Tag Archives: annette soo

28 October, Saturday – Me too

Oct 28 – Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles

Simon was an apostle called the Cananean, or Zealot, because of his zeal for the Jewish law. He was not from Cana, nor a member of the Zealot party. Like all the Apostles, he was a convert, and was trained by St. Peter the Apostle. He evangelised in Egypt and Mesopotamia, though there are traditions of him being in several other locations. Several places claim to have been the site of his martyrdom – Abyssinians claim he was crucified in Samaria; Lipsius says he was sawn in half at Suanir, Persia; Moses of Chorene writes that he was martyred at Weriosphora in Iberia.

– Patron Saint Index

Jude Thaddeus was the son of Cleopas who died a martyr, and Mary who stood at the foot of the Cross and who anointed Christ’s body after death. He was the brother of St. James the Lesser, and nephew of Mary and Joseph. He was the blood relative of Jesus Christ, and reported to look a lot like him. He may have been a fisherman, and was an apostle.

He was the writer of a canonical letter. He preached in Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia with St. Simon. He was a healer and an exorcist, and could exorcise pagan idols, which caused the demons to flee and the statues to crumble. He was beaten to death with a club, then beheaded post-mortem in 1st century Persia.

His patronage of lost or impossible causes traditionally derives from confusion by many early Christians between Jude and Judas; not understanding the difference between the names, they never prayed for Jude’s help, and devotion to him became something of a lost cause.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 2:19-22

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

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Luke 6:12-16

Jesus went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God. When day came he summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them; he called them ‘apostles’: Simon whom he called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.

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When day came, He called His disciples to Himself, and from them He chose Twelve, whom He also named Apostles.

Today’s Gospel reading talks about Jesus choosing his apostles. The Twelve would function as his champions, his supporters and believers, who would uphold his teachings and ways. Yes, they are helpers in a way, but the definition of ‘apostle’ does not mention ‘help’ anywhere. The Apostles were Jesus’ support system.

Very recently, a whole host of actresses, interns, models and former employees of Harvey Weinstein stepped out to speak of their personal experiences of sexual harassment at the hands of Mr. Weinstein himself. In what I am sure has been a PR nightmare, the Weinstein company sacked Mr. Weinstein. But the nightmare isn’t just confined to the company. In fact, the company will probably be acquired, undergo a name change, have a reshuffle in the board and with some luck, it will continue to exist as though all of this never happened. As for the women… the nightmare has only just begun, or will worsen, and they will live in constant fear of always being judged, gossiped, and scrutinised.

My heart breaks to read of reports of women who have been sexually assaulted or harassed and, in what clearly would be a case where they are the victims, the fingers are now pointed at them, the spotlight shining brightly on their ‘so-called’ values, casting shadows on their integrity. And this goes beyond just sexual harassment. This goes beyond gender. Anyone who has ever felt marginalised, bullied, taken advantage of, anyone who has felt depressed, or suicidal – this is for you too.

Why are we, as victims, so afraid to speak up and speak out? I’ll tell you why. Because we are afraid. Afraid that no one will believe us. Afraid that people will look at us and say “we had it coming” or that we’re “making a mountain out of a molehill”. Afraid that people will scrutinise our character and think so much less of us. We are already thinking less of ourselves, undignified and blemished. We have been made to believe, by our self-talk and by others’ talk, that we are somehow crazy, ugly, weak, worthless or ‘damaged goods’. And so we retreat. We build a wall of silence around ourselves, scared to speak, hoping that if we can keep the judgments from coming in, we can keep the problem out.

The Weinstein scandal however, has started a movement on media, a “Me too” movement. Women from everywhere are coming out to speak up about their own experiences. Women are now speaking up to show solidarity — that we aren’t alone, that we don’t have to build walls around us, and we don’t have to be ashamed for we have not done anything wrong. We may be victims, but we don’t have to feel victimised because we are strong. We are not crazy or worthless; we are strong and unique, and we should live our uniqueness. Sometimes though, we have retreated so far into ourselves that we need help to get back out, but we just don’t know how.

We’re not alone. We have to acknowledge that we need help, and we need a support system. We need to be around people who will cheer us on and raise us up. People who will believe in us all the way. And instead of building a wall, we will build a network of supporters who will look out for us, even in the darkest days.

The first reading today says that we are “no longer strangers or sojourners”. We are in this together! More importantly is that with Jesus as our capstone, “the whole structure is held together”. Jesus will send us the help that we need, He is in this together with us too. And He knows the turmoil in our hearts. He will never let our spirit fail, and never let us fall. He will provide us with the support system that we need, and He will be a part of it.

Jesus too needed his own support system. Knowing what he would face, it was imperative that he had his own squad of believers. He turned to God, and prayed the night to Him, and in the morning, he came down the mountain and picked out the Twelve out of all his disciples.

Let us trust God to help us find our support system, by lifting our petition to God. Let us acknowledge that no trial, no matter how big or small it may be, needs to be faced alone. We’re not crazy or weak, we are God’s children, and He will never let us fall.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, in our times of trials where it is hard to even believe ourselves, surround us with people who will love and support us. Help us to believe in ourselves, and keep us secure in the knowledge that Your protective arms are all we need.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for our strength, for our families, loved ones and friends, who love us unconditionally, who are here to help us fight another day.

