Tag Archives: annette soo

5 August, Sunday – Heavenly Crumbs

5 August 

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Exodus 16:2-4,12-15

The whole community of the sons of Israel began to complain against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness and said to them, ‘Why did we not die at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we were able to sit down to pans of meat and could eat bread to our heart’s content! As it is, you have brought us to this wilderness to starve this whole company to death!’

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now I will rain down bread for you from the heavens. Each day the people are to go out and gather the day’s portion; I propose to test them in this way to see whether they will follow my law or not.

‘I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel. Say this to them, “Between the two evenings you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have bread to your heart’s content. Then you will learn that I, the Lord, am your God.”’

And so it came about: quails flew up in the evening, and they covered the camp; in the morning there was a coating of dew all round the camp. When the coating of dew lifted, there on the surface of the desert was a thing delicate, powdery, as fine as hoarfrost on the ground. When they saw this, the sons of Israel said to one another, ‘What is that?’ not knowing what it was. ‘That’ said Moses to them ‘is the bread the Lord gives you to eat.’

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Ephesians 4:30-5:2

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God who has marked you with his seal for you to be set free when the day comes. Never have grudges against others, or lose your temper, or raise your voice to anybody, or call each other names, or allow any sort of spitefulness. Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ.

Try, then, to imitate God as children of his that he loves and follow Christ loving as he loved you, giving himself up in our place as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God.

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John 6:41-51

The Jews were complaining to each other about Jesus, because he had said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ ‘Surely this is Jesus son of Joseph’ they said. ‘We know his father and mother. How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ Jesus said in reply, ‘Stop complaining to each other.

‘No one can come to me
unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me,
and I will raise him up at the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They will all be taught by God,
and to hear the teaching of the Father,
and learn from it,
is to come to me.
Not that anybody has seen the Father,
except the one who comes from God:
he has seen the Father.
I tell you most solemnly,
everybody who believes has eternal life.

‘I am the bread of life.
Your fathers ate the manna in the desert
and they are dead;
but this is the bread that comes down from heaven,
so that a man may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh,
for the life of the world.’

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I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation.

We’ve heard of the saying we lead by example. Our children see how we act and mimic our ways, good or bad, to our amazement sometimes. We may not be entirely conscious of this but every day, every moment, someone is observing us, and vice versa, and observers make judgments. We emulate, or criticize, we applaud or abhor.

God wants us to lead lives dedicated to Him, and in unity not just with the Holy Trinity, but with each and every one of us. The values that St Paul exhorts to in his letter to the Ephesians – charity, selflessness, gentleness, patience – are borne out of love… for God and for each other. If our lives reflect love, then people who observe us may be drawn to emulate the love, and in due course, come to know Christ Jesus. In such a way, then is our faith multiplied.

When Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves, he not only wanted to feed his people, he wanted them to understand and believe in the power of God: “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves” (John 14:11). He wanted them to have faith that even in such a tight situation with so little at hand, God would provide for the many thousands. He wanted them to look beyond the miracle and look for God in the miracle.

I believe that Jesus escaped into the hills on his own when he realized the people’s intention to crown him as king, because then they would see a figurehead and not the Divine God. They would miss the message. Perhaps as well, he wanted them to reflect on the works that he had done and the miracles they had seen, on their own and based on their own understanding. If the people understood and believed in God, then they would live their lives for God, multiplying their faith and others as well.

We may not see miracles such as these, but there are miracles happening around us every day if we look. God is present in each of these miracles. Let us learn to look for God in every miracle that we encounter.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, help us to live lives of love, worthy to be called children of God, that others may see and learn about You and Your unending love. Help us in our own ways, to multiply our faith.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to God Almighty for the wondrous miracles that He performs every day, from the moment we awake till we close our eyes.

4 Aug, Saturday – Hearing But Not Listening

Aug 4 – Memorial for St. John Mary Vianney, priest

In his youth, John Mary Vianney (1786-1859) taught other children their prayers and catechism. As a priest, was assigned to a parish which suffered from very lax attendance. He began visiting his parishioners, especially the sick and poor, spent days in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, did penance for his parishioners, and led his people by example. Crowds came to hear him preach, and to make their reconciliation because of his reputation with penitents.

He has been declared patron saint for all priests.

– Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 26:11-16,24

The priests and prophets addressed the officials and all the people, ‘This man deserves to die, since he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.’ Jeremiah, however, replied to the people as follows:

‘The Lord himself sent me to say all the things you have heard against this Temple and this city. So now amend your behaviour and actions, listen to the voice of the Lord your God: if you do, he will relent and not bring down on you the disaster he has pronounced against you. For myself, I am as you see in your hands. Do whatever you please or think right with me. But be sure of this, that if you put me to death, you will be bringing innocent blood on yourselves, on this city and on its citizens, since the Lord has truly sent me to you to say all these words in your hearing.’

