Tag Archives: desmond soon

21 June, Wednesday – A Father’s Love

21 June 2017

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2 Corinthians 9:6-11

Do not forget: thin sowing means thin reaping; the more you sow, the more you reap. Each one should give what he has decided in his own mind, not grudgingly or because he is made to, for God loves a cheerful giver. And there is no limit to the blessings which God can send you – he will make sure that you will always have all you need for yourselves in every possible circumstance, and still have something to spare for all sorts of good works. As scripture says: He was free in almsgiving, and gave to the poor: his good deeds will never be forgotten.

The one who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide you with all the seed you want and make the harvest of your good deeds a larger one, and, made richer in every way, you will be able to do all the generous things which, through us, are the cause of thanksgiving to God.

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Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you; this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win men’s admiration. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

‘And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them; I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

‘When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.’

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…your Father who sees all that is done in secret.

We recently celebrated the Feast of Corpus Christi at the Catholic Spirituality Centre (CSC) with a vigil mass and adoration followed by a 24-hour intercession in the Perpetual Adoration Chapel, culminating in a procession and mass. It was certainly a ‘packed’ weekend for all of us and, leading up to it, I had been swamped with work and hence, did not feel as if I had prepared well for my ministry’s assigned 2-hour intercession slot.

Ordinarily, I would be filled with some nervous energy, worrying about what I should pray (my group had been asked to lead the prayers). However, by God’s grace, I stepped into the chapel totally free of any anxiety and as we knelt by the Blessed Sacrament, a sense of calm came over me and I truly believe that He led the way for an anointed time of intercession.

I have touched a bit on my recent struggles with responsibility and commitment and how, in discerning His plan for me, I have come to reconcile some of the changes I have had to make in my life. I believe that in approaching the coming weeks and months with expectant faith that He will provide in abundance, I have very much ‘settled down’ and come to accept His hand in everything that has transpired. So much so that I have begun to stop worrying about things that I would ordinarily fret about. I must admit, I don’t know how long this attitude is going to last, but I certainly am filled with the hope that He will continue to sustain me as long as I keep up my prayer life.

Indeed, there are no secrets that we can keep from our heavenly Father. After all, we who have eaten his flesh and drank his blood remain in Him and He in us. Hard to imagine then, that there is any aspect of our lives which He does not know about. And truly, at our lowest and in our darkest periods, it is only His light and divine presence within us that keeps us going.

Due to a very hectic week, it is Father’s Day as I write this reflection. It wasn’t planned (we usually have to submit our reflections one week ahead), but I believe it was His plan. My own father passed away two years ago and I miss him terribly at times. Looking back, while I have no regrets about the time I spent with him, I wish I had been more honest and forthright with him about my feelings, especially during the years I was struggling. Because I know that in spite of his default demeanour, he truly loved me and felt my pain as he watched me struggle through my 20s and 30s. I thank God for welcoming dad into the faith at his deathbed and am comforted knowing that he watches over us as a family now. And the best part – we truly have nothing to hide from him!

Brothers and sisters, especially fathers, let us always look to our heavenly Father to sustain us in His love so that as we walk our individual faith journeys, we will stride forward with our heads held high, fully confident and proud to be His sons and daughters.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, we pray that you continue to keep us in your loving embrace and to speak to us in our hearts during our times of need.

Thanksgiving: We thank you, Lord, for always being there for us.

18 February, Saturday – Seek Him

18 February 2017

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Hebrews 11:1-7

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen. It was for faith that our ancestors were commended.

It is by faith that we understand that the world was created by one word from God, so that no apparent cause can account for the things we can see.

It was because of his faith that Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain, and for that he was declared to be righteous when God made acknowledgement of his offerings. Though he is dead, he still speaks by faith.

It was because of his faith that Enoch was taken up and did not have to experience death: he was not to be found because God had taken him. This was because before his assumption it is attested that he had pleased God. Now it is impossible to please God without faith, since anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and rewards those who try to find him.

It was through his faith that Noah, when he had been warned by God of something that had never been seen before, felt a holy fear and built an ark to save his family. By his faith the world was convicted, and he was able to claim the righteousness which is the reward of faith.

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Mark 9:2-13

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter spoke to Jesus: ‘Rabbi,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say; they were so frightened. And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and there came a voice from the cloud, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean. And they put this question to him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah has to come first?’ ‘True,’ he said ‘Elijah is to come first and to see that everything is as it should be; yet how is it that the scriptures say about the Son of Man that he is to suffer grievously and be treated with contempt? However, I tell you that Elijah has come and they have treated him as they pleased, just as the scriptures say about him.’

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..he rewards those who seek him.

It has been a challenging time for me over the past few weeks, with various high-level events coming up, a final push for our church fundraising project and more than a few personal ‘to-dos’ which have been shelved for too long. One of these was tidying up my mobile phone gallery and uploading all the pictures I took last year so as to free up some much-needed memory.

That process of decluttering allowed me to reflect once again on my Camino in Spain and as I went through the three week’s worth of pictures, I couldn’t help but wonder where I would be today if I had not taken that walk. Would my faith be as strong? Would I have been able to overcome all the challenges that came my way over the past few months?

