Tag Archives: desmond soon

10 July, Tuesday – Wither Art Thou?

10 Jul 

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Hosea 8:4-7,11-13

Thus says the Lord:

They have set up kings, but not with my consent,
and appointed princes, but without my knowledge.
Out of their own silver and gold they have made idols,
which are doomed to destruction.
I spurn your calf, Samaria,
my anger blazes against it.
(How long will it be before they purge themselves of this,
the sons of Israel?)
A workman made the thing,
this cannot be God!
Yes, the calf of Samaria shall go up in flames.
They sow the wind, they will reap the whirlwind;
their wheat will yield no ear,
the ear will yield no flour,
or, if it does, foreigners will swallow it.

Ephraim has built altar after altar,
they have only served him as occasion for sin.
Were I to write out the thousand precepts of my Law for him,
they would be paid no more attention than those of a stranger.
They love sacrificing; right, let them sacrifice!
They love meat; right, let them eat it!
The Lord takes no pleasure in these.
He is now going to remember their iniquity
and punish their sins;
they will have to go back to Egypt.

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Matthew 9:32-37

A man was brought to Jesus, a dumb demoniac. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb man spoke and the people were amazed. ‘Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel’ they said. But the Pharisees said, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts out devils.’

Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness.

And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.’

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The harvest is rich but the labourers are few…

It is an oft-heard gripe that there are barely enough priests in our diocese in order for us to be a missionary and evangelistic church. And so it falls on the laity to help our shepherds advance the cause and be the face of Christ to all who come on Sunday for mass, and to those who encounter us at our various worship sessions, during talks, seminars, retreats, wakes, weddings and even funerals.

Over the years, I have met a variety of non-believers who are either amazed at our faith, or seem quite skeptical that we believe in a god who perished so brutally at our own hands. I must admit, it took me quite a while to come to terms with the fact that we revere someone who we ourselves condemned to death by our own sinful nature.

Perhaps that’s why we have no qualms yelling at the person who cuts us off on the road, or turning a blind eye to the elderly cleaner hunched over a trolley, trying his/her best to scrape by with the little they earn. What about the colleague we put down yesterday, or the ministry member we rolled our eyes at during a recent meeting?

And yet, God continues to have faith in us. He continues to sustain us and egg us on, in spite of our unworthiness and our sinfulness. Brothers and sisters, any CEO worth his/her salt would have terminated us right away if we were ‘found out’. At the very least, we would be summoned for a dressing down or issued a warning letter to get us to ‘buck up’. On the contrary, our heavenly Father just allows us to get on with our lives. He gives us the free will to make our own choices, to the best of our ability. We choose how we want to labour in His vineyard. We set conditions. We expect returns. Then we complain and gripe about the state of our church.

It is during these trying times that God truly reveals His splendour and love for each and every one of us. “I am the good shepherd, says the Lord. I know my own sheep and my own know me.” (Jn 10:14) and “…he is our help and our shield.” (Ps 33:20). So when Jesus exhorts his disciples to “ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest”, we should know that it is God who is going to give us all the strength and the tools to carry out our mission here on earth. A mission unique to each and every one of us which requires discernment, a steadfast faith and total trust in Him in order for us to fulfil His plan for us. Yes brothers and sisters, we are all here to fulfil God’s plan (not the other way around) and so, we have to ask ourselves if we are allowing Him to work in our hearts.

Or are we being too prideful, obstinate and unfeeling in our daily interactions, especially in our parish and ministry ‘work’ that we are missing the forest for the trees?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for a greater sense of perspective. That we are able to distinguish between what is yours and what our human desires tell us to act on each day. We ask for you to always speak to our hearts and to help us discern your plan for all of us.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for your steadfast love and for your faith in each and every one of us.

9 July, Monday – Healing Touch

Jul 9 – Memorial for St. Augustine Zhao Rong, priest, & companions

Christianity arrived in China by way of Syria in the 600s. Depending on China’s relations with the outside world, Christianity over the centuries was free to grow or was forced to operate secretly.

The 120 martyrs in this group died between 1648 and 1930. Most of them (87) were born in China and were children, parents, catechists or labourers, ranging from nine years of age to 72. This group includes four Chinese diocesan priests.

The 33 foreign-born martyrs were mostly priests or women religious, especially from the Order of Preachers, the Paris Foreign Mission Society, the Friars Minor, Jesuits, Salesians and Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.

Augustine Zhao Rong was a Chinese solider who accompanied Bishop John Gabriel Taurin Dufresse (Paris Foreign Mission Society) to his martyrdom in Beijing. Augustine was baptized and not long after was ordained as a diocesan priest. He was martyred in 1815.

Beatified in groups at various times, these 120 martyrs were canonized in Rome on October 1, 2000.

http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/SaintOfDay/default.asp?id=1914

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Hosea 2:16,17-18,21-22

It is the Lord who speaks:

I am going to lure her
and lead her out into the wilderness
and speak to her heart.
I am going to give her back her vineyards,
and make the Valley of Achor a gateway of hope.
There she will respond to me as she did when she was young,
as she did when she came out of the land of Egypt.

