17 March, Friday – Living Responsible Lives

17 Mar – Memorial for St. Patrick, bishop

St. Patrick (387-390 – 461-464) was kidnapped from the British mainland when he was about 16, and shipped to Ireland as a slave. He was sent to the mountains as a shepherd, and spent his time in prayer. After six years of this life, he had a dream in which he was commanded to return to Britain. Seeing it as a sign, he escaped.

He studied in several monasteries in Europe. He was a priest, then a bishop. He was sent by Pope St. Celestine to evangelize England, then Ireland, during which his chariot driver was St. Odran, and St. Jarlath was one of his spiritual students.

In 33 years, he effectively converted Ireland. In the Middle Ages, Ireland become known as the ‘Land of Saints’, and during the Dark Ages, its monasteries were the great repositories of learning in Europe, all a consequence of Patrick’s ministry.

Christ shield me this day:
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me

– Saint Patrick, from his breastplate

  • Patron Saint Index

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

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

They saw him in the distance, and before he reached them they made a plot among themselves to put him to death. ‘Here comes the man of dreams’ they said to one another. ‘Come on, let us kill him and throw him into some well; we can say that a wild beast devoured him. Then we shall see what becomes of his dreams.’
But Reuben heard, and he saved him from their violence. ‘We must not take his life’ he said. ‘Shed no blood,’ said Reuben to them ‘throw him into this well in the wilderness, but do not lay violent hands on him’ – intending to save him from them and to restore him to his father. So, when Joseph reached his brothers, they pulled off his coat, the coat with long sleeves that he was wearing, and catching hold of him they threw him into the well, an empty well with no water in it. They then sat down to eat.

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

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

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Matthew 21:33-43,45-46

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, ‘Listen to another parable. There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad. When vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son” he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance.” So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They answered, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:

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

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

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

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

As a parent, we often cringe when we see our children make decisions which we think may not be correct. We jump in, trying hard to guide them into making right ones, cajoling, encouraging and sometimes even threatening them; then sit back when they see the folly of their potentially (wrong) decisions.

Yet, it is not possible to do so, especially when they become older. Many times, they will willfully disregard your counsel and insist on their ways. For the ‘tiger parents’ among us, this would probably end up in very robust confrontations and fights. How difficult it is being parents!

What struck me about today’s gospel is that we have a God who does not do that. Whatever our decision and thoughts, God’s voice comes in a whisper through the Holy Spirit and we are free to do whatever we decide, guided by our conscience.

Another thing that struck me was in the first reading, which relates how Joseph came to be sold into slavery into Egypt.

Beginning as a slave, Joseph ended up becoming a very powerful man in Egypt, second only to the Pharoah. He certainly did not have the smoothest of paths getting there. He did not have vast riches in the beginning and had to endure many hardships.

Similarly, doing God’s will does not ensure that everything will be given us automatically. Success does not mean that God would give us vast amounts of wealth and power. Success should not equate to a smooth road, and it does not mean that without these, we are not blessed by Him.

Let us pray to our Father God, that we would always be open to His guidance and gentle cajoling, and that whatever our circumstances, we have been given the gift of eternal life. Whatever station we find ourselves in life, we must remember that we are blessed with His love.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Lord, help us to believe and depend on You completely. We pray that we will exercise our free will responsibly and with love.

ThanksgivingThank you Father, for allowing us to make our own choices. Thank you for being there, whatever the circumstances, as You were there with Joseph as he lived his life in slavery.

16 March, Thursday – True Wealth

16 March 2017

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Jeremiah 17:5-10

The Lord says this:

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

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

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

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Luke 16:19-31

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

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

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

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“A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord, with the Lord for his hope.”

A number of years ago, I spent a week in Mumbai in India for work. Every day, I would take a walk from the hotel I was staying in to my office.  This was a 15-minute walk filled with interesting sights and sounds.

One of the things I observed was that many of the poor were on the streets, living in little tents in huge groups. Interspersed between these dwellings were huge, beautiful and ornately-built homes and within these houses were exotic cars and stretch limousines. Very often, I saw these cars stop by the roadside, offloading their spiffily-dressed passengers on their way for dinner at the top restaurants.  I remember these scenes vividly in my mind, almost as though it happened yesterday.

Over the years, I have interacted with the well-to-do from Mumbai and very often, the discussion would go back to what I had seen. Many of these affluent people shared with me their views that they thought that the poor in India were indeed a ‘problem’.

Yet, when I was there, I was given clear instructions to ignore these poor when in the streets.  I was to simply look straight and walk and under no circumstances was I to ever engage with them.

These scenes are what I see when I read the passage about Lazarus and these rich people. How difficult it must be for either to reach out to the other! I wondered, many times, whether wealth and riches hindered rather than helped one to reach heaven.

I have seen people who have deliberately taken a step back from their wealth, choosing to give chunks of it away to help others. While obviously less wealthy, these people have become happier and more connected with God.

Jesus teaches us that if we choose detachment from our ‘things’ and ‘wealth’, we become more connected with those in need around us. May we always turn to God for our needs, rather than to our earthly possessions.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Lord, help us to never put our things above people. May we always be reminded that it is You who provides for all our needs.

ThanksgivingThank You Jesus, for giving us all we have. Thank you for the people you surround us with and for the love we receive from them.

15 March, Wednesday – Servant Leadership

15 March 2017

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Jeremiah 18:18-20

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

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

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Matthew 20:17-28

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

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

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

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“…anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant…”

Growing up with my grandaunt, one of the bad behaviours I had as a child was a difficulty in telling the truth whenever I got into trouble.

One of the incidents that I can remember vividly was me being in my grandaunt’s room. I was in there with a child (I think he was something like 2 or 3 years old then) and he was basically minding his own business. Intrigued by a glass thermometer, I was playing with it and trying to send the mercury level up when I smashed it against a table, sending glass shards all over the room.

Afraid to be punished, I immediately pointed the finger at the boy (whom I knew would never be punished) and got off scot-free.

Thankfully, over the years, I learned what it meant to take responsibility for one’s actions.

In life, however, many ‘leaders’ fail to live up to the true meaning of ‘leadership’ and ‘responsibility’.  Many seek to enjoy the perks, but refuse to accept the accompanying responsibilities.

Jesus, in the gospel, teaches the Zebedee brothers what it means to be a true leader. He teaches them, and us, that true leadership is not about lording it over others. Instead, being a true leader is about serving others humbly, without ego and the desire to be the most powerful. True leadership is self-sacrificial.

This teaching of Jesus goes against the worldly view of leadership. May our Lord continue to guide us towards becoming truly worthy to sit by His side.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer May we learn to be humble as we walk towards Your kingdom, O Lord.  Help us to give of ourselves more each day.

ThanksgivingThank you Father, for teaching us the meaning of leadership. We appreciate You for showing us that we should not be seeking riches and recognition as we learn to truly serve others.

14 March, Tuesday – Being Led by the True North Star

14 March 2017

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Isaiah 1:10,16-20

Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom;
listen to the command of our God,
you people of Gomorrah.

‘Wash, make yourselves clean.
Take your wrong-doing out of my sight.
Cease to do evil.
Learn to do good,
search for justice,
help the oppressed,
be just to the orphan,
plead for the widow.

‘Come now, let us talk this over,
says the Lord.
Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.

‘If you are willing to obey,
you shall eat the good things of the earth.
But if you persist in rebellion,
the sword shall eat you instead.’

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Matthew 23:1-12

Addressing the people and his disciples Jesus said, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses. You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practise what they preach. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they! Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader phylacteries and longer tassels, like wanting to take the place of honour at banquets and the front seats in the synagogues, being greeted obsequiously in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi.

‘You, however, must not allow yourselves to be called Rabbi, since you have only one master, and you are all brothers. You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor must you allow yourselves to be called teachers, for you have only one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.’

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“… do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do…”

As a father to 2 children, I learnt very early on that children are keen observers of your behavior.  They will first listen to what you have to say, but very quickly, they will pick up any difference between what you say and what you actually do.

When both my children were very young, we set strict rules that all forms of eating were to be done in the dining room, including the consumption of potato chips, drinks and other forms of titbits.  This went well for a period of time, until the time we forgot and my wife and I opened a pack of chips to go along with the movie we were watching in our bedroom.

In the midst of watching the movie, our children walked into the room and stood still as they looked at us, wide-eyed…. When we finally heard the dreaded words: “Dad and Mum.. I thought you said that we were ALL not supposed to eat in our rooms?”

Oops. Needless to say, chip-eating in the bedroom became common place in our household.

In essence, this is what human nature is all about. We are always (whether consciously or unconsciouly) reconciling what people say and what they do, and are quick to pounce on any dissonance between the two. If someone in authority breaks the rules, who are they to tell us to follow the same rules?  This is what is commonly seen in society, in the workplace and in the political arena.

In today’s gospel reading, our Lord Jesus talks about that. Rather than be outward-looking, He exhorts us to look within; to be guided by our faith and by our conscience. He asks us to always strive to do the right thing, and not be led to do wrong just because others choose to do the wrong thing.  Imagine what our world would have been like had Adam chosen not to do as Eve did.

Let us pray that we will always be led by the Spirit to do what is right in God’s eyes.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father God, we pray that you may strengthen us through the Holy Spirit and that you will always be our compass, leading our thoughts and works. We pray that in our weakness, we may always repent and turn to you.

ThanksgivingThank you Father, for sending your son Jesus to not just die for us, but also show us how to live.

13 March, Monday – Do Not Judge

13 March 2017

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Daniel 9:4-10

O Lord, God great and to be feared, you keep the covenant and have kindness for those who love you and keep your commandments: we have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly, we have betrayed your commandments and your ordinances and turned away from them. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. Integrity, Lord, is yours; ours the look of shame we wear today, we, the people of Judah, the citizens of Jerusalem, the whole of Israel, near and far away, in every country to which you have dispersed us because of the treason we have committed against you.

To us, Lord, the look of shame belongs, to our kings, our princes, our ancestors, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God mercy and pardon belong, because we have betrayed him, and have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God nor followed the laws he has given us through his servants the prophets.

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Luke 6:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.’

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“Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate”

Thanks to the invention of the mobile phone, or more specifically, the camera on the mobile phone, more and more of us are now taking photographs.  Very often, when we are out with friends or family, we whip out our phones and capture the moment for posterity. This is commonly known as taking a ‘selfie’.

The other way the camera is used is the traditional way. Once we take the photos, we use filters to change how the photos look… and when they look good enough, they are posted onto social media. If people like what they see, they will choose to ‘like’ or ‘love’ the photos.  In effect, by posting these onto social media, the photos are in effect subject to public judgement.

Similarly, we look at what is happening around us and tend to pass judgement. As human beings, we look at situations and sub-consciously attribute a story behind the happenings. It is part of the human condition that we have these ‘shortcuts’ to help us interpret the world around us.

Our Lord teaches us not to do this in today’s gospel passage. As an analogy, rather than looking at the photos that others post and casting a critical eye over them, the passage teaches us not to be judgemental. Instead, we should be like someone taking a ‘selfie’. The filter we should be applying should be coming from Christ and the Bible.  When we look at these ‘selfies’, we should, in fact, be looking at our imperfections and looking to change for the better.

Let us pray for humility and the kindness for others.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer We pray for the gift of gentleness and kindness for others.

ThanksgivingThank you Father, for giving us a conscience; in order to help us look at which aspects of ourselves to be able to improve.

12 March, Sunday – Faith-Driven Action

12 March 2017

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Genesis 12:1-4

The Lord said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name so famous that it will be used as a blessing.

‘I will bless those who bless you:
I will curse those who slight you.
All the tribes of the earth
shall bless themselves by you.’

So Abram went as the Lord told him.

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2 Timothy 1:8-10

With me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy – not because of anything we ourselves have done but for his own purpose and by his own grace. This grace had already been granted to us, in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time, but it has only been revealed by the Appearing of our saviour Christ Jesus. He abolished death, and he has proclaimed life and immortality through the Good News.