Whenever I lead prayer for my ministry, I always give thanks for the crosses that God has placed on our shoulders and for giving us the faith and perseverance to carry those crosses for however long He wants us to. I believe that in seeking Him, we must be prepared to take on all that He will lay upon us so that we learn to trust fully in Him. Looking back, He has certainly rewarded me tremendously since my return from Spain in October. I’m sure you all know how it feels to look back and wonder ‘How did I do all that’?

One of my worship leaders shared with me this evening about her initial experiences when she started to lead praise and worship at CSC. She told me that at some point during a session, she would be able to feel God take over as the congregation worshipped. She says that it is not something she could describe but that the experience was amazing. And she exhorted that by surrendering to God and letting Him take over, He will reveal His presence and glory to us.

Brothers and sisters, what are we seeking today? I know many of us are suffering and just looking for the next break, the next job interview, the next paycheque and the next meal. And while we all have our challenges, perhaps it is time that we consciously seek out God on a daily basis.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, give us the grace to seek you out amidst all our troubles so that we can learn to trust in your providence.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for giving us free will to choose our path in life.

14 February, Tuesday – Points of View

14 Feb – Memorial for Sts. Cyril, monk, and Methodius, bishop

Cyril (827-869) was the brother of St. Methodius. Born of Greek nobility, his family was connected to the senate of Thessalonica, and his mother Maria may have been Slavic. He studied at the University of Constantinople and taught philosophy there. He was ordained a priest, and when he became a monk, he took the name Cyril. He was sent with Methodius by the emperor in 961 to convert the Jewish Khazars of Russia, a mission that was successful, and which allowed him to learn the Khazar’s language.

In 863, he was sent with Methodius to convert Moravians in their native tongue. Though some western clergy opposed their efforts and refused to ordain their candidates for the priesthood, they did good work. They developed an alphabet for the Slavonic language that eventually became what is known as the Cyrillic today. After initial criticism for their use of it, they achieved approval of the Liturgy in the Slavonic language. Cyril may have been bishop, but he may have died before the consecration ceremony.

Methodius (826-885) was the brother of St. Cyril. He studied at the University of Constantinople, and taught philosophy there. He was ordained a priest, and sent with Cyril by the emperor in 861 to convert the Jewish Khazars of Russia. Though some western clergy opposed their efforts and refused to ordain their candidates for the priesthood, they did good work. They helped develop an alphabet for the Slavonic language that eventually became what is known as the Cyrillic today.

After initial criticism for their use of it, they achieved approval of the Liturgy in the Slavonic language. Methodius was ordained a bishop. He evangelized in Moravia, Bohemia, Pannonia, and Poland. He baptized St. Ludmilla and Duke Boriwoi.

He was Archbishop of Velehred, Czechoslovakia, but deposed and imprisoned in 870 due to the opposition of German clergy with his work. He was often in trouble over his use of Slavonic in liturgy, with some claiming he preached heresy. However, Methodius was repeatedly cleared of charges. He translated the Bible into the Slavonic languages, and pioneered the use of local and vernacular languages in liturgical settings.

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Genesis 6:5-8,7:1-5,10

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that the thoughts in his heart fashioned nothing but wickedness all day long. The Lord regretted having made man on the earth, and his heart grieved. ‘I will rid the earth’s face of man, my own creation,’ the Lord said ‘and of animals also, reptiles too, and the birds of heaven; for I regret having made them.’ But Noah had found favour with the Lord.

The Lord said to Noah, ‘Go aboard the ark, you and all your household, for you alone among this generation do I see as a good man in my judgement. Of all the clean animals you must take seven of each kind, both male and female; of the unclean animals you must take two, a male and its female (and of the birds of heaven also, seven of each kind, both male and female), to propagate their kind over the whole earth. For in seven days’ time I mean to make it rain on the earth for forty days and nights, and I will rid the earth of every living thing that I made.’ Noah did all that the Lord ordered.

Seven days later the waters of the flood appeared on the earth.

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Mark 8:14-21

The disciples had forgotten to take any food and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. Then he gave them this warning, ‘Keep your eyes open; be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.’ And they said to one another, ‘It is because we have no bread.’ And Jesus knew it, and he said to them, ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you not yet understand? Have you no perception? Are your minds closed? Have you eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear? Or do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?’ They answered, ‘Twelve.’ And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?’ And they answered, ‘Seven.’ Then he said to them, ‘Are you still without perception?’

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Do you still not understand?

Serving in our parish over the past year or so has been an interesting journey, fraught with various challenges. Yet through it all, the hand of God has been clearly at work for me.  Take our upcoming ‘final project’ for instance. I had initially been happy to be in the background, just letting the ensemble cast of musicians and worship singers run their journeys. But due to a few last-minute withdrawals, He led me to volunteer to help as one of the singers.

When I attended my first rehearsal last week, I was amazed at how we have been blessed with a truly talented lot of volunteers, most of whom I was meeting for the first time. And even though that was the first practice session for me, it was a quite amazing experience as the various singers and session musicians grappled with the complexities of their parts and I with some new songs. But I felt His spirit moving among us as we practised and as we held our first practice session within the church sanctuary, it all seemed to come together quite well.

Of course, there were the usual kinks and many of us were unsure of our parts but I trust that over the next two weeks, He will bless us mightily and inspire us to lead our congregation in thanksgiving for all He has done for our parish over the many decades it has been around.