27 October, Friday – Check and balance

27 October 2017

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Romans 7:18-25

I know of nothing good living in me – living, that is, in my unspiritual self – for though the will to do what is good is in me, the performance is not, with the result that instead of doing the good things I want to do, I carry out the sinful things I do not want. When I act against my will, then, it is not my true self doing it, but sin which lives in me.

In fact, this seems to be the rule, that every single time I want to do good it is something evil that comes to hand. In my inmost self I dearly love God’s Law, but I can see that my body follows a different law that battles against the law which my reason dictates. This is what makes me a prisoner of that law of sin which lives inside my body.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body doomed to death?

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

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Luke 12:54-59

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud looming up in the west you say at once that rain is coming, and so it does. And when the wind is from the south you say it will be hot, and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the face of the earth and the sky. How is it you do not know how to interpret these times?

‘Why not judge for yourselves what is right? For example: when you go to court with your opponent, try to settle with him on the way, or he may drag you before the judge and the judge hand you over to the bailiff and the bailiff have you thrown into prison. I tell you, you will not get out till you have paid the very last penny.’

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Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord

I read today’s reading with a little wariness on how I should approach this. From the outset, today’s first reading deals with the constant struggle that man has between doing what is right by God, and yielding to sin — “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”.

Sin dwells in us, whether we know it or not. It is a question of how prevalent it is in our lives, how ‘free’ we let it be. When our eyes are opened to it, we may then question it and bit by bit, refrain from doing it in an effort to be a better person. But, as with any effort to kick a habit, it is not easy. Depending on how long we have let this sin rule our lives, such an effort could be Herculean, requiring mental discipline, unwavering commitment and time. So many things call out to distract us — procrastination, temptation from the very thing we are trying to avoid, trying to please other people. The struggle to stick with our intention is an internal one, and it is so easy to succumb. And when we do, we feel so frustrated and disappointed with ourselves, we feel miserable!

The reading today shows us that our ancestors suffered from the same issues as us thousands of years ago, so this is not new! Take comfort that we are not alone! How then, can we overcome our own weakness? “Who will deliver me from this mortal body?” The answer is in Christ Jesus. He will give us strength in our weakness, and enough grace to ride out the tough times, He will deliver us if we lift our problems to Him.

Yet this doesn’t mean that it won’t come back to tempt us again. We have Jesus who will protect us, only if we let Him, but we have to rely wholly upon Him. At any time when we falter, the probability of us falling back into sin is very great. On the flip side however, if there was no sin, then we would not have to rely on God for anything, thinking that we are invincible. Is this a controversial idea? I think not. I’ve always wondered why the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil even existed in the Garden of Eden in the first place. God has given us guidelines to live by, but I don’t think He wants to be a dictator of our lives. He has entrusted us our lives to live it as we see fit, trusting that we will make the right choices based on these guidelines. He has not bound our hands and feet, forcing us down a certain path. In fact, He lets us make our mistakes that we may hopefully learn from them. Sin exists as a check and balance for our lives. We make mistakes when we sin, we stray from the path. It is in these depths when we are scraping the barrel of desperation that we encounter the extent of God’s mercy. We discover the richness of God’s grace and the abundance of His unending love for us. When we find our way back to God, He is there celebrating our return like the Prodigal Son!

Our struggle with sin will be constant in our lives. But we have a powerful weapon and that is prayer. Let us pray to Christ Jesus to deliver us from our sins, to lead fulfilling lives, and to make the right choices.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, help us find the strength for our daily struggle with sin. Deliver us from evil always, and grant us peace.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always being there to welcome us home no matter how far we have strayed, and how long and wrong we have gone. Help us to right our lives, and live in God’s ways forever.

26 October, Thursday – On Fire

26 October 2017

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Romans 6:19-23

If I may use human terms to help your natural weakness: as once you put your bodies at the service of vice and immorality, so now you must put them at the service of righteousness for your sanctification.

When you were slaves of sin, you felt no obligation to righteousness, and what did you get from this? Nothing but experiences that now make you blush, since that sort of behaviour ends in death. Now, however, you have been set free from sin, you have been made slaves of God, and you get a reward leading to your sanctification and ending in eternal life. For the wage paid by sin is death; the present given by God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Luke 12:49-53

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!

‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’

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I have come to set the earth on fire

I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about my purpose in life. I have thought about it before, as a restless 20-something, fresh out of university, wondering what I should do in a world full of possibilities. Almost two decades later, I am still restless, still asking the same question. But while the restless me in my 20s was a more ‘youthful’, go-getter type that couldn’t wait to get started, the restlessness now in my late 30s is more urgent, more pressing.