The officials and all the people then said to the priests and prophets, ‘This man does not deserve to die: he has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.’

Jeremiah had a protector in Ahikam son of Shaphan, so he was not handed over to the people to be put to death.

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Matthew 14:1-12

Herod the tetrarch heard about the reputation of Jesus, and said to his court, ‘This is John the Baptist himself; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.’

Now it was Herod who had arrested John, chained him up and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. For John had told him, ‘It is against the Law for you to have her.’ He had wanted to kill him but was afraid of the people, who regarded John as a prophet. Then, during the celebrations for Herod’s birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and so delighted Herod that he promised on oath to give her anything she asked. Prompted by her mother she said, ‘Give me John the Baptist’s head, here, on a dish.’ The king was distressed but, thinking of the oaths he had sworn and of his guests, he ordered it to be given her, and sent and had John beheaded in the prison. The head was brought in on a dish and given to the girl who took it to her mother. John’s disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went off to tell Jesus.

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“For in truth it was the Lord who sent me to you, to speak all these things for you to hear.”

Now that my son has reached toddler-hood, it has taught me a thing or two about parenting. I’m far from being the perfect parent, but if trying to raise one toddler is a challenge, imagine shepherding an entire unruly flock that does not listen. I have to mean what I say, else my son would never take me seriously, or worse, step all over me. If I threaten a punishment, I would have to really do as I say. If I promise a reward, likewise I would have to follow through with a treat. He has learnt that I really do mean business, and is learning to make his choices and check his boundaries.

I suppose we are like this too — when God speaks to us we sometimes do not listen. We question and ‘check’ our boundaries too, sometimes with undesirable consequences, but we – like our children – learn that there are consequences to our actions and boundaries that we should not cross. We know all too well what happened to the Israelites following their exodus from Egypt, when they disregarded God and worshipped a golden calf instead. You would imagine that after witnessing God’s miracles first-hand, they would be fully converted. But there were still the few whose hearts were hardened. Similarly, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart despite calamity after calamity until the ultimate sacrifice – the Egyptians’ first-born – was paid. Even in the reading of Jeremiah, he had warned that if the people of Jehoiakim did not repent their evil ways, misfortune and ruin of their city would befall them, as did the city of Shiloh hundreds of years before them.

History repeats itself yes, and sometimes we may have to be reminded several times before we take action or learn our lesson. If there are parents amongst you, you would only know too well the phrase, “I told you so!” or “Didn’t I tell you…?” or “Why don’t you ever listen?”. Maybe it is human nature to have selective hearing, or it is just the curious part of us trying to see how far we can push the line. We should be wiser, with the wisdom of hindsight and learning from our ancestors, but we never really are. But we can be, by asking God to open our hearts and exploring a deeper relationship with Him. If we have not built a bond with God, it is less likely that we would want to listen to someone that we are not close to, and even if we did listen, we would tune out almost immediately rather than being genuinely interested with what He had to say. God’s message is always to help us, not harm us. It is when we try to mix in our motives to justify what we think God is trying to tell us, that the message gets muddled up.

Let us then pray for the wisdom of discernment and the ability to drown out the ‘noise’ so that we can hear clearly when God speaks to us. Too long now have we had a one-way conversation with God, where we have been the ones talking; perhaps it is time now that we listen.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, You have guided us always to do the right thing, and we pray to overcome our stubbornness and distractions to listen to You, even in the gentlest whisper of a breeze.            

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for Your infinite patience and guidance, especially when we refuse to listen. Thank you for not giving up on us.

3 Aug, Friday – Good Enough

3 Aug

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Jeremiah 26:1-9

At the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word was addressed to Jeremiah by the Lord, ‘The Lord says this: Stand in the court of the Temple of the Lord. To all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the Temple of the Lord you must speak all the words I have commanded you to tell them; do not omit one syllable. Perhaps they will listen and each turn from his evil way: if so, I shall relent and not bring the disaster on them which I intended for their misdeeds. Say to them, “The Lord says this: If you will not listen to me by following my Law which I put before you, by paying attention to the words of my servants the prophets whom I send so persistently to you, without your ever listening to them, I will treat this Temple as I treated Shiloh, and make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.”’

The priests and prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah say these words in the Temple of the Lord. When Jeremiah had finished saying everything that the Lord had ordered him to say to all the people, the priests and prophets seized hold of him and said, ‘You shall die! Why have you made this prophecy in the name of the Lord, “This Temple will be like Shiloh, and this city will be desolate, and uninhabited”?’ And the people were all crowding round Jeremiah in the Temple of the Lord.

