upholding our marital vows as parents? And are we leaving a legacy of obedience and faith for generations to follow?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

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Prayer: Lord, help us to hear Your voice. Make us truthful children who obey You, and faithful disciples who are always able to listen to Your voice and answer Your call.

Thanksgiving: Our Lord is greater than all others we ever know. We will love you by living a life of truth.

Friday, 3 July – Believe and Yet Not Seen

3 July – St Thomas

The apostle Thomas is famous for doubting the resurrection of Jesus when his fellow apostles told him about it; but if he is the sceptical apostle, he is also the believing apostle, for having seen and touched a risen man, he made the immediate leap of faith and so became the first apostle to call Jesus God.

Nothing is known about Thomas’s later career. A well-known apocryphal document called the Acts of Thomas relates his missionary journeys to Persia and India. Although the document as it stands is not historical evidence (it was written to provide evidence for certain heretical Gnostic teachings), it still bears witness to the likelihood of a tradition that Thomas did go to India. If you are writing something that you intend to use to convince people of a controversial doctrine, you do not invent completely new facts: instead, you weave the existing facts and traditions into something that suits your purpose. Thus the very fact that the heretics used a journey of St Thomas to support their case shows us that, in the third century at least, there would have seemed nothing implausible about such a journey. The journey would have been easy enough – important trade routes lay that way – and if some of the apostles went west, to Rome, the centre of the world, there is no reason why some others should not have chosen to go east, to the edge of the known world.

We will probably never know for certain; but the Christians of Kerala have called themselves for centuries “St Thomas Christians”, and they may very well be right.

– Universalis

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Ephesians 2:19-22

You are no longer aliens or foreign visitors: you are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household. You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit.

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John 20:24-29

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:

‘You believe because you can see me.

Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

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You believe because you can see me

It is interesting that we continue to have faith in the operators of theme parks, sellers of miracle skin care ranges and diet supplements, and even each other. But when it comes to believing God, we can sometimes be sceptical.

While writing this piece, I was trying to find out if the Apostle Thomas ever came to Malaysia, since he was in India. After spending some time researching I wondered why was it so important to me, that one of the apostles of Jesus walked on the same land as I do today. Would I have doubted Jesus’ resurrection like Thomas did?

We are all sinners and yet our perfect God continues to believe in us. We have failed, not kept to His word or ours and yet it is He who chooses to continue believing in us. Why would the Lord of all the earth, whose credibility is spotless and accountability unquestionable, be the object of our doubts? Sometimes it is because we simply lack faith; but sometimes, I think we feel that we are close enough to Jesus that we could ask Him as Thomas did. After journeying with Jesus, Thomas must have really loved Jesus and just as we would sometimes think of our departed loves, Thomas yearned to see His Lord again just once more. In his grief, he could have been disappointed that the others had seen Jesus, but not himself.

If I were in his shoes, I could imagine the pain he would have felt. That the Saviour appears to all his friends except him and the feelings that arose may not be of jealously and envy, but simply because of the deep yearning to see the One he loves. Look at his response, “My Lord and My God.” He did not question Him when they met face to face.

This could be a familiar feeling to some of us when a loved one who lives abroad comes home on a visit. One of my close friends lived abroad for 20 years. We kept in touch, writing letters, phone calls, emails, Skype sessions and sending each other cards for birthdays, Christmas and sometimes just for no occasion at all.  On most of her visits, we got to meet each other at the airport as she stayed at my place. On her more recent visits, it was challenging for us to meet. In her conversations, she would sometimes mention that she met one of our mutual friends and if on her trip home, we had yet to meet, I would yearn just to see her and be in her presence. In anticipation of our face to face meeting we both yearned just to see each other, which is not uncommon among good friends.

In Thomas’ case, he was not just friends with Jesus. He knew that Jesus Christ was his Lord. In that same sense, when we move away from Christ because of our lifestyles or because we stop praying and receiving Holy Communion, there is such a deep longing within us for Him that we feel lost and sometimes we even ache inside.

Today, let us continue to foster this friendship with our Father. Let us ask Him to come and show Himself to us. And when He does (because He surely will) let us embrace His words, His ways and His truth. Let us boldly place our hands in His wounds to address the suffering faced by others around us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Heal our unbelief in You. Lead us to a friendship and total sonship with You that in every situation we would believe, though we have not seen. St Thomas, pray for us.

Thanksgiving: O My Lord and My God, we long for You. Our souls are restless until they rest in You.

Thursday, 2 July – Your Only One

2 July

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Genesis 22:1-19

God put Abraham to the test. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he called. ‘Here I am’ he replied. ‘Take your son,’ God said ‘your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will point out to you.’

Rising early next morning Abraham saddled his ass and took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. He chopped wood for the burnt offering and started on his journey to the place God had pointed out to him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. Then Abraham said to his servants, ‘Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there; we will worship and come back to you.’

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering, loaded it on Isaac, and carried in his own hands the fire and the knife. Then the two of them set out together. Isaac spoke to his father Abraham, ‘Father’ he said. ‘Yes, my son’ he replied. ‘Look,’ he said ‘here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered, ‘My son, God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.’ Then the two of them went on together.