Perhaps it is the idea of mortality – that we have a finite life here on earth – and to borrow the words of motivational writer Brendon Burchard, at the end of the day, a lot of us ask ourselves “Did we live? Did we love? Did we matter?” Are we all waiting for the ‘ah-hah’ moment, or a near-death experience to jolt us from our stupor before we begin to truly live? Our daily grind and stresses have caused us to live day by day, from one moment to another, not quite really experiencing life and not quite savouring nor appreciating the moment. Tired and depleted, most of us escape into the virtual world of social media and online games and movies, thinking that we need to give our brains a break, but even as we swipe through other peoples’ lives on Facebook and Instagram, the tragedy is that our own lives are passing us by, unfulfilled… unlived.

Life is the most precious gift of all that God has bestowed upon us. And on top of that, we each have been given a talent. It may not be much of a talent to you, but put to use, it can do amazing things. We can make a difference in someone’s lives just by being present. We can help others, starting with something small — a kind word, a greeting, a smile. The silence of a soul that has ceased to live and believe is the saddest sound of all. A smile or kind gesture is like a small spark that, given enough, would soon transform into a raging fire that will burn through our whole being and, as aptly put in today’s first reading, sanctify our souls to be given to God.

We have one life here on earth and we are accountable to this life. God has entrusted us with this life, and given us the creative license to live it as we see fit, only that we account for it at the end of our days. How then do we want to live this life? Believe me when I say that if you make a difference in someone else’s lives, you also make a difference in yours. It won’t matter what station we are at in life – bus driver, waitress, CEO – but making a difference will make us more fulfilled than we have ever been. If we do more of this, we will spread that feeling to others. If we do more of this, we will heal our own souls. We will live with a higher purpose in mind.

How then again, do you want to live your life today?

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: God Almighty, as we live our lives each day, help us to live it with purpose and passion, to help others, even as we help ourselves. Help us to be the spark that will start Your raging fire here on earth.

Thanksgiving: Father, we thank you for the gift of life, for our second chances, for the kindness that we receive from others. We thank you for giving us the ability to lead a full life, and we pray for Your help and guidance to live it fully.

17 October, Tuesday – Wisdom

Oct 17 – Memorial for St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr

Ignatius (c. 50–107) was a convert from paganism to Christianity. He succeeded Peter as bishop of Antioch, Syria. He served during persecution of Domitian. During the persecution of Trajan, he was ordered to be taken to Rome to be killed by wild animals. On the way, a journey which took months, he wrote a series of encouraging letters to the churches under his care. He was the first writer to use the term The Catholic Church. He was an apostolic father and a martyr. His name occurs in the Canon of the Mass. Legend says he was the infant that Jesus took into his arms in Mark 9.

– Patron Saint Index

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Romans 1:16-25

I am not ashamed of the Good News: it is the power of God saving all who have faith – Jews first, but Greeks as well – since this is what reveals the justice of God to us: it shows how faith leads to faith, or as scripture says: The upright man finds life through faith.

The anger of God is being revealed from heaven against all the impiety and depravity of men who keep truth imprisoned in their wickedness. For what can be known about God is perfectly plain to them since God himself has made it plain. Ever since God created the world his everlasting power and deity – however invisible – have been there for the mind to see in the things he has made. That is why such people are without excuse: they knew God and yet refused to honour him as God or to thank him; instead, they made nonsense out of logic and their empty minds were darkened. The more they called themselves philosophers, the more stupid they grew, until they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for a worthless imitation, for the image of mortal man, of birds, of quadrupeds and reptiles. That is why God left them to their filthy enjoyments and the practices with which they dishonour their own bodies, since they have given up divine truth for a lie and have worshipped and served creatures instead of the creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen!

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Luke 11:37-41

Jesus had just finished speaking when a Pharisee invited him to dine at his house. He went in and sat down at the table. The Pharisee saw this and was surprised that he had not first washed before the meal. But the Lord said to him, ‘Oh, you Pharisees! You clean the outside of cup and plate, while inside yourselves you are filled with extortion and wickedness. Fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside too? Instead, give alms from what you have and then indeed everything will be clean for you.’

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The more they called themselves philosophers, the more stupid they grew
I’d like to touch on a very real trait that is well-known in Singapore society: ‘kiasu-ism’. The Hokkien term ‘kiasu’ denotes someone who is afraid to lose and would literally do anything to get ahead and stay ahead. Sometimes, this includes withholding information from other people, so as to have a “first mover advantage” or to place oneself in an important position because you possessed that information.
I once worked with a manager who liked to do that. In fact he even had a reputation in the office for not sharing important information, even with his own team members. During meetings with the clients and bosses, he would present this information, giving the impression that he was in the ‘know’ and therefore creating value for himself at the expense of his team. It’s difficult to work with people like this. I can understand their motives, though I may not agree with it. In this dog-eat-dog world, it really is the survival of the fittest, and if you can’t stay in the game, you would be out.
In today’s reading, St Paul condemns those who had the knowledge of God but refused to share it with others. God revealed this to them so that they would go forth and spread the Good News of the gospel. Some of these people felt privileged that such a revelation should come upon them and turned that privilege as a bargaining chip for position. They felt important, and believed that they were smart because people would look to them. Consumed by pride, they believed only in their own reasoning and the Word of God became obliterated.
Knowledge is a gift given to us by the grace of God. We know the things that we do because God made it so. Some people are smarter than others, but it doesn’t mean that they are more important. Perhaps others possess a gift for speaking, or a gift for the arts, that another person does not have. The Holy Spirit gives each of us special gifts as he sees fit (1 Cor 12:11). What we know about work and life is because we were given the smarts to do that by God. Our ability to digest numbers, recite the law, or comprehend technical terms is undeniably from our own efforts, but more importantly because God blessed us with the ability to understand these things.
So for those of us whom God has blessed, let us ask ourselves: what are we doing with the knowledge that God has given us? Are we sharing it as we should? Are we using it for the right purposes? Are we applying discernment to what we know? Are we giving Him glory? God gives us the wisdom to know Him, His word and His creations. If we ask, we would receive it. But it is a gift and, as with all of God’s gifts, if we use it unwisely, it may one day be taken away from us.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, help us shed our ‘kiasu’ spirit and learn to share what we have with those who need it most.   
Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord for giving us the wisdom to understand Your word and the wisdom to discern. We pray that we will not take this gift of knowledge for granted.