 

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Matthew 13:54-58

Coming to his home town, Jesus taught the people in their synagogue in such a way that they were astonished and said, ‘Where did the man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? This is the carpenter’s son, surely? Is not his mother the woman called Mary, and his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Jude? His sisters, too, are they not all here with us? So where did the man get it all?’ And they would not accept him. But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is only despised in his own country and in his own house’, and he did not work many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

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“Is he not the carpenter’s son?”

The much-anticipated (at least in Singapore) movie ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ is coming out in less than two weeks. If you’ve read the book on which the movie is based, you’ll know that this is a story of a Chinese-American girl meeting her boyfriend’s Singapore-based family for the first time, and, unbeknownst to her, he is from one of the richest families in Singapore. The book is littered with descriptions of a life of excess and material wealth, and how the protagonist tries to deal with the upper-class snobbery that comes her way. Everything about her and her background gets scrutinized to microscopic detail – her upbringing, her background, her beauty, financial standing, education – and she finds few allies and a lot of criticism.

That is probably snobbery at the extreme, but the fact is this — our opinion of a person or thing is formed within 5 seconds or less of an encounter. Our environment influences our opinions so that we form ideas about something based on associated factors, e.g. if clothes look dirty, we assume that it would be smelly too. If someone is smart, we assume he or she is a degree-holder and learned. Sometimes, the unexpected takes us by surprise. The small guy is strong, the tradesman is wise, the shepherd’s son is king. God uses the unexpected and humble to show us that great things too can come out of them. If He were to operate like how we do with our pre-conceived notions, then Jesus would not have been born in the lowliest of circumstances, in a manger surrounded by farm animals. He would have been born into a high-ranking family with an army at his command. David the shepherd-boy would not have been king, and a mightier, swashbuckling prince on a steed would have been the one to slay Goliath instead. Moses and Aaron would have confronted Pharaoh with a flaming, jewel-encrusted sword instead of a simple wooden staff. Why can’t the same potential come from the most unexpected of places?

On the flipside, our own myopia about others blinds us to our own abilities too. My friends, we are better than we believe ourselves to be. We think we need this and that to be better — more experience, a PhD, an MBA, a job with an investment bank. Yes, some of these things do help, but the lack of it does not write you off as incapable or without potential. We are the ‘small things’ that God uses to bring forth His bigger plan. There is wonder yet to be wrought from us, but only if we do not remain small-minded, and be open to the possibilities that can be worked through us by God. We too can be that carpenter’s son.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we are small indeed. We are a grain of sand in a sea of people. Yet each of us have the might and potential to be something bigger than ourselves. Help us to look within ourselves, and not judge our own selves based on our circumstances or other people’s comments and perceptions.

Thanksgiving: As the oak tree springs forth from a small acorn, so too can we achieve the same heights. Thank you Lord, for reminding us about this in the world around us.

2 Aug, Thursday – Begin Again

Aug 2 – Memorial for St. Eusebius of Vercelli, bishop; St Peter Julian Eymard, bishop 

Eusebius (283-371) was a priest and lector in Rome, Italy. He was consecrated bishop of Vercelli, Italy in 340, but was exiled to Palestine and Cappadocia due to his struggle against Arianism. He was a friend of St. Athanasius of Alexandria. He was a prolific writer according to his contemporaries, but none of his works have survived. He was the first bishop to live with and follow the same rule as his priests. He may be been martyred by Arians, but reports vary. Many consider him a martyr as he may have died as a result of his sufferings in exile.

– Patron Saint Index

Peter Julian Eymard (1811-1868) had a strong Marian devotion, and travelled to the assorted Marian shrines and apparition sites in France. He organised lay societies under the direction of the Marists, preached and taught, and worked for Eucharistic devotion. He felt a call to found a new religious society, and founded the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament and the lay Servants of the Blessed Sacrament. His work encountered a series of setbacks, including have to close his nascent houses and move twice, and the houses not being able to support themselves financially. However, his vision of priests, deacons, sisters, and lay people dedicated to the spiritual values celebrated in the Mass and prayer before the Blessed Sacrament anticipated many of the renewals brought about by Vatican Councils I and II.

– Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 18:1-6

The word that was addressed to Jeremiah by the Lord, ‘Get up and make your way down to the potter’s house; there I shall let you hear what I have to say.’ So I went down to the potter’s house; and there he was, working at the wheel. And whenever the vessel he was making came out wrong, as happens with the clay handled by potters, he would start afresh and work it into another vessel, as potters do. Then this word of the Lord was addressed to me, ‘House of Israel, can not I do to you what this potter does? – it is the Lord who speaks. Yes, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so you are in mine, House of Israel.’

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Matthew 13:47-53

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea that brings in a haul of all kinds. When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in a basket and throw away those that are no use. This is how it will be at the end of time: the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the just to throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.

‘Have you understood all this?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ And he said to them, ‘Well then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom things both new and old.’