When they arrived at the place God had pointed out to him, Abraham built an altar there, and arranged the wood. Then he bound his son Isaac and put him on the altar on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son.

But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he said. ‘I am here’ he replied. ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy’ the angel said. ‘Do not harm him, for now I know you fear God. You have not refused me your son, your only son.’ Then looking up, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. Abraham took the ram and offered it as a burnt-offering in place of his son. Abraham called this place ‘The Lord Provides’, and hence the saying today: On the mountain the Lord provides.

The angel of the Lord called Abraham a second time from heaven. ‘I swear by my own self – it is the Lord who speaks – because you have done this, because you have not refused me your son, your only son, I will shower blessings on you, I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants shall gain possession of the gates of their enemies. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.’

Abraham went back to his servants, and together they set out for Beersheba, and he settled in Beersheba.

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Matthew 9:1-8

Jesus got in the boat, crossed the water and came to his own town. Then some people appeared, bringing him a paralytic stretched out on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, ‘Courage, my child, your sins are forgiven.’ And at this some scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’ Knowing what was in their minds Jesus said, ‘Why do you have such wicked thoughts in your hearts? Now, which of these is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ – he said to the paralytic – ‘get up, and pick up your bed and go off home.’ And the man got up and went home. A feeling of awe came over the crowd when they saw this, and they praised God for giving such power to men.

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I know you fear God

There is a saying in Tamil, “Your only one, is your beloved one.” this is in reference to single children household or a family that has one child of either gender. Our Asian culture certainly knows the value of this only beloved child.

In today’s reading, God is asking Abraham to offer his only son, one who is born of him and his wife Sarah in old age, and one whom God himself has chosen to be the heir of Abraham for generations.

Personally I admire two things about Abraham — his unwavering faith and his absolute obedience. He never questioned the orders of the Lord though it probably did not make sense to him. Rather, because of his reverence and obedience, he started off early in the day so that he can do as God had asked of Him, not doubting God’s plan at any point.

Abraham is the kind of guy all the good Christians girls would desire as a husband and all mothers will want as a son and all children would want as a father. Imagine if Abraham sets off early with the plan to never return with your son or, as your father, take you on your last journey as a sacrifice. We can be so selective in what we admire about a person without accepting them in all totality and this alone is the root cause of many misunderstandings we face today. How half-hearted and shallow can we get, that our hearts desire a man whose entire being is set apart for God but refuse to support His obedience because we’d rather have children when we are younger or even go as far as suggesting an alternative to the sacrifice God had requested?

We live in times where we encourage others to join the religious orders or serve in ministry when we ourselves would rather focus on our careers and families. How often have we advised others to wait on the Lord when we have doubted that He will answer our own prayers? Do we recognise our deceitfulness as we pay lip service on their leadership in ministry when we would not want to make a commitment to serve, let alone to take a step to walk in their shoes?

None of us are Abraham, but I believe that we all have the ability to have that same kind of faith and obedience. The next time there is call to serve, can we be the first to sign up? When there is a vocation camp, could parents encourage their own children to attend and, as singles, can we eagerly pursue this path of obedience and faith?

Today, let us examine the ways in which we can be more faithful and obedient to our Lord, our parents, our spouses, our priests and bosses (teachers). What characteristic of Abraham would we like to emulate?

If Abraham lived in our times, would we accept his faith and obedience? Are there people in our midst who, like Abraham, do whatever the Lord asks of him? Do we consider it faith or rather classify them as one who have flown of the nest.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Father, create in us a heart to obey You and have faith in You. Help us to encourage each other by setting an example to serve, give, forgive and sacrifice in our parishes and communities.

Thanksgiving: May Your will be done and Your kingdom come. Thank You Lord that You have planted in us the desire so great to want to love You through our faith and obedience.

Wednesday, 1 July – Welcomed or Asked to Leave?

1 July

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Genesis 21:5,8-20

Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham gave a great banquet on the day Isaac was weaned. Now Sarah watched the son that Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. ‘Drive away that slave-girl and her son,’ she said to Abraham; ‘this slave-girl’s son is not to share the inheritance with my son Isaac.’ This greatly distressed Abraham because of his son, but God said to him, ‘Do not distress yourself on account of the boy and your slave-girl. Grant Sarah all she asks of you, for it is through Isaac that your name will be carried on. But the slave-girl’s son I will also make into a nation, for he is your child too.’ Rising early next morning Abraham took some bread and a skin of water and, giving them to Hagar, he put the child on her shoulder and sent her away.

She wandered off into the wilderness of Beersheba. When the skin of water was finished she abandoned the child under a bush. Then she went and sat down at a distance, about a bowshot away, saying to herself, ‘I cannot see the child die.’ So she sat at a distance; and the child wailed and wept.

But God heard the boy wailing, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven. ‘What is wrong, Hagar?’ he asked. ‘Do not be afraid, for God has heard the boy’s cry where he lies. Come, pick up the boy and hold him safe, for I will make him into a great nation.’ Then God opened Hagar’s eyes and she saw a well, so she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

God was with the boy. He grew up and made his home in the wilderness, and he became a bowman.

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Matthew 8:28-34

When Jesus reached the country of the Gadarenes on the other side, two demoniacs came towards him out of the tombs – creatures so fierce that no one could pass that way. They stood there shouting, ‘What do you want with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before the time?’ Now some distance away there was a large herd of pigs feeding, and the devils pleaded with Jesus, ‘If you cast us out, send us into the herd of pigs.’ And he said to them, ‘Go then’, and they came out and made for the pigs; and at that the whole herd charged down the cliff into the lake and perished in the water. The swineherds ran off and made for the town, where they told the whole story, including what had happened to the demoniacs. At this the whole town set out to meet Jesus; and as soon as they saw him they implored him to leave the neighbourhood.

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The poor man called; the Lord heard him.

It is a pertinent question to ask, if we would welcome the Lord or ask Him to leave when He visits ‘our district.’ I would guess that most of us have done both in different circumstances; we welcome Him when His ways meet ours and have asked Him to leave when we want our way. It is as if our faith is one of choice, of when we want Him or when we know better than Him and choose to ask Him to leave us alone, like a rebellious child would.

In a conversation with some friends recently, one of them was adamant that a certain guy was not for her and that she wanted a certain ‘type’ of man as her future husband. She had also previously declared that she would always choose the will of God and, during her discernment journey, she discovered that she was called to a different vocation other than marriage. As I listened to her, I realised that just like her, we can all fall into the trap of saying that we want His will to be done in our lives but at the same time we are fixated on our own agendas; after all, ‘free will’ is a gift to us, as we commonly say to justify the times we choose our will over His. Like my friend, we are at times on a different journey until we start following His plans for us.

Today, are we parents who uphold the teachings of Mother church in raising our children or are we giving in to the demands of keeping up with the ‘intellectual’ and ‘innovative’ society we live in? As children, have we become so independent that we are detached from our parents? As parishioners, what is the extent of our care and concern for our priests? Do we celebrate them only during the sacraments and dismiss them when we have a difference of opinion on their method of ‘shepherding’?

What are the areas in our lives that we have not invited God into? Like the people in Gadarenes, are we hung up on a power struggle in our families and workplace that we are afraid to have God in our midst? Do we treat God as a magician who gives us all we need while we dismiss His gentle voice when He calls us to serve in His Kingdom, give up a habitual sin or let go of an ungodly relationship?

Little Ishamel cried and the Lord answered, with water for him to drink. It is obvious the works of the Lord that are depicted in today’s readings show us that God has mercy for those who are abandoned, thirsty, possessed, forgotten, even those with a half-hearted sacrifice. He is our Father, He will hear our cry, a cry that is poor because we need Him everyday and we want to welcome Him today.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Father God, we welcome you to be the presider of our lives, our dreams, hopes and fears. We want You to be the Lord of our families, our jobs, our future and our ministry life. Help us to listen to You all the time.

Thanksgiving: Father we praise You, we worship and adore You, for in Your eyes we are precious and You always listen to our cries.

Tuesday, 30 June – Jesus My Hero

30 June – First Martyrs of the See of Rome

When the city of Rome had been devastated by fire in the year 64, the Emperor Nero launched a persecution against the Christians, who were thrown to the wild beasts in the arena or soaked in tar and used as living torches. Their deaths are documented in the writings of the Roman historian Tacitus and in Pope St Clement’s letter to the Corinthians. Their feast was celebrated the day after the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

– Universalis

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Genesis 19:15-29

The angels urged Lot, ‘Come, take your wife and these two daughters of yours, or you will be overwhelmed in the punishment of the town.’ And as he hesitated, the men took him by the hand, and his wife and his two daughters, because of the pity the Lord felt for him. They led him out and left him outside the town.

As they were leading him out he said, ‘Run for your life. Neither look behind you nor stop anywhere on the plain. Make for the hills if you would not be overwhelmed.’ ‘No, I beg you, my lord,’ Lot said to them ‘your servant has won your favour and you have shown great kindness to me in saving my life. But I could not reach the hills before this calamity overtook me, and death with it. The town over there is near enough to flee to, and is a little one. Let me make for that – is it not little? – and my life will be saved.’ He answered, ‘I grant you this favour too, and will not destroy the town you speak of. Hurry, escape to it, for I can do nothing until you reach it.’ That is why the town is named Zoar.

As the sun rose over the land and Lot entered Zoar, the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord. He overthrew these towns and the whole plain, with all the inhabitants of the towns, and everything that grew there. But the wife of Lot looked back, and was turned into a pillar of salt.

Rising early in the morning Abraham went to the place where he had stood before the Lord, and looking towards Sodom and Gomorrah, and across all the plain, he saw the smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.

Thus it was that when God destroyed the towns of the plain, he kept Abraham in mind and rescued Lot out of disaster when he overwhelmed the towns where Lot lived.

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Matthew 8:23-27

Jesus got into the boat followed by his disciples. Without warning a storm broke over the lake, so violent that the waves were breaking right over the boat. But he was asleep. So they went to him and woke him saying, ‘Save us, Lord, we are going down!’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened, you men of little faith?’ And with that he stood up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and all was calm again. The men were astounded and said, ‘Whatever kind of man is this? Even the winds and the sea obey him.’

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Even the winds and the sea obey him

I was driving after work one evening when a huge tropical storm erupted. It rained down so heavily that visibility was reduced because of the pelting rain. Soon afterwards, the wind blew fiercely and caused the barriers at construction sites to be flung on the road in disarray, with some even flying ferociously in front of oncoming traffic.

I was a little terrified and starting praying while continuing to drive. I was aware of the potential danger of being on the road at the time but I knew that God was with me on that journey.

Our Heavenly Father is much like a parent who deserves trust and we His children are called to trust Him even while we are sick, suffering, unemployed, confused, depressed, angry, hurting, persecuted and even abused. Whatever our storm is, we His children need to trust that He will save us, just like how He put on hold His plans of destruction on Sodom and Gomorrah so that Lot and his family would be saved. Our Lord will definitely do everything and anything to save us because there is no doubt that He has our best interests at heart.

If today we are consumed by self-pity, entrenched with fear or crippled by our lack of trust in the God who saves us, let’s have an instant change of heart and mind. Today, let us assume the obedience of Lot and Abraham that despite their trials continued to trust God and were men of steadfast faith.

If even the seas obey Him and we are His, what is expected of us?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, our Father, create in us a heart of total trust in You. No matter what we are facing today, we know that You care for us and love us. Help us to have faith in You even when we feel that we are down in the pits.

Thanksgiving: Daddy God, thank you for saving us even if we don’t trust You completely.

Monday, 29 June – Fathers of Faith

29 June – Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles

Saint Paul, Apostle

Jewish Talmudic student. Pharisee. Tent-maker by trade. Saul the Jew hated and persecuted Christians as heretical, even assisting at the stoning of Saint Stephen the Martyr. On his way to Damascus, Syria, to arrest another group of faithful, he was knocked to the ground, struck blind by a heavenly light, and given the message that in persecuting Christians, he was persecuting Christ. The experience had a profound spiritual effect on him, causing his conversion to Christianity. He was baptized, changed his name to Paul to reflect his new persona, and began travelling, preaching and teaching. His letters to the churches he help found form a large percentage of the New Testament. Knew and worked with many of the earliest saints and fathers of the Church. Martyr.

Saint Peter, Apostle

Professional fisherman. Brother of Saint Andrew the Apostle, the man who led him to Christ. Apostle. Renamed “Peter” (rock) by Jesus to indicate that Peter would be the rock-like foundation on which the Church would be built. Bishop. First Pope. Miracle worker.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 12:1-11

King Herod started persecuting certain members of the Church. He beheaded James the brother of John, and when he saw that this pleased the Jews he decided to arrest Peter as well. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread, and he put Peter in prison, assigning four squads of four soldiers each to guard him in turns. Herod meant to try Peter in public after the end of Passover week. All the time Peter was under guard the Church prayed to God for him unremittingly.

On the night before Herod was to try him, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, fastened with double chains, while guards kept watch at the main entrance to the prison. Then suddenly the angel of the Lord stood there, and the cell was filled with light. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him. ‘Get up!’ he said ‘Hurry!’ – and the chains fell from his hands. The angel then said, ‘Put on your belt and sandals.’ After he had done this, the angel next said, ‘Wrap your cloak round you and follow me.’ Peter followed him, but had no idea that what the angel did was all happening in reality; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed through two guard posts one after the other, and reached the iron gate leading to the city. This opened of its own accord; they went through it and had walked the whole length of one street when suddenly the angel left him. It was only then that Peter came to himself. ‘Now I know it is all true’ he said. ‘The Lord really did send his angel and has saved me from Herod and from all that the Jewish people were so certain would happen to me.’

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2 Timothy 4:6-8,17-18

My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.

The Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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Matthew 16:13-19

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’

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On this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it.

The church that we are familiar with faces many trials and is challenged constantly by the powers of the netherworld. Yet it stands strong more than 2000 years later. This is the promise of Christ when He appointed St Peter as the first pope and shepherd of the Church. He entrusted Him the duty to shepherd His folk, to forgive sins and to gain admittance to His children to our heavenly homes.

As Catholics, we are privileged and called to be part of this beautiful Body of Christ in the Church. Our religion is universal and our faith is founded by the Lord Himself, the Christ and Son of the Living God and carried upon generations starting from our forefathers, St Peters and Paul, who endured much persecution to the point of death so that we would have this faith we love today.

Today, who would we say Jesus is? If, like St Peter, we consider Him as the Christ and the Son of the living God, than what is our stand about our faith and our Church? Can we withstand the persecution of our times on same sex marriages, pro-choice movements and other lies that have diminished the beauty of perfect love as shown by our Lord during His crucifixion? Can we uphold the promise of our Lord that this Church will prevail by being faithful to the teachings of the Church and by recognising Papal Infallibility, our priests who are in the person and spirit of Christ, especially when they administer the sacraments, but also when they lead their parish and ministry? Are we still obedient to Jesus who said “Behold thy Mother”?