26 August, Saturday – Titles & Positions

26 Aug

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Ruth 2:1-3, 8-11, 4:13-17

Naomi had a kinsman on her husband’s side, well-to-do and of Elimelech’s clan. His name was Boaz.

Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, ‘Let me go into the fields and glean among the ears of corn in the footsteps of some man who will look on me with favour.’ And she said to her, ‘Go, my daughter.’ So she set out and went to glean in the fields after the reapers. And it chanced that she came to that part of the fields which belonged to Boaz of Elimelech’s clan.

Boaz said to Ruth, ‘Listen, my daughter, and understand this. You are not to glean in any other field, do not leave here but stay with my servants. Keep your eyes on whatever part of the field they are reaping and follow behind. I have ordered my servants not to molest you. And if you are thirsty, go to the pitchers and drink what the servants have drawn.’ Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground. And she said to him, ‘How have I so earned your favour that you take notice of me, even though I am a foreigner?’ And Boaz answered her, I have been told all you have done for your mother-in-law since your husband’s death, and how you left your own father and mother and the land where you were born to come among a people whom you knew nothing about before you came here.’

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. And when they came together, the Lord made her conceive and she bore a son. And the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord who has not left the dead man without next of kin this day to perpetuate his name in Israel. The child will be a comfort to you and the prop of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you and is more to you than seven sons has given him birth.’ And Naomi took the child to her own bosom and she became his nurse.

And the women of the neighbourhood gave him a name. ‘A son has been born for Naomi’ they said; and they named him Obed. This was the father of David’s father, Jesse.

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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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As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’. You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.

Someone I know was recently incensed about a ‘shake-up’ in his department. The management there decided to change the job titles and grades of the staff in his department, and the lack of communication and the way it was managed (or mismanaged) caused a bit of strife amongst the staff. The management had to hastily do some ‘damage repair’, but the damage was already done.

We place great importance on our job titles — it shows progression on our CVs, and hierarchical importance in the chain of command. Even clients and customers would prefer to deal with someone who has authority, and that authority is seemingly depicted in the title on our business cards. It gives us a sense of importance, especially when our position is acknowledged by others.

Jesus issued a warning to his disciples, especially on the pursuit of titles. He must have known that it would be so easy for his disciples to be sucked into the practice of ‘vain glory’, and let the pursuit of the position overshadow the purpose of their work. The title was not important, it was the role. And Jesus reminds us not to go down the route of the scribes and Pharisees, lest we too forget the reason for our calling.

Jesus reminds us that we are all equal in God’s eyes. There is only one Rabbi, and only one God. We may be the president of the company, or a tea lady in the pantry; whatever our position in life, at the end of the day, when we stand before God to account for our lives here on earth, that position is not going to matter.

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted,” says today’s Gospel. Let us rid ourselves of the feeling of self-importance and remind ourselves that it is our service over self that will determine our true standing in heaven.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

PrayerLord, forgive us for the times when we have allowed self-importance to overshadow our work, especially in our work for God. Help us to realize that it is not how close we are to a position of authority, but how we serve our brothers and sisters in Christ that matters.

ThanksgivingLord, we are thankful for our positions in life. Let us realize that the real privilege that comes with our positions is the ability to make a positive difference in someone else’s life.

25 August, Friday – Seeking God

Aug 25 – Memorial for St. Louis of France, married man; Memorial for St. Joseph Calasanz, priest, religious founder

As king of France, Louis (1214-1270) made numerous judicial and legislative reforms. He promoted Christianity in France; established religious foundations, aided mendicant orders, propagated synodal decrees of the Church, built leper hospitals, and collected relics.

“In prosperity, give thanks to God with humility and fear lest by pride you abuse God’s benefits and so offend him.” – St. Louis IX

Joseph Calasanz (1556-1648) and two fellow priests opened a small, free school for poor children. He was supervising several teachers and hundreds of students. When the school moved to larger quarters, the teaching priests were reorganised into a community recognised as a religious order called Le Sciole Pie (Religious Schools), also known as the Piarists, or Scolopii or Ordo Clericorum Regularium Pauperum Matris Dei Scholarum Piarum or Order of Poor Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools; Joseph acted as superior of the Order.