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“Whenever the object of clay which he was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased”

I’ve been in a bit of a ‘dark place’ recently. Earlier in the year, I had such great hopes for the future, as I suppose we all do at the start of each year. I was determined not to be part of the mass of dreamers that fall to the wayside as the year unfolds. I was open to God and prayer, and I think like many people who have worked a long time, you reach a point where you start questioning if what you are doing is indeed what you were meant to do. I had such a strong conviction for what I thought God had in mind for me – my calling, if I may.

Then distractions and personal heartbreak got in the way and swept these dreams aside. I keep telling myself it is God’s test in everything to check my constancy and faith. I’ve since gotten over the hard bit, the grief, but the recovery is challenging. To get back to my old self, the believer in me – that is taking a little bit more time and effort to achieve. I want to get back to that place of possibility; the mind is willing but the body is weak, or maybe my faith is? I think this is like trying to get out of an addiction, which I won’t presume to be so easy, but rather, so psychologically difficult. My own challenges I am sure are nothing compared to what some people have gone through, and I cannot imagine what someone like Job would have felt in the midst of his own personal tragedies. As I question what God’s plans are for me, I feel like I am starting again from scratch, running on empty rather than ready to embrace the future.

I’d like to think that yesterday (as I write this) was my turning point – I was listening to a song and thought I heard the words “I will love you for your mistakes”. At that moment, I felt like this was something Jesus would say to me, “It doesn’t matter what has happened, I will still love you for who you are.” Maybe my plans didn’t turn out to be what I wanted it to be, but God is the potter and I am the clay. He is the one who will mould me and fashion me into something that will be pleasing to Him, that will be of purpose to fulfill His plan. Maybe as He fashions me, so am I to fashion my own plans, with His direction. Maybe even though things haven’t turned out as I have hoped, there are lessons to be learnt, quiet guidance to be gleaned, even in the darkest times. When I am weak, then He is strong, and in turn so too will I be strong, because Christ is my strength. And as I gather my strength, I will try again, just as He will try again with me.

I may feel like I’ve been scratching the bottom of the barrel, but that is only because the barrel needs to be emptied of all the emotions that link me to that dark place before it can be filled again with God’s grace till it runneth over. Then will I be ready to embrace the future.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: God Almighty Father, praise be to You! Steady my heart and my courage to embrace Your plans for me. Let me lean not on my own understanding, but on faith that You will see me through this.            

Thanksgiving: Thanks be to God our Father, for not giving up on me, for trying again with me even when I stumble, and for loving me despite my mistakes.

31 July, Tuesday – Of Seeds and Weeds

Jul 31 – Memorial for St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest

St. Ignatius (1491-1556) was wounded in the leg by a cannonball at the siege of Pampeluna on 20 May 1521, an injury that left him partially crippled for life. During his recuperation the only books he had access to were The Golden Legend, a collection of lives of the saints, and the Life of Christ by Ludolph the Carthusian. These books, and the time spent in contemplation, changed him.

On his recovery he took a vow of chastity, hung his sword before the altar of the Virgin of Montserrat, and donned a pilgrim’s robes. He lived in a cave for a year, contemplating the way to live a Christian life. His meditations, prayers, visions and insights led to forming the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus.

– Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 14:17-22

The Lord said to me:
Say this word to the people:
‘Tears flood my eyes
night and day, unceasingly,
since a crushing blow falls on the daughter of my people,
a most grievous injury.
If I go into the countryside,
there lie men killed by the sword;
if I go into the city,
I see people sick with hunger;
even prophets and priests
plough the land: they are at their wit’s end.’

‘Have you rejected Judah altogether?
Does your very soul revolt at Zion?
Why have you struck us down without hope of cure?
We were hoping for peace – no good came of it!
For the moment of cure – nothing but terror!
the Lord, we do confess our wickedness
and our fathers’ guilt:
we have indeed sinned against you.
For your name’s sake do not reject us,
do not dishonour the throne of your glory.
Remember us; do not break your covenant with us.
Can any of the pagan Nothings make it rain?
Can the heavens produce showers?
No, it is you, the Lord.
O our God, you are our hope,
since it is you who do all this.’

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Matthew 13:36-43

Leaving the crowds, Jesus went to the house; and his disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain the parable about the darnel in the field to us.’ He said in reply, ‘The sower of the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed is the subjects of the kingdom; the darnel, the subjects of the evil one; the enemy who sowed them, the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the angels. Well then, just as the darnel is gathered up and burnt in the fire, so it will be at the end of time. The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that provoke offences and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. Then the virtuous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Listen, anyone who has ears!’

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The sower of the good seed is the Son of Man

I saw a documentary once on hay harvesting, Victorian-style. The farmers first had to cut the hay, before leaving it out to dry. Naturally, they were subjected to the vagaries of the weather. Their efforts to cut the hay were also hampered by weeds whose long roots tangled in the blades of the machinery, causing the machine to jam. The frustrated farmers had to stop each time to dislodge the weeds before carrying on. Sadly, their hay harvesting turned out to be a failure as they were unable to complete it in time.

Our personal struggles with life are similar. God made us perfect and whole in the beginning, providing what is best for us, and in our lives we are given the choice of making our own decisions. Our moral compasses direct us in the way of God that we have been taught, but often we find that our efforts to do good are thwarted by distractions that try to lead us astray. We get tangled up in these distractions and have to disentangle ourselves in order to move on.

Yet, we need not end up like the farmers in the documentary. Our struggles need not be in vain. If we asked God to, He could help us rid the weeds in our lives so that we would never have to encounter problems with our daily ‘machinery’. We would not need to worry about tangled roots of weeds clumping in our lives creating havoc. If we tend to the weeds early, we may just be able to nip them in the bud.

God is the sower of good seed. He only wants what is best for us, and wants us to choose the right paths and make the right decisions. We used to have a saying in the kitchen when we were overwhelmed with orders, that we were “stuck in the weeds”. When our lives are overwhelmed with troubles, let us have faith that God will give us enough grace to get us out, and lift our “weeds” to Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, help us to prune our lives that we may be able to get rid of the weeds that tangle us in our journey with You.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we give thanks for the times when You delivered us from our troubles and provided us with the help that we needed.

30 July, Monday – Hidden from View

Jul 30 – Memorial for St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop & Doctor

An adult convert, St. Peter (406-450) fought paganism and heresy, enforced reforms, and built several churches and ornate altars in his see. A preacher with outstanding language skills, he was given the name ‘Chrysologus’, referring to his ‘golden word’. 176 of his sermons have survived; it is the strength of these beautiful explanations of the Incarnation, the Creed, the place of Mary and John the Baptist in the great plan of salvation, etc., that led to his being proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1729.

– Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 13:1-11

The Lord said this to me, ‘Go and buy a linen loincloth and put it round your waist. But do not dip it in water.’ And so, as the Lord had ordered, I bought a loincloth and put it round my waist. A second time the word of the Lord was spoken to me, ‘Take the loincloth that you have bought and are wearing round your waist; up! Go to the Euphrates and hide it in a hole in the rock.’ So I went and hid it near the Euphrates as the Lord had ordered me. Many days afterwards the Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go to the Euphrates and fetch the loincloth I ordered you to hide there.’ So I went to the Euphrates, and I searched, and I took the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. The loincloth was spoilt, good for nothing. Then the word of the Lord was addressed to me, Thus says the Lord: In the same way I will spoil the arrogance of Judah and Jerusalem. This evil people who refuse to listen to my words, who follow the dictates of their own hard hearts, who have followed alien gods, and served them and worshipped them, let them become like this loincloth, good for nothing. For just as a loincloth clings to a man’s waist, so I had intended the whole House of Judah to cling to me – it is the Lord who speaks – to be my people, my glory, my honour and my boast. But they have not listened.’

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Matthew 13:31-35

Jesus put another parable before the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.’

He told them another parable, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.’

In all this Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables; indeed, he would never speak to them except in parables. This was to fulfil the prophecy:

I will speak to you in parables
and expound things hidden since the foundation of the world.

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I will speak to you in parables and expound things hidden…

One of the earliest books I remember growing up with was Aesop’s Fables. A Greek storyteller, Aesop imbued his stories of everyday life with moral truths. Perhaps we might recognize some of the titles: The Hare and the Tortoise, The Lion and the Mouse, The Boy Who Cried Wolf. All these stories served to help us understand in simple terms the message behind them.

Jesus taught in parables, keeping things simple and based on rural themes. But even the disciples could not understand everything that was taught, and would ask Jesus to explain. At times, they were also even too afraid to clarify with Jesus. When they asked Jesus why he taught in parables, Jesus said, “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand”

There are times when I have read passages in the Bible myself, and not fully understood, despite reading over and over. While writing this reflection, I understand what the disciples must have felt. More importantly, I understand what Jesus meant by seeing and not seeing, hearing but not hearing or understanding. For if I had known from the start what the passages meant, then I would have moved on to the next, and the next, without probably pausing long enough to let the full meaning sink in. If I had understood at the start, I would not have asked the Holy Spirit for the wisdom of discernment. I would instead, have leaned on my own understanding, instead of allowing God to work in me and revealing it to me.

Sometimes things are hidden from us for a reason, but it is in trying to uncover the meaning where the real message truly is.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the Holy Spirit to open up our hearts and our minds to understand the Word of God.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for showing us that with time, God’s purpose for us will be revealed, and it is in looking for the meaning that we may discover God’s message to us.

26 July, Sunday – Multiplication of Faith

29 July

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2 Kings 4:42-44

A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing Elisha, the man of God, bread from the first-fruits, twenty barley loaves and fresh grain in the ear.’ ‘Give it to the people to eat’, Elisha said. But his servant replied, ‘How can I serve this to a hundred men?’ ‘Give it to the people to eat’ he insisted ‘for the Lord says this, “They will eat and have some left over.”’ He served them; they ate and had some left over, as the Lord had said.

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Ephesians 4:1-6

I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.

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John 6:1-15

Jesus went off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee – or of Tiberias – and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he gave by curing the sick. Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples. It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover.

Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?’ He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do. Philip answered, ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, ‘There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Make the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted. When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, ‘Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.’ So they picked them up, and filled twelve hampers with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves. The people, seeing this sign that he had given, said, ‘This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, who could see they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, escaped back to the hills by himself.

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I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation.

We’ve heard of the saying we lead by example. Our children see how we act and mimic our ways, good or bad, to our amazement sometimes. We may not be entirely conscious of this but every day, every moment, someone is observing us, and vice versa, and observers make judgments. We emulate, or criticize, we applaud or abhor.

God wants us to lead lives dedicated to Him, and in unity not just with the Holy Trinity, but with each and every one of us. The values that St Paul exhorts to in his letter to the Ephesians – charity, selflessness, gentleness, patience – are borne out of love… for God and for each other. If our lives reflect love, then people who observe us may be drawn to emulate the love, and in due course, come to know Christ Jesus. In such a way, then is our faith multiplied.

When Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves, he not only wanted to feed his people, he wanted them to understand and believe in the power of God: “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves” (John 14:11). He wanted them to have faith that even in such a tight situation with so little at hand, God would provide for the many thousands. He wanted them to look beyond the miracle and look for God in the miracle.

I believe that Jesus escaped into the hills on his own when he realized the people’s intention to crown him as king, because then they would see a figure head and not the Divine God. They would miss the message. Perhaps as well, he wanted them to reflect on the works that he had done and the miracles they had seen, on their own and based on their own understanding. If the people understood and believed in God, then they would live their lives for God, multiplying their faith and others as well.

We may not see miracles such as these, but there are miracles happening around us every day if we look. God is present in each of these miracles. Let us learn to look for God in every miracle that we encounter.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, help us to live lives of love, worthy to be called children of God, that others may see and learn about You and Your unending love. Help us in our own ways, to multiply our faith.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to God Almighty for the wondrous miracles that He performs every day, from the moment we awake till we close our eyes.

5 June, Tuesday – Steering Through Stormy Seas

Jun 5 – Memorial for St. Boniface, bishop and martyr

Educated at the Benedictine monastary at Exeter, England where he became a monk, Boniface (c.673–754) was a missionary to Germany from 719, assisted by St. Albinus, St. Abel, and St. Agatha. They destroyed idols and pagan temples, and then built churches on the sites.

He was ordained a bishop and later became Archbishop of Mainz. He reformed the churches in his see, and built religious houses in Germany. He ordained St. Sola. He founded the dioceses of Bavaria, Thuringia, and Franconia. He evangelized in Holland, but was set upon by a troop of pagans and he and 52 of his new flock, included St. Adaler and St. Eoban were martyred.

Once in Saxony, Boniface encountered a tribe worshipping a Norse deity in the form of a huge oak tree. Boniface walked up to the tree, removed his shirt, took up an axe, and without a word he hacked down the six-foot wide wooden god. Boniface stood on the trunk, and asked, “How stands your mighty god? My God is stronger than he.” The crowd’s reaction was mixed, but some conversions were begun.

One tradition about St. Boniface says that he used the customs of the locals to help convert them. There was a game in which they threw sticks called kegels at smaller sticks called heides. Boniface brought religion to the game, having the heides represent demons, and knocking them down showing the purity of spirit.

He is the patron of many groups, including World Youth Day.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Peter 3:11-15,17-18

You should be living holy and saintly lives while you wait and long for the Day of God to come, when the sky will dissolve in flames and the elements melt in the heat. What we are waiting for is what he promised: the new heavens and new earth, the place where righteousness will be at home. So then, my friends, while you are waiting, do your best to live lives without spot or stain so that he will find you at peace. Think of our Lord’s patience as your opportunity to be saved. You have been warned about this, my friends; be careful not to get carried away by the errors of unprincipled people, from the firm ground that you are standing on. Instead, go on growing in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory, in time and in eternity. Amen.