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Matthew 17:1-9

Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone. There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them; they were talking with him. Then Peter spoke to Jesus. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’

He was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud covered them with shadow, and from the cloud there came a voice which said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.’ When they heard this the disciples fell on their faces overcome with fear. But Jesus came up and touched them. ‘Stand up,’ he said ‘do not be afraid.’ And when they raised their eyes they saw no one but only Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain Jesus gave them this order, ‘Tell no one about the vision until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.’

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“So Abram went as the Lord told him”

I first started going to church in my late teens and joined the choir.  I found that I really enjoyed singing and had been told I had a good singing voice.  I also learned to play the guitar and was progressing well.  A priest, who shall remain unnamed, thought I had what it took to join the church’s music ministry.

I felt really happy to have been ‘selected’, and I had, indeed, planned to go try out for a spot. Days turned to weeks, weeks to months and months to years, and I ended up not going for the auditions. All good intentions remained only that, only intentions.

Fast forward to today, and my daughter is at the age I was when I first discovered I enjoyed singing.  Her passion, however, is with musicals and plays.  She knows the histories and backstories of the different musicals. She knows about the actors and actresses, which troupes they worked with and what roles they were best in.  Before I knew it, she had signed up to volunteer with a professional theatre company and had thrown herself headlong into her passion.

In the first reading of today, Abram was asked by God to leave his country, father’s home and his own family. What a big ask! Imagine that! Abram had no detailed plans from God; he didn’t know where to go and what exactly was going to happen to him. Yes, despite this, Abram did as he was told. All he had was faith and his willingness to act on God’s promptings and instructions.

Today’s readings tell that He needs us to take action when we receive His promptings. Without us taking the first step, God would not be able to work through us, nor for us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father God, we pray that we will always have courage to act on Your promptings. Give us strength O God.

ThanksgivingThank You, Father God, for always sending Your Spirit to be there with us. Thank you for blessing us always with Your love and constant guidance and protection.

11 March, Saturday – Love triumphs hate

11 March 2017

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Deuteronomy 26:16-19

Moses said to the people: ‘The Lord your God today commands you to observe these laws and customs; you must keep and observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.
‘You have today made this declaration about the Lord: that he will be your God, but only if you follow his ways, keep his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and listen to his voice. And the Lord has today made this declaration about you: that you will be his very own people as he promised you, but only if you keep all his commandments; then for praise and renown and honour he will set you high above all the nations he has made, and you will be a people consecrated to the Lord, as he promised.’

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Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

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… [L]ove your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

Hatred is like a parasite which feeds on the energy within the hearts of people and causes much grief. Whilst some parasites do not announce their presence, the host will eventually wear out and disappear. The readings of today remind us of the need to stay close to God and to allow Him to be the centre of our lives and actions.

Jesus reminds us of the need to be counter-intutive to the ways of the world. As children who are believers of the light, we need to realise that our lives are being held to account by non-believers. They look to us for examples of how to behave and can be quite cruel if they find out that our behaviours do not align with the beliefs we are supposed to hold. The Jews were reminded by Moses of the need to remain faithful to the Lord so that the people will be consecrated by God. I believe that we also need to remind ourselves that we have been separated for a very unique and special purpose which God has planned for us.

As we come to the end of the first week of Lent, we are in a very special time to pause and ask God what exactly do we need to do to be closer to Him in His journey towards Calvary? What are the issues and challenges in our lives which we need to let go of so that He can come in? In this point of reflection, we can then discover what it means to stay closer to God and how we can then demonstrate to the world the wonderful love which God has shown us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace to be honest in our failings and be courageous in facing them.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who love us.

10 March, Friday – Gentleness and Compassion

10 March 2017

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Ezekiel 18:21-28

Thus says the Lord:
‘If the wicked man renounces all the sins he has committed, respects my laws and is law-abiding and honest, he will certainly live; he will not die. All the sins he committed will be forgotten from then on; he shall live because of the integrity he has practised. What! Am I likely to take pleasure in the death of a wicked man – it is the Lord who speaks – and not prefer to see him renounce his wickedness and live?

‘But if the upright man renounces his integrity, commits sin, copies the wicked man and practises every kind of filth, is he to live? All the integrity he has practised shall be forgotten from then on; but this is because he himself has broken faith and committed sin, and for this he shall die. But you object, “What the Lord does is unjust.”

Listen, you House of Israel: is what I do unjust? Is it not what you do that is unjust? When the upright man renounces his integrity to commit sin and dies because of this, he dies because of the evil that he himself has committed. When the sinner renounces sin to become law-abiding and honest, he deserves to live. He has chosen to renounce all his previous sins; he shall certainly live; he shall not die.’

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Matthew 5:20-26

Jesus said to his disciples, If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire.

So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.’

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Am I likely to take pleasure in the death of a wicked man?

There are some who believe that the death penalty is a sentence which can be used to ensure that people who have committed much evil be punished. It appears to be the suitable punishment for a person that has done something terrible. However, the readings of today allow us to see a different perspective – one which is filled with love and kindness.

Ezekiel’s message may seem contrary to the Jews at a point in time where they expected everything to follow the principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The love of God transcends this principle because we are all God’s children. It is not his point to see us die. No parent would like to see their child die because of the transgressions which they have done. Instead, they would rather the child repent and return to them; always willing to forgive the faults of the child.

God calls us to live a life which is in line with what He wants for us. Sometimes we think we know better than Him but in reality, we feel we know better. In this season of Lent, sometimes we feel that the resolutions we make are not being met and this causes us to despair and falter. Let us not lose heart but instead, ask God to grant us the grace to be able to accept the frailty of our wounded selves and make us whole again.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for your healing power to make us whole.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who journey with those who face struggles in their daily lives.

9 March, Thursday – In God we Trust

9 Mar – Memorial for St. Frances of Rome, religious

St. Frances (1384-1440) was an aristocrat by birth. She married at the age of 12, and her marriage lasted 40 years. She was a mother of three before becoming a widow. She joined the Benedictines, and was the foundress of the ‘Oblates of the Tor de’ Specchi’ (Collatines). She is said to have been guided by an archangel only she could see. She spent her life and fortune, both as a laywoman and a religious, in the service of the sick and the poor, including the founding of the first home in Rome for abandoned children. She dictated 97 ‘Visions’, in which she saw the many pains of Hell.

On her feast day, priests bless cars due to her patronage of cars and drivers. Frances certainly never drove, but legend says that when she went abroad at night, her guardian angel went before her lighting the road with a headlight-live lantern, keeping her safe in her travels.

Prayer to St. Frances

Dear Frances, you were an exemplary wife, ever faithful to your husband. After his death, you founded and governed the Congregation of Mount Olivet, revealing your great devotion to our Lord’s Passion. Your faith in Angels was rewarded by frequent visions of them. Please pray for Catholics in our day that they may be as dedicated to God as you were. Amen.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Esther 4:17

Queen Esther took refuge with the Lord in the mortal peril which had overtaken her. She besought the Lord God of Israel in these words:

‘My Lord, our King, the only one,
come to my help, for I am alone
and have no helper but you
and am about to take my life in my hands.

‘I have been taught from my earliest years, in the bosom of my family,
that you, Lord, chose
Israel out of all the nations
and our ancestors out of all the people of old times
to be your heritage for ever;
and that you have treated them as you promised.

‘Remember, Lord; reveal yourself
in the time of our distress.

‘As for me, give me courage,
King of gods and master of all power.
Put persuasive words into my mouth
when I face the lion;
change his feeling into hatred for our enemy,
that the latter and all like him may be brought to their end.

‘As for ourselves, save us by your hand,
and come to my help, for I am alone
and have no one but you, Lord.’

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Matthew 7:7-12

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. Is there a man among you who would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or would hand him a snake when he asked for a fish? If you, then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
‘So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.’

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Remember Lord; reveal yourself in the time of our distress.

I have been asked where God is in our lives during the moments where we are down, or going through a difficult patch in our lives. We face various challenges at work or at home and sometimes, all these come along together to make our lives seemingly unbearable. Yet the readings of today remind us that God always hears our prayers; though his response to us may not be in our desired manner.

Esther was facing a situation where the Jews were about to be eliminated because of the evil plot of Haman. She knew that it fell upon her to become the person to speak up for the entire Jewish race and she did indeed go about doing so, at risk to her personal life. It is her strong faith in God which allowed her to continue with what she needed to do. Having faith in God is important because it allows us to entrust to the good Lord all the issues which we are struggling with.