The community encountered many obstacles. It was dissolved, then reorganised after Joseph’s death. They were restored as a religious order in 1669, and continue their good work today.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ruth 1:1, 3-6, 14-16, 22

In the days of the Judges famine came to the land and a certain man from Bethlehem of Judah went – he, his wife and his two sons – to live in the country of Moab. Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died, and she and her two sons were left. These married Moabite women: one was named Orpah and the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years. Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died and the woman was bereft of her two sons and her husband. So she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law and went back to her people. But Ruth clung to her.

Naomi said to her, ‘Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her god. You must return too; follow your sister-in-law.’

But Ruth said, ‘Do not press me to leave you and to turn back from your company, for ‘wherever you go, I will go, wherever you live, I will live.

Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.’

This was how Naomi, she who returned from the country of Moab, came back with Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

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Matthew 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’

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Wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge, I will lodge.

I once read somewhere that Ruth’s journey with Naomi was very much a representation of discipleship with Jesus — the walk with Him would be fraught with ups and downs and ‘foreign territory’ to us at best.

After the death of her husband and sons, Naomi was distraught and depressed. She felt that she had nothing to live for; to the extent that when she returned to Bethlehem, she told her people to call her Mara, for she felt that God had dealt very bitterly with her. She exhorted her two daughters-in-law to return to their family homes, but Ruth insisted on following Naomi back to Bethlehem, determined to be with her and adopt Naomi’s life as her own.

How does this relate to being disciples of Jesus? When Jesus calls us to be His disciples, He does not promise a walk in the park. Yes, He does promise that whoever gives up their lives for Him and the Gospel, would be rewarded in the present age, and eternal life in the age to come, but He also warns that with the rewards would also come persecutions (Mark 10:30). Not an easy path! Like Naomi, we would taste bitterness.

The ‘easy’ way would be to return to what we know best, and are comfortable with, i.e. the ways of the world. For some, this might mean more than just earthly life, this might mean a return to a sinful life. Alternatively, we can carry our cross and face the road ahead with fierce loyalty and passion like Ruth did, to adopt the life that Christ has set for us as our own, including its trials and tribulations.

God promised never to leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). Will we be like Ruth and likewise not abandon or forsake Jesus? What will our choice be?

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

PrayerLord, we know it isn’t easy to walk the path that you have set before us. But we pray for strength and courage, and take comfort in knowing that you will always be there for us.

ThanksgivingWe give thanks to the Lord for giving us a path to eternal life. Help us to be steadfast in our steps, no matter what lies ahead.

23 August, Wednesday – Seeking God

Aug 23 – Memorial for St. Rose of Lima, virgin

A beautiful girl and devoted daughter, Rose (1586-1617) was so devoted to her vow of chastity, she used pepper and lye to ruin her complexion so she would not be attractive. She lived and meditated in a garden, raising vegetables and making embroidered items to sell to support her family and help the other poor. She was the founder of social work in Peru.

“Our Lord and Savior lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: ‘Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.’”

from the writings of St. Rose of Lima

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Judges 9:6-15

All the leading men of Shechem and all Beth-millo gathered, and proclaimed Abimelech king by the terebinth of the pillar at Shechem.

News of this was brought to Jotham. He came and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted aloud for them to hear:

‘Hear me, leaders of Shechem, that God may also hear you!

‘One day the trees went out to anoint a king to rule over them. They said to the olive tree, “Be our king!”

‘The olive tree answered them, “Must I forego my oil which gives honour to gods and men, to stand swaying above the trees?”

‘Then the trees said to the fig tree, “Come now, you be our king!”

‘The fig tree answered them, “Must I forego my sweetness, forego my excellent fruit, to stand swaying above the trees?”

‘Then the trees said to the vine, “Come now, you be our king!”

‘The vine answered them, “Must I forego my wine which cheers the heart of gods and men, to stand swaying above the trees?”

‘Then all the trees said to the thorn bush, “Come now, you be our king!”

‘And the thorn bush answered the trees, “If in all good faith you anoint me king to reign over you, then come and shelter in my shade. If not, fire will come from the thorn bush and devour the cedars of Lebanon.”’

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Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. He made an agreement with the workers for one denarius a day, and sent them to his vineyard. Going out at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place and said to them, “You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage.” So they went. At about the sixth hour and again at about the ninth hour, he went out and did the same. Then at about the eleventh hour he went out and found more men standing round, and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” “Because no one has hired us” they answered. He said to them, “You go into my vineyard too.” In the evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his bailiff, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first.” So those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each. When the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each. They took it, but grumbled at the landowner. “The men who came last” they said “have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” He answered one of them and said, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?” Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.’

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Are you envious because I am generous?

The parable of the workers is a sobering reminder that God’s grace bestowed to each and every one of us does not conform to social norms.

We have been brought up to believe that effort equates rewards. From the time when our parents drilled into our heads that if we didn’t study and make the grade, we would not secure good jobs, to our adult lives where our pay scale or bonus is in line with how much effort we put into our jobs. We impress this upon ourselves, our children, our peers; it has become such a ‘way of life’ that we try to impress it upon God and how we think that God should reward us. But God does not work that way.