In today’s gospel, Jesus reminds his disciples that they are to guard against ‘the leaven of the Pharisees’. Brothers and sisters, in whatever we do, it is human nature to have doubts and, in some instances, to pass judgements on others. It is one thing to hold those thoughts, no matter how well-meaning they are, in our hearts; it is another to utter them and, in so doing, perhaps end up sowing discord or dissension within the group of people who have come together for a specific purpose or mission.

Let us always, in ministry, learn to trust our Lord more. That He will always show us the way and give us charitable hearts so that we learn to appreciate our fellow brother and sister who has been generous with his or her time and talent. And in so doing, learn to appreciate God’s hand in all things that we do. For He is the master potter, the one with the plan. And when we decide to surrender all to Him, let us also learn to allow the Lord to shape us and to allow us to rise to our full potential.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, we pray that you continue to always sustain us in all our work and in everything that we do for your glory.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord for all the talents and gifts that you have given to us in order to proclaim your glory.

13 February, Monday – Show me the way

13 February 2017

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Genesis 4:1-15,25

The man had intercourse with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. ‘I have acquired a man with the help of the Lord’ she said. She gave birth to a second child, Abel, the brother of Cain. Now Abel became a shepherd and kept flocks, while Cain tilled the soil. Time passed and Cain brought some of the produce of the soil as an offering for the Lord, while Abel for his part brought the first-born of his flock and some of their fat as well.

The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering. But he did not look with favour on Cain and his offering, and Cain was very angry and downcast. The Lord asked Cain, ‘Why are you angry and downcast? If you are well disposed, ought you not to lift up your head? But if you are ill disposed, is not sin at the door like a crouching beast hungering for you, which you must master?’

Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let us go out’; and while they were in the open country, Cain set on his brother Abel and killed him.
The Lord asked Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ ‘I do not know’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s guardian?’ ‘What have you done?’ the Lord asked. ‘Listen to the sound of your brother’s blood, crying out to me from the ground. Now be accursed and driven from the ground that has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood at your hands. When you till the ground it shall no longer yield you any of its produce. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer over the earth.’

Then Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear. See! Today you drive me from this ground. I must hide from you, and be a fugitive and a wanderer over the earth. Why, whoever comes across me will kill me!’ ‘Very well, then,’ the Lord replied ‘if anyone kills Cain, sevenfold vengeance shall be taken for him.’ So the Lord put a mark on Cain, to prevent whoever might come across him from striking him down.

Adam had intercourse with his wife, and she gave birth to a son whom she named Seth, ‘because God has granted me other offspring’ she said ‘in place of Abel, since Cain has killed him.’

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Mark 8:11-13

The Pharisees came up and started a discussion with Jesus; they demanded of him a sign from heaven, to test him. And with a sigh that came straight from the heart he said, ‘Why does this generation demand a sign? I tell you solemnly, no sign shall be given to this generation.’ And leaving them again and re-embarking, he went away to the opposite shore.

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“…no sign shall be given to this generation.”

Everyone who embarks on a journey relies on signposts to help guide them towards their destination. Most signs are informative and helpful, while there are some which signal some danger ahead and provide us with a warning to either slow down or avoid the road ahead.

There have been many signs recently that the world is changing rapidly and that it is getting harder and harder to plan for the journey ahead. I am sure most of us have heard that often used line “The only constant is change”. Some welcome this and thrive, while many others tend to look for some sort of ‘comfort zone’ or – a road with clear signs that point the way forward. I find that quite true of my younger staff because few have the gumption nor fortitude to ‘tough it out’ and just venture into the unknown without some reassurance of a favourable outcome.

So when Jesus tells the Pharisees that ‘no sign will be given to this generation’, I can relate to His sense of frustration. For me, everyone needs to plan his or her own route and take responsibility for his or her decisions. For that is what God has given us, the free will to choose which road to take as we journey along in life. Because if we were to rely on someone to always show us the way, I am not sure if that person could say truthfully that he or she lived a full life.

I never had the benefit of a mentor or coach as I started my career journey 27 years ago. Everything was learnt on the job and through trial and error. These days, I find myself having to coach and cajole, sometimes even becoming a personal cheerleader to some of my younger staff just to get them going. In doing so, I realise that for so long, even as I made my own choices in life, there has indeed been a cheerleader and ‘coach’ supporting me through my good and bad decisions. And while he may not have given me any signs, he was certainly there standing at the various forks in the road as I pondered hard and took my tentative steps forward.

Ultimately, whatever decisions I’ve taken on this rather circuitous and winding road, God has always been there for me. And as I look ahead, I am beginning to see a rather straight road in front of me, with hardly any side streets to worry about. For me, the destination is clear. All I need to be wary of are the potholes and the odd diversion along the way.

Brothers and sisters, I am quite sure you will agree that whatever road we are on at this point, there shouldn’t be much need for any signs if we are clear about our final destination. All we need to do is to keep our eyes fixed on the goal, and let God lead us to Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: We pray Lord, that you will always be our compass and guide us back to you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for carrying us through our ups and downs, and for straightening the road ahead for us whenever we lean on you.

12 February, Sunday – Standing Scrutiny

12 February 2017

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Ecclesiasticus 15:16-21

If you wish, you can keep the commandments,
to behave faithfully is within your power.
He has set fire and water before you;
put out your hand to whichever you prefer.
Man has life and death before him;
whichever a man likes better will be given him.
For vast is the wisdom of the Lord;
he is almighty and all-seeing.
His eyes are on those who fear him,
he notes every action of man.
He never commanded anyone to be godless,
he has given no one permission to sin.