Just as a mission has been given to Saints Peter and Paul, we each have a mission in the church, in its building, its restoration and its continuity.

I was deeply saddened to hear news of churches which have been turned into amusement parks and bars and also being denied the permission to set up within a community. In Malaysia, we attend Sunday mass in churches which are overflowing with worshippers. Some years back, a survey revealed that 70% of Catholics attend Sunday mass. Though it may seem like an encouraging number, most of us know of friends and relatives who are no longer in union with the church and who choose to frequent mass on selected days. What are we doing to encourage each other who share our faith? Are we welcoming enough to offer rides, to greet each other warmly in church and to give others a reason to come to church to pray together and celebrate being One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Who is Jesus to you today? Do your actions reflect this?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Today we especially ask you to bless Papa Francisco, our bishops, priests, religious and lay leaders, give them the zeal of the first Christians and give us also Lord that same zeal. Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.

Thanksgiving: Father, we thank you for all those who have fought the fight to keep our faith alive. Thank you for choosing us.

Sunday, 28 June – Talitha Kaum

28 June

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Wisdom 1:13-15,2:23-24

Death was not God’s doing,
he takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living.
To be – for this he created all;
the world’s created things have health in them,
in them no fatal poison can be found,
and Hades holds no power on earth;
for virtue is undying.
Yet God did make man imperishable,
he made him in the image of his own nature;
it was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world,
as those who are his partners will discover.

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2 Corinthians 8:7,9,13-15

You always have the most of everything – of faith, of eloquence, of understanding, of keenness for any cause, and the biggest share of our affection – so we expect you to put the most into this work of mercy too. Remember how generous the Lord Jesus was: he was rich, but he became poor for your sake, to make you rich out of his poverty. This does not mean that to give relief to others you ought to make things difficult for yourselves: it is a question of balancing what happens to be your surplus now against their present need, and one day they may have something to spare that will supply your own need. That is how we strike a balance: as scripture says: The man who gathered much had none too much, the man who gathered little did not go short.

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Mark 5:21-43

When Jesus had crossed in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered round him and he stayed by the lakeside. Then one of the synagogue officials came up, Jairus by name, and seeing him, fell at his feet and pleaded with him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is desperately sick. Do come and lay your hands on her to make her better and save her life.’ Jesus went with him and a large crowd followed him; they were pressing all round him.

Now there was a woman who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years; after long and painful treatment under various doctors, she spent all she had without being any the better for it, in fact, she was getting worse. She had heard about Jesus, and she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his cloak. ‘If I can touch even his clothes,’ she had told herself ‘I shall be well again.’ And the source of the bleeding dried up instantly, and she felt in herself that she was cured of her complaint. Immediately aware that power had gone out from him, Jesus turned round in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ His disciples said to him, ‘You see how the crowd is pressing round you and yet you say, “Who touched me?”’ But he continued to look all round to see who had done it. Then the woman came forward, frightened and trembling because she knew what had happened to her, and she fell at his feet and told him the whole truth. ‘My daughter,’ he said ‘your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free from your complaint.’

While he was still speaking some people arrived from the house of the synagogue official to say, ‘Your daughter is dead: why put the Master to any further trouble?’ But Jesus had overheard this remark of theirs and he said to the official, ‘Do not be afraid; only have faith.’ And he allowed no one to go with him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. So they came to the official’s house and Jesus noticed all the commotion, with people weeping and wailing unrestrainedly. He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and crying? The child is not dead, but asleep.’ But they laughed at him. So he turned them all out and, taking with him the child’s father and mother and his own companions, he went into the place where the child lay. And taking the child by the hand he said to her, ‘Talitha, kum!’ which means, ‘Little girl, I tell you to get up.’ The little girl got up at once and began to walk about, for she was twelve years old. At this they were overcome with astonishment, and he ordered them strictly not to let anyone know about it, and told them to give her something to eat.

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He continued to look all round to see who had done it

I was not feeling too well some time ago as I had been laid down by a fever and cold. Even tough my condition improved, I kept coughing for a few nights and felt that I had not fully recovered. But after a few days, I realised that this was just a ‘pattern’ and in the morning, I always felt better. It was much like what is said by the psalmist today “at nightfall weeping enters in, but with dawn the rejoicing.” And because I was just recovering from the illness, it was easy for me to claim His healing.

In today’s reading, we hear of the woman who has been suffering for years and who, despite the hopelessness of her situation, continued to seek out doctors until the day she reached out for the cloak of Jesus. We also read about the parents of the sick child who was at death’s door, and who also sought out Jesus in a crowd despite all the ridicule from their friends and family.