It is by the grace of God that we are saved. It is by the grace of God that we have our gifts and blessings. What is grace indeed? Grace is defined as ‘unmerited favour’ — we do not deserve it, yet we receive it. Why is that? Because God is compassionate and loving.

We are all called to do God’s work at some point in our lives, based on His timing. Some of us may have had that calling from very early on, some of us much later in life. Some of us accept God at birth by baptism, some of us embrace God in our adult lives. Yet ALL of us are dealt equally with by God in that we are all given the grace of salvation through Christ Jesus, no matter our standing in human life. We all have the opportunity to reap our reward in heaven as God promised, no matter when we were called to discipleship, or how long or hard we have been serving God. If God deems our hearts as worthy and sincere as the first disciples, then as the parable shows, it is up to Him to determine if we deserve the same reward.

The parable also notes that the first workers had agreed a wage with the landowner, but the last group just agreed to work with no mention of wages. There is an element of trust there that the last group of workers have placed on the landowner, in that they would be paid accordingly, as the landowner saw fit. It is perhaps this element of trust that caused the landowner to say “pay the last group of workers first”.

It is not our place to negotiate a deal with God for the work that we do for Him here on earth — that price has already been paid through the blood of Christ. We cannot enforce our human belief of equality on God. At the end of the day, the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak – we all have the same chance of redeeming ourselves for heaven. And we trust that God will reward us accordingly for our efforts and for our sincerity.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray let the work of our hands be for You and for Heaven alone, that we may trust in You to bring us home.

Thanksgiving: God, we thank you for the blessings and graces that you have bestowed upon us, though we are sinners.

23 June, Friday – Love

23 June 2017 – Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

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Deuteronomy 7:6-11

Moses said to the people: ‘You are a people consecrated to the Lord your God; it is you that the Lord our God has chosen to be his very own people out of all the peoples on the earth.

‘If the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, it was not because you outnumbered other peoples: you were the least of all peoples. It was for love of you and to keep the oath he swore to your fathers that the Lord brought you out with his mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know then that the Lord your God is God indeed, the faithful God who is true to his covenant and his graciousness for a thousand generations towards those who love him and keep his commandments, but who punishes in their own persons those that hate him. He is not slow to destroy the man who hates him; he makes him work out his punishment in person. You are therefore to keep and observe the commandments and statutes and ordinances that I lay down for you today.’

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1 John 4:7-16

My dear people, let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love. God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him; this is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God’s love for us when he sent his Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.

My dear people, since God has loved us so much, we too should love one another. No one has ever seen God; but as long as we love one another God will live in us and his love will be complete in us. We can know that we are living in him and he is living in us because he lets us share his Spirit. We ourselves saw and we testify that the Father sent his Son as saviour of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him, and he in God. We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves. God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.

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Matthew 11:25-30

Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

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God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.

I find it a real struggle to talk about the most sacred heart of Jesus, a heart that is so big and bursting with love that my own heart cannot comprehend it. Blessed are those who can.

The devotion of the most sacred heart of Jesus speaks of Jesus’ unending and long-suffering love for humanity, and humanity’s indifference to his love in return. God so loved the world that he gave us His only Son that he might die so that we can live. God loved us first and redeemed us for Himself. We know this, we have learnt and read about this, yet how much of it do we understand?

We think our hearts are broken beyond repair when someone we love walks out on us or betrays us or cheats on us. Oh, our hearts seems so trivial in comparison to the betrayal that Jesus faced when we broke his heart! I have had my fair share of heartbreak in life but I cannot fathom and am not worthy to put myself in Jesus’ position to say that I understand, I empathise.

All I can say is God is love; to know love is to know God. To love one another, and not just in a romantic sense, is to love God. God’s love is perfected in us when we love one another. Remember the line in the musical Les Miserables: to love another person is to see the face of God? For this one moment, we are offered a glimpse of what God’s love for us feels like. I imagine that to fully embrace the extent of His love for us would be akin to that little glimpse multiplied by the blazing of a thousand suns.

When there is tragedy, there is an outpouring of grief, there is a collective concern, and an overwhelming feeling of wanting to reach out and help. There is a unified effort to stand for a purpose. This is love. Of course, we do not need something as terrible as a tragedy to show love. Love is manifested in many ways. The point is that we are all born with an innate sense to love one another. We are all capable to give and receive love. This is why we find babies so adorable, because they are all love. As we experience different things, our perception of love changes, which sadly is why some are driven to the ‘dark side’. But how we let others change our ability to love is within our control. If we know our worth — and we are worth A LOT to God — then with God’s grace, we can withstand the attempts of these things to corrupt us. God loved us first, and we have to remember always what His love is worth.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer – Father, You redeemed us through Your Son, Jesus. What a price to pay! May our hearts burn for You with the same love that You have for us.

Thanksgiving – Thank you Lord, for loving us, even when we turned away from You. Yours is an unconditional and everlasting love, even though we are not worthy.

 

22 June, Thursday – Dialogue With God

Memorial for St. Paulinus of Nola, bishop; Memorial for St. John Fisher, Bishop & St. Thomas More, martyrs

Paulinus (c.354–431) was a friend of St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Nicetas of Remesiana, and was mentioned for his holiness by at least six of his contemporary saints.