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1 Corinthians 2:6-10

We have a wisdom to offer those who have reached maturity: not a philosophy of our age, it is true, still less of the masters of our age, which are coming to their end. The hidden wisdom of God which we teach in our mysteries is the wisdom that God predestined to be for our glory before the ages began. It is a wisdom that none of the masters of this age have ever known, or they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory; we teach what scripture calls: the things that no eye has seen and no ear has heard, things beyond the mind of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him.

These are the very things that God has revealed to us through the Spirit, for the Spirit reaches the depths of everything, even the depths of God.

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Matthew 5:17-37

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.

‘For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.

‘You have learnt how it was said: You must not commit adultery. But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.

‘It has also been said: Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal. But I say this to you: everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

‘Again, you have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord. But I say this to you: do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by the earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great king. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.’

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…for the Spirit scrutinzes everything, even the depths of God.

In my line of work, every single thing we produce must be able to stand scrutiny, whether it is internal across all other divisions, or, more crucially, especially if it is external-facing. Every single piece of content, however brief, needs to be 100% accurate and ‘scrubbed’ (to borrow common parlance used by a few colleagues) before eventually ‘clearing’ the relevant ministries involved. That includes that ever-present FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions), whether for media or for public.

Naturally, the processes involved to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks are as thorough as possible. Yet, sometimes, things do slip through the cracks. I have often lamented to my team that there is no price for them to pay, unlike in the commercial world where a single mistake could lead to thousands of lost dollars. Life goes on and I have had to get used to this attitude. As a result, I sometimes find myself questioning if I am starting to let my standards slip.

When it comes to my spiritual journey, I look back and see the countless times I have fallen and let myself go. The sins I have committed, the wrongs I have done upon others. Yet God our loving Father somehow manages to scrub me clean and present myself as I am to the world. I wouldn’t dare say that as a Christian, I am someone who would be able to stand scrutiny. Yet He somehow always encourages and cheers me on to make sure that because of the ‘work’ I do, I have learnt to scrutinise myself and, in particular, my spiritual self, so that with His help, I am confident that my thoughts, actions and words are able to withstand the scrutiny of those whose lives I touch.

Brothers and sisters, there is no escaping the love and mercy of God. It is there for us for the taking. I have witnessed much over the past year, serving in my parish fundraising efforts and in a week or two, the ‘work’ will culminate in a final event that, only by God’s grace, will truly be a celebration of His everlasting love for us. Looking back, I am amazed at how He has graced my life and scrubbed me clean each time I have spoken with Him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He has indeed shown me how by following His ways and trusting in Him alone, I will have nothing to regret in this life.

So today, if you feel the urge to come clean, or if you are struggling with a person whether at work, in ministry or at home, trust in His mercy and pray for Him to wash you clean with His blood as you visit Him in the confessional. Because only then will you be able to emerge into the light and to proclaim His glory.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the gift of self-awareness. That we may learn to better scrutinise ourselves so that with the help of your grace, we will strive to be better Christians.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord, for your love and mercy, and for always believing in us.

14 December, Wednesday – The Messenger

Dec 14 – Memorial for St. John of the Cross, priest, religious, doctor of the Church

John (1675–1726) was born in poverty. He cared for the poor in the hospital in Medina. He became a lay Carmelite brother in 1563 at age 21, though he lived stricter than their Rule. He studied at Salamanca. He was ordained a Carmelite priest in 1567 at age 25.

He was persuaded by St. Teresa of Avila to begin the Discalced (or barefoot) reform within the Carmelite Order, and took on the name John of the Cross. He was a master of novices, and spiritual director and confessor at St. Teresa’s convent. His reforms did not sit well with some of his brothers, and he was ordered to return to Medina. He refused and was imprisoned at Toledo, Spain, and escaped after nine months.

He was vicar-general of Andalusia. His reforms revitalized the Order. He was a great contemplative and spiritual writer. On Aug 24, 1926, he was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI.

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Isaiah 45:6-8,18,21-25

Apart from me, all is nothing.
I am the Lord, unrivalled,
I form the light and create the dark.
I make good fortune and create calamity,
it is I, the Lord, who do all this.

Send victory like a dew, you heavens,
and let the clouds rain it down.
Let the earth open
for salvation to spring up.
Let deliverance, too, bud forth
which I, the Lord, shall create.

Yes, thus says the Lord,
creator of the heavens,
who is God,
who formed the earth and made it,
who set it firm,
created it no chaos,
but a place to be lived in:

‘I am the Lord, unrivalled:
there is no other god besides me.
A God of integrity and a saviour:
there is none apart from me.
Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth,
for I am God unrivalled.

‘By my own self I swear it;
what comes from my mouth is truth,
a word irrevocable:
before me every knee shall bend,
by me every tongue shall swear,
saying, “From the Lord alone
come victory and strength.”
To him shall come, ashamed,
all who raged against him.
Victorious and glorious through the Lord shall be
all the descendants of Israel.’

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Luke 7:19-23

John, summoning two of his disciples, sent them to the Lord to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or must we wait for someone else?’ When the men reached Jesus they said, ‘John the Baptist has sent us to you, to ask, “Are you the one who is to come or have we to wait for someone else?”’ It was just then that he cured many people of diseases and afflictions and of evil spirits, and gave the gift of sight to many who were blind. Then he gave the messengers their answer, ‘Go back and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind see again, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, the Good News is proclaimed to the poor and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.’

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And happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.

There are days when I find myself questioning the Lord, asking Him what is it he wants of me and why He keeps sending me people who seem to always want a piece of me. This past weekend, I actually had the time and ‘space’ to host some friends at home and to spend a whole day (after mass) with my soulmate, just walking in town and taking in the sights and sounds of the usual festive crowd. Then, after running some errands, we looked at each other and decided that we had had enough and wanted to enjoy the sanctuary of my quiet, peaceful home. No dinner out even.

I reckon that the Lord is preparing me for a rather eventful Christmas. We decided to help out at a one-day kids’ camp and already, I have been asked to perform a simple role as a ‘king’, as well as sing in the choir for mass. In our fund-raising efforts for our parish, we are starting to ramp up preparations for a musical in February. The committee has already charted out the work ahead and it is not going to be a ‘walk in the park’. On top of that, there will be the usual Christmas celebrations at CSC, which we always look forward to. And somewhere in between, work continues to happen.

It was perhaps only a few years ago that I learned to surrender a lot of what I do to the Lord. I figured that there was no point agonizing over things all the time, but to just trust that if I wanted to be truly happy on a regular basis, then I needed to trust that the Lord would work everything out eventually. All I needed was to have faith in Him.

As we prepare for the coming of our Saviour, I am also praying for a fresh outpouring of His blessings and graces upon me. There are plans ahead for me in my journey of service and while I am quietly confident, I am also starting to get anxious. But as Isaiah proclaims in the first reading, “From the Lord alone come victory and strength”. I know that on my own, I cannot achieve what it is that the Lord has in store for me. But with prayer, and by opening up my heart so that the Lord can work His miracles in me, I will be able to overcome all anxiety and continue serving in His vineyard, according to His will.

Brothers and sisters, let us all pray that He continues to fill us each day of our lives.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, we pray that you always be with us on our own journeys as we explore the rich tapestry of our lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the times when you have stood by us in faith, never letting us down.

13 December, Tuesday – Lip Service

Dec 13 – Memorial for St. Lucy, virgin, martyr

Lucy (c. 283) was a rich, young Christian of Greek ancestry. She was raised in a pious family, and vowed her life to Christ. Her Roman father died when she was young. Her mother, Eutychia, arranged a marriage for her. For three years, she managed to keep the marriage on hold. To change the mother’s mind about the girl’s new faith, Lucy prayed at the tomb of St. Agatha, and her mother’s long haemorrhagic illness was cured. Her mother agreed with Lucy’s desire to live for God, and Lucy became known as a patron of those with maladies like her mother’s.

Her rejected pagan bridegroom, Paschasius, denounced Lucy as a Christian to the governor of Sicily, who sentenced her to forced prostitution. But when the guards went to fetch her, they could not move her even when they hitched her to a team of oxen. The governor ordered her killed instead. After torture that included having her eyes torn out, she was surrounded by bundles of wood which were set afire; they went out. She prophesied against her persecutors, and was executed by being stabbed to death with a dagger. Her name is listed in the prayer “Nobis quoque peccatoribus” in the Canon of the Mass.

Legend says that her eyesight was restored before her death. This and the meaning of her name led to her connection with eyes, the blind, eye trouble, etc.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Zephaniah 3:1-2,9-13

Trouble is coming to the rebellious, the defiled,
the tyrannical city!
She would never listen to the call,
would never learn the lesson;
she has never trusted in the Lord,
never drawn near to her God.

Yes, I will then give the peoples lips that are clean,
so that all may invoke the name of the Lord
and serve him under the same yoke.
From beyond the banks of the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants
will bring me offerings.

When that day comes
you need feel no shame for all the misdeeds
you have committed against me,
for I will remove your proud boasters
from your midst;
and you will cease to strut
on my holy mountain.
In your midst I will leave
a humble and lowly people,
and those who are left in Israel will seek refuge in the name of the Lord.
They will do no wrong,
will tell no lies;
and the perjured tongue will no longer
be found in their mouths.
But they will be able to graze and rest
with no one to disturb them.

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Matthew 21:28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people, ‘What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He went and said to the first, “My boy, you go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not go,” but afterwards thought better of it and went. The man then went and said the same thing to the second who answered, “Certainly, sir,” but did not go. Which of the two did the father’s will?’ ‘The first’ they said. Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you, a pattern of true righteousness, but you did not believe him, and yet the tax collectors and prostitutes did. Even after seeing that, you refused to think better of it and believe in him.’

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“Certainly sir”, but did not go.

Saying ‘Yes’ without meaning it is quite a common occurrence now. I recall how as I was growing up, I was taught that your word was your bond. And that was how I built my reputation in my early career, delivering on deadlines whenever I said “Yes, you will get it”, rather than coming up with an excuse why a piece of copy was late.

These days, I make it a point to remind my staff that for me, the most important thing when it comes to dealing with colleagues is to deliver on a promise. If we say that something will be delivered or accomplished by a certain date or time, then we must make sure that it is indeed done and, if possible, even earlier. It irks me greatly when people take a laissez-faire attitude towards a project deadline because to me, it shows utter disrespect for other peoples’ precious time and effort.

In this third week of Advent, how many of us have said a feeble ‘Yes’ in our hearts when asked if we are truly preparing to receive Christ in all His glory come Christmas Day? We must always be mindful that God knows us through and through, and that as long as our hearts are not eager for Him, there is nothing He can do to open the door. Because at the end of the day, the choice is really ours. Are we looking forward to the partying, the merrymaking and the presents? Or are we looking forward to being with our family members and loved ones, reflecting on a year gone by together?

Brothers and sisters, it has been a tough year for many around us. Some of us have been struggling to make ends meet, some have had to make sacrifices in order to keep the family going. Some of us are going through a rough patch at work, some in our relationships. Some of us have lost loved ones and feel alone, some just do not feel life is worth living at all. Whatever your circumstance, know that Jesus is coming to save us. That He is coming into the world to wipe out all oppression, all despair, all fear and all anxiety.

So open your hearts and say ‘Yes’ from within.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Father, give us a heart that is open to receiving Jesus, your Son.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we give you thanks for all that you have given us this year; especially the crosses you have borne with us, which have made us stronger and taught us about your infinite love.

12 December, Monday – Ignorance

Dec 12 – Memorial for Our Lady of Guadalupe

Guadalupe is, strictly speaking, the name of a picture, but the name was extended to the church containing the picture and to the town which grew up around the church. It makes the shrine, it occasions the devotion, it illustrates Our Lady. It is taken as representing the Immaculate Conception, being the lone figure of a woman with the sun, moon, and star accompaniments of the great apocalyptic sign with a supporting angel under the crescent. The word is Spanish Arabic, but in Mexico it may represent certain Aztec sounds.

Its tradition is long-standing and constant, and in sources both oral and written, Indian and Spanish, the account is unwavering. The Blessed Virgin appeared on Saturday, 9 December 1531 to a 55-year-old neophyte named Juan Diego, who was hurrying down Tepeyac Hill to hear Mass in Mexico City. She sent him to Bishop Zumarraga to have a temple built where she stood. She was at the same place that evening and Sunday evening to get the bishop’s answer.

The bishop did not immediately believe the messenger, had him cross-examined and watched, and he finally told him to ask the lady who said she was the mother of the true God for a sign. The neophyte agreed readily to ask for the sign desired, and the bishop released him.

Juan was occupied all Monday with Bernardino, an uncle who was dying of fever. Indian medicine had failed and Bernardino seemed at death’s door. At daybreak on Tuesday 12 December 1531, Juan ran to nearby St. James’ convent to ask for a priest. To avoid the apparition and the untimely message to the bishop, he slipped round where the well chapel now stands. But the Blessed Virgin crossed down to meet him and said, “What road is this thou takest son?”

A tender dialogue ensued. She reassured Juan about his uncle, to whom she also briefly appeared and instantly cured. Calling herself “Holy Mary of Guadalupe”, she told Juan to return to the bishop. He asked for the sign he required. Mary told him to go to the rocks and gather roses. Juan knew it was neither the time nor the place for roses, but he went and found them. Gathering many into the lap of his tilma (a long cloak or wrapper used by Mexican Indians), he came back. The Holy Mother rearranged the roses, and told him to keep them untouched and unseen until he reached the bishop.

When Juan met with Zumarraga, Juan offered the sign to the bishop. As he unfolded his cloak, the roses, fresh and wet with dew, fell out. Juan was startled to see the bishop and his attendants kneeling before him. The life-size figure of the Virgin Mary, just as Juan had described her, was glowing on the tilma. The picture was venerated, guarded in the bishop’s chapel, and soon after, carried in procession to the preliminary shrine.

Painters have not understood the laying on of the colours. They have deposed that the “canvas” was not only unfit but unprepared, and they have marvelled at the apparent oil, water, distemper, etc. colouring in the same figure. They are left in equal admiration for the flower-like tints and the abundant gold. They and other artists find the proportions perfect for a maiden of fifteen. The figure and the attitude are of one advancing. There is flight and rest in the eager supporting angel. The chief colours are deep gold in the rays and stars, blue green in the mantle, and rose in the flowered tunic.

The clergy, secular and regular, has been remarkably faithful to the devotion towards Our Lady of Guadalupe, the bishops fostering it, even to the extent of making a protestation of faith in the miracle a matter of occasional obligation. Pope Benedict XIV decreed that Our Lady of Guadalupe should be the national patron, and made 12 December a holiday of obligation with an octave, and ordered a special Mass and Office.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Numbers 24:2-7. 15-17

Raising his eyes Balaam saw Israel, encamped by tribes; the spirit of God came on him and he declaimed his poem. He said:
‘The oracle of Balaam son of Beor,
the oracle of the man with far-seeing eyes,
the oracle of one who hears the word of God.
He sees what Shaddai makes him see,
receives the divine answer, and his eyes are opened.
How fair are your tents, O Jacob!
How fair your dwellings, Israel!
Like valleys that stretch afar,
like gardens by the banks of a river,
like aloes planted by the Lord,
like cedars beside the waters!
A hero arises from their stock,
he reigns over countless peoples.
His king is greater than Agag,
his majesty is exalted.’

Then Balaam declaimed his poem again. He said:
‘The oracle of Balaam son of Beor,
the oracle of the man with far-seeing eyes,
the oracle of one who hears the word of God,
of one who knows the knowledge of the Most High.
He sees what Shaddai makes him see,
receives the divine answer, and his eyes are opened.
I see him – but not in the present,
I behold him – but not close at hand:
a star from Jacob takes the leadership,
a sceptre arises from Israel.
It crushes the brows of Moab,
the skulls of all the sons of Sheth.’

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Matthew 21:23-27

Jesus had gone into the Temple and was teaching, when the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him and said, ‘What authority have you for acting like this? And who gave you this authority?’ ‘And I’ replied Jesus ‘will ask you a question, only one; if you tell me the answer to it, I will then tell you my authority for acting like this. John’s baptism: where did it come from: heaven or man?’ And they argued it out this way among themselves, ‘If we say from heaven, he will retort, “Then why did you refuse to believe him?”; but if we say from man, we have the people to fear, for they all hold that John was a prophet.’ So their reply to Jesus was, ‘We do not know.’ And he retorted, ‘Nor will I tell you my authority for acting like this.’
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We do not know.

I organized a short division retreat recently and spoke to my team about the year gone by, as well as how each one should prepare for the year ahead. I also took pains to explain why the response ‘I do not know’ would not hold water for me any longer as I have staff who have been with me since 2012. My aim was to encourage sharing of knowledge and daily consultation among each team member, in order to promote team unity and to strengthen team spirit as well as to beef up the collective knowledge of the division.

In the case of the chief priests and elders, their claim to ignorance was a ‘false claim’. They knew full well what the answer should be but pled ignorance – how calculative they were; which therefore, explains the response they got from Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, we can never hope to pull the wool over the Lord’s eyes. He knows exactly what is in our hearts and whether or not we are genuinely pleased to see Him when he comes on Christmas morning. If you have been faithfully attending masses and going regularly for your Sacrament of Reconciliation, there should be no reason for you to claim ignorance with regards to how important it is for us to be making preparations during Advent.

However, when the Lord comes in all His glory, he appears to everyone. Especially so, to those who are sanguine about their faith. It is then that they have to search deep down in their hearts to acknowledge the presence of God in their lives. For when He does appear, you will know it only in your heart. And if you choose to plead ignorance or, like the chief priests and elders, try to dismiss the Lord, then perhaps the question to ask yourself is ‘Why don’t I know’?

Whatever the answer is, know that Jesus Christ is alive and that He walks among us. This Christmas, prepare for His coming into your life, by searching deep within yourself and, instead of questioning Christ, ask yourself how you can break free of the ignorance that clouds your mind and weighs upon your heart.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

PrayerLord Jesus Christ, we pray that you enlighten those around us who doubt and question your existence. We ask you to shine the light of your love into their hearts.

ThanksgivingWe thank you Jesus, for always knocking at the door to our heart in spite of our sinfulness.

11 December, Sunday – Patience

11 December

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Isaiah 35:1-6,10

Let the wilderness and the dry-lands exult,
let the wasteland rejoice and bloom,
let it bring forth flowers like the jonquil,
let it rejoice and sing for joy.

The glory of Lebanon is bestowed on it,
the splendour of Carmel and Sharon;
they shall see the glory of the Lord,
the splendour of our God.

Strengthen all weary hands,
steady all trembling knees
and say to all faint hearts,
‘Courage! Do not be afraid.

‘Look, your God is coming,
vengeance is coming,
the retribution of God;
he is coming to save you.’

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
the ears of the deaf unsealed,
then the lame shall leap like a deer
and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy
for those the Lord has ransomed shall return.

They will come to Zion shouting for joy,
everlasting joy on their faces;
joy and gladness will go with them
and sorrow and lament be ended.

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James 5:7-10

Be patient, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. Think of a farmer: how patiently he waits for the precious fruit of the ground until it has had the autumn rains and the spring rains! You too have to be patient; do not lose heart, because the Lord’s coming will be soon. Do not make complaints against one another, brothers, so as not to be brought to judgement yourselves; the Judge is already to be seen waiting at the gates. For your example, brothers, in submitting with patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

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Matthew 11:2-11

John in his prison had heard what Christ was doing and he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else?’ Jesus answered, ‘Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor; and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.’

As the messengers were leaving, Jesus began to talk to the people about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the breeze? No? Then what did you go out to see? A man wearing fine clothes? Oh no, those who wear fine clothes are to be found in palaces. Then what did you go out for? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet: he is the one of whom scripture says:

‘Look, I am going to send my messenger before you;
he will prepare your way before you.

‘I tell you solemnly, of all the children born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is.’

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…he is coming to save you.

This season of Advent has been relatively ‘quiet’ by my usual standards. There has been little merrymaking and I am not planning to attend nor organize any more parties. Nor am I looking forward to eating and drinking myself silly or splurging on presents. Christmas this year has taken on a whole new meaning for me.

I am known to be fastidious in my preparations at work, whether for an event or a project that I am tasked to helm. Even if I am hosting a small party at home, I make sure that everything is set in place and all food, ingredients are prepared way beforehand. Last week, I welcomed some friends to my home for the first time and we had a jolly good time in the kitchen, just chatting away and enjoying the home-made pizzas, salads and banter. Looking back, it drove home to me the constant need to be prepared, however ‘chill’ other people (or, in the case of my party, the main chef) tell me to be.

For us Christians, the same principle must apply when we prepare to welcome Christ. My parish priest said it best at Mass today – what are all our preparations for? The tree, the decorations, the shopping, the wining and dining; they all come to nought if we are not prepared in our hearts. If, in our haste, we start yelling at the driver in front of us, or cursing the person holding up the front of the payment queue at the store. Or get frustrated at our family members for not chipping in for the family get-together. The list goes on and on.

And even though I turn the big 5-0 a week before Christmas, I do not desire any big celebration. I look back on my ‘wasteful’ life and thank God that He rescued me from myself in 2011, when I encountered Him at the Conversion Experience Retreat. Today, as I look forward to the coming of Christ, I know where I want to be in my heart when we gather to welcome the Saviour at midnight mass. After all the strife, stress and strain of the past year, and after He spoke to me as I walked the Camino in September, I just want to give thanks to each and everyone who has touched my life this past year. In my heart, I will be holding the smiles and tears of many who made (and continue to make) a difference in the way I live my life.

Brothers and sisters, Christ came to save the world and to give us new life. Let us not cast him aside and think only about merrymaking and giving or receiving expensive gifts. Let us spend time with Him and reflect on those who have made a difference in our lives this year, whether family member, colleague, acquaintance, or someone who you greet every day. Let us remember why He came to be with us on that magical night more than 2000 years ago.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father Almighty, in this season of Advent, fill us with love, peace and joy as we search deep within our hearts for the true meaning of Christmas.    

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the gift of your son, Jesus Christ.

5 October, Wednesday – Facing up to challenges every day

5 October

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Galatians 2:1-2,7-14

It was not till fourteen years had passed that I went up to Jerusalem again. I went with Barnabas and took Titus with me. I went there as the result of a revelation, and privately I laid before the leading men the Good News as I proclaim it among the pagans; I did so for fear the course I was adopting or had already adopted would not be allowed. On the contrary, they recognised that I had been commissioned to preach the Good News to the uncircumcised just as Peter had been commissioned to preach it to the circumcised. The same person whose action had made Peter the apostle of the circumcised had given me a similar mission to the pagans. So, James, Cephas and John, these leaders, these pillars, shook hands with Barnabas and me as a sign of partnership: we were to go to the pagans and they to the circumcised. The only thing they insisted on was that we should remember to help the poor, as indeed I was anxious to do.

When Cephas came to Antioch, however, I opposed him to his face, since he was manifestly in the wrong. His custom had been to eat with the pagans, but after certain friends of James arrived he stopped doing this and kept away from them altogether for fear of the group that insisted on circumcision. The other Jews joined him in this pretence, and even Barnabas felt himself obliged to copy their behaviour.

When I saw they were not respecting the true meaning of the Good News, I said to Cephas in front of everyone, ‘In spite of being a Jew, you live like the pagans and not like the Jews, so you have no right to make the pagans copy Jewish ways.’

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Luke 11:1-4

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘Say this when you pray:

“Father, may your name be held holy,
your kingdom come;
give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us.
And do not put us to the test.”’

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And do not put us to the test.

Every day, we are faced with tests. From the time we hit the road, making our way to work, to the time we reach home, having to deal with other personal matters, God puts before us situations and people that test us to see if we truly are worthy to be called sons and daughters of God. Having just returned from three weeks in Spain and having faced certain challenges while there, I have finally settled back in to life at work and at home.

They say that walking the Camino changes you. That while a part of you remains on The Way, the person who returns is different. Over the past week, I have had various colleagues and ministry members remark that I seem to look different now. A few have even said that there is a certain glow. While I certainly feel diferent inside, I am not too sure if I look different on the outside. But after my various encounters along The Way, I know that I return with a deeper appreciation of God’s love for us.

The three pilgrim masses I attended in the cathedral in Santiago were truly anointed. Many of the pilgrims had themselves endured their own ‘tests’ along their journeys. Many had to endure blisters, some ran out of money, others were battling their own inner demons and frailties. There was, however, one thing for certain – everyone who arrived at the Plaza del Obradorio in Santiago de Compostela celebrated a personal victory. There were tears of joy, relief; there were people hugging each other. And as we queued for more than two hours in the Pilgrim’s Office just to get our compostela (the certificate issued for pilgrims who had walked more than 100km), no one complained about the wait. We all spent the time joking and sharing our own experiences, and getting reacquainted with pilgrims we had encountered along The Way.

Brothers and sisters, God does not put us to the test. Rather, He places situations in front of us and allows us to choose what we ourselves would do. So in many ways, the problems and challenges we encounter are of our own doing. However, what God does is that He protects and watches over us by sending us angels to guide and help us. Or He fashions solutions for us which we put down to coincidence or plain luck. During my 300-plus km journey, I prayed the rosary a lot. And I know that each day, as we negotiated rough terrain, inclement weather and weariness, He was always there by our side pushing us along. Just as He does each and every day of our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

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Prayer: Dear God, pour out your Wisdom on us, so that we may always know to choose the right path whenever we find ourselves at a crossroad in our life.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord, for always giving me the opportunity to choose my own path in life. And for always being there to catch me whenever I fall.