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Mark 12:13-17

The chief priests and the scribes and the elders sent to Jesus some Pharisees and some Herodians to catch him out in what he said. These came and said to him, ‘Master, we know you are an honest man, that you are not afraid of anyone, because a man’s rank means nothing to you, and that you teach the way of God in all honesty. Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay, yes or no?’ Seeing through their hypocrisy he said to them, ‘Why do you set this trap for me? Hand me a denarius and let me see it.’ They handed him one and he said, ‘Whose head is this? Whose name?’ ‘Caesar’s’ they told him. Jesus said to them, ‘Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God.’ This reply took them completely by surprise.

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“Be on your guard not to be led into the error of the unprincipled and to fall from your own stability”

I have been following the developments of the political situation back home in Malaysia, right from the run-up to the elections till the implementation of reforms by the current government. Equivalent to a modern Shakespearean drama, the unfolding of events has also given rise to scenes of “he says, she says”, with politicians and media trying to ensnare one another in a game of words.

I saw one such interview of a young politician (whom I shall not name) whom the interviewer was clearly trying to corner in her line of questioning. The said politician deftly manoeuvered the situation with a series of comebacks and responses which were very admirable.

Experience in the media spotlight has, no doubt, given this politician a trump card; however from the conviction in the responses given, it also seemed clear that a strong set of principles has given this politician a firm foundation from which to fire off these responses without getting caught with one’s foot in one’s mouth.

The Gospel reading today isn’t much different from the politics of present-time. The Pharisees and Herodians were sent to corner Jesus, hoping that he would trip up over his words. But Jesus knew what they were about, and not only deftly answered the question, but point-blank asked them “Why are you testing me?” Life will always be peppered with people and situations meant to trap us and test us, people who want to shake us and expose to the world our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and thus shame us. That could ruin us. It could bring down our morale and ruin our reputation. It could cause us to hide in anger and embarrassment. Or we could maneuver it into a positive experience instead, should we have a firm set of principles to fall back on.

How strong our faith is, and how unshakeable our moral compass is, will determine how well we navigate through the storms of life. One false step and we could smash into the rocks, one wrong turn and we could end up miles off our route. A single moment of giving in to fear could mean the sinking of our lives as we know it, and those who depend on us will go down as well. We do not know when this time will come, when tests will be laid at our feet. But every day is a new day to train our minds and hearts to be ready for when it happens. Every day, we have to learn to don the armour of God through prayer and reconciliation, by living an upright life with the fear of God within us. When that day comes, may we be found blameless and ready to steer safely through the storm.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, many are out there trying to trap us with their words and wiliness. We pray that we may hold steadfast in our faith so as not to fall into their trap.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we give you thanks for guiding us through the rough times in our lives and always being for us a beacon of hope and salvation.

4 June, Monday – We Have Enough

4 June

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2 Peter 1:2-7

May you have more and more grace and peace as you come to know our Lord more and more.

By his divine power, he has given us all the things that we need for life and for true devotion, bringing us to know God himself, who has called us by his own glory and goodness. In making these gifts, he has given us the guarantee of something very great and wonderful to come: through them you will be able to share the divine nature and to escape corruption in a world that is sunk in vice. But to attain this, you will have to do your utmost yourselves, adding goodness to the faith that you have, understanding to your goodness, self-control to your understanding, patience to your self-control, true devotion to your patience, kindness towards your fellow men to your devotion, and, to this kindness, love.

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Mark 12:1-12

Jesus went on to speak to the chief priests, the scribes and the elders in parables: ‘A man planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug out a trough for the winepress and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce from the vineyard. But they seized the man, thrashed him and sent him away empty-handed. Next he sent another servant to them; him they beat about the head and treated shamefully. And he sent another and him they killed; then a number of others, and they thrashed some and killed the rest. He had still someone left: his beloved son. He sent him to them last of all. “They will respect my son” he said. But those tenants said to each other, “This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” So they seized him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. Now what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and make an end of the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this text of scripture:

It was the stone rejected by the builders that became the keystone.

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

And they would have liked to arrest him, because they realised that the parable was aimed at them, but they were afraid of the crowds. So they left him alone and went away.

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“His divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and devotion”

I was having a conversation with a close friend recently about how we do not ‘own’ our children – we are merely guardians or stewards of them, entrusted to us by God to raise, provide for, and protect until such a point where they are capable to live out the plans that God has laid out for them individually. Not our plans for them, but God’s plans. Our duty as parents is to empower them and instill in them the proper skills and values to guide them on their own adventure – their walk with God.

God has a plan for each one of us. We may not know what that plan is, but faith and prayer for guidance to doing His will, will reveal that plan eventually. Sometimes we feel that we don’t have enough: not enough money, experience, time, brains, resources, energy… But we do. God would not give us something that is so beyond our capabilities that we would not be able to execute it. No knowledge? He will present the resources. No time? Help will come to relieve us. No experience? He will give us the experience, and the mentors to get us there. All we have to do is pray.

