Tag Archives: desmond soon

18 March, Wednesday – Doing the right thing

18 Mar – Memorial for St. Cyril of Jerusalem, bishop and doctor

Cyril (315-386) was raised a Christian in Jerusalem. He was well-educated, especially in religion. He was ordained a priest by St. Maximus, and was a great instructor of catechumens. His instructions are still source documents for the Church’s early teachings. He became Bishop of Jerusalem in 348. He was exiled three times by the Arians, usually on some trumped up charge like selling church furniture, but actually on theological grounds. He attended the Council of Seleucia in 359, and the Council of Constantinople in 381. He is a Greek Father of the Church, and a Doctor of the Church.

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Deuteronomy 4:1,5-9

Moses said to the people:
‘Now, Israel, take notice of the laws and customs that I teach you today, and observe them, that you may have life and may enter and take possession of the land that the Lord the God of your fathers is giving you.

‘See, as the Lord my God has commanded me, I teach you the laws and customs that you are to observe in the land you are to enter and make your own. Keep them, observe them, and they will demonstrate to the peoples your wisdom and understanding. When they come to know of all these laws they will exclaim, “No other people is as wise and prudent as this great nation.” And indeed, what great nation is there that has its gods so near as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call to him? And what great nation is there that has laws and customs to match this whole Law that I put before you today?

‘But take care what you do and be on your guard. Do not forget the things your eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your heart all the days of your life; rather, tell them to your children and to your children’s children.’

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Matthew 5:17-19

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.’

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But take care what you do and be on your guard

Having just made it out of Italy (I did not venture north while I was there for 2 weeks), I can appreciate how Singapore has responded to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, especially since I work in one of the universities. I witnessed first-hand the impact back home when, the evening prior to my departure, we were all summoned back to the office because we had a confirmed case of an infected student (he has fully recovered and been discharged).

Then, I left for my holiday in Italy, which I had planned since October last year. Nothing was going to stop me from enjoying the two weeks I had already planned out, in spite of the possible outbreak there. The day I arrived in Rome, the number spiked dramatically to 100. And I was due to travel to Milan the next day. Thankfully, I decided to heed the advice of a priest friend and cancelled the 3-day Milan leg, staying in Rome. By the time I left Italy 2 weeks later, the northern region had already been in lockdown and it was a matter of a few days before the entire nation was put on lockdown.

While many around the world question Singapore’s freedoms, we have also been lauded for the handling of the crisis, managing to contain the spread and enabling most of us to go about our daily lives, albeit with some restrictions — in my case, twice daily reporting of temperature and working from home with split teams. But as I discussed with friends the differences between how each country has responded and managed its own situations, one thing that struck me was that it is only in nations where the citizens are more ‘obedient’ that measures have proven successful. I cannot imagine how any of the Western countries could issue mandatory stay home notices and quarantine orders.

Now take the ‘laws’ that God handed down to Moses and the ‘laws’ which Jesus speaks about in today’s Gospel. I believe many of us have, over the years, put our own interpretations on some of these laws and either ignored some or even adhered to those which suited our ways of thinking. Why? Because while we are on this earth, there are no foreseeable, tangible ‘penalties’ for flouting these laws. On the other hand, try flouting a stay home notice or quarantine order and see what happens to you — 2 students were expelled from their respective universities.

The difference with God is that there is no hiding from Him. We cannot hope that He does not see us missing Sunday Mass (here in Singapore, it has been broadcast online since the suspension of masses last month). We cannot hope that He does not see us judging others, hoarding, gossiping, disobeying our parents…the list goes on. Just because we don’t see Him, we cannot let our guard down. In fact, it is now, in this time of crisis, that we need to be the face of Christ to others. It is now when we need to be compassionate, understanding, patient and forgiving.

Brothers and sisters, as sons and daughters of God, we are beholden to a set of laws that have been handed down through the generations. Whether they are archaic or not is not the question. The question is whether we are living our lives according to the laws prescribed. Or whether we have let the countless viruses of modern living infect our spirituality to the point where we have become immune whenever we break the laws. And cause hurt not only to our loved ones, but to Jesus.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, we pray for your merciful blessings upon this world, in spite of our weaknesses and for having forsaken you. We ask for your healing graces to pour forth and shower us with your love, mercy and forgiveness.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for giving us a second chance at life in this time of crisis, Abba Father. Heal our families as we come together and bond during this trying time.

11 February, Tuesday – Clinging on

11 Feb –Memorial for Our Lady Of Lourdes; World Day of Prayer for the Sick

Today is an optional memorial for Our Lady of Lourdes. The apparitions concerned began on Feb 11, 1858, when St. Bernadette Soubirous, then a 14-year-old peasant girl from Lourdes admitted, when questioned by her mother, that she had seen a ‘lady’ in the cave of Massabielle, about a mile from the town, while she was gathering firewood with her sister and a friend. Similar appearances of the ‘lady’ took place on 17 further occasions that year. Most Catholics believe that the ‘lady’ concerned is the Virgin Mary.

It was on the ninth appearance on Feb 25 that Bernadette was told by the Lady to dig under a rock and drink the water that she found. A day later, a spring began to flow from it. On Mar 1, the 12th appearance, Catherine Latapie reported that she bathed her paralyzed arm in the spring, and instantaneously regained full movement. This was the first of the scientifically unattributable events to take place.

On the 13th appearance on Mar 2, the Lady commanded Bernadette to tell the priests to “come here in procession and to build a chapel here”. The priests would not do so until they knew who the Lady was. On the 16th appearance on Mar 25, the Lady, with her arms down and eyes raised to heaven, folded her hands over her breast and said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

To ensure claims of cures were examined properly and to protect the town from fradulent claims of miracles, the Lourdes Medical Bureau was established. About 7,000 people have sought to have their case confirmed as a ‘miracle’, of which only 68 have been declared a scientifically inexplicable ‘miracle’ by both the Bureau and the Catholic Church.

Because the apparitions are private revelation, and not public revelation, Roman Catholics are not required to believe them, nor does it add any additional material to the truths of the Catholic Church as expressed in public revelation. In Roman Catholic belief, God chooses whom He wants cured, and whom He does not, and by what means. Bernadette said, “One must have faith and pray; the water will have no virtue without faith.”

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1 Kings 8:22-23,27-30

In the presence of the whole assembly of Israel, Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord and, stretching out his hands towards heaven, said, ‘O Lord, God of Israel, not in heaven above nor on earth beneath is there such a God as you, true to your covenant and your kindness towards your servants when they walk wholeheartedly in your way. Yet will God really live with men on the earth? Why, the heavens and their own heavens cannot contain you. How much less this house that I have built! Listen to the prayer and entreaty of your servant, O Lord my God; listen to the cry and to the prayer your servant makes to you today. Day and night let your eyes watch over this house, over this place of which you have said, “My name shall be there.” Listen to the prayer that your servant will offer in this place.

‘Hear the entreaty of your servant and of Israel your people as they pray in this place. From heaven where your dwelling is, hear; and, as you hear, forgive.’

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Mark 7:1-13

The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus, and they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. For the Pharisees, and the Jews in general, follow the tradition of the elders and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow; and on returning from the market place they never eat without first sprinkling themselves. There are also many other observances which have been handed down to them concerning the washing of cups and pots and bronze dishes. So these Pharisees and scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?’ He answered, ‘It was of you hypocrites that Isaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of scripture:

This people honours me only with lip-service,
while their hearts are far from me.
The worship they offer me is worthless,
the doctrines they teach are only human regulations.

You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.’ And he said to them, ‘How ingeniously you get round the commandment of God in order to preserve your own tradition! For Moses said: Do your duty to your father and your mother, and, Anyone who curses father or mother must be put to death. But you say, “If a man says to his father or mother: Anything I have that I might have used to help you is Corban (that is, dedicated to God), then he is forbidden from that moment to do anything for his father or mother.” In this way you make God’s word null and void for the sake of your tradition which you have handed down. And you do many other things like this.’

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In this way you make God’s Word null and void for the sake of your tradition…

Change — an almost universally dreaded word and state of affairs/mind. Interestingly, I am now heavily involved in it at work, and in my ministry (not this one). In one, I am the lead agent, responsible for succession planning over the next three years to groom a team that can take us forward once we move to our new campus. In the other, I am also a lead agent but on the other side of the fence — waiting to take over the reins.

It is interesting how I am learning so much about myself (especially having to be more patient) and as well, others who are directly impacted by what I am doing (at work) and what I will be asked to do (in ministry). And while there are similarities, there are also marked differences, especially in how the change is being perceived. In one instance, it is being welcomed and people around are looking forward to it, knowing that it will spark something new. In the other, it seems to have left a very cynical taste in the mouth of some, who are skeptical that things will change.

In both cases, I have discerned one emotion that I have strangely been immune to — fear. I shared with my SD that I was not concerned at all and was happy to step forward and up to carry the crosses associated with the changes. And, in both situations, I know that there are the handful of people I can rely on to help effect the much-needed changes. I am able to see the light at the end of these long tunnels and am looking forward to learning more about myself and preparing to deal with all sorts of emotions, people, circumstances that will inevitably come my way.

Where I am at now has certainly not been through any effort on my part. Well, perhaps more at work. But in ministry, I had always viewed it as a place for me to exercise my other gifts. Somehow, God has designed it such that I am in a position where I can grow even more — or wither under the ‘pressure’, wilt and fade away. At work, I am fully supported with senior management who are already walking the talk and starting to relinquish their positions. This is a behaviour that I have learnt to mirror and portray to my team, reminding them that one day, I will not be their HOD. And I would never wish to cast a long shadow on any successor that comes in my place because it would be too stifling and unfair.

For now, I continue to pray for His guidance, wisdom and providence. That He will provide for me in my hour of need, when I am unable to find solutions. Brothers and sisters, I am pretty sure that each of us is fighting a ‘change battle’ in some aspect of our life right now. I encourage you to surrender your seemingly hopeless situation to the Lord and let Him minister to you. Let Him speak to you and guide you to those who will want you to succeed. Because the path to change is a never-ending one. It always leads to more change, hopefully, for the better.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, we call upon you to help us discern your true plan for us in our time of struggle; that You will lead us out of the darkness and into the light.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for your providence and wisdom. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