What is Jesus asking us to rise up from today? Is it a bleeding from our wounds caused by hurts and anger which we have carried for years? Is it our action or lack of it to seek Him to restore areas in our lives which are dead? Is it the lack of faith on our part in the promises of our perfect God? Is it our anxiety to conform to society and to heed those who ridicule the hope we have, that we will be healed and our prayers will be answered? Is it our idolatry of all things secular – beauty, popularity, wealth and intelligence?

The woman and the parents in today’s Gospel reading did something that was ahead of their time. The woman, considered an outcast in the Jewish culture at that time, because she was ‘unclean’, fought herself through the crowd despite her illness to touch the cloak of a Holy Man. It was definitely an act which was met with disapproval from society and even her family. And imagine as a parent, leaving the side of your dying child to seek the healing of a ‘healer’.  What is God asking of us today to do, so that we can live in His truth and to claim the wholesomeness which He had intended for each of us from the time of creation?

Is there a bleeding lady within us, a habit that is causing us to die? Let us let go and reach out to Him; not just His cloak but in His whole being through the Eucharist we receive today. Let us claim the healing and assume unwavering faith.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord give us faith that never ends. Give us whatever it takes to seek you in all that we lack so that we receive your abundance.

Thanksgiving: O Lord, you are a healer. You changed my mourning into dancing and you renew me every morning.

Saturday, 27 June – Stories

27 June – St Cyril of Alexandria

Alexandria was the largest city in the ancient world. Rather like Los Angeles, it was a sprawling mixture of races and creeds; and it was a byword for the violence of its sectarian politics, whether of Greeks against Jews or of orthodox Christians against heretics. Cyril began his career as a worthy follower of this tradition. He succeeded his uncle as bishop of Alexandria in 412, and promptly solved a number of outstanding problems by closing the churches of the Novatian heretics and expelling the Jews from the city. This caused trouble and led to an ongoing quarrel with the Imperial governor of the city and to murderous riots. It is not for this part of his life that St Cyril is celebrated.

In 428, Nestorius, the new Patriarch of Constantinople (and hence one of the most important bishops in the world) made statements that could be interpreted as denying the divinity of Christ. The dual nature – human and divine – has always been hard for us to accept or understand, and if it seems easy it is only because we have not thought about it properly. Those who dislike problems have had two responses: to deny the human nature of Christ or to deny his divinity: and either leads to disaster, since both deny the Incarnation and hence the divinisation of human nature.

The resulting battle was as unedifying as most of the early fights that defined the shape of Christianity, because both sides were concerned to defend something that they saw as being of infinite and eternal importance. If it had been a question of power politics, of who got what post and what revenues, the matter could have been settled quietly – but this was not about power, it was important, and the victory was more important than the methods. Seen from fifteen centuries later, the proceedings seem melodramatic and absurd: Cyril arriving at the Council of Ephesus accompanied by fifty bishops wielding baseball bats (or the fifth-century equivalent); the Emperor, burdened with a sister who supported Cyril and a wife who supported Nestorius; the ratification of the contradictory decrees of both the council that supported Cyril andthe council that supported Nestorius; the imprisonment of both bishops; the bribery…

To revere Cyril of Alexandria is not to approve the methods he used: he fought according to the conventions of the time, and with its weapons. But he never sought to destroy Nestorius or any of his opponents, only to win the day for the truth of salvation: would that controversies today were fought with such pure motives.

After the fireworks of the Council, Cyril was moderate and conciliatory, and sought to reconcile to the Church any Nestorians who were willing to engage in dialogue. It is largely through his efforts that we can celebrate (even if we still fail to understand) the two natures of Christ, and that we can address Mary as “Mother of God”. It is as a theologian rather than as a politician that Cyril is honoured.

So let us give thanks that Cyril lived, and let us enjoy the fruits of his achievement; but although we ought all to share his pure zeal for the truth, let us not hurry to imitate his more vigorous methods!

– Universalis

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Genesis 18:1-15

The Lord appeared to Abraham at the Oak of Mamre while he was sitting by the entrance of the tent during the hottest part of the day. He looked up, and there he saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them, and bowed to the ground. ‘My lord,’ he said ‘I beg you, if I find favour with you, kindly do not pass your servant by. A little water shall be brought; you shall wash your feet and lie down under the tree. Let me fetch a little bread and you shall refresh yourselves before going further. That is why you have come in your servant’s direction.’ They replied, ‘Do as you say.’

Abraham hastened to the tent to find Sarah.’ ‘Hurry,’ he said ‘knead three bushels of flour and make loaves.’ Then running to the cattle Abraham took a fine and tender calf and gave it to the servant, who hurried to prepare it. Then taking cream, milk and the calf he had prepared, he laid all before them, and they ate while he remained standing near them under the tree.

‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ they asked him. ‘She is in the tent’ he replied. Then his guest said, ‘I shall visit you again next year without fail, and your wife will then have a son.’ Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well on in years, and Sarah had ceased to have her monthly periods. So Sarah laughed to herself, thinking, ‘Now that I am past the age of child-bearing, and my husband is an old man, is pleasure to come my way again!’ But the Lord asked Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Am I really going to have a child now that I am old?” Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the same time next year I shall visit you again and Sarah will have a son.’ ‘I did not laugh’ Sarah said, lying because she was afraid. But he replied, ‘Oh yes, you did laugh.’

