18 May, Wednesday – Clairvoyance

18 May – Memorial for St. John I, Pope and Martyr

John (d. 526) was a priest in Rome, and became the 53rd pope in 523. Italy’s ruler then, Theodoric the Goth, was an Arian. For a while he left the Catholics alone, but in later life he became suspicious of everyone, imagining conspiracies and attempts to seize his throne. He tried to involve Pope John in his political machinations. John led a delegation to Constantinople to negotiate with Emperor Justin I; he was the first pope to travel to Constantinople, and while there crowned Justin. The mission was successful, but Theodoric though John and Justin I had plotted against him. While returning to Rome, John was kidnapped and imprisoned by Theodoric’s soldiers. He died of thirst and starvation while in custody in Ravenna, Italy.

-Patron Saint Index

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James 4:13-17

Here is the answer for those of you who talk like this: ‘Today or tomorrow, we are off to this or that town; we are going to spend a year there, trading, and make some money.’

You never know what will happen tomorrow: you are no more than a mist that is here for a little while and then disappears. The most you should ever say is: ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we shall still be alive to do this or that.’ But how proud and sure of yourselves you are now! Pride of this kind is always wicked. Everyone who knows what is the right thing to do and doesn’t do it commits a sin.

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Mark 9:38-40

John said to Jesus, ‘Master, we saw a man who is not one of us casting out devils in your name; and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him.’ But Jesus said, ‘You must not stop him: no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.’

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You never know what will happen tomorrow.

I have been training for my spiritual walk in September when I will embark on my Camino in Spain. Recently, an ex-colleague reminded me to moderate my training so as not to injure myself before I even start my actual walk. He shared that he regretted pushing himself on his own Camino by covering nearly 500km in a short span of 15 days, turning his walk into a physical task instead of a spiritual one.

That reminder was reinforced by a book I have just started on entitled ‘Walk In A Relaxed Manner’. The author, a layperson, did the full distance in 37 days and because she was mindful of her limitations (she was 60 when she did it), she ended up benefiting from what the Lord communicated to her each day while on the road to Santiago de Compostela.

At work, I always make sure that we have a plan for what lies ahead from events to key projects. All my working life, I have been conditioned to anticipate and plan for best, worst and not-that-bad scenarios. It has stood me well thus far and I always remind my staff never to approach anything, however trivial it may seem, without a plan of attack.

One of the chapters in the book is simply titled ‘Let Go’. In preparing my deputies for my absence in September, I have come to the realization that they themselves need to let go of their own negative perceptions of each other, and to just get the job done. I found myself catching my tongue on occasions where I have been privy to their disagreements, reminding myself that I too behaved like them in my idealistic, younger days. Lately, I have learnt to walk away so that they discover for themselves their own lessons rather than hearing it from me.

Brothers and sisters, only God knows what lies ahead for each and every one of us. As I continue my preparation for my journey ahead, I know and trust that what lies ahead on whichever road I end up taking will eventually lead back to Him. Truly, we do not need to worry about what will happen tomorrow as long as in our hearts, we are prepared to meet Him should he call.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer – Heavenly Father, you alone know what’s in store for each of us on this earth. We ask that you continue to watch over us as we live out your divine plan.

Thanksgiving – Thank you, Father, for your gift of a brand new day each time we wake from our slumber.

17 May, Tuesday – Ambition

17 May

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James 4:1-10

Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves? You want something and you haven’t got it; so you are prepared to kill. You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force. Why you don’t have what you want is because you don’t pray for it; when you do pray and don’t get it, it is because you have not prayed properly, you have prayed for something to indulge your own desires.

You are as unfaithful as adulterous wives; don’t you realise that making the world your friend is making God your enemy? Anyone who chooses the world for his friend turns himself into God’s enemy. Surely you don’t think scripture is wrong when it says: the spirit which he sent to live in us wants us for himself alone? But he has been even more generous to us, as scripture says: God opposes the proud but he gives generously to the humble. Give in to God, then; resist the devil, and he will run away from you. The nearer you go to God, the nearer he will come to you. Clean your hands, you sinners, and clear your minds, you waverers. Look at your wretched condition, and weep for it in misery; be miserable instead of laughing, gloomy instead of happy. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.

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Mark 9:30-37

After leaving the mountain Jesus and his disciples made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know, because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, ‘The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him.

They came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.’ He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms round him, and said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’

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Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.

I was brought up in an environment that was more comfortable than many others. Growing up, we never lacked for anything which we wanted and, as the eldest among three children, I would receive a little bit more attention with which also came expectation. So when it came to the milestones in life, I always felt the need to live up to my parents’ expectations. It didn’t help to have a younger sister who was the perennial over-achiever from a scholastic standpoint.

When I finally graduated from university and secured a job with one of the top advertising agencies (an MNC), I was over the moon. Fired up with ambition, I worked hard (rather uncharacteristically) to make sure that I succeeded on my own terms. No job was too small nor too difficult. Through many twists and turns, as well as one or two ‘mid-life crises’, I found myself eating humble pie more than once when I was ‘let go’ by my employers in China and Dubai.

Admittedly, I sought refuge each time in the comfort of my family and loved ones. It was only after going for various retreats and learning to discern and ‘listen to His voice’ did I realise that God was speaking to me and carrying me on his shoulders all those times I fell down. Through those trials, He was actually strengthening me and preparing me for the work that He truly wanted me to do. Over the past few months, I have been reflecting on the journey I have been taking and slowly but surely, He is revealing the road ahead through other people around me.

Brothers and sisters, I would never have been able to come to this new realization, nor to look at the plight and sufferings of those around me with different coloured lenses, unless I had been made aware of the pride that was in me all those years ago. That last major blow certainly took the wind out of my sails for quite a while and showed me how being prideful was leading me down the wrong path. Today, I walk with my head held high for a different reason. For I know that God, my father, is holding me up and carrying me on His shoulders. And that Jesus walks with me, each and every day.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer – Abba Father, as you work in us, place in us a new heart and a yearning for you to fill it with humility, compassion and love for one another. Make us your instruments of love and unity.

Thanksgiving – Thank you Father for filling us with the Holy Spirit and for bestowing upon us the talents and gifts that we should be proud of and to glorify your name.

16 May, Monday – Faith

16 May

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James 3:13-18

If there are any wise or learned men among you, let them show it by their good lives, with humility and wisdom in their actions. But if at heart you have the bitterness of jealousy, or a self-seeking ambition, never make any claims for yourself or cover up the truth with lies – principles of this kind are not the wisdom that comes down from above: they are only earthly, animal and devilish. Wherever you find jealousy and ambition, you find disharmony, and wicked things of every kind being done; whereas the wisdom that comes down from above is essentially something pure; it also makes for peace, and is kindly and considerate; it is full of compassion and shows itself by doing good; nor is there any trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it. Peacemakers, when they work for peace, sow the seeds which will bear fruit in holiness.

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Mark 9:14-29

When Jesus, with Peter, James and John came down from the mountain and rejoined the disciples, they saw a large crowd round them and some scribes arguing with them. The moment they saw him the whole crowd were struck with amazement and ran to greet him. ‘What are you arguing about with them?’ he asked. A man answered him from the crowd, ‘Master, I have brought my son to you; there is a spirit of dumbness in him, and when it takes hold of him it throws him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and goes rigid. And I asked your disciples to cast it out and they were unable to.’ ‘You faithless generation’ he said to them in reply. ‘How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.’ They brought the boy to him, and as soon as the spirit saw Jesus it threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell to the ground and lay writhing there, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ ‘From childhood,’ he replied ‘and it has often thrown him into the fire and into the water, in order to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.’ ‘If you can?’ retorted Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for anyone who has faith.’ Immediately the father of the boy cried out, ‘I do have faith. Help the little faith I have!’ And when Jesus saw how many people were pressing round him, he rebuked the unclean spirit. ‘Deaf and dumb spirit,’ he said ‘I command you: come out of him and never enter him again.’ Then throwing the boy into violent convulsions it came out shouting, and the boy lay there so like a corpse that most of them said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him up, and he was able to stand. When he had gone indoors his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why were we unable to cast it out?’ ‘This is the kind’ he answered ‘that can only be driven out by prayer.’

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“Help the little faith I have!”

I decided to give my team a pep talk last week because I sensed that one of my unit heads, who had only recently been promoted, was finding it tough going getting things done. Being a competitive person, he characteristically denied that he was facing issues (within himself) when I enquired. So I arranged for the team talk to help him address his multiple problems of not being able to let go, not knowing who to delegate to and getting mired in ‘admin-ese’.

To be fair to him, he always has the division in his heart and his intentions are always good. It is merely the way he has gone about doing things over the past two years that has perhaps ‘alienated’ him from the rest of the team. He is the perennial over-achiever – an outlier. So as I spent 90 minutes or so sharing with the team on my various personal work experiences and learnings, I also kept reaffirming each and everyone of them, to show that I had immense faith in their collective ability to tackle any problem head-on.

I have found myself crying out at times to the Lord, asking Him for a sign that He is indeed working in my life, as well as in the lives of those I hold dear. At times, I feel inadequate in my prayer life whenever I see my loved ones suffering under the crushing weight of their burdens. ‘Why them, Lord? Why not me?’ is a frequent question I carry in my heart. Like most of you, it pains me to see my loved ones suffer.

So each day, I ask the Lord to help the little faith I have. All I can do is pray that He will deliver those around me from their situations. That He will be as kind, as generous and as loving to them as He has been to me all these years. Because like the father in the parable, I want Jesus to heal all those who are hurting because they didn’t ask to be in those situations.

Brothers and sisters, whatever amount of faith you have in you, give it wholeheartedly to Jesus. Lay it all at His sacred feet, because that is the only way you will receive the healing that you so desire for yourself and for your loved ones. Be bold and take courage because Jesus is waiting to say ‘Get up and walk’.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer – We ask for the gift of faith, O heavenly Father. Faith that will transcend all fear and wipe away all doubt in our lives.

Thanksgiving – Thank you Father for your gift of faith in our lives.

15 May, Sunday – Pentecost Every Day

15 May – Feast of Pentecost

The name “Pentecost” comes from the Greek word meaning “fiftieth.” Like Easter, it is tied to a Jewish feast. 49 days (7 weeks, or “a week of weeks”) after the second day of Passover, the Jews celebrated the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot).

Passover celebrates the freeing of the Jews from slavery; Shavuot celebrates their becoming God’s holy people by the gift and acceptance of the Law; and the counting of the days to Shavuot symbolises their yearning for the Law.

From a strictly practical point of view, Shavuot was a very good time for the Holy Spirit to come down and inspire the Apostles to preach to all nations because, being a pilgrimage festival, it was an occasion when Jerusalem was filled with pilgrims from many countries.

Symbolically, the parallel with the Jews is exact. We are freed from the slavery of death and sin by Easter; with the Apostles, we spend some time as toddlers under the tutelage of the risen Jesus; and when he has left, the Spirit comes down on us and we become a Church.

-Universalis

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Acts 2:1-11

When Pentecost day came round, they had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.

Now there were devout men living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven, and at this sound they all assembled, each one bewildered to hear these men speaking his own language. They were amazed and astonished. ‘Surely’ they said ‘all these men speaking are Galileans? How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; people from Mesopotamia, Judaea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya round Cyrene; as well as visitors from Rome – Jews and proselytes alike – Cretans and Arabs; we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.’

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1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13

No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose.

Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.

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John 20:19-23

In the evening of the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’

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To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.

I am an adult convert to the Catholic faith, and I was baptised at a time when confirmation was held a year after baptism. I recall squirming nervously when my fellow catechumens swapped stories about the confirmation retreat – I imagined uncontrollable hysterics, a massive departure from the prosaic faith I thought I was being initiated into.

And because our God is a God of surprises and the Spirit is always working in us, eighteen years on, I now yearn deeply for the gift of tongues, just so that I can cross that liminal space between our good God and me in moments of worship and prayer, in humble recognition that language cannot adequately express my profound awe and gratitude for His abyssal love for me.

So what happened along the way? I was jolted from my routine faith by a personal tragedy, a devastating loss that showed God’s hand was, and is always, over me. Desiring Him intimately became a natural consequence of this newfound relationship. Gradually, I found my prayers moving from an intellectual acknowledgement of the presence of the divine, to interacting with God in them — meeting Him as a dear friend whom I can commiserate freely with and draw strength from, because He is in the midst of the panoply of all my relationships, struggles and dreams. And the Feast of Pentecost celebrates this reality — the mysterious movement of God in our lives through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

In the Gospel today, Jesus reminds us that as persons sacramentalised in the Spirit, we too have been sent forth to “renew the face of the earth”: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”   May the Holy Spirit be before you, behind you and within you, as you animate today and every day that Christ lives, proclaiming ‘the mighty acts of God’.

(Today’s Oxygen by Heng San San)

Thanksgiving – Most loving Father, thank you for always meeting me where I am. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit, who inspires, enlivens and renews me. Thank you for gifting us with the Spirit so that we may always draw close to You.

Prayer – Lord, help me to be ever docile to the gentle promptings of the Spirit, so that I can always find God in all things. I pray earnestly and humbly for the gifts of the Spirit, so that these may grace me to do your Kingdom work with courage and candour, helping those whom you place in my life journey to strive always and only towards You.

14 May, Saturday – Chosen Ones

May 14 – Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle

Matthias (d. 80) was an Apostle. As he could bear witness to the Resurrection of Jesus, he was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot. He preached the Gospel for more than 30 years in Judaea, Cappadocia, Egypt, and Ethopia. He is remembered for preaching the need for mortification of the flesh with regard to all its sensual and irregular desires. He was martyred in Colchis in AD 80 by stoning.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 1:15-17,20-26

One day Peter stood up to speak to the brothers – there were about a hundred and twenty persons in the congregation: ‘Brothers, the passage of scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit, speaking through David, foretells the fate of Judas, who offered himself as a guide to the men who arrested Jesus – after having been one of our number and actually sharing this ministry of ours. Now in the Book of Psalms it says:

Let someone else take his office.

‘We must therefore choose someone who has been with us the whole time that the Lord Jesus was travelling round with us, someone who was with us right from the time when John was baptising until the day when he was taken up from us – and he can act with us as a witness to his resurrection.’

Having nominated two candidates, Joseph known as Barsabbas, whose surname was Justus, and Matthias, they prayed, ‘Lord, you can read everyone’s heart; show us therefore which of these two you have chosen to take over this ministry and apostolate, which Judas abandoned to go to his proper place.’ They then drew lots for them, and as the lot fell to Matthias, he was listed as one of the twelve apostles.

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John 15:9-17

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘As the Father has loved me,
so I have loved you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this
so that my own joy may be in you
and your joy be complete.
This is my commandment:
love one another, as I have loved you.
A man can have no greater love
than to lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends,
if you do what I command you.
I shall not call you servants any more,
because a servant does not know
his master’s business;
I call you friends,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learnt from my Father.
You did not choose me:
no, I chose you;
and I commissioned you
to go out and to bear fruit,
fruit that will last;
and then the Father will give you
anything you ask him in my name.
What I command you
is to love one another.’

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I chose you.

About three months ago, my parish priest approached us to help chair the church annex building fundraising committee. I was a bit surprised as we have never been active in our parish (we serve at the Catholic Spirituality Centre instead); yet, saying ‘Yes’ came naturally and we got down to work immediately. After a few meetings, the seeds of a few initiatives have been sown and we are now gathering people to help us execute our ideas.

Being a ‘newbie’ to parish work, it has been interesting to sit in on meetings and observe how the priests go about their ‘work’, which would not be possible without the help of many lay persons and office staff who give so generously of their time without any expectation of anything in return. I have been truly humbled by this opportunity, yet at the same time, wary of the dynamics that go on between the different ministry leaders and volunteers.

Thankfully, the Lord has been gentle and kind enough to send different people our way. And just when I think that we ourselves would have to shoulder the burden of organising an event/dinner, a name or two pops up in our Inbox or we get a call from someone who has heard that we need volunteers. The Lord truly provides when we are engaged in his work and it has been extremely heartening to see the many labourers come forward to offer their talents and time to help us achieve our target.

We at Oxygen were worried towards the end of last year, when our stable of writers dwindled to a mere handful. Today, the Lord has multiplied the talent within our ministry and provided in abundance. I know that He has chosen us all, in spite of our shortcomings and anxieties, simply because He knows that we have a desire to share His word with anyone who yearns for it.

Brothers and sisters, as Christians, ours is life that is pre-ordained by our Maker. It is a life that He chooses for us and it is up to us to discern His will and to follow Him. And while we do have a multitude of choices to make in our lives, we must make them in the knowledge that God himself has chosen us to live out His plan on this earth.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer – Heavenly father, we thank you for choosing us to be your sons and daughters. Help us grow in your love as we encounter the obstacles and overcome setbacks while carrying the crosses that you so lovingly place on our shoulders, knowing full well that You will always have each of us in your loving heart. For we all are your chosen ones.

Thanksgiving – Thank you Father for sending us your Holy Spirit and for empowering us with your graces.

13 May, Friday – Do You Love Me?

13 May

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Acts 25:13-21

King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea and paid their respects to Festus. Their visit lasted several days, and Festus put Paul’s case before the king. ‘There is a man here’ he said ‘whom Felix left behind in custody, and while I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and elders of the Jews laid information against him, demanding his condemnation. But I told them that Romans are not in the habit of surrendering any man, until the accused confronts his accusers and is given an opportunity to defend himself against the charge. So they came here with me, and I wasted no time but took my seat on the tribunal the very next day and had the man brought in. When confronted with him, his accusers did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected; but they had some argument or other with him about their own religion and about a dead man called Jesus whom Paul alleged to be alive. Not feeling qualified to deal with questions of this sort, I asked him if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem to be tried there on this issue. But Paul put in an appeal for his case to be reserved for the judgement of the august emperor, so I ordered him to be remanded until I could send him to Caesar.’

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John 21:15-19

After Jesus had shown himself to his disciples and eaten with them, he said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’ Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.

‘I tell you most solemnly,
when you were young
you put on your own belt
and walked where you liked;
but when you grow old
you will stretch out your hands,
and somebody else will put a belt round you
and take you where you would rather not go.’

In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, ‘Follow me.’

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…do you love me more than these others do?

Today’s Gospel is a familiar one, where we read of Jesus asking Simon Peter three times, if he loved Him. One can possibly interpret this passage in a couple of ways, but today I feel this is the message I am called to share.  Every time Peter replies to Jesus, it isn’t just the reply but that there is an action/mission that needs to be taken. And that to me is an important part of loving the other. Loving is a choice.  A choice to do something for the other and not for oneself.

Even in the life of Peter, “In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God.” If we truly love Christ, we will be living for Christ.  To give Him glory. But the irony is that Christ lives for all. And so in living for Christ, we are also called to live for the people around us and that is usually our struggle.

When Christ says “For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Mt 25:41-45)

Our faith isn’t just based on prayers alone. Whether or not we love God, it isn’t just by words but really by action.  By our examples of how we live our lives by keeping His commandments and teachings. What we need to realise is the commandments and His teachings are not for us to please Him when we obey them, but it is more to help us love one another. To help us forgive the other. To help us be more aware.  To help us be Christ to others.

With this, let us answer the question above with the way we lead our lives. To lead others to love Christ and not just love us.  For our love is imperfect, but His is made perfect through Jesus. I love you Lord. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to learn by your example for when you said you love us, you died for us when You obeyed the will of your Father. Help us to die to ourselves, our pride, in order that we may not just love ourselves but love ourselves in order to love others. Love others not for them just to love us, but to love all, because they see you in us. Continue to protect us and guide us when society attacks us from every angle. But also give us the courage to allow you to shine in our lives and by our example. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus for the gift of your love and life to us even though we are unworthy and undeserving. Thank you for all the love you have shown me through those you place in my life.

12 May, Thursday – Courage

12 May – Memorial for Sts. Nereus and Achilleus, Martyrs; Memorial for St. Pancras, Martyr

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Acts 22:30,23:6-11

Since the tribune wanted to know what precise charge the Jews were bringing, he freed Paul and gave orders for a meeting of the chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin; then he brought Paul down and stood him in front of them. Now Paul was well aware that one section was made up of Sadducees and the other of Pharisees, so he called out in the Sanhedrin, ‘Brothers, I am a Pharisee and the son of Pharisees. It is for our hope in the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.’ As soon as he said this a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was split between the two parties. For the Sadducees say there is neither resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, while the Pharisees accept all three. The shouting grew louder, and some of the scribes from the Pharisees’ party stood up and protested strongly, ‘We find nothing wrong with this man. Suppose a spirit has spoken to him, or an angel?’ Feeling was running high, and the tribune, afraid that they would tear Paul to pieces, ordered his troops to go down and haul him out and bring him into the fortress.

Next night, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘Courage! You have borne witness for me in Jerusalem, now you must do the same in Rome.’

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John 17:20-26

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:

‘Holy Father,
I pray not only for these,
but for those also
who through their words will believe in me.
May they all be one.
Father, may they be one in us,
as you are in me and I am in you,
so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.
I have given them the glory you gave to me,
that they may be one as we are one.
With me in them and you in me,
may they be so completely one
that the world will realise that it was you who sent me
and that I have loved them as much as you loved me.
Father, I want those you have given me
to be with me where I am,
so that they may always see the glory you have given me
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Father, Righteous One,
the world has not known you,
but I have known you,
and these have known that you have sent me.
I have made your name known to them
and will continue to make it known,
so that the love with which you loved me may be in them,
and so that I may be in them.’

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…courage

What really struck me today, is that one word, “courage”. Oftentimes we fear the unknown, the future and its many uncertainties. We can plan all our lives and believe we are prepared for all outcomes, yet still be unsure when the time comes.  Sometimes we fail to confront or address the issues that are preventing us from moving on. We fail to accept our mistakes and continue to live in the past. Bury our regrets.  But what really happens when we bury our sins, regrets and hurts, is that they will always remain in us.  They will continue to affect us.  We end up living in the shadow of our past.

Seeing the word “courage”, made me want to encourage all who are suffering in silence. Because the truth is, it’s never about the past but whether we have learned and how we are going to improve. For mistakes are many and we will always continue to make them. But hopefully we also have the courage to admit our faults and failings and be more aware of our actions in the future.

Many of us also struggle with finding the courage to trust, to love and to forgive. We build walls around ourselves.  Wear many masks.  But eventually, we lose our identity and we lose ourselves.

Today let us embrace this word. Not just to be bold, but to take that leap of faith.  To believe in God. To believe in ourselves.  To believe that we can afford to lower our walls because God is our strength.  Lower our masks, because when others see us, it’s Christ they see. Embrace our failings and weaknesses, because they have brought us to where we are now. To move on, because we simply deserve better.

Let us not judge ourselves.  Let us give ourselves another chance and know we are all created good and in the image of Christ Himself. Let us find courage through Him. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, I pray that You be our courage in times when it seems that we are doing something that isn’t us or allowing something that isn’t right to happen. Lord, we need the courage because many times we simply prefer to choose the simpler way out. Dear Lord, give us wisdom to know how to act when it calls for us to be courageous.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for speaking to us today. We may not know what the future entails but we thank you for all the years we’ve managed to live. Thank you for Your courage at your passion and death.  May we continue to look to you in times of need.

11 May, Wednesday – Happiness

11 May

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Acts 20:28-38

Paul addressed these words to the elders of the church of Ephesus:

‘Be on your guard for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you the overseers, to feed the Church of God which he bought with his own blood. I know quite well that when I have gone fierce wolves will invade you and will have no mercy on the flock. Even from your own ranks there will be men coming forward with a travesty of the truth on their lips to induce the disciples to follow them. So be on your guard, remembering how night and day for three years I never failed to keep you right, shedding tears over each one of you. And now I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace that has power to build you up and to give you your inheritance among all the sanctified.

‘I have never asked anyone for money or clothes; you know for yourselves that the work I did earned enough to meet my needs and those of my companions. I did this to show you that this is how we must exert ourselves to support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, who himself said, “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.”’

When he had finished speaking he knelt down with them all and prayed. By now they were all in tears; they put their arms round Paul’s neck and kissed him; what saddened them most was his saying they would never see his face again. Then they escorted him to the ship.

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John 17:11-19

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:

‘Holy Father,
keep those you have given me true to your name,
so that they may be one like us.
While I was with them,
I kept those you had given me true to your name.
I have watched over them
and not one is lost
except the one who chose to be lost,
and this was to fulfil the scriptures.
But now I am coming to you
and while still in the world I say these things
to share my joy with them to the full.
I passed your word on to them,
and the world hated them,
because they belong to the world
no more than I belong to the world.
I am not asking you to remove them from the world,
but to protect them from the evil one.
They do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
Consecrate them in the truth;
your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,
I have sent them into the world,
and for their sake I consecrate myself
so that they too may be consecrated in truth.’

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“There is more happiness in giving than in receiving”

Reflecting upon the readings from today, the phrase above just really stood out for me. This especially in a world that has become so transactional – even when it comes to love. Before “investing” in something or a relationship, we need to ensure we are able to benefit. We need to be able to receive far more and be better off than without.

We also see this in our communities, whether we give feedback or even complain when our expectations/standards are not met. But how many of us have even contributed before we shoot away about how we haven’t received enough? Society has influenced us in such a way where giving can only happen after we have received.

Only when I have enough money, life is stable, and so I will then start supporting charities. Only when I’m the best in my field will I then consider helping others in their work. Unless you trust me, I won’t trust you. Unless I’ve seen a sign will I then believe that You are real?

Those are some of the things we might have thought of before or even mentioned to others. But the reality is if everyone simply just waits to receive, we are not going to receive anything if no one actually gives.

I am a firm believer of the statement above that giving in itself is a blessing. In order to give, we are already given. A change in mind set but a whole new different outlook on our own lives as a whole. Happiness can’t be bought. Happiness in a way is a choice. What we want versus what we need. If we already have what we need, why aren’t we happy? If we have attained what we wanted, why aren’t we happy? We desire more. The happiness that we have experienced may have only been temporary. Hence we continue to go on this search to find a happiness, but not yet realise what is the eternal happiness that we are searching for.

For me, it’s about making others happy. Knowing that I can make a difference in the lives of others. Giving. Not for anything in return but because I have already been given to. There is more happiness in giving than in receiving. Are we ready to give?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to see by Your example, by the giving of Your son, Jesus Christ. Give us the wisdom to see beyond materialism and to realise what is it we are in search of. Give us courage to be givers, not just of money and material goods, but givers of life and love. Amen.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to You for giving Jesus’ life for us on the cross and eventually by Your giving of the Holy Spirit. In that, we have already been given.

10 May, Tuesday – Glorify

10 May

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Acts 20:17-27

From Miletus Paul sent for the elders of the church of Ephesus. When they arrived he addressed these words to them:

‘You know what my way of life has been ever since the first day I set foot among you in Asia, how I have served the Lord in all humility, with all the sorrows and trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews. I have not hesitated to do anything that would be helpful to you; I have preached to you, and instructed you both in public and in your homes, urging both Jews and Greeks to turn to God and to believe in our Lord Jesus.

‘And now you see me a prisoner already in spirit; I am on my way to Jerusalem, but have no idea what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit, in town after town, has made it clear enough that imprisonment and persecution await me. But life to me is not a thing to waste words on, provided that when I finish my race I have carried out the mission the Lord Jesus gave me – and that was to bear witness to the Good News of God’s grace.

‘I now feel sure that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will ever see my face again. And so here and now I swear that my conscience is clear as far as all of you are concerned, for I have without faltering put before you the whole of God’s purpose.’

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John 17:1-11

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:

‘Father, the hour has come:
glorify your Son
so that your Son may glorify you;
and, through the power over all mankind that you have given him,
let him give eternal life to all those you have entrusted to him.
And eternal life is this:
to know you,
the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
I have glorified you on earth
and finished the work that you gave me to do.
Now, Father, it is time for you to glorify me
with that glory I had with you
before ever the world was.
I have made your name known
to the men you took from the world to give me.
They were yours and you gave them to me,
and they have kept your word.
Now at last they know
that all you have given me comes indeed from you;
for I have given them the teaching you gave to me,
and they have truly accepted this, that I came from you,
and have believed that it was you who sent me.
I pray for them;
I am not praying for the world
but for those you have given me,
because they belong to you:
all I have is yours
and all you have is mine,
and in them I am glorified.
I am not in the world any longer,
but they are in the world,
and I am coming to you.’

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And eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent… all I have is yours and all you have is mine and in them I am glorified.

How do we glorify God? Prayers? The Glory be? How did Jesus glorify His Father?  By accomplishing His Father’s will.  But before that, accepting the plan that the Father had for Him.  Jesus gave glory to His Father by His life, death and resurrection.

Are we glorifying God solely with prayers or by our lives/actions too? The reality is that it is always difficult to practice what we preach. Prayers alone won’t make any sense unless we live out our faith.  Many times we are trapped with seeking to glorify ourselves, sometimes unintentionally.  But it’s only human to desire recognition and appreciation. But more than that, we need to know as humans, we also yearn for love and acceptance. Not just temporary, but everlasting.

As in the first reading, Paul and Christ Himself, in the Gospel, are able to glorify God with their lives.  For they realise that all they have comes from the Father and is given from above. A struggle that many of us find it hard to reconcile.  Are we actually putting in effort in order to be able to live this life now, but yet all glory goes to God regardless?

I see this from the point of view where it serves as a reminder and even a prevention from falling into sin. Where we acknowledge His presence in our lives and not fall into the sin of pride. When we say we live our lives for God, we are actually saying we live our lives for all, for everyone.

Let us cherish this life that we have, to use our gifts to glorify God, in a way where we can live our lives to the fullest. God doesn’t need us to glorify Him.  But in doing so, we are living life to the fullest…. a life that blesses us with love and acceptance.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, may your glory continue to shine in our lives as we seek to glorify you in all that we do and say. All glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit… as it was in the beginning, now and forever shall be.  World without end. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for showing us the way, the truth, the life. Thank you Lord for always accepting and loving us first. Amen.

 

9 May, Monday – Come, Holy Spirit

9 May

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Acts 19:1-8

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul made his way overland as far as Ephesus, where he found a number of disciples. When he asked, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ they answered, ‘No, we were never even told there was such a thing as a Holy Spirit.’ ‘Then how were you baptised?’ he asked. ‘With John’s baptism’ they replied. ‘John’s baptism’ said Paul ‘was a baptism of repentance; but he insisted that the people should believe in the one who was to come after him – in other words, Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus, and the moment Paul had laid hands on them the Holy Spirit came down on them, and they began to speak with tongues and to prophesy. There were about twelve of these men.

He began by going to the synagogue, where he spoke out boldly and argued persuasively about the kingdom of God. He did this for three months.

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John 16:29-33

His disciples said to Jesus, ‘Now you are speaking plainly and not using metaphors! Now we see that you know everything, and do not have to wait for questions to be put into words; because of this we believe that you came from God.’ Jesus answered them:

‘Do you believe at last?
Listen; the time will come – in fact it has come already –
when you will be scattered,
each going his own way and leaving me alone.
And yet I am not alone,
because the Father is with me.
I have told you all this
so that you may find peace in me.
In the world you will have trouble,
but be brave: I have conquered the world.’

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… and leaving me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.

Today we are reminded of our Baptism, it isn’t just that we are blessed with water or oils but truly the Holy Spirit. The receiving of the Holy Spirit at our Baptism… it isn’t just a ceremony where we are declared officially but, more than that. We are renewed. We are empowered. We have a mission. We have a purpose. We are part of a greater community. We will never be alone.

In our world today, we face many times with the feeling of loneliness. When we don’t have friends around us, we feel we are not loved. That we are not good enough or inadequate. That we are missing out on life. Indeed, it is easy to say God is always with us and we shouldn’t feel lonely. Maybe we can ask ourselves where is it we’re heading? Whether being with friends actually help us be less lonely or is the feelings simply temporary?

Christ understood His mission. He appointed twelve disciples. Yet, He eventually completed His mission alone, on the cross. But He was never alone as He was aware of His mission, given by His Father.

His life, our example. His death, our salvation. It isn’t that we will never feel lonely, but a knowing that whenever we do feel so, we are reminded of Him and our Mission.

As we approach Pentecost, we look forward to an empowerment, a renewal, a new stirring for “In the world you will have trouble, but be brave: I have conquered the world.” (Jn 16:33)

Let us conquer our fears, better our weaknesses, pardon sinners and love all. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Holy Spirit, we pray for your guidance for a greater awareness of You in our lives. May we remain faithful and do Your will in our daily lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Holy Spirit, for the many gifts you have bestowed upon us. Thank You for being with us even when we fail to recognise you. Thank you for your protection.