He was a distinguished lawyer who held several public offices in the Empire, then retired from public ministry with his wife, Therasia, first to Bordeaux, where they were baptised, and then to Therasia’s estate in Spain. After the death of their only son at the age of only a few weeks, the couple decided to spend the rest of their lives devoted to God. They gave away most of their estates and dedicated themselves to increasing their holiness.

Paulinus became a priest and with Therasia, moved to Nola and gave away the rest of their property. They dedicated themselves to helping the poor. Paulinus was chosen bishop of Nola by popular demand. He governed the diocese for more than 21 years while living in his own home as a monk and continuing to aid the poor. His writings contain one of the earliest examples of a Christian wedding song.

  • – Patron Saint Index

John Fisher (1469–1535) studied theology at Cambridge University, receiving degrees in 1487 and 1491. He was parish priest in Northallerton, England from 1491–1494. He gained a reputation for his teaching abilities. He was proctor of Cambridge University. He was confessor to Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, in 1497. He was ordained Bishop of Rochester, England in 1504; he worked to raise the standard of preaching in his see. He became chancellor of Cambridge. He was tutor of the young King Henry VIII. He was an excellent speaker and writer.

When in 1527 he was asked to study the problem of Henry’s marriage, he became the target of Henry’s wrath by defending the validity of the marriage and rejecting Henry’s claim to be head of the Church in England. He was imprisoned in 1534 for his opposition, and he spent 14 months in prison without trial. While in prison, he was created cardinal in 1535 by Pope Paul III. He was martyred for his faith.

  • – Patron Saint Index

Thomas More (1478–1535) studied at London and Oxford, England. He was a page for the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was a lawyer. Twice married, and a widower, he was the father of one son and three daughters, and a devoted family man. He was a writer, most famously of the novel which coined the word ‘utopia’. It was translated with the works of Lucian.

He was known during his own day for his scholarship and the depth of his knowledge. He was a friend to King Henry VIII, and Lord Chancellor of England from 1529–1532, a position of political power second only to the king.

He fought any form of heresy, especially the incursion of Protestantism into England. He opposed the king on the matter of royal divorce, and refused to swear the Oath of Supremacy which declared the king the head of the Church in England. He resigned the Chancellorship, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was martyred for his refusal to bend his religious beliefs to the king’s political needs.

  • – Patron Saint Index

22 June 2017

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2 Corinthians 11:1-11

I only wish you were able to tolerate a little foolishness from me. But of course: you are tolerant towards me. You see, the jealousy that I feel for you is God’s own jealousy: I arranged for you to marry Christ so that I might give you away as a chaste virgin to this one husband. But the serpent, with his cunning, seduced Eve, and I am afraid that in the same way your ideas may get corrupted and turned away from simple devotion to Christ. Because any new-comer has only to proclaim a new Jesus, different from the one that we preached, or you have only to receive a new spirit, different from the one you have already received, or a new gospel, different from the one you have already accepted – and you welcome it with open arms. As far as I can tell, these arch-apostles have nothing more than I have. I may not be a polished speechmaker, but as for knowledge, that is a different matter; surely we have made this plain, speaking on every subject in front of all of you.

Or was I wrong, lowering myself so as to lift you high, by preaching the gospel of God to you and taking no fee for it? I was robbing other churches, living on them so that I could serve you. When I was with you and ran out of money, I was no burden to anyone; the brothers who came from Macedonia provided me with everything I wanted. I was very careful, and I always shall be, not to be a burden to you in any way, and by Christ’s truth in me, this cause of boasting will never be taken from me in the regions of Achaia. Would I do that if I did not love you? God knows I do.

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Matthew 6:7-15

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So you should pray like this:

‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be held holy, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us. And do not put us to the test, but save us from the evil one. ‘Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.’

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Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him

When I first received the Good News, I didn’t know how I should pray. Funny as it may sound, before my acceptance of Christ, I never thought about starting off with acknowledging the presence of a Power that is above all i.e. God, followed by thanksgiving and forgiveness. I am guilty of jumping in head-first and presenting all my petitions from passing exams to world peace. I remember as a child – though my intentions were good – I would pray, and thinking that the Almighty Power wouldn’t know who I was and where I lived, I would even state my name, address, and even my date of birth!

After embracing Christ, I remember coming across today’s Gospel reading and thinking to myself, “That’s it? Are you sure God knows who I am? You sure He will hear?” I was so uncertain. With a mix of apprehension and faith, I decided that if I didn’t know how to pray yet, I would start with the Lord’s Prayer, and trust that God would find me. And so I got down on my knees and prayed the Lord’s Prayer for the first time.

As today’s Gospel rightly puts it, God doesn’t want us to go on this loud and long babble. As the saying goes, less is more – He already knows our hearts and our needs. He created us! As Jeremiah 1:5 puts it, “Before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I knew you.” Psalm 139:4 says, “Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all”. So, why do we pray then?