When that day comes – it is the Lord who speaks –
she will call me, ‘My husband’,
no longer will she call me, ‘My Baal.’
I will betroth you to myself for ever,
betroth you with integrity and justice,
with tenderness and love;
I will betroth you to myself with faithfulness,
and you will come to know the Lord.

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Matthew 9:18-26

While Jesus was speaking, up came one of the officials, who bowed low in front of him and said, ‘My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her and her life will be saved.’ Jesus rose and, with his disciples, followed him. Then from behind him came a woman, who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years, and she touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, ‘If I can only touch his cloak I shall be well again.’ Jesus turned round and saw her; and he said to her, ‘Courage, my daughter, your faith has restored you to health.’ And from that moment the woman was well again.

When Jesus reached the official’s house and saw the flute-players, with the crowd making a commotion he said, ‘Get out of here; the little girl is not dead, she is asleep.’ And they laughed at him. But when the people had been turned out he went inside and took the little girl by the hand; and she stood up. And the news spread all round the countryside.

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…your faith has restored you to health.

If only I had just a smidgen of the faith which the woman who touched Jesus’ cloak had, perhaps my spiritual life would not be so topsy-turvy. I have been struggling of late, not attending daily mass (not even bothering to try) and struggling to lead worship during our weekly practice sessions whenever I am assigned to do it. Just last week, there was even a fleeting thought of taking a sabbatical just to see where it would lead me.

But then I managed to catch myself and say ‘No’. I told myself that for whatever spiritual dryness I am going through now, all the Lord wants in my state is for me to desire to be restored to health. Then I ask, “Whose cloak am I going to touch?” After all, Jesus no longer walks the earth. Or does He?

At a recent Friday growth service at CSC, I was on the violin during communion and we sang ‘O God You Search Me’. As I began the intro to the hymn, I could feel His presence among the congregation and as I switched from verse to chorus and back, improvising the tune along the way, I started to tear up. As the spirit led and as the choir ended the song, our worship leader encouraged me to keep playing. I closed my eyes and kept on going. Then, as He walked past me back out of the auditorium, I felt Him reaching out to me. When I eventually stopped, I fell to my knees and started to cry. It was then that I knew Jesus indeed had been present with us as we all partook of His flesh. That night, I left the centre with an unmistakeable glow in my heart – one of joy. However, since then, I have been struggling to find it again.

Perhaps I have been letting work wear me down; perhaps it is those around me, who I have been finding tiresome and a chore to be with. Or perhaps I have simply lost the passion and zeal for His word. Then last week after another practice, I asked 3 of my ministry members out for a drink so that we could let our hair down and enjoy some fellowship. The 90 minutes we had together were some of the most real and intense sharings I had heard in a long while and, amidst the stories of hardship and personal challenges, I found hope and joy as we encouraged each other along our respective faith journeys.

Brothers and sisters, we all struggle at various points in our life. During those times, aside from spending time in the adoration room with Christ, who do you have that you can rely on to pour out your woes and to ‘touch their cloak’? Conversely, are you someone whose cloak a loved one wants to touch? Are we there for our fellow brothers and sisters when they need some form of healing? As we search for Christ in our lives, how can we be Christ to others?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, help us to desire You when we find ourselves drying up spiritually or tempted by sin. Let us not succumb to the snares of the evil one.

Thanksgiving: We thank you, Lord, for being a constant presence in our lives.

8 July, Sunday – Strength In Adversity

8 July

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Ezekiel 17:22-24

The spirit came into me and made me stand up, and I heard the Lord speaking to me. He said, ‘Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to the rebels who have turned against me. Till now they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me. The sons are defiant and obstinate; I am sending you to them, to say, “The Lord says this.” Whether they listen or not, this set of rebels shall know there is a prophet among them.’

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2 Corinthians 12:7-10

In view of the extraordinary nature of these revelations, to stop me from getting too proud I was given a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to beat me and stop me from getting too proud! About this thing, I have pleaded with the Lord three times for it to leave me, but he has said, ‘My grace is enough for you: my power is at its best in weakness.’ So I shall be very happy to make my weaknesses my special boast so that the power of Christ may stay over me, and that is why I am quite content with my weaknesses, and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and the agonies I go through for Christ’s sake. For it is when I am weak that I am strong.

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Mark 6:1-6

Jesus went to his home town and his disciples accompanied him. With the coming of the sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue and most of them were astonished when they heard him. They said, ‘Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?’ And they would not accept him. And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house’; and he could work no miracle there, though he cured a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

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For it is when I am weak that I am strong

I have never been one that had to be strong for others. For much of my life, I have only had to be strong for myself, as I had been blessed with very independent parents who didn’t have to rely on me. And I do not have any children to care for, save for a nephew and niece.

Recently though, I have had to stand firm in the face of adversity, both from professional and personal points of view. The professional part has not been easy but neither has it been draining; it is the strength I have had to summon to face the storms on a personal front that has been wearing me down. Looking back, I can also tie it back to the fact that I stopped trying to go for daily morning mass as I have not been sleeping very well. So it has been a bit of a vicious cycle, leading to what many may term ‘spiritual dryness’. I still find joy in ministry though, and look forward to serving at CSC, as well as editing and uploading these reflections. But I have started to feel more worn out and more spiritually drained.