10 February, Monday – Seeking Sanctuary

10 February

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1 Kings 8:1-7,9-13
Solomon called the elders of Israel together in Jerusalem to bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord up from the Citadel of David, which is Zion. All the men of Israel assembled round King Solomon in the month of Ethanim, at the time of the feast (that is, the seventh month), and the priests took up the ark and the Tent of Meeting with all the sacred vessels that were in it. In the presence of the ark, King Solomon and all Israel sacrificed sheep and oxen, countless, innumerable. The priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the Debir of the Temple, that is, in the Holy of Holies, under the cherubs’ wings. For there where the ark was placed the cherubs spread out their wings and sheltered the ark and its shafts. There was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets Moses had placed in it at Horeb, the tablets of the covenant which the Lord had made with the Israelites when they came out of the land of Egypt; they are still there today.
Now when the priests came out of the sanctuary, the cloud filled the Temple of the Lord, and because of the cloud the priests could no longer perform their duties: the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s Temple.
Then Solomon said:
‘The Lord has chosen to dwell in the thick cloud.
Yes, I have built you a dwelling,
a place for you to live in for ever.’
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Mark 6:53-56
Having made the crossing, Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret and tied up. No sooner had they stepped out of the boat than people recognised him, and started hurrying all through the countryside and brought the sick on stretchers to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, to village, or town, or farm, they laid down the sick in the open spaces, begging him to let them touch even the fringe of his cloak. And all those who touched him were cured.

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 I have built you a dwelling…

I live with my mother and uncle in the house that I grew up in since my days in junior college (more than 35 years now). And while it extremely spacious and comfortable, it has, over the years, also provided a roof over the heads of relatives and friends who pass through our shores quite regularly.

According to a friend of mine who does life coaching, I am feeling unsettled because I don’t have a place I can truly call my own and am constantly in search of a sanctuary where I can find quiet time to reflect, pray and just retreat to. Up until recently, I entertained thoughts of moving to a smaller place so that I could design something to suit my needs.

Upon further reflection and, having had one or two sessions with my spiritual director, I have come to realise that perhaps I have been too selfish in wanting my own space, at the expense of the two octogenarians who share my dwelling place now. My other half also cautioned that putting them through a move so late in their lives may be a bit too tiring, and even distressing; after all, this place has been home to them since the mid 80s. Many milestones have come and gone and the house has hosted many amazing gatherings. However, in this season of my life, I prefer a quiet gathering of 4 to 6 close friends where we can talk and share deeply.

Looking around at all my other friends who have already established their homes (grown up kids and all), I have found myself wondering where I am going to eventually find my sanctuary. Granted, I have lived abroad twice and had my own spaces then, but the yearning for a place I can truly call my own is strong. Looking back, especially in 2016 when I walked part of the Camino, I believe that He is slowly pointing me to a space that I know He will provide for me. Whether it is a small, cosy apartment or something that can accomodate my mother and uncle, I truly don’t know. All I know for now is how I want to furnish it and what will inhabit the various living spaces. In the meantime, I continue to seek sanctuary in a relatively new home that has been so lovingly furnished and anointed by the presence of spiritual friends and counsellors. It is truly such a peace-filled and welcoming home which has hosted many hours of fun-filled meals and insightful conversations.

Brothers and sisters, if you have a dwelling place of your own, never take it for granted. For He has provided you a sanctuary to be away from the hustle and bustle of the everyday, and to rest in His presence. Keep it filled with His spirit and presence by cherishing every single moment with your spouse and family members under this roof.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Loving Father, we ask you to bless our dwelling places and be present in all our family gatherings, our family meals and especially while we are resting each night.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for providing us with a roof over our heads, and family to share it with. Amen.

9 February, Sunday – Go toward the light

9 February

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Isaiah 58:7-10

Thus says the Lord:
Share your bread with the hungry,
and shelter the homeless poor,
clothe the man you see to be naked
and do not turn from your own kin.
Then will your light shine like the dawn
and your wound be quickly healed over.
Your integrity will go before you
and the glory of the Lord behind you.
Cry, and the Lord will answer;
call, and he will say, ‘I am here.’
If you do away with the yoke,
the clenched fist, the wicked word,
if you give your bread to the hungry,
and relief to the oppressed,
your light will rise in the darkness,
and your shadows become like noon.
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1 Corinthians 2:1-5
When I came to you, brothers, it was not with any show of oratory or philosophy, but simply to tell you what God had guaranteed. During my stay with you, the only knowledge I claimed to have was about Jesus, and only about him as the crucified Christ. Far from relying on any power of my own, I came among you in great ‘fear and trembling’ and in my speeches and the sermons that I gave, there were none of the arguments that belong to philosophy; only a demonstration of the power of the Spirit. And I did this so that your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God.
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Mark 5:13-16
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You are the salt of the earth. But if salt becomes tasteless, what can make it salty again? It is good for nothing, and can only be thrown out to be trampled underfoot by men.
‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill-top cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine in the sight of men, so that, seeing your good works, they may give the praise to your Father in heaven.’
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You are the light of the world.

The word ‘light’ features prominently in every reading today, even in the Responsorial Psalm and gospel acclamation. It is almost as if God wants all of us to know that no matter how deep we are in despair, how hopeless we feel in any situation we are in now, as long as we have faith in Him, there will always be light at the end of the tunnel.

We have just celebrated a new lunar year and all around us, things are not looking great. The Wuhan virus is spreading slowly and curtailing many activities (I spent the eve of Chinese New Year drafting communiques for staff and students) and it is a constant fight against a unseen enemy — one that knows no boundaries. The end of this week will see me leading worship for the first time at a retreat and I shared recently with my spiritual director that while I do not feel burdened nor worried, I am mindful of the spiritual attacks that may descend upon me.