We pray because we need to understand and acknowledge that we depend on God for our needs. We pray to have a connection with Him, it is our daily conversation with God. When we tell God our troubles, we are lifting them up to God and telling Him, “I can’t find a way, I’m stuck, I need help.” We acknowledge that we are limited, but through God who delivers us, we are limitless. Through prayer, we acknowledge God’s presence in our lives, and give Him credit and thanks for it. We learn patience, obedience and faith, that though our requests be many, we understand that God will determine what is best for us in His own time. Through prayer, we understand gratitude, gratitude for God’s help and gratitude for God’s forgiveness. The Lord’s Prayer leads us to ask for forgiveness even as we forgive others: God is saying “I want to give you so much more blessings than you think you deserve, but only if you make room for me by letting go of your own resentments”. By forgiving, only then can we receive forgiveness.

Prayer is a two-way process. It is a dialogue even though we may think it is a monologue, wondering if God hears us when we seem to be the only ones ‘talking’. He is listening. All of the above shows us that it is a process of giving and receiving, acknowledging while asking for our needs to be acknowledged. Let us go down on our knees today then, wherever we are, and have our dialogue with God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.      

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for showing us how to pray. Even though we may not know how to, You have given us a way.

21 April, Friday – Fighting for the Truth

21 Apr – Memorial for St. Anselm, bishop & doctor

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

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

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

No one will have any other desire in heaven than what God wills; and the desire of one will be the desire of all; and the desire of all and of each one will also be the desire of God.”

  • Anselm, Opera Omnis, Letter 112
  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 4:1-12

While Peter and John were talking to the people the priests came up to them, accompanied by the captain of the Temple and the Sadducees. They were extremely annoyed at their teaching the people the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead by proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus. They arrested them, but as it was already late, they held them till the next day. But many of those who had listened to their message became believers, the total number of whom had now risen to something like five thousand.

The next day the rulers, elders and scribes had a meeting in Jerusalem with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, Jonathan, Alexander and all the members of the high-priestly families. They made the prisoners stand in the middle and began to interrogate them, ‘By what power, and by whose name have you men done this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, addressed them, ‘Rulers of the people, and elders! If you are questioning us today about an act of kindness to a cripple, and asking us how he was healed, then I am glad to tell you all, and would indeed be glad to tell the whole people of Israel, that it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence, today. This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone. For of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.’

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John 21:1-14

Jesus stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. It was by the Sea of Tiberias, and it happened like this: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two more of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said, ‘I’m going fishing.’ They replied, ‘We’ll come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat but caught nothing that night.

It was light by now and there stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus. Jesus called out, ‘Have you caught anything, friends?’ And when they answered, ‘No’, he said, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.’ So they dropped the net, and there were so many fish that they could not haul it in. The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ At these words ‘It is the Lord’, Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water. The other disciples came on in the boat, towing the net and the fish; they were only about a hundred yards from land.

As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there, and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it. Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, ‘Who are you?’; they knew quite well it was the Lord. Jesus then stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after rising from the dead.

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But many of those who heard the word came to believe

Nobel-prize winner Malala Yousafzai is a staunch advocate for education, especially for girls. What started off as a movement in her native home in the Swat district in Pakistan is now an international campaign, with supporters like Angelina Jolie and the Obamas. Malala took the brave road laden with trials and obstacles to have her voice heard — she was threatened and finally shot at in an assassination attempt by the Taliban, and all this before she was 16 years old. She lived and recovered, and her message is now heard all over the world.

Sometimes when we defend the truth, we will find opposition from naysayers. Critics attempt to question our credibility by tainting our image. People start to isolate us. Who will hear us?

Peter and John faced similar adversity when they spoke of Jesus’ resurrection. The priests and Sadducees arrested them and threw them into prison in an attempt to silence them. But this only fuelled the spread of the resurrection news, and the number of believers grew and grew.

The point is this – sometimes, it is hard to defend the truth and what we believe in. We will face challenges from all fronts — people will laugh at us, family may criticise us, friends may ostracise us. Lies and rumours about us will spread. Even people who have no association with us will claim familiarity and spread all kinds of falsehoods. It will be the loneliest place on earth to be, fighting in our corner. But that is the thing, God is truth. And while it is lonely for us on earth, if we are on the side of truth, then God is on our side, in heaven. He will have a way of making things happen; we need not understand how, but have faith that it will happen, according to His will, His way, in His time.

It is hard to fight for the truth alone. But Peter and John had full faith in God because they believed strongly in what they had witnessed, and believed that to be the truth. God promised that he would never leave us alone nor forsake us, and He did not abandon Peter and John. In fact, He turned the situation on its head and multiplied the number of believers. Eventually Peter and John were released.

I realise that such situations may not yield similar results. Sadly, not every story has a happy ending. But it is my hope that we will be encouraged by God’s promise that He will be our help, which will lead us to hold on steadfastly to what we believe in. Maybe one day we will be called to testify, I don’t know. If I were in Malala’s shoes, I don’t know if I would have half her courage. But she stood for what she believed in, and in the end, truth prevailed. There is hope yet my friends, to stand by the truth, and it is my hope that truth will prevail.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the courage to stand by the truth though the odds may be against us, firm in the belief that You will deliver us and let the truth prevail.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for being there with us, walking the journey though we may be alone.