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Matthew 8:5-17

When Jesus went into Capernaum a centurion came up and pleaded with him. ‘Sir,’ he said ‘my servant is lying at home paralysed, and in great pain.’ ‘I will come myself and cure him’ said Jesus. The centurion replied, ‘Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; just give the word and my servant will be cured. For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.’ When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those following him, ‘I tell you solemnly, nowhere in Israel have I found faith like this. And I tell you that many will come from east and west to take their places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven; but the subjects of the kingdom will be turned out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.’ And to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go back, then; you have believed, so let this be done for you.’ And the servant was cured at that moment.

And going into Peter’s house Jesus found Peter’s mother-in-law in bed with fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

That evening they brought him many who were possessed by devils. He cast out the spirits with a word and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah:

He took our sicknesses away and carried our diseases for us.

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You have believed, so let this be done for you

The stories from today’s readings are all examples of faith in action. Faith lets us see through different eyes, as if the scales of skepticism are removed and we perceive with a more trusting and open heart. Last night I was at a faith meeting. I am usually a little apprehensive about going to these things. Most of the time, I try to put it off because I don’t like the feeling of vulnerability that comes from opening up to a roomful of strangers. The fault lies with me completely. So I sit in a corner, arms folded across my chest and just listen, attempting all the while to suspend my wordly skepticism. I want to be supportive of my faith sisters, and I am hoping my disbelief isn’t obvious. Very often I struggle with the right response. So I simply listen and hope the Holy Spirit will pry the scales from my eyes so I can ‘see’.

We are all made for stories, that is how the human race communicates truths – through sharing stories. To listen to someone’s story and to allow that truth into our hearts requires us to give ourselves over to wonder. Very often, we will not be able to identify with their circumstances, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t be able to apply the truth that God is trying to teach us. Who will really know if Sarah had a baby in her nineties? The truth of her story though is not so much that she was blessed with motherhood, but that she, like us, did the very human thing of faltering and finding her way again. She vacillated, as we would have done, between faith and disbelief. And through the long years of waiting, she did the very human thing of trying to sort it out for herself. Though her efforts were met with mixed results — eventually she grew cynical and resigned herself to her childlessness — the truth in Sarah’s story is that God did not give up on her, even though she might have felt that He had.

I’m waiting for God to answer a prayer at the moment. I have to admit, my attempts at prayer have been somewhat half-hearted, as if I am afraid to even ask this of Him. It’s such a ‘practical life issue’, but isnt’t that when God truly surprises us? By showing us resolutions to practical life issues? Last night, He compelled me to go to a faith meeting; something I rarely do. There I was reminded of how His hand works in the lives of others, how the concept of ‘Time’ for God is both a lot slower and a lot quicker than what we think. And though this morning, a cloud of anxiety still hangs over me, I am comforted by that it is normal to have this human condition of faltering. He still ‘sees’ me – even if I struggle to ‘see’ Him. And He will help me hold on to Hope while I wait, just as He has with so many others before me.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray that God will help us to hold on to Hope, that we not grow discouraged from the waiting.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who are courageous enough to share their faith stories, that we too may share in the truths that God has shown them.

Friday, 26 June – Purpose

26 June

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Genesis 17:1,9-10,15-22

When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am El Shaddai. Bear yourself blameless in my presence, and I will make a Covenant between myself and you. You on your part shall maintain my Covenant, yourself and your descendants after you, generation after generation. Now this is my Covenant which you are to maintain between myself and you, and your descendants after you: all your males must be circumcised.’

God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah. I will bless her and moreover give you a son by her. I will bless her and nations shall come out of her; kings of peoples shall descend from her.’ Abraham bowed to the ground, and he laughed, thinking to himself, ‘Is a child to be born to a man one hundred years old, and will Sarah have a child at the age of ninety?’ Abraham said to God, ‘Oh, let Ishmael live in your presence!’ But God replied, ‘No, but your wife Sarah shall bear you a son whom you are to name Isaac. With him I will establish my Covenant, a Covenant in perpetuity, to be his God and the God of his descendants after him. For Ishmael too I grant you your request: I bless him and I will make him fruitful and greatly increased in numbers. He shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But my Covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear you at this time next year.’ When he had finished speaking to Abraham God went up from him.

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Matthew 8:1-4

After Jesus had come down from the mountain large crowds followed him. A leper now came up and bowed low in front of him. ‘Sir,’ he said ‘if you want to, you can cure me.’ Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him and said, ‘Of course I want to! Be cured!’ And his leprosy was cured at once. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Mind you do not tell anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest and make the offering prescribed by Moses, as evidence for them.’

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If you want to, you can cure me

The whole concept of having a child is a difficult one for me. My parents gave me a charmed upbringing, the kind of childhood I would want for my own offspring. They gave us the life they had wanted for themselves. Every generation wants to do right by the one after it. We want to pass on the gift of parenthood that we ourselves received. As the years go by though, the odds of me giving this wonderful gift myself have begun to diminish. And while today, there are ample opportunities for women to find fulfilment outside of motherhood, the fear of missing out on one of life’s great events hangs like a cloud over me. Am I making the right decisions? Is this part of God’s purpose? Did I choose the right path? You constantly second guess yourself and wonder whether you have misread the signs.

Having uprooted his family and staked his purpose on being the father of many, that they were still childless twenty four years on must have caused Abram and Sarai much grief. From his perspective, Abram must have felt that he had angered God somewhere, that his life had been a failure. And Sarai would have shared that sense of failure with him, for all that she had tried to do with Hagar, Ishmael and surrogacy. She would have felt, as a woman, that she had not just failed herself, she had failed those that God had entrusted her with – her husband, her maidservant and the innocent child that Hagar had borne her husband. As a woman living in those times, to have to be defined like that would have been emotionally wrenching.

So often in Scripture, ‘failure’ and ‘imperfection’ are used as vehicles for His greatest work. God seeks out the lost, the failed, those who have given their best efforts yet fallen short; those who feel like life has beaten them, that they have made so many mistakes they can’t possibly find their way back. He seeks them out and gives them new life, new purpose – “Christ took away our infirmities and bore our diseases” (Matt 8:17)! A leper is healed and made clean. A man, well beyond his parenting years becomes father to a multitude. And a woman, resigned to her own failure, bears the seed that fulfils His great promise despite her circumstances. “Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10) – because I derive my strength from Him. Look to Him if today you feel lost. Place your hope in Him. There is purpose here, even if you can’t see it. Place your trust in Him. 

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the endurance to keep holding on to Hope, despite difficult circumstances.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for His redeeming love, for His capacity to create new life from failure, for how He brings purpose where we ourselves see none. 

Thursday, 25 June – Deliverance

25 June

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Genesis 16:1-12,15-16

Abram’s wife Sarai had borne him no child, but she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, ‘Listen, now! Since the Lord has kept me from having children, go to my slave-girl. Perhaps I shall get children through her.’ Abram agreed to what Sarai had said.

Thus after Abram had lived in the land of Canaan for ten years Sarai took Hagar her Egyptian slave-girl and gave her to Abram as his wife. He went to Hagar and she conceived. And once she knew she had conceived, her mistress counted for nothing in her eyes. Then Sarai said to Abram, ‘May this insult to me come home to you! It was I who put my slave-girl into your arms but now she knows that she has conceived, I count for nothing in her eyes. Let the Lord judge between me and you.’ ‘Very well,’ Abram said to Sarai ‘your slave-girl is at your disposal. Treat her as you think fit.’ Sarai accordingly treated her so badly that she ran away from her.

The angel of the Lord met her near a spring in the wilderness, the spring that is on the road to Shur. He said, ‘Hagar, slave-girl of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?’ ‘I am running away from my mistress Sarai’ she replied. The angel of the Lord said to her, ‘Go back to your mistress and submit to her.’ The angel of the Lord said to her, ‘I will make your descendants too numerous to be counted.’ Then the angel of the Lord said to her:

‘Now you have conceived, and you will bear a son,
and you shall name him Ishmael,
for the Lord has heard your cries of distress.
A wild-ass of a man he will be,
against every man, and every man against him,
setting himself to defy all his brothers.’

Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave to the son that Hagar bore the name Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

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Matthew 7:21-29

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

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

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

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It is not those who say to me, “Lord, Lord,” who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven

Today’s first reading from Genesis shows what happens when we try to be too clever and take matters into our own hands instead of waiting on God. Inevitably, someone gets hurt and in our anger and frustration, we become lesser versions of ourselves. By this time, Abram and Sarai had been living in Canaan for ten years, long enough now to have established themselves in the community, and maybe even pick up some of the local traditions. Sarah’s suggestion of ‘surrogacy’ could have been turned down by Abram but he went along with it. No one will know why God let Abram and Sarai wait this long for Isaac. But the waiting evidently took its toll on them, because they acted out according to the flesh.

God’s benevolence extends to us even when we make mistakes. We know that Abram and Sarai are able to regroup from this, and do eventually go on to have a child as promised by God. And instead of leaving Hagar and Ishmael to perish in the desert, God tells Hagar that he will sustain her and promises to make Ishmael a great nation. Even in the Old Testament, God approaches man first and offers him forgiveness in his broken state; so that man, having healed, can look ahead, renewed and refreshed to do His will.

Mistakes will happen even to the best of us. It’s difficult to remain unwavering when that occurs, especially when no end is in sight. It is exactly at times like these that God wants us to cleave to Him. He is our source of hope. Deliverance comes from the Lord, not from us trying to sort our issues out with brute strength. Like the house built on rock, we will remain firm through the storms of life if God is our foundation. Time can pass but we will persevere, because all things are possible through The Lord. He is our deliverance.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all those who have fallen away because of mistakes they have made; no one is beyond His grace and mercy.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for His mercies, that while we were a broken and sinful people, he redeemed us and gave us new life.