Jesus reminds us that the Heavenly Father wants the best of us. We may not be able to see it in our lives but when we look back, the various events which have occurred in our lives which have brought us to where we are, is a possible opportunity for us to trust God to make a decision which will be in line with His plans. Let us now take this opportunity to enter into a deep reflection and converse with God on what He wants for us, and grant us the strength to accept the plans He has for us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear God, we pray for strength to accept your will for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who show us what it means to give up everything for God.

8 March, Wednesday – Compassion and Love

8 Mar – Memorial for St. John of God, religious

Juan (1495-1550) grew up working as a shepherd in the Castile region of Spain. He led a wild and misspent youth, travelling over much of Europe and North Africa as a soldier in the army of Charles V, and a mercenary. He fought through a brief period of insanity. He peddled religious books and pictures in Gibraltar, though without any religious conviction himself.

In his 40s, he received a vision of the Infant Jesus who called him ‘John of God’. To make up for the misery he had caused as a soldier, he left the military, rented a house in Granada, Spain, and began caring for the sick, poor, homeless and unwanted. He gave what he had, begged for those who couldn’t, carried those who could not move on their own, and converted both his patients and those who saw him work with them.

He was a friend of St. John of Avila, on whom he tried to model his life. John founded the Order of Charity and the Order of Hospitalers of St. John of God.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Jonah 3:1-10

The word of the Lord was addressed a second time to Jonah: ‘Up!’ he said ‘Go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach to them as I told you to.’ Jonah set out and went to Nineveh in obedience to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was a city great beyond compare: it took three days to cross it. Jonah went on into the city, making a day’s journey. He preached in these words, ‘Only forty days more and Nineveh is going to be destroyed.’ And the people of Nineveh believed in God; they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least.

The news reached the king of Nineveh, who rose from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth and sat down in ashes. A proclamation was then promulgated throughout Nineveh, by decree of the king and his ministers, as follows: ‘Men and beasts, herds and flocks, are to taste nothing; they must not eat, they must not drink water. All are to put on sackcloth and call on God with all their might; and let everyone renounce his evil behaviour and the wicked things he has done. Who knows if God will not change his mind and relent, if he will not renounce his burning wrath, so that we do not perish?’

God saw their efforts to renounce their evil behaviour, and God relented: he did not inflict on them the disaster which he had threatened.

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Luke 11:29-32

The crowds got even bigger and Jesus addressed them, ‘This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign. The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.

On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.’

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God saw their efforts to renounce their evil behaviour, and God relented.

I am always intrigued by the television dramas which feature the lives of the imperial family of the various Chinese dynasties. There is a usual punishment where the entire clan of the offender is killed. It is the way the Emperor exerts his influence and prevents any possible threat of revenge from coming along. Perhaps the readings of today are instructive to us regarding the unnecessary need to begrudge the woes of our enemies and, instead, to focus on the sincere desire to repent.

God the Father loves His children but Prophet Jonah felt that He was too merciful. I sometimes do have this Jonah complex, where I believe in the mercy of God but wish ill upon my enemies. This season of Lent is a good opportunity for us to reflect upon the need to be empathetic to the people around us. All of us are facing tough and difficult challenges at work and in our personal lives. We need to learn from God to be gentle and forgiving to all who hurt us because sometimes, they may not know what they are doing.

Jesus said that this was a wicked generation and sometimes I feel that it is due to the fact that we do not recognise that the kingdom of God is near at hand and, in fact, is amongst us. We look for extraordinary signs for indications of something wonderful which will happen in our lives but perhaps God is acting in our lives now. The gift of health and life, the gift of speech, the opportunity to repent in the midst of the evil before us are all chances that we have to enjoy the mercy of God. We who desire this mercy of God must then, in turn, extend it to the people around us. As we enter into the middle of the first week of Lent, let us take time to pause to encounter the Lord Jesus in the silence of our hearts.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear God, we pray for the grace to forgive all who have hurt us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who help us see the light of forgiveness.