At the same time, I have been entrusted with the ‘leadership’ of my music ministry, as part of renewal in our centre. I say ‘leadership’ because it is actually a group of 5 of us who have been put forward to drive change within my ministry and to also shape the next few years. It is a call that, while timely, brings with it many legacy issues that I will have to grapple with. I shared recently with the larger group that I truly know how St Peter felt when Christ asked him to step out into the rough water.

But the years in ministry (just slightly more than 8 now) have moulded me to know that God would never put me on too treacherous a path where I would falter. Yes, I am going to stumble and fall, but I know that He will always be there to pick me up, dust me off and set me on my way again. That is how I see my journey thus far and can see the light at the end of this new tunnel. What encourages me is the support that I have been getting from newer ministry members who are eager for change to occur. And over the years, I know for certain that nothing is going to happen without lots of prayer. This is the one thing that is going to empower me as I look ahead and walk forward in faith.

Brothers and sisters, we have each been entrusted with a mission by God to fulfil His plan for us on earth. Many of us are still discerning, some of us are blessed to have been able to hear His call in our hearts. One of my co-leaders shared at lunch today how she recently emerged from a year of distress, uncertainty and darkness into a new season filled with promise and fulfilment. And how leaning on His word and trusting in Him brought her to a new realisation of how much He loves us.

I encourage all of you to look for that sliver of light in the darkness of your situation now. Reach out to it and say to Him, “Father, I trust in your divine love for me. Plant in me the hope that will enable me to move forward in faith.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, we trust in your divine love for us. Plant in us the hope that will enable us to move forward in faith.

Thanksgiving: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

7 January, Tuesday – Because God is love

7 Jan – Memorial for St. Raymond of Penyafort, priest

St. Raymond (1175-1275) was of Aragonian nobility. He was educated at the cathedral school in Barcelona, and became a philosophy teacher at the age of 20. He was a priest. He graduated from law school in Bologna, Italy, and joined the Dominicans in 1218. He was summoned to Rome in 1230 by Pope Gregory IX, and assigned to collect all official letters of the popes since 1150. Raymond gathered and published five volumes, and helped write Church law.

He was made Master General of the Dominicans in 1238. He reviewed the Order’s Rule, made sure everything was legally correct, then resigned his position in 1240 to dedicate himself to parish work. The pope wanted to make Raymond an archbishop, but he declined, instead returning to Spain and the parish work he loved. His compassion helped many people return to God through Reconciliation.

During his years in Rome, Raymond heard of the difficulties missionaries faced trying to reach non-Christians of Northern Africa and Spain. Raymond started a school to teach the language and culture of the people to be evangelized. With St. Thomas Aquinas, he wrote a booklet to explain the truths of faith in a way non-believers could understand. His great influence on Church law led to his patronage of lawyers.

  • Patron Saint Index

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1 John 4:7-10

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.

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Mark 6:34-44

As Jesus stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length. By now it was getting very late, and his disciples came up to him and said, ‘This is a lonely place and it is getting very late, So send them away, and they can go to the farms and villages round about, to buy themselves something to eat.’ He replied, ‘Give them something to eat yourselves.’ They answered, ‘Are we to go and spend two hundred denarii on bread for them to eat?’ How many loaves have you?’ he asked ‘Go and see.’ And when they had found out they said, ‘Five, and two fish.’ Then he ordered them to get all the people together in groups on the green grass, and they sat down on the ground in squares of hundreds and fifties. Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven and said the blessing; then he broke the loaves and handed them to his disciples to distribute among the people. He also shared out the two fish among them all. They all ate as much as they wanted. They collected twelve basketfuls of scraps of bread and pieces of fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.

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Because God is love

Having just returned from the Holy Land filled with questions, trying to comprehend how Jesus could have gone ahead with his mission in the climate of the time he preached and walked the earth, I have been brought back to earth with a huge thud. This feeling began at our countdown mass on New Year’s Eve, when I had to lead a paraliturgy. I thought I had prepared sufficiently for it and had the prayers ready but as the time approached, I was in two minds — should I go with the rehearsed script? Or should I just lift the session to God?

In the end, I got through it with a mix of both and with some much-needed help from two (it could have been three) members of our young adult community, who stepped up to accompany our small team without being asked. As I turned to glance behind me when I heard a drum being played, a felt a wave of gratitude and my spirits were lifted just seeing the musicians bond with us, playing as one. I don’t think it would have happened under ‘normal circumstances’ — i.e. if it had been my ministry leading the session. The fact that we had a mix of prayer leaders from another ministry further drove home the point that as long as we are all united in love of God, it doesn’t matter who is leading or playing; because God simply takes over.

As a relatively young worship leader, I am still coming to grips with choice of appropriate songs, where and how to lead the congregation to in terms of a 30 or 45-min worship journey. Naturally, being open to feedback (constructive or otherwise) helps a lot and that itself takes a truly open, humble heart. Because it is the only way to be accepting of others and their opinions. This year, it is with such an open heart that I approached my division performance appraisals and I truly believe that it is why we went through a painless process, despite the fact that I was away for nearly two weeks.

Brothers and sisters, such is His immense love for us that what He wills for us would never take us to where His grace will not protect us. Today, at our ministry core meeting, a significant decision was taken where I, together with four others, am now placed in a position that requires me to have even more faith that He has a divine plan for all of us. I ask for your prayers over the next few weeks, months and years, that He will embolden, empower and enrich my spiritual journey as I allow Him to work in me.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we ask for your kindness and mercy to always fill us as we discern the plans you have for each and every one of us.

Thanksgiving: Abba Father, thank you for all the situations you create for us to manifest your love to others.

 

25 December, Wednesday (Mass in the Day) – In Search of…

25 December – Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord (Mass in the Day)

The Word Made Flesh

For us the Word of God is no longer the message spoken by prophets, but the messenger of God in person, the Eternal Word begotten of the Father before time began. 

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Isaiah 52:7-10

How beautiful on the mountains,
are the feet of one who brings good news,
who heralds peace, brings happiness,
proclaims salvation,
and tells Zion,
‘Your God is king!’

Listen! Your watchmen raise their voices,
they shout for joy together,
for they see the Lord face to face,
as he returns to Zion.

Break into shouts of joy together,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord is consoling his people,
redeeming Jerusalem.

The Lord bares his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.

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Hebrews 1:1-6

At various times in the past and in various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our own time, the last days, he has spoken to us through his Son, the Son that he has appointed to inherit everything and through whom he made everything there is. He is the radiant light of God’s glory and the perfect copy of his nature, sustaining the universe by his powerful command; and now that he has destroyed the defilement of sin, he has gone to take his place in heaven at the right hand of divine Majesty. So he is now as far above the angels as the title which he has inherited is higher than their own name.

God has never said to any angel: You are my Son, today I have become your father; or: I will be a father to him and he a son to me. Again, when he brings the First-born into the world, he says: Let all the angels of God worship him.

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John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word:
and the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things came to be,
not one thing had its being but through him.
All that came to be had life in him
and that life was the light of men,
a light that shines in the dark,
a light that darkness could not overpower.

A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.

The Word was the true light
that enlightens all men;
and he was coming into the world.
He was in the world
that had its being through him,
and the world did not know him.
He came to his own domain
and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to all who believe in the name of him
who was born not out of human stock
or urge of the flesh
or will of man
but of God himself.

The Word was made flesh,
he lived among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father,
full of grace and truth.

John appears as his witness. He proclaims:
‘This is the one of whom I said:
He who comes after me ranks before me
because he existed before me.’

Indeed, from his fullness we have, all of us, received –
yes, grace in return for grace,
since, though the Law was given through Moses,
grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God;
it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart,
who has made him known.

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And all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God

I have just returned from a 12-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land and was blessed to have walked in the land where Jesus lived, preached, died and then rose and ascended into heaven. Celebrating daily mass at the many holy sites was truly all I wanted and, particularly so at the Holy Sepulchre (on Golgotha) and in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, I felt His presence strongly.

We also had an hour of adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament one evening in the chapel within the convent where we were staying in Jerusalem and as I struggled to understand His supreme sacrifice (we had visited the home of Caiaphas and prayed Psalm 88 in the very dungeon Jesus spent the night before his crucifixion), I asked in my heart how is it that God would have put his only son through all that pain, torture and misery. I could only trust in faith that God’s divine plan would reveal His love and mercy to me along the way.

And so he did. In the various encounters I had with the shopowners in the Old City on our free half day, in the daily interactions with the pilgrims (some of whom I had met the previous year on a similar trip through France to Portugal), and in my dreams as I slumbered for at least 10 hours each night.

Because despite the conflict that I felt within the land, there was an unmistakeable aura – one that spoke of perserverance, of never giving up. One that radiate an ethereal peace, love and joy. Jesus was ever-present as we traced His footsteps, guided by our knowledgeable and grandfatherly guide, led by our slightly regimental but ever-loving tour leader. They brought to life each and every site as we took pictures, prayed and reflected. From the Church of the Visitation to the very spot where He gave up His sacred life, I could feel the sense of foreboding and inevitability of the fate our Saviour was meant to live out.

Yet amidst all this ‘heaviness’, I could also reflect back on the hope of His birth. We just had a small party at home and the choir came and sang familiar favourites. Those lyrics mean so much more to me now and as I look back on our pilgrimage, I praise God for calling me to His land – where conflict and tolerance are part and parcel of everyday life. Where walls are erected to demarcate governance and control. However, I know in my heart that these are mere symbols erected by man. We, brothers and sisters, are called to destroy all walls that we erect within our hearts; to embrace the poor, the afflicted, the downtrodden. Because the greatest gift we have been given was not under a tree. It was born in a manger, under a shining star so that we would embrace it and be shining stars wherever we walk.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer:  Father, we thank you for the gift of Jesus, our Emmanuel, your Holy Son.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for being our shining star in our lives.

24 December, Tuesday – Shalom

24 Dec 2019

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2 Samuel 7:1-5,8-12,14,16

Once David had settled into his house and the Lord had given him rest from all the enemies surrounding him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘Look, I am living in a house of cedar while the ark of God dwells in a tent.’ Nathan said to the king, ‘Go and do all that is in your mind, for the Lord is with you.’

But that very night the word of the Lord came to Nathan:

‘Go and tell my servant David, “Thus the Lord speaks: Are you the man to build me a house to dwell in? I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be leader of my people Israel; I have been with you on all your expeditions; I have cut off all your enemies before you. I will give you fame as great as the fame of the greatest on earth. I will provide a place for my people Israel; I will plant them there and they shall dwell in that place and never be disturbed again; nor shall the wicked continue to oppress them as they did, in the days when I appointed judges over my people Israel; I will give them rest from all their enemies. The Lord will make you great; the Lord will make you a House. And when your days are ended and you are laid to rest with your ancestors, I will preserve the offspring of your body after you and make his sovereignty secure. I will be a father to him and he a son to me; if he does evil, I will punish him with the rod such as men use, with strokes such as mankind gives. Your House and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me and your throne be established for ever.”’

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Luke 1:67-79

John’s father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:

‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel
for he has visited his people, he has come to their rescue
and he has raised up for us a power for salvation
in the House of his servant David,
even as he proclaimed,
by the mouth of his holy prophets from ancient times,
that he would save us from our enemies
and from the hands of all who hate us.
Thus he shows mercy to our ancestors,
thus he remembers his holy covenant
the oath he swore
to our father Abraham
that he would grant us, free from fear,
to be delivered from the hands of our enemies,
to serve him in holiness and virtue
in his presence, all our days.
And you, little child,
you shall be called Prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord
to prepare the way for him,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins;
this by the tender mercy of our God
who from on high will bring the rising Sun to visit us,
to give light to those who live
in darkness and the shadow of death
and to guide our feet
into the way of peace.’

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 And to guide our feet into the way of peace

I have just returned from a 12-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land and was blessed to have walked in the land where Jesus lived, preached, died and then rose and ascended into heaven. Celebrating daily mass at the many holy sites was truly all I wanted and, particularly so at the Holy Sepulchre (on Golgotha) and in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, I felt His presence strongly.

We also had an hour of adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament one evening, in the chapel within the convent where we were staying in Jerusalem, and as I struggled to understand His supreme sacrifice (we had visited the home of Caiaphas and prayed Psalm 88 in the very dungeon Jesus spent the night before his crucifixion), I asked in my heart how is it that God would have put his only son through all that pain, torture and misery. As the days wore on, and as I understood more about the situation in the region, I found myself marveling at how, in spite of all the ridicule, persecution and deep-seated doubts among the people, Jesus trusted in His Father and simply carried on preaching and performing miracles.

I don’t think anyone of us would ever be able to fathom the depths of His love for us. And that is the point for me – Jesus, Son of God, brought into this world in the form of an infant in a manger (it is a trough used to feed animals in a barn) – went through so much just so that we, you and I, could be saved and by believing and trusting in Him (“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” – Jn 14:6), enjoy an eternity filled with peace, love and joy.

Our journeys each day around Bethlehem, Galilee, Tiberias and Jerusalem itself were certainly ‘peaceful’. But I could also sense the tension and conflict around us. It was something that gnawed on my mind each day, especially as we went past walls and through checkpoints manned by troops with machine guns. Why, in this holy land, should there be a need for such ‘war-like’ measures? It was obvious that the peace on the ground was a ‘managed’ one, which should not be taken for granted. There is a tolerance among the inhabitants (I would be hard pressed to identify each race, except for the Jews) and all it would take it a seemingly minor infraction to set off a violent reaction.

And so, I can only imagine what it would have been like in the time of Jesus. Literally, one would need all the patience of a saint to navigate through the land. Who else but Jesus could have journeyed from Nazareth, through the Valley of Arpel, to Capernaum via Magdala. Who else but Jesus could have endured the temptation of the devil in the dry land of Jericho, to then journey to Jerusalem and to his eventual slaughter? For us to have such a ‘guide’ brothers and sisters is truly a blessing and a privilege.

I left Israel filled with new thoughts and certainly a deeper appreciation of the significance of that appearance of the star above the fields where the shepherds were grazing their flock. A star that hovered over where the Church of the Nativity now stands, with a fourteen-pointed star marking the spot where our Saviour was born. It is where salvation began for us…and continues today in our hearts. Let us eschew the trappings of Christmas for once, and focus on the birth of little child to a young virgin called Mary, and her betrothed, a carpenter named Joseph.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, we await the birth of your Son tonight with expectant faith. Give us the courage to open our hearts so that He can be born within us again.

Thanksgiving: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

11 November, Monday – Faith Debt

11 November 2019

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Wisdom 1:1-7

Love virtue, you who are judges on earth,
let honesty prompt your thinking about the Lord,
seek him in simplicity of heart;
since he is to be found by those who do not put him to the test,
he shows himself to those who do not distrust him.
But selfish intentions divorce from God;
and Omnipotence, put to the test, confounds the foolish.
No, Wisdom will never make its way into a crafty soul
nor stay in a body that is in debt to sin;
the holy spirit of instruction shuns deceit,
it stands aloof from reckless purposes,
is taken aback when iniquity appears.

Wisdom is a spirit, a friend to man,
though she will not pardon the words of a blasphemer,
since God sees into the innermost parts of him,
truly observes his heart,
and listens to his tongue.
The spirit of the Lord, indeed, fills the whole world,
and that which holds all things together knows every word that is said.

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Luke 17:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Obstacles are sure to come, but alas for the one who provides them! It would be better for him to be thrown into the Sea with a millstone put round his neck than that he should lead astray a single one of these little ones. Watch yourselves!

If your brother does something wrong, reprove him and, if he is sorry, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times a day and seven times comes back to you and says, “I am sorry,” you must forgive him.’

The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’

The Lord replied, ‘Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you.’

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The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith”

I have been facing a crisis of faith in myself over the recent weeks due to a few missteps at work. Apart from questioning my own leadership of my team, I wondered if I was becoming too complacent and starting to take my role at work for granted. Thankfully, I will be spending 5 days (starting today in fact) at a leadership training course which most of my other colleagues have already attended over the years. Many of them have attested to its effectiveness, especially since each was assigned a mentor/coach, depending on the areas of weakness that were identified during the course.

My own chat with my boss (this was something that had to be done prior to the course starting) revealed a trust that he has in me and how he felt that the 5 days would be beneficial, especially in the area of learning how to appreciate other divisions needs and then harnessing support from others, as well as my own team, to help focus on a common goal, even if it did not agree fully with my aims. This was an area he felt I needed to beef up on. Obviously, there has been feedback that I can be pretty ‘hard-nosed’ and that I do not consult enough before I make certain decisions.

I am pretty sure Jesus never went through a crisis of faith in his own leadership, simply because he was led by God the Father. The apostles could disagree and bicker among themselves but Jesus never bowed to their various idiosyncracies nor compromised and let them have their way. I think that is where I have been falling short – not staying my own course and allowing my staff to get away with many things. As a consequence, I have begun to tighten the fist again and even issued a ‘code of conduct’ (after consulting with HR). I felt that it was time to take back control and to let the team know I was not going to stand idly by while standards started to slip.

You could say that my lack of faith in my own leadership precipitated a reaction where I went into ‘crisis mode’. I myself am hoping that over the next few weeks and months, I can restore some pride and reset standards to where they once were. Not that they have gone totally downhill, just that we are on a slippery slope and traction has to be restored. Thankfully, I know that our God is with me on this journey and He is going to be more than just a bystander. I look back on the past two months and realise that He has been my cheerleader all this while, willing me to lean on him even more as I started to question my own abilities as a leader.

Brothers and sisters, when was the last time you faced a crisis of confidence and had to turn within yourself, knowing that only you could make things better? I want to encourage everyone of us today who is facing a tough situation that God is always with us – we just need to open our hearts and invite Him into our situations so that He can fill us with a faith and determination that no one else can give.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Abba Father, be our guide and our healer as we journey through the rough waters around us.

Thanksgiving: We thank you dear Father, for your faithfulness and your loving hand in our lives.

10 November, Sunday – Persevering in Faith

10 Nov 2019 – 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

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2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14

There were seven brothers who were arrested with their mother. The king tried to force them to taste pig’s flesh, which the Law forbids, by torturing them with whips and scourges. One of them, acting as spokesman for the others, said, ‘What are you trying to find out from us? We are prepared to die rather than break the laws of our ancestors.’
  With his last breath the second brother exclaimed, ‘Inhuman fiend, you may discharge us from this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up, since it is for his laws that we die, to live again for ever.’
  After him, they amused themselves with the third, who on being asked for his tongue promptly thrust it out and boldly held out his hands, with these honourable words, ‘It was heaven that gave me these limbs; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again.’ The king and his attendants were astounded at the young man’s courage and his utter indifference to suffering.
  When this one was dead they subjected the fourth to the same savage torture. When he neared his end he cried, ‘Ours is the better choice, to meet death at men’s hands, yet relying on God’s promise that we shall be raised up by him; whereas for you there can be no resurrection, no new life.’
 

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2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father who has given us his love and, through his grace, such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope, comfort you and strengthen you in everything good that you do or say.
  Finally, brothers, pray for us; pray that the Lord’s message may spread quickly, and be received with honour as it was among you; and pray that we may be preserved from the interference of bigoted and evil people, for faith is not given to everyone. But the Lord is faithful, and he will give you strength and guard you from the evil one, and we, in the Lord, have every confidence that you are doing and will go on doing all that we tell you. May the Lord turn your hearts towards the love of God and the fortitude of Christ.

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Luke 20:27-38

Some Sadducees – those who say that there is no resurrection – approached Jesus and they put this question to him, ‘Master, we have it from Moses in writing, that if a man’s married brother dies childless, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Well then, there were seven brothers. The first, having married a wife, died childless. The second and then the third married the widow. And the same with all seven, they died leaving no children. Finally the woman herself died. Now, at the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife since she had been married to all seven?’
  Jesus replied, ‘The children of this world take wives and husbands, but those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the resurrection from the dead do not marry because they can no longer die, for they are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God. And Moses himself implies that the dead rise again, in the passage about the bush where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.’

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But the Lord is faithful, and he will give you strength and guard you from the evil one

It has been a challenging two months where work has booged me down both from a physical as well as an emotional manner. There have been mistakes made which I let affect the credibility of my division and my work, thereby rendering me (in my own mind) useless and ineffective in the eyes of my bosses. A crisis led to an error of judgement where some sensitive information was sent out to a group of industry partners and that triggered a string of events which led to me having to send out close to one hundred email apologies in one night.

It happened on the evening where I was supposed to lead practice with the worship team and I was truly ‘tempted’ to call for help and ask another worship leader to cover for me while I fixed the mess at work. However, I told myself that I had to run the practice since I had already chosen the songs and taking the 3 hours (including travel) out of the office may actually help. So in faith, I told my staff involved to prepare the list of addressees while I stepped out.

Thankfully, the damage was contained and I believe that in owning up to my error, I showed all those around me (and above) that I was responsible enough to take the blame. In my heart of hearts, I truly believe that the Lord had waved His loving hands over the whole situation and that by surrendering it all to Him, I had allowed him to take over. That practice session was wonderfully smooth and I went back to the office with a sense of overwhelming peace and a deep assurance that everything would be OK.

The whole episode led me to question if I had started to become ‘soft’ after almost 10 years in this job. I had one or two conversations with my deputy as well as another colleague if I had become too nice a leader and if my standards were slipping (a remark made out of concern by another HOD). I guess as the most ‘senior’ HOD around, I am expected to set some sort of example and others look up to me as some sort of benchmark for how things are done at work.

Brothers and sisters, we sometimes get too caught up with the goings-on in our career, in our everyday lives that we forget to allow God in to remind us how ultimately, we are His children and His precious sons and daughters. We let others tell us how we should behave, we let others affect our emotions too much. I have learnt, over many years, that when the storms come, there is no point getting sucked up in the vortex of noise, uncertainty and chaos. It is precisely in those periods when we need to trust in God and lean into His loving arms in faith. Because only then can we begin to discern His hand in our lives and realise that no matter how much we try, when the chips are down, it is only through surrendering in faith that He will answer our prayers and help us out of situations that we create.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer:  Abba Father, you look after all of us with a faith that demonstrates to us how precious we are in your eyes as your sons and daughters. Help us to see your hand in all that we do and are going through in our lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank you dear Father, for always being there for us.

1 October, Tuesday – Don’t Give The Enemy A Seat At Your Table

Oct 1 – Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor, Patroness of Missions

Born to a pious middle-class French family of tradesmen, Francoise-Marie Therese Martin (1873–1897) was the daughter of Blessed Louis Martin and Blessed Marie-Azelie Guerin Martin, and all four of her sisters became nuns. Her mother died when Francoise-Marie was only four, and the family moved to Lisieux, Normandy, France to be closer to family.

She was cured from an illness at the age of 8 when a statue of the Blessed Virgin smiled at her. She was educated by the Benedictine nuns of Notre-Dame-du-Pre, and confirmed there at the age of 11. Just before her 14th birthday, she received a vision of the Child Jesus. She immediately understood the great sacrifice that had been made for her, and developed an unshakeable faith.

She tried to join the Carmelites, but was turned down due to her age. She was a pilgrim to Rome for the Jubilee of Pope Leo XIII whom she met and who knew of her desire to become a nun. She joined the Carmelites at Lisieux on 9 April 1888 at the age of 15, taking her final vow on 8 September 1890 at the age of 17.

She is known by all for her complete devotion to spiritual development and to the austerities of the Carmelite Rule. Due to health problems resulting from her ongoing fight with tuberculosis, her superiors ordered her not to fast. She became novice mistress at the age of 20, and at age 22 was ordered by her prioress to begin writing her memories and ideas. The material would turn into the book History of a Soul.

She defined her path to God and holiness at The Little Way, which consisted of child-like love and trust in God. She had an ongoing correspondence with the Carmelite missionaries in China, often stating how much she wanted to come work with them. Many miracles are attributed to her and she was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1997 by Pope John Paul II.

“You know well enough that our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.” – Saint Therese of Lisieux

  • Patron Saint Index

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Zechariah 8:20-23

The Lord of Hosts says this: ‘There will be other peoples yet, and citizens of great cities. And the inhabitants of one city will go to the next and say, “Come, let us go and entreat the favour of the Lord, and seek the Lord of Hosts; I am going myself.” And many peoples and great nations will come to seek the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favour of the Lord.’

The Lord of Hosts says this: ‘In those days, ten men of nations of every language will take a Jew by the sleeve and say, “We want to go with you, since we have learnt that God is with you.”’

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Luke 9:51-56

As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem and sent messengers ahead of him. These set out, and they went into a Samaritan village to make preparations for him, but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem. Seeing this, the disciples James and John said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?’ But he turned and rebuked them, and they went off to another village.

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We want to go with you

 I have been pondering lately over the question of succession – both at work and within my ministry. In each instance, I am at different ends of the scale. At work, I am struggling to find someone who is capable of delivering to a level that I am accustomed to, only because the person I had planned to groom left a month back. So I am back to my sometimes non-existent, not-as-highly visible deputy who, while capable, is not assertive enough.

In ministry, while I have had the opportunity to step up on a few occasions, I feel that while I am doing well at fixing some operational and logistics issues that have lingered for a while, I am yet to level up in terms of my worship leading. So while I am taking vocal classes to improve my technique, I fall short when it comes to the spiritual aspects.

I have tried to look at both situations from various perspectives and can only surmise that these two trials that I am going through will lead to a larger realisation of where He is taking me on my leadership journeys. Interestingly, I have also been approached by an old friend to consider a move to something more ‘exciting’, in an environment which I am more accustomed to – where everyone brings their ‘A-game’ each and every day.

I told him that his timing was rather uncanny. I have been growing increasingly frustrated with some of my colleagues and I shared that among my team of 14, I would only bring 2 along should I ever make the move. I am pretty sure that even if the others asked me to take them, I would say ‘No’. What then does that say of me as a leader? Am I prepared to walk away from a team who have stuck with me through thick and thin since 2012?

And if I were to be thrust into a leadership role in ministry, I wonder how many will confidently say, “We’ll stand by you”? After all, I am merely a newbie, undergoing some training and trying to impart my knowledge and skills to others. And while there are those who encourage and affirm, I know there are others who doubt and question. To be fair, I would too, if I were in their shoes.

Brothers and sisters, some of us are called to lead and, in many instances, we find ourselves questioning our abilities. Remember that Jesus never called priests, nor those who were learned. He gathered fishermen and turned them into fishers of men. Let us not allow the devil to plant seeds of doubt in our minds and resolutely follow our shining star and guiding light – Jesus Christ.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep us faithful and focussed on the road ahead through our daily prayers and help us to see your guiding hand in all that we do.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always guiding us gently along in our spiritual journey.