I know it seems hard to believe and it is easier said than done, but it is true. God our Father, generous and merciful and loving, has given us the gifts and promises to empower us to live our lives to the fullest potential, to serve others in His name. He has given us the tools and values, and then given us the liberty to exercise our creative licenses. He does not tell us how to use them, rather He gives us the responsibility to use them wisely. As St Peter says in today’s reading, we have to add to our faith “virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love.” We need to keep adding, as a life-long process, to our God-given ‘tool kit’ the tools necessary to carry us forward and to withstand the temptations and evils of the world that would otherwise sway us off-path.

We cannot spend our years being afraid to live them because we think we do not have enough. Fear holds us back into the arms of the comfort zone. If we take our promises and our gifts, and not use it or use it unwisely, whatever we have then may yet be taken away from us. Denying ourselves of what God has given us is akin to denying God Himself. God has given us a most precious gift — life. How we live that life is a testament to how we consecrate God in our lives. A life lived for God in service of others in the name of love — that is the highest devotion that we should strive towards — hard as it may be, for that is the life that Jesus lived for us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the courage to live up to the promises and gifts You have given us. Guide us towards the life You have planned for us and help us to live it to the best of our abilities.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we give you thanks and praise for entrusting us with our lives and the promises You have given us. We pray that we will not squander them, but use it in service of others.

3 June, Sunday – The Ultimate Promise

3 June

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Deuteronomy 5:12-15

The Lord says this: ‘Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. For six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath for the Lord your God. You shall do no work that day, neither you nor your son nor your daughter nor your servants, men or women, nor your ox nor your donkey nor any of your animals, nor the stranger who lives with you. Thus your servant, man or woman, shall rest as you do. Remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord your God brought you out from there with mighty hand and outstretched arm; because of this, the Lord your God has commanded you to keep the sabbath day.’

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2 Corinthians 4:6-11

It is the same God that said, ‘Let there be light shining out of darkness’, who has shone in our minds to radiate the light of the knowledge of God’s glory, the glory on the face of Christ.

We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us. We are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered; we see no answer to our problems, but never despair; we have been persecuted, but never deserted; knocked down, but never killed; always, wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body. Indeed, while we are still alive, we are consigned to our death every day, for the sake of Jesus, so that in our mortal flesh the life of Jesus, too, may be openly shown.

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Mark 2:23-3:6

One sabbath day Jesus happened to be taking a walk through the cornfields, and his disciples began to pick ears of corn as they went along. And the Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing something on the sabbath day that is forbidden?’ And he replied, ‘Did you never read what David did in his time of need when he and his followers were hungry – how he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the loaves of offering which only the priests are allowed to eat, and how he also gave some to the men with him?’

And he said to them, ‘The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath; the Son of Man is master even of the sabbath.’

He went again into a synagogue, and there was a man there who had a withered hand. And they were watching him to see if he would cure him on the sabbath day, hoping for something to use against him. He said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Stand up out in the middle!’ Then he said to them, ‘Is it against the law on the sabbath day to do good, or to do evil; to save life, or to kill?’ But they said nothing. Then, grieved to find them so obstinate, he looked angrily round at them, and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out and his hand was better. The Pharisees went out and at once began to plot with the Herodians against him, discussing how to destroy him.

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“This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”

I have recently been trying to teach my son about making and keeping promises. It still needs some work, but so far, we have been making promises with the linking of our pinkies, and for the ultimate important promises, sealing the pinky promise with a kiss. He knows that if he breaks a promise, he will break his mama’s heart (or at least that is what I tell him).

The covenants in the times of the Old Testament were sealed with blood, through the sacrifice of the first of the flock for the atonement of sin. “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” says Hebrews 9:22. A life for a ‘new’ life, cleansed by sacrifice.

As we are reminded annually on Holy Thursday, right into Good Friday, Jesus became that sacrificial lamb for us. It was His blood that was shed for our sins, His blood that sealed the covenant for our salvation, and His body that was broken that we may have a new life in God. We are cleansed by the spilling of His holy blood.

When we partake in the Eucharist, we remember the price that was paid for our lives, a price that is not to be taken lightly. If we proceed forth to receive the Eucharist nonchalantly, then are we honorably acknowledging the price of our redemption? Are we worthy of our share in the Lord’s Supper? 1 Corinthians 11:27 puts it very simply that “therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.” We are called to reflect inwardly on our conduct and manner, to examine ourselves – are we in a position that warrants our partaking in this sacred covenant?

This is not so different from what we tell our children about making and breaking promises. God sealed His promise to us with His Son, and the Lord knows that if we break that promise, we will break His heart.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the Holy Spirit to cleanse us that we may be made worthy of Your promises.

Thanksgiving: Thanks be to God, for His Holy Covenant with us sinners!