Last weekend, nearly 300 of us attended a community retreat at CSC for ministry members. Towards the end of the first day after dinner, we played an interesting game of affirmation the organisers called ‘Back Biting’. Basically, each member got a sheet of blank paper which we had to clip behind our backs and then all of us were given 10 minutes to go around writing positive things on each other’s backs. At the end of the ‘backbiting’ period, we were asked to sit down and to slowly digest what others had written about us. Needless to say, I was totally floored as I read my paper and tears started to stream down my face. I guess over the past few weeks, I had been filled with self-doubt and inadequacy. I had been beating myself up when in actual fact, people saw me very differently.

Indeed, brothers and sisters, it is when we are at our weakest that God shows us how strong He is. I never knew I had it in me to lead a discipleship group, let alone have a go at leading praise and worship. But ultimately, it is all about surrendering our weaknesses to God. Because all he asks is that we remain open to His graces and that we remain faithful to Him. I know that on the odd morning I manage to make it for 6.30 am mass, that entire day just seems to ‘float’ by, with nary a harsh word/thought and with everything running smoothly (especially when I am asked to lead worship at practice).

So if you are feeling inadequate or are filled with self-doubt as you stand before your storm, know that He is always with you, strengthening and moulding you in His image and likeness. He is filling you up with all that He knows you need to get through whatever season of difficulty you are facing at the moment. And in the end, the light will shine again in your heart.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for courage to stand firm in the face of adversity and for the faith that You will lift us up and shine your light in us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for showing us how strong we can be even as we fall down.

1 June, Friday – Asking

Jun 1 – Memorial for St. Justin, martyr

He was born at the beginning of the second century in Nablus, in Samaria, of a pagan Greek family. He was an earnest seeker after truth, and studied many systems of philosophy before being led, through Platonism, to Christianity. While remaining a layman, he accepted the duty of making the truth known and travelled from place to place, proclaiming the gospel. In 151, he travelled from Ephesus to Rome, where he opened a school of philosophy and wrote defences and expositions of Christianity, which have survived to this day, and are the earliest known writings of their kind. In the persecution of 165, in the reign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, he was denounced as a Christian, arrested and beheaded. The transcript of his trial by the prefect of Rome, Rusticus, has also survived: it can be found in today’s Office of Readings.

Justin treats the Greek philosophy that he studied as mostly true, but incomplete. In contrast to the Hebrew tendency to view God as making revelations to them and to no-one else, he follows the parable of the Sower, and sees God as sowing the seed of wisdom throughout the world, to grow wherever the soil would receive it. When we dispute with people who disagree with us, we would do well to assume that they too are seeking wisdom, and have found truth of a kind. Since there is only one God and one Truth, it is our task not to contradict or belittle their achievement, but to show them how their strivings and searches are ultimately fulfilled in Christ. This is harder to do – not least, because we have to take the trouble to understand our own faith thoroughly – but it is ultimately more worthwhile.

– Universalis

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1 Peter 4:7-13

Everything will soon come to an end, so, to pray better, keep a calm and sober mind. Above all, never let your love for each other grow insincere, since love covers over many a sin. Welcome each other into your houses without grumbling. Each one of you has received a special grace, so, like good stewards responsible for all these different graces of God, put yourselves at the service of others. If you are a speaker, speak in words which seem to come from God; if you are a helper, help as though every action was done at God’s orders; so that in everything God may receive the glory, through Jesus Christ, since to him alone belong all glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

My dear people, you must not think it unaccountable that you should be tested by fire. There is nothing extraordinary in what has happened to you. If you can have some share in the sufferings of Christ, be glad, because you will enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed.

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Mark 11:11-26

After he had been acclaimed by the crowds, Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple. He looked all round him, but as it was now late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

Next day as they were leaving Bethany, he felt hungry. Seeing a fig tree in leaf some distance away, he went to see if he could find any fruit on it, but when he came up to it he found nothing but leaves; for it was not the season for figs. And he addressed the fig tree. ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again’ he said. And his disciples heard him say this.

So they reached Jerusalem and he went into the Temple and began driving out those who were selling and buying there; he upset the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those who were selling pigeons. Nor would he allow anyone to carry anything through the Temple. And he taught them and said, ‘Does not scripture say: My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples? But you have turned it into a robbers’ den.’ This came to the ears of the chief priests and the scribes, and they tried to find some way of doing away with him; they were afraid of him because the people were carried away by his teaching. And when evening came he went out of the city.

Next morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered to the roots. Peter remembered. ‘Look, Rabbi,’ he said to Jesus, ‘the fig tree you cursed has withered away.’ Jesus answered, ‘Have faith in God. I tell you solemnly, if anyone says to this mountain, “Get up and throw yourself into the sea,” with no hesitation in his heart but believing that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. I tell you therefore: everything you ask and pray for, believe that you have it already, and it will be yours. And when you stand in prayer, forgive whatever you have against anybody, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your failings too.’ But if you do not forgive, your Father in heaven will not forgive your failings either.’

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…everything you ask and pray for, believe that you have it already, and it will be yours.

If only life were so easy. That all we desire, wish for or hope will simply appear before us as long as we ask for it. “Give me a nice house. Give me a good job. Give me a good spouse. Give me a good family.” And ‘poof’, miraculously, we have it all.

Yeah, right.

Because the life we have here is a constant battle to achieve, acquire, attain and then hold on to. We seek happiness in what we have worked hard to acquire all our working life. Then when we ‘retire’ and have to declutter so that we can live more freely, we start to question ourself. We ask whether it was all worth the struggle. Whether at the end of it all, has our life come down to the four walls around us and the three square meals we can afford each day. Whether we will be remembered for what we had, instead of what we gave while we had friends and family to give to.

I want to be remembered for the heart I have, whatever people say it is – generous, giving, joyful, embracing, patient, etc. Mind you, I am still working on just being able to not judge others, so I am extremely far from my goal. Will I ever get there? Not on my own strength but by the grace of God.

Because events of the past few weeks have whittled me down to a blubbering mess at times. The feelings of hopelessness, of letting a loved one down, of not being able to fulfil my promise (especially after discerning His call to be a pillar of support) have left me questioning the very verse that I have been drawn to. Maybe I still cling on to the hope that somehow, during this period of doubt, He will truly provide. But should I dial back my expectations? Surely He will give me all that I ask. But hang on, St Mark writes “believe that you have it already” How do I ask for something that I already have?

I can’t see it. Not right now.

Maybe I need to stop asking and just keep praying in hope.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Lord, I ask you to provide in my hour of need.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for all that you will give to us.

30 May, Wednesday – Ransom Paid In Blood

30 May

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1 Peter 1:18-25

Remember, the ransom that was paid to free you from the useless way of life your ancestors handed down was not paid in anything corruptible, neither in silver nor gold, but in the precious blood of a lamb without spot or stain, namely Christ; who, though known since before the world was made, has been revealed only in our time, the end of the ages, for your sake. Through him you now have faith in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory for that very reason – so that you would have faith and hope in God.

You have been obedient to the truth and purified your souls until you can love like brothers, in sincerity; let your love for each other be real and from the heart – your new birth was not from any mortal seed but from the everlasting word of the living and eternal God. All flesh is grass and its glory like the wild flower’s. The grass withers, the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains for ever. What is this word? It is the Good News that has been brought to you.

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Mark 10:32-45

The disciples were on the road, going up to Jerusalem; Jesus was walking on ahead of them; they were in a daze, and those who followed were apprehensive. Once more taking the Twelve aside he began to tell them what was going to happen to him: ‘Now we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the pagans, who will mock him and spit at him and scourge him and put him to death; and after three days he will rise again.’

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached him. ‘Master,’ they said to him ‘we want you to do us a favour.’ He said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ They said to him, ‘Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I must drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I must be baptised you shall be baptised, but as for seats at my right hand or my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted.’

When the other ten heard this they began to feel indignant with James and John, so Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all. For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

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..so that you would have faith and hope in God.

Dealing with loss can be rather traumatic. The death of a loved one, or having to let go of a beloved pet; losing a large business deal or losing one’s job; even having to let go of something that means a lot due to circumstances beyond one’s control. It has been an emotional few weeks for me as we deal with loss and the consequences of it. Never have I felt so helpless, so powerless to do anything except to just be present. Even then, I fear that I am too weak to be of any use or support. If only I had something to give, then everything will be alright. But in spite of our prayers, He has been quiet. At least from our perspective.

Today’s first reading reminds us that ‘the ransom that was paid to free you from the useless way of life your ancestors handed down was not paid in anything corruptible, neither in silver nor gold, but in the precious blood of a lamb without spot or stain, namely Christ’ At times like this I truly wonder if His sacrifice, which was meant to save us from this earthly ‘prison’, was in vain. Surely Christ gave up His life for us so that we could enjoy (note the operative word here) a life that He meant for us to have? We didn’t work so hard for so long in order to have to give up the fruits of our labour.

What gives us hope is revealed later on as Peter writes, ‘The grass withers, the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains for ever. What is this word? It is the Good News that has been brought to you.’ So all that we know (the material life) will eventually wither and die, leaving us what Christ has delivered in the form of the Good News. And we cling on to the word of God, by going to daily mass and receiving communion; by going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and unburdening ourselves to Him; by recognising that He continues to pour out His graces into our lives and our hearts, in spite of our shortcomings or how we treat Him.

I don’t know for how long we will struggle but at some point, I know that He will take over completely. For now, we plod on in our mortal form, dealing with the gamut of negative emotions that come with loss. Perhaps this is a lesson for us to truly appreciate Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, a ransom paid in blood. I am reminded of a line in a song that always brings tears to my eyes – ‘…that a man would give his life for a friend’. Who else can proudly proclaim to another that his God sacrificed himself on a cross in order to save the world?

Brothers and sisters, we have just celebrated Pentecost and acknowledged the coming of the Holy Spirit. Whatever is going on in our lives right now, let us recognise that we are a chosen people, specially anointed to reflect His love and graces to others around us. In spite of all that we go through.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for courage, to learn how to die to ourselves and our desires so that you will be able to use us to build your kingdom. Help us to glorify you in all we say and do.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your being the constant help in our lives.

7 May, Monday – Collateral Damage

7 May

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Acts 16:11-15

Sailing from Troas we made a straight run for Samothrace; the next day for Neapolis, and from there for Philippi, a Roman colony and the principal city of that particular district of Macedonia. After a few days in this city we went along the river outside the gates as it was the sabbath and this was a customary place for prayer. We sat down and preached to the women who had come to the meeting. One of these women was called Lydia, a devout woman from the town of Thyatira who was in the purple-dye trade. She listened to us, and the Lord opened her heart to accept what Paul was saying. After she and her household had been baptised she sent us an invitation: ‘If you really think me a true believer in the Lord,’ she said ‘come and stay with us’; and she would take no refusal.

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John 15:26-16:4

Jesus said to his disciples:
‘When the Advocate comes,
whom I shall send to you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father,
he will be my witness.
And you too will be witnesses,
because you have been with me from the outset.
‘I have told you all this that your faith may not be shaken.
They will expel you from the synagogues,
and indeed the hour is coming
when anyone who kills you
will think he is doing a holy duty for God.
They will do these things
because they have never known
either the Father or myself.
But I have told you all this,
so that when the time for it comes
you may remember that I told you.’

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Your faith may not be shaken

As a university, we continue to grow and evolve. And after more than 9 years, I have seen many good people come and go. I have often wondered why seemingly good people decide to leave their job just as all eyes are on us and we begin to establish ourselves as a distinctive brand in Singapore.

A few years back, we attended a culture building workshop facilitated by a young husband and wife team. One exercise involved a handful of colleagues going out of the room while the rest of us were given ‘briefs’ about the kind of people we were and how each team was supposed to build the tallest tower possible out of a variety of material (paper cups, balloons, straws, crepe paper, markers and the like). Then halfway through the process, the handful of colleagues who had been asked to step out of the room were re-introduced into each group. But they had obviously been given a different ‘brief’ to us in terms of their culture. They all behaved pretty oddly and as they tried to assimilate into our groups, there was some obvious discomfort and even tension.

At the end of the session, we all shared that as an organisation that was so focussed on getting things done, we sometimes portrayed ourselves as cold, distant and unwelcoming. To outsiders and new employees, this could take some getting used to. While reflecting on this, I drew a parallel with my ongoing spiritual recovery journey and the other 6 brothers who are journeying together with me. As their leader, I have had to keep the relatively ‘new’ group united, especially with the challenges we are facing as a ministry. Unfortunately, the reality is that we are not as tight a group as I would prefer. I found myself questioning my own leadership and whether I have been open, caring, or even available to my other brothers who may be struggling with various issues at work or at home.

Unlike our Lord who cares for each and every one of His sheep, I feared that I may have been too cold or unapproachable as a leader. But at a recent inner healing retreat where I was serving, He kept reassuring me that all I needed to do was to look to Him in my hour of need.

Brothers and sisters, the Lord is always there waiting to catch us, no matter how wretched we feel about ourselves. He is a loving God full of compassion and mercy, ever willing to enfold us in His arms so that as His true sons and daughters, we will never fall by the wayside. I know I have to trust in Him completely to keep my group together, united in the bonds of His undying love for each and every one of us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, help us to see your face in every situation that we face. Help us to remain focussed and committed to you as we journey on this earth.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always watching out for us and being there to catch us when we falter.

 

17 March, Saturday – Getting Over Betrayal

17 Mar – Memorial for St. Patrick, bishop

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

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

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

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

– Saint Patrick, from his breastplate

  • Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 11:18-20

The Lord revealed it to me; I was warned.

O Lord, that was when you opened my eyes to their scheming. I for my part was like a trustful lamb being led to the slaughter-house, not knowing the schemes they were plotting against me, ‘Let us destroy the tree in its strength, let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name may be quickly forgotten!’

But you, the Lord of Hosts, who pronounce a just sentence,
who probe the loins and heart,
let me see the vengeance you will take on them,
for I have committed my cause to you.

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John 7:40-52

Several people who had been listening to Jesus said, ‘Surely he must be the prophet’, and some said, ‘He is the Christ’, but others said, ‘Would the Christ be from Galilee? Does not scripture say that the Christ must be descended from David and come from the town of Bethlehem?’ So the people could not agree about him. Some would have liked to arrest him, but no one actually laid hands on him.

The police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees who said to them, ‘Why haven’t you brought him?’ The police replied, ‘There has never been anybody who has spoken like him.’ ‘So’ the Pharisees answered ‘you have been led astray as well? Have any of the authorities believed in him? Any of the Pharisees? This rabble knows nothing about the Law – they are damned.’ One of them, Nicodemus – the same man who had come to Jesus earlier – said to them, ‘But surely the Law does not allow us to pass judgement on a man without giving him a hearing and discovering what he is about?’ To this they answered, ‘Are you a Galilean too? Go into the matter, and see for yourself: prophets do not come out of Galilee.’

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…not knowing the schemes they were plotting against me…

As the ‘official’ spokesperson of our university, I sometimes find myself caught in situations where I have to manage two differing opinions or points of view in order to present a more balanced view or position to the media or the public. Thankfully, most times, the solution(s) end up being acceptable to all parties involved and we move on. However, I recently found myself in a situation which made me start to question my own abilities as a leader. Effectively, I was ‘betrayed’ by someone who I had thought I was helping over the past year.

In trying to help an underperforming senior staff understand his errors and coach him out of his rather ‘warped’ way of approaching work and leadership, I cited a lot of my own personal experiences and inevitably exposed myself a bit too much, especially when I got a bit passionate about his weaknesses and lack of certain qualities which I expected from a supposedly seasoned professional. To cut a long story short, HR is now involved as there has now been feedback about me to my boss.

I truly never expected such a slap in the face from someone I thought I was helping. How could I have been so naïve?! Especially having come across such situations when I was living in Dubai a decade ago. But lo and behold, it is when people are desperate and grasping at straws that they forget all about professional courtesy and decency. Whether they have been ill-advised or are acting out of sheer desperation, it brought to my mind some appreciation of how Jesus must have felt being betrayed by Judas and all of those who had a hand in his crucifixion. The best part is that Jesus knew exactly what He was getting himself into whereas we never do.

Brothers and sisters, we must never let such setbacks deter us from opening our hearts to others. Painful as it may be, the sting of betrayal can never be soothed by revenge. Instead, we must don the breastplate of faith and accept that as we journey with our wounded brothers and sisters, we must be prepared to face arrows, daggers, even bullets shot at us by those who may not be as ‘mature’ as we think.

Because if Jesus could forgive every one of us, who are we to condemn others who we deem ‘unworthy’? Can we, in good conscience, condemn those who hurt us? Or should we instead continue praying for them so that they may be redeemed?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, give us a heart that is filled with love, mercy and compassion for our brothers and sisters who are themselves wounded by pride and envy.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Jesus, for always showing us the depths of your love.

16 March, Friday – Passing Judgment

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We give thanks to God for your steadfast following of Oxygen.

As we enter into the Paschal Mystery of the Church, we invite our readers who want to help contribute a reflection to come forward.

The following readings are available for reflection:

Holy Saturday

Epistle + Responsorial Psalm

Gospel

This is a good time for you to share with our readers the joys you have had in reading Oxygen. Do drop an email to descksoon@yahoo.com who will be in touch with you on how to proceed.

God bless

Oxygen Core Team

16 March

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Wisdom 2:1,12-22

The godless say to themselves, with their misguided reasoning:

‘Our life is short and dreary,
nor is there any relief when man’s end comes,
nor is anyone known who can give release from Hades.
Let us lie in wait for the virtuous man, since he annoys us
and opposes our way of life,
reproaches us for our breaches of the law
and accuses us of playing false to our upbringing.
He claims to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a son of the Lord.
Before us he stands, a reproof to our way of thinking,
the very sight of him weighs our spirits down;
his way of life is not like other men’s,
the paths he treads are unfamiliar.
In his opinion we are counterfeit;
he holds aloof from our doings as though from filth;
he proclaims the final end of the virtuous as happy
and boasts of having God for his father.
Let us see if what he says is true,
let us observe what kind of end he himself will have.
If the virtuous man is God’s son, God will take his part
and rescue him from the clutches of his enemies.
Let us test him with cruelty and with torture,
and thus explore this gentleness of his
and put his endurance to the proof.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death
since he will be looked after – we have his word for it.’

This is the way they reason, but they are misled,
their malice makes them blind.
They do not know the hidden things of God,
they have no hope that holiness will be rewarded,
they can see no reward for blameless souls.

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John 7:1-2,10,25-30

Jesus stayed in Galilee; he could not stay in Judaea, because the Jews were out to kill him.

As the Jewish feast of Tabernacles drew near, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went up as well, but quite privately, without drawing attention to himself. Meanwhile some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, ‘Isn’t this the man they want to kill? And here he is, speaking freely, and they have nothing to say to him! Can it be true the authorities have made up their minds that he is the Christ? Yet we all know where he comes from, but when the Christ appears no one will know where he comes from.’

Then, as Jesus taught in the Temple, he cried out:

‘Yes, you know me
and you know where I came from.
Yet I have not come of myself:
no, there is one who sent me
and I really come from him,
and you do not know him,
but I know him because I have come from him
and it was he who sent me.’

They would have arrested him then, but because his time had not yet come no one laid a hand on him.

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…with their misguided reasoning

Most of us like to pigeonhole people and categorise them as being of a certain ‘kind’ or ‘type of character’. Then, when we encounter someone who doesn’t ‘fit the bill’ or conform to a stereotype in our minds, we either dismiss their views and/or keep them out of our circle of friends or maintain our distance.

Today’s readings smack of mistrust and judgment, values that I find prevalent in many organisations and even in church ministry (sad, but true). What I find unacceptable is how a group of ‘leaders’ (supposedly), can pass judgement and spread gossip about younger, newer members to the fold without even getting to know them or giving them a fair shake. It certainly reminds me of the Israelites who were so sceptical about Jesus that they even wished him dead.

Just this past weekend, I met up with a brother in Christ who spent considerable time with me and shared about his life experiences since we last met. The encounter was profound and certainly opened my mind up to the many possibilities that life has to offer. I had been going through a trying time at work and wanted to hear his perspective. He too lamented on how companies/organisations perpetuate unhealthy values and how that affects staff morale and contributes to stress at the workplace.

He spoke about how the word ‘company’ originated from the Latin ‘companio’ – meaning ‘one who breaks bread with you’. If you think about it, who do we share meals with? Those who we deem ‘worthy’ of our companionship and time, those who mean something to us. So how is it that companies eschew politics and backbiting? How can ministry members not encourage and support but, instead, tear others down with malicious gossip and innuendo?

Brothers and sisters, as we approach our Jerusalem, let us be more aware of our words and actions towards others. Let us appreciate how a simple word can destroy, rather than affirm. And how it is never up to us to pass judgment on another fellow human being. For who are we to condemn when we ourselves are not ‘perfect’ nor devoid of sin?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that you give us the wisdom to appreciate the weaknesses of those around us and fill us with a heart that is open to guiding and lifting up those who need affirmation.

Thanksgiving: We thank you, O Holy Spirit, for your gift of counsel.

15 March, Thursday – Building On A Legacy

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We give thanks to God for your steadfast following of Oxygen.

As we enter into the Paschal Mystery of the Church, we invite our readers who want to help contribute a reflection to come forward.

The following readings are available for reflection:

Holy Saturday

Epistle + Responsorial Psalm

Gospel

This is a good time for you to share with our readers the joys you have had in reading Oxygen. Do drop an email to descksoon@yahoo.com who will be in touch with you on how to proceed.

God bless

Oxygen Core Team

15 March 2017

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Exodus 32:7-14

The Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down now, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostatised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice. “Here is your God, Israel,” they have cried “who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘I can see how headstrong these people are! Leave me, now, my wrath shall blaze out against them and devour them; of you, however, I will make a great nation.’

But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘why should your wrath blaze out against this people of yours whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with arm outstretched and mighty hand? Why let the Egyptians say, “Ah, it was in treachery that he brought them out, to do them to death in the mountains and wipe them off the face of the earth”? Leave your burning wrath; relent and do not bring this disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your servants to whom by your own self you swore and made this promise: I will make your offspring as many as the stars of heaven, and all this land which I promised I will give to your descendants, and it shall be their heritage for ever.’

So the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

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John 5:31-47

Jesus said to the Jews:

‘Were I to testify on my own behalf,
my testimony would not be valid;
but there is another witness who can speak on my behalf,
and I know that his testimony is valid.
You sent messengers to John,
and he gave his testimony to the truth:
not that I depend on human testimony;
no, it is for your salvation that I speak of this.
John was a lamp alight and shining
and for a time you were content to enjoy the light that he gave.
But my testimony is greater than John’s:
the works my Father has given me to carry out,
these same works of mine testify
that the Father has sent me.
Besides, the Father who sent me
bears witness to me himself.
You have never heard his voice,
you have never seen his shape,
and his word finds no home in you
because you do not believe in the one he has sent.

‘You study the scriptures,
believing that in them you have eternal life;
now these same scriptures testify to me,
and yet you refuse to come to me for life!
As for human approval, this means nothing to me.
Besides, I know you too well: you have no love of God in you.
I have come in the name of my Father
and you refuse to accept me;
if someone else comes in his own name
you will accept him.
How can you believe,
since you look to one another for approval
and are not concerned
with the approval that comes from the one God?
Do not imagine that I am going to accuse you before the Father:
you place your hopes on Moses,
and Moses will be your accuser.
If you really believed him
you would believe me too,
since it was I that he was writing about;
but if you refuse to believe what he wrote,
how can you believe what I say?’

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…of you, however, I will make a great nation.

Having recently stepped up to take on a leadership role in my ministry, I have found that the approach to the kind of ‘work’ we, as leaders, are supposed to do is a bit different from the corporate world. The legacies of immediate past leaders cannot be so easily dismissed and to do so would be extremely foolish, especially if they have contributed significantly for more than a decade (or even two).

Today, at a capability development workshop, one of the members of my senior management gave an interesting answer when asked about what sort of legacy he wanted to leave behind when he retired. He said, “When I step down, I would like to continue providing advice to whoever succeeds me but only if he wants me to be around. I certainly am not going to hang around and be some sort of emeritus professor because I hope that whoever succeeds me will be even better than me.”

In terms of ministry renewal however, I have begun to appreciate that we cannot simply sweep aside the previous leadership nor let them ‘fade into the sunset’. Despite our best efforts at succession planning, these ‘elders’ have amassed so much wisdom over the years that to not tap into it would be foolhardy. Yet, how are the new leaders supposed to function and lead in the shadows (some can be very long) of those who have paved the way?

Brothers and sisters, God did not create us to merely be followers. Each and every one of us has a ‘leader’ inside of us that makes all kinds of choices on a daily basis. And God, in His desire for us to rise up, has promised that He would make a great nation of us. I take great comfort in this verse as I navigate much more choppy waters of late; both at work, and in ministry. In both cases, there has been some collateral damage and while it has caused me some distress, I have not let it weigh me down too much.

Why? Simply because I believe that He has called upon me to be a conduit of change – to help turn a stagnant, desolate situation into something more vibrant, alive and filled with hope. For that is what the Lord called Moses to be as he led the Israelites out of Egypt. Today, let us look at those around us who are weakened and in need of help. Can each of us be that ‘change agent’ and turn someone’s desolation into consolation?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you created us for a purpose. Show us the way and be our strength and guide as we navigate our way through life here on earth.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for calling each of us to lead by example.

14 March, Wednesday – All Work And No Play

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We give thanks to God for your steadfast following of Oxygen.

As we enter into the Paschal Mystery of the Church, we invite our readers who want to help contribute a reflection to come forward.

The following readings are available for reflection:

Holy Saturday

7th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

Epistle + Responsorial Psalm

Gospel

This is a good time for you to share with our readers the joys you have had in reading Oxygen. Do drop an email to descksoon@yahoo.com who will be in touch with you on how to proceed.

God bless

Oxygen Core Team

14 March

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Isaiah 49:8-15

Thus says the Lord:

At the favourable time I will answer you,
on the day of salvation I will help you.
(I have formed you and have appointed you
as covenant of the people.)
I will restore the land
and assign you the estates that lie waste.
I will say to the prisoners, ‘Come out’,
to those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’

On every roadway they will graze,
and each bare height shall be their pasture.
They will never hunger or thirst,
scorching wind and sun shall never plague them;
for he who pities them will lead them
and guide them to springs of water.
I will make a highway of all the mountains,
and the high roads shall be banked up.

Some are on their way from afar,
others from the north and the west,
others from the land of Sinim.
Shout for joy, you heavens; exult, you earth!
You mountains, break into happy cries!
For the Lord consoles his people
and takes pity on those who are afflicted.

For Zion was saying, ‘The Lord has abandoned me,
the Lord has forgotten me.’
Does a woman forget her baby at the breast,
or fail to cherish the son of her womb?
Yet even if these forget,
I will never forget you.

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John 5:17-30

Jesus said to the Jews, ‘My Father goes on working, and so do I.’ But that only made them even more intent on killing him, because, not content with breaking the sabbath, he spoke of God as his own Father, and so made himself God’s equal.
To this accusation Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
the Son can do nothing by himself;
he can do only what he sees the Father doing:
and whatever the Father does the Son does too.
For the Father loves the Son
and shows him everything he does himself,
and he will show him even greater things than these,
works that will astonish you.
Thus, as the Father raises the dead and gives them life,
so the Son gives life to anyone he chooses;
for the Father judges no one;
he has entrusted all judgement to the Son,
so that all may honour the Son
as they honour the Father.
Whoever refuses honour to the Son
refuses honour to the Father who sent him.
I tell you most solemnly,
whoever listens to my words,
and believes in the one who sent me,
has eternal life;
without being brought to judgement
he has passed from death to life.
I tell you most solemnly,
the hour will come – in fact it is here already –
when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God,
and all who hear it will live.
For the Father, who is the source of life,
has made the Son the source of life;
and, because he is the Son of Man,
has appointed him supreme judge.
Do not be surprised at this,
for the hour is coming when the dead will leave their graves
at the sound of his voice:
those who did good will rise again to life;
and those who did evil, to condemnation.
I can do nothing by myself;
I can only judge as I am told to judge,
and my judging is just,
because my aim is to do not my own will,
but the will of him who sent me.’

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My Father goes on working, and so do I.

We have had a ‘tumultuous’ few weeks in our ministry, culminating in a change (and expansion) in the leadership. Inevitably, many of us have been called to step up and to assume leadership roles, some even ‘double hatting’ in two sections. The past few meetings have been rather intense and we are close to executing the plans/strategies for the year, trusting that our hard work will lead the ministry onwards and forward.

This period has also coincided in a ‘dark’ time at work, with one or two tough decisions having to be made about underperforming staff. The morale of the team at work has taken a hit and I have been trying to encourage those around me to look ahead and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Then, as I started to reflect on today’s verses, I received the news that an offer of employment had been accepted by a desired candidate. Hallelujah!

I am sure that many of us in ministry have fallen into the trap of ‘doing’ that we lose sight of the initial joy of serving. We get so caught up in performing our tasks or ensuring a project comes together that we forget to let God take over and guide us. Over the years, I have learnt that at some point, we have to be mindful of the little successes and blessings that come our way; and to simply rejoice. Because even play takes a bit of work in the context of our hustle and bustle lives (yes, even in ministry).

Brothers and sisters, even in our darkest hours, even when we are desolate or in a state that weighs heavy in our hearts, we must always look to the Lord to provide the glimmer of hope. For the Lord always works to bring joy into our lives, no matter how wretched we are feeling. It may not be that one million dollars falling into your lap, nor that promotion you have been craving. It may just be a simple dinner shared with a spouse, or a hug from one of your children. Never discount that warmth you feel rising in your heart or that lump in your throat when a stranger offers a helping hand. We must all learn to be mindful of how God works to assure us that no matter the circumstances around us, He will never fail us. He will lead us through our desolation and bring us to the promised land. Each and every day we live and breathe on this earth.

And so I offer the flip side. What are WE doing as Christians to bring God into the lives of those around us? How are we working just as Jesus did to bring joy, love and peace into the lives of those we care about. And those who we interact with regularly? Are we truly working hard at being true living examples of Jesus Christ?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, teach us to appreciate your hand in our lives so that we in turn may then reach out to those in need of your loving touch.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for all those who have helped us on our faith journeys, and for giving us a heart that beats for you.