Tag Archives: desmond soon

08 May, Wednesday – Knowing the Father

8 May 2019

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Acts 8:1-8
That day a bitter persecution started against the church in Jerusalem, and everyone except the apostles fled to the country districts of Judaea and Samaria.
There were some devout people, however, who buried Stephen and made great mourning for him.
Saul then worked for the total destruction of the Church; he went from house to house arresting both men and women and sending them to prison.
Those who had escaped went from place to place preaching the Good News. One of them was Philip who went to a Samaritan town and proclaimed the Christ to them. The people united in welcoming the message Philip preached, either because they had heard of the miracles he worked or because they saw them for themselves. There were, for example, unclean spirits that came shrieking out of many who were possessed, and several paralytics and cripples were cured. As a result there was great rejoicing in that town.
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John 6:35-40
Jesus said to the crowd:
‘I am the bread of life.
He who comes to me will never be hungry;
he who believes in me will never thirst.
But, as I have told you,
you can see me and still you do not believe.
All that the Father gives me will come to me,
and whoever comes to me I shall not turn him away;
because I have come from heaven, not to do my own will,
but to do the will of the one who sent me.
Now the will of him who sent me
is that I should lose nothing of all that he has given to me,
and that I should raise it up on the last day.
Yes, it is my Father’s will
that whoever sees the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life,
and that I shall raise him up on the last day.’
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…I shall raise him up on the last day.

What a ‘bold’, adrenaline-filled week it has been from the apostles’ perspective – casting out demons, healing the sick and even chastising the Sanhedrin and Pharisees at the risk of losing their lives for Christ. And what a far cry from the downcast, disheartened, distraught bunch that witnessed the gruesome crucifixion after the long, arduous trek up Calvary.

It truly is amazing how people can perform ‘out of their skin’ given the right motivation. As a fervent supporter of Liverpool Football Club, I have witnessed more than a few games this season when previous teams would have capitulated. This current crop, however, are a different kettle of fish altogether. Not only are they fighting tooth and nail for the fans, their manager (a Catholic, no less) has obviously given them the belief that they are destined to win something. And I hold firm that after yet another bruising encounter last weekend, which will take the championship to the final day of the season, the team will be raised up on the last day; even if they do not win the league in spite of amassing a record points total.

And such is Jesus’ call to all of us – that we live our lives here on earth to the fullest, as destined by God when He created us. It is our responsibility to our maker to make the right choices and to go down the paths that have been marked out for us. But then, what happens when we make a wrong turn? What if we get led down a wrong path because of circumstances beyond our control? Brothers and sisters, our God is a merciful, loving and forgiving God who is always waiting for us to come back to him as long as we are sincere and contrite. He will never deny us the chance to live the life that will lead us to His pastures on the day we leave this earth. It is a promise already made by Jesus in today’s gospel – that whoever sees his Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life.

I don’t know about you but I have seen Him, in a vision during a retreat in 2012. And I continue to cling on to that vision each time I fall when I sin against Him. I continue to look for Him at every mass and every adoration session, always willing Him to appear again before me so that I can jump into the sea like Peter did; and to be the ‘rock’ that others can rely on so that their burdens are lightened. Looking back on the past few months, it has been rather ‘adrenaline-filled’ for me, especially in ministry where I have said ‘Yes’ on more than a few occasions.

Brothers and sisters, when the chips are down and you wonder if all your efforts are ‘worth it’, just bear in mind what the apostles had to endure as they were sent out into the world to preach the Good News. Let us always fix our gaze upon the Lord and hold fast in the belief that come what may, we will be standing before Him on the last day, waiting to walk into His open and loving arms.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, we pray for the grace to live a life that is pleasing to you and that edifies your everlasting love for us so that those around us can be inspired as well.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for moulding us and for shaping us into your sons and daughters. And for never letting us go in spite of our failings and shortcomings as we navigate life.

7 May, Tuesday – Fountains

7 May 2019

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John 6:22-29

After Jesus had fed the five thousand, his disciples saw him walking on the water. Next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side saw that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that the disciples had set off by themselves. Other boats, however, had put in from Tiberias, near the place where the bread had been eaten. When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into those boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’
Jesus answered:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs
but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.
Do not work for food that cannot last,
but work for food that endures to eternal life,
the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you,
for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.’

Then they said to him, ‘What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?’ Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.’

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John 6:22-29

After Jesus had fed the five thousand, his disciples saw him walking on the water. Next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side saw that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that the disciples had set off by themselves. Other boats, however, had put in from Tiberias, near the place where the bread had been eaten. When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into those boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’
Jesus answered:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs
but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.
Do not work for food that cannot last,
but work for food that endures to eternal life,
the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you,
for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.’

Then they said to him, ‘What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?’ Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.’

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…he who believes in me will never thirst.

Mankind’s continual thirst for knowledge and power has led us down a path which many feel will lead to our own destruction. From the world wars to financial crises which have led to the demise of many, we seem to have this in-built ‘shoot yourself in the foot’ button that keeps being pressed once every few decades. And while technology continues to advance by leaps and bounds, we seem to be sorely lacking in understanding the consequences of the many decisions that continue to harm nature and our earth.

I used to be ambitious in my early working years but lately, I have adopted a more modest approach to work, preferring to focus some energy on my pursuits outside of work. Some might say that I am not truly fulfilling my potential or contributing 100% to my organisation, but I prefer to look at it as not putting all my eggs in the same basket; that I will be able to draw inspiration and strength, not just from what I accomplish at work, but also from my efforts in ministry.

Those of you who serve in ministry may already be shaking your head or ‘tsk tsk-ing’ away. However, I continue to draw from that well and do what I can during my spare time to contribute as much as I can, in spite of the challenges and very different mindsets involved. In other words, I continue to believe that He has put me in this ministry for a reason and that I am not supposed to shortchange Him, as long as there is something I can do that adds value to others, I should not shun it.

So in this season of my life, I am not thirsting. On the contrary, I have become a well for others to tap on occasionally. How long this is going to last, I do not know. What I do know is that on my own, I will eventually dry up. I have seen others around me shrivel and wither away for varying reasons, and I am mindful of the many hurdles ahead in my journey. But there is no other way except to obey him and to believe that in the end, it is God who provides for me; and for all of us. He will ensure that we are sufficiently nourished for the road ahead, as long as we know how to draw from Him – through daily prayer, celebration of the Eucharist and, most importantly, the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Brothers and sisters, all of us are meant to inspire and nourish someone else, or even many others. We have not been created for nothing. How are we then to go about our mission while we are walking this journey on earth? We must first seek knowledge and wisdom from our heavenly Father and from Jesus Christ, who himself uttered the words “I thirst” just before he gave up his life.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, we ask for your constant protection and guidance as we minister to our loved ones. We ask that you always nourish us with your living Word.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for giving us all that we need to be faithful servants in your vineyard.

6 May, Monday – Self Belief vs Selfishly Believing

6 May 2019

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Acts 6:8-15

Stephen was filled with grace and power and began to work miracles and great signs among the people. But then certain people came forward to debate with Stephen, some from Cyrene and Alexandria who were members of the synagogue called the Synagogue of Freedmen, and others from Cilicia and Asia. They found they could not get the better of him because of his wisdom, and because it was the Spirit that prompted what he said. So they procured some men to say, ‘We heard him using blasphemous language against Moses and against God.’ Having in this way turned the people against him as well as the elders and scribes, they took Stephen by surprise, and arrested him and brought him before the Sanhedrin. There they put up false witnesses to say, ‘This man is always making speeches against this Holy Place and the Law. We have heard him say that Jesus the Nazarene is going to destroy this Place and alter the traditions that Moses handed down to us.’ The members of the Sanhedrin all looked intently at Stephen, and his face appeared to them like the face of an angel.

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John 6:22-29

After Jesus had fed the five thousand, his disciples saw him walking on the water. Next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side saw that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that the disciples had set off by themselves. Other boats, however, had put in from Tiberias, near the place where the bread had been eaten. When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into those boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’
Jesus answered:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs
but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.
Do not work for food that cannot last,
but work for food that endures to eternal life,
the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you,
for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.’

Then they said to him, ‘What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?’ Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.’

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…you must believe in the one he has sent.

 It has been a long while since I disappointed my boss. He is generally quite easygoing and gives me quite a bit of latitude in making decisions but recently, I made a wrong one and it discredited him in the eyes of many of his friends and peers. And in a strange twist of fate, I was put in his shoes the very next day when one of my staff went ahead with a decision which thankfully, didn’t end up with the same disappointing consequences (the outcome wasn’t that bad nor was it public). Instead, I took the opportunity to clarify my stance with the young chap and turned it into a learning opportunity.

Sometimes, those of us more ‘seasoned’ pros think we know better. We then forsake due process and rational logic and make decisions based on ‘gut feel’, which may end up making us feel as if we had been punched in the gut ourselves. We tune out all advice that says ‘this is the wrong way to go’ and convince ourselves that we will go against conventional wisdom and be prepared to take the calculated risk. Until someone higher up says, “Surely I have told you before what I feel about this matter. Did I not make myself clear?”

And just as Jesus made his teachings and beliefs clear to everyone around Him, many of us choose not to listen and think that we know better. How wrong we are, brothers and sisters. Because our God is a loving God and would not have sent a ‘false prophet’ to save us. His words are manna and meant to sustain us, what more His very presence, which we sometimes question as we assume our very human stance of ‘I know better because you don’t understand’.

Well, perhaps a hard lesson in humility is required at times for us to truly appreciate the wisdom and experience of those who have been around longer than us. Or who have formed their opinions with the benefit of hindsight after having made their own mistakes. It is not easy to swallow one’s pride and acknowledge weakness, especially in the face of others’ success. But we must learn to accept such blows and rise up strong, determined to learn from the lesson, however hard it may be.

Brothers and sisters, let us learn to quieten our hearts and appreciate sage advice. Let us not be too obstinate in our dealings with others and try to be more docile to the stirrings within us, especially if they are cautioning us to hold our tongue or to be careful.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, teach us to be humble of heart and docile to your Word.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for the gift of humility.

5 May, Sunday – Seeing is believing

5 May 2019

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Acts 5:27-32,40-41

The high priest demanded an explanation of the Apostles. ‘We gave you a formal warning’ he said ‘not to preach in this name, and what have you done? You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and seem determined to fix the guilt of this man’s death on us.’ In reply Peter and the apostles said, ‘Obedience to God comes before obedience to men; it was the God of our ancestors who raised up Jesus, but it was you who had him executed by hanging on a tree. By his own right hand God has now raised him up to be leader and saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins through him to Israel. We are witnesses to all this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’ They warned the apostles not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them. And so they left the presence of the Sanhedrin glad to have had the honour of suffering humiliation for the sake of the name.

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Apocalypse 5:11-14

In my vision, I, John, heard the sound of an immense number of angels gathered round the throne and the animals and the elders; there were ten thousand times ten thousand of them and thousands upon thousands, shouting, ‘The Lamb that was sacrificed is worthy to be given power, riches, wisdom, strength, honour, glory and blessing.’ Then I heard all the living things in creation – everything that lives in the air, and on the ground, and under the ground, and in the sea, crying, ‘To the One who is sitting on the throne and to the Lamb, be all praise, honour, glory and power, for ever and ever.’ And the four animals said, ‘Amen’; and the elders prostrated themselves to worship.

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John 21:1-19

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

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

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

After the meal Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’ Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.

‘I tell you most solemnly,
when you were young
you put on your own belt
and walked where you liked;
but when you grow old
you will stretch out your hands,
and somebody else will put a belt round you
and take you where you would rather not go.’

In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, ‘Follow me.’

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It is the Lord

I spent most of last week running around, being available for those who needed me and by the time we got to the regular 4th Saturday healing service at CSC, I was pretty much in ‘auto’ mode. Towards the end of the healing service, our spiritual director came over to me and whispered that he was going to bring Jesus down from the altar and walk to the front of the congregation; and that he wanted me to turn on all the lights in the hall (we usually dim them during healing). No time to ask questions, no time to react except to say ‘OK’ and then hope for the best.

We had already spent a good part of 40 to 50 mins adoring Him and many had come forward to be prayed over. But as Fr Andrew came down with Jesus, I witnessed quite a few in the congregation rest again as they were adoring on their knees. Then he came in front of where we were singing and all I could do was to look at the Blessed Sacrament and smile. I knew there and then that He had been walking with me all throughout my rather fraught week. I came to a realisation why I had been strangely calm amidst the storm – I had been leaning on Him all this while and not letting my emotions get the better of me.

Brothers and sisters, the overriding emotion that carried me through the week was love. A simple word that defies all logic when your search for answers brings nothing; and when those who depend on you demand your attention and seek your leadership. I told my deputy at work that over the next few weeks (and even months), I would probably be ‘less approachable’ and not be in a very consultative mood as I make decisions but assured him that there would be no emotion involved and that he was not to take my lack of concern personally.

So as Jesus appeared before his disciples while they were tending their nets and going about their normal business, completely unaware that He was the one asking if they had caught anything, it took yet another miracle before Peter’s eyes were opened. How weak we are in our faith that even though the Son of Man stands by our side each day, we still require some ‘act of God’ to happen before we choose to believe that it IS the Lord in front of us. What will it take for us to finally acknowledge our risen Lord, that He has conquered death and reigns in our hearts, and therefore, we have no excuse but to radiate His love to each and everyone we encounter in our daily lives?

Are we, as Christians, going to just sit idly by and let life consume us? Or are we going to be His soldiers in the battlefield (hardly a metaphor in these troubled times) and allow His love to flow through us so that our family, our colleagues, our community and our enemies are so overwhelmed that they look at us and say ‘It is the Lord’? Easier said than done isn’t it? Because who are we but mere mortals – wounded souls who persecute others with our words, our actions and our judgemental ways.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Father, we pray that you help us open our eyes to your presence each and every day.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for resurrecting in our hearts each and every day we celebrate the Eucharist.

3 May, Friday – Knowing the Father

May 3 – Feast of Sts. Philip and James, Apostles

Philip was a disciple of St. John the Baptist, and a convert. He was one of the Twelve Apostles, and brought St. Nathanael to Christ. He was a confidant of Jesus’. Little is known about him, but scriptural episodes give the impression of a shy, naïve, but practical individual. He preached in Greece and Asia Minor, and died a martyr for the faith.

James the Lesser was the cousin of Jesus, and brother of St. Jude Thaddeus. He was raised in a Jewish home of the time with all the training in Scripture and Law that was part of that life. He was a convert, and one of the Twelve Apostles. He was one of the first to have visions of the risen Christ.

He was the first bishop of Jerusalem. He met with St. Paul the Apostle to work out Paul’s plans for evangelization. He supported the position that Gentile converts did not have to obey all Jewish religious law, though he continued to observe it himself as part of his heritage. He may have been a vegetarian. He was a just and apostolic man known for his prayer life and devotion to the poor.

He was martyred for his faith in c.62 when he was thrown from a pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem, and then stoned and beaten with clubs while praying for his attackers. Having been beaten to death, a club almost immediately became his symbol, leading to his patronage of fullers and pharmacists, both of whom use clubs in their professions.

He is reported to have spent so much time in prayer that his knees thickened, and looked like a camel’s. Soon after the Crucifixion, James said he would fast until Christ returned; the resurrected Jesus appeared to him, and fixed a meal for James Himself.

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1 Corinthians 15:1-8

Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you – believing anything else will not lead to anything.

Well then, in the first place, I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared first to Cephas and secondly to the Twelve. Next he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died; then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles; and last of all he appeared to me too; it was as though I was born when no one expected it.

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John 14:6-14

Jesus said to Thomas:
‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
No one can come to the Father except through me.
If you know me, you know my Father too.
From this moment you know him and have seen him.’

Philip said, ‘Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.’
‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip,’ said Jesus to him ‘and you still do not know me?

‘To have seen me is to have seen the Father,
so how can you say, “Let us see the Father”?
Do you not believe
that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words I say to you I do not speak as from myself:
it is the Father, living in me, who is doing this work.
You must believe me when I say
that I am in the Father and the Father is in me;
believe it on the evidence of this work, if for no other reason.
I tell you most solemnly,
whoever believes in me
will perform the same works as I do myself,
he will perform even greater works,
because I am going to the Father.
Whatever you ask for in my name I will do,
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If you ask for anything in my name,
I will do it.’

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It was as though I was born when no one expected it

 This particular Lenten season has been an unusual one for me in the sense that I have been swamped with ‘work’, not of the usual kind, but rather work in ministry. Getting a budget approved, having to rework the various quotes, being present for meetings and also supporting a weekend seminar by having to rally some members to help with AV support. Not to mention editing the many more readings that have come in – all that would have, in the past, floored me.

However, I found myself sharing with my discipleship group about how He has spoken so powerfully to me, encouraging me on. And being there for others (I even found time for a quick getaway with a close buddy for 6 days). During the past few weeks, I have grieved the loss of a colleague’s father who passed away suddenly, and also someone with one of the best voices around who tragically died from cancer, leaving behind two young children. There are also other personal burdens to shoulder, and ‘errands’ to run. Yet all this time, I have managed to find comfort and solace in His merciful love.

It was as if I finally learnt to appreciate Christ’s sacrifice for all humanity and to truly believe in His saving passion for ALL of us – yes, each and everyone of us who is hurting, grieving, complaining, searching for answers to our various predicaments. In coming to know Him more, He has rewarded me with gifts of people who have reached out in hope. A new opportunity to serve at an upcoming retreat for young adults, a new contributor to our incredible online ministry, a new chance to work with a group of members who are full of zeal. I even went to another parish for Good Friday service and discovered a new choir whose voices moved me to tears.

In almost every situation that would have brought despair, I have managed to find hope. Or rather, HE has shown me hope.

Indeed, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have all been born again. His death gives us hope; hope that through whatever darkness we are journeying, there is light at the end and in emerging into that light, we are created new.

Brothers and sisters, as Easter people, we believe that Christ is born again in our hearts each day we arise. Let us go forth in hope and spread that hope to others around us who live in despair.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Father, we pray that we take each day as an opportunity to spread your love and your Word to others around us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for resurrecting hope in our hearts each and every day we celebrate the eucharist.

27 March, Wednesday – Keep Watch

27 March 2019

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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

Last week, our centre hosted two visiting exorcists from the Phillipines. We anticipated an ‘overflow’ crowd but never had I seen so many flock to CSC on a Friday evening. By 7.30 pm when P&W started, we had to activate our overflow areas outside the hall. It was interesting what a friend I bumped into said to me, “You get more people coming to hear a talk about the devil, than to hear about God.” I laughed it off but couldn’t help wondering about the truth of his statement as I drove home.

After a tragic week of mourning in Christchurch and reading some of the posts supporting the country’s prime minister and her stand about never ever speaking the name of the perpetrator of that horrific attack that killed 50 innocent Muslims, I fear for our young generation. With social media so pervasive these days, our children are open to all forms of attacks from the evil one – games that feature murder and mayhem, even occult practices that call on spirits unknowingly.

The two priests spoke about how we could open up doors for the devil to attack our families even through these seemingly harmless activities. One even spoke about how he had to exorcise a boy who was addicted to a particular game that involved invoking certain spirits. In the end, the addiction led to oppression and the boy almost had to enter a mental institution. However, when he was prayed over, the priest knew that the boy had Jesus in his heart because of the tears that flowed from his eyes during the healing session. It is true, he said, that when children pray, they pray from the heart and it well pleases God because they have deep faith and are truly sincere. In the end, the boy was healed of his addiction and managed to go back to school and live a normal life.

Brothers and sisters, we must not take what we do each day lightly, especially those of us who have children or godchildren. We must put Jesus at the centre of our lives and not consign Him to just one area that we focus on when we are in distress. In our pursuit of happiness in our lives, we must realise that it is only in Jesus that we can find true happiness. If we believe fully in Him and in His Word, He will bless us with the things that will make us truly happy. Those of us who have been successful in life, by whatever measure, must realise that our riches and happiness have not come purely by our own works. God has blessed us for a reason and we must discern it in order to spread the love to others.

So take care and be on your guard, because we need to be proper stewards of our God-given wealth, so that He can reward us with even more

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, help us to realise that only by putting you in the centre of our lives will be rewarded with true happiness and true riches. That all we have now is only temporal and it is our eternal reward that we should be focusing on.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for all that you have given to us and our loved ones. It is truly by your grace that we have our happiness and success and we give all glory to you.

26 March, Tuesday – Tit for Tat

26 March 2019

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Daniel 3:25,34-43

Azariah stood in the heart of the fire, and he began to pray:

Oh! Do not abandon us for ever,
for the sake of your name;
do not repudiate your covenant,
do not withdraw your favour from us,
for the sake of Abraham, your friend,
of Isaac your servant,
and of Israel your holy one,
to whom you promised descendants as countless as the stars of heaven
and as the grains of sand on the seashore.
Lord, now we are the least of all the nations,
now we are despised throughout the world, today, because of our sins.
We have at this time no leader, no prophet, no prince,
no holocaust, no sacrifice, no oblation, no incense,
no place where we can offer you the first-fruits
and win your favour.
But may the contrite soul, the humbled spirit be as acceptable to you
as holocausts of rams and bullocks,
as thousands of fattened lambs:
such let our sacrifice be to you today,
and may it be your will that we follow you wholeheartedly,
since those who put their trust in you will not be disappointed.
And now we put our whole heart into following you,
into fearing you and seeking your face once more.
Do not disappoint us;
treat us gently, as you yourself are gentle
and very merciful.
Grant us deliverance worthy of your wonderful deeds,
let your name win glory, Lord.

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Matthew 18:21-35

Peter went up to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.

  ‘And so the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants. When the reckoning began, they brought him a man who owed ten thousand talents; but he had no means of paying, so his master gave orders that he should be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, to meet the debt. At this, the servant threw himself down at his master’s feet. “Give me time” he said “and I will pay the whole sum.” And the servant’s master felt so sorry for him that he let him go and cancelled the debt. Now as this servant went out, he happened to meet a fellow servant who owed him one hundred denarii; and he seized him by the throat and began to throttle him. “Pay what you owe me” he said. His fellow servant fell at his feet and implored him, saying, “Give me time and I will pay you.” But the other would not agree; on the contrary, he had him thrown into prison till he should pay the debt. His fellow servants were deeply distressed when they saw what had happened, and they went to their master and reported the whole affair to him. Then the master sent for him. “You wicked servant,” he said “I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?” And in his anger the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt. And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.’

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Treat us gently, as you yourself are gentle and very merciful

I had a bit of a run-in with a vendor last week at work and came away disappointed at his attitude towards not just me, but to his situation as a young business owner. To be fair to the young chap, he did call me 30 minutes later to apologise for his attitude but the damage had been done and all I said was “It’s OK. It is just work.” Having been in his shoes before as a small business owner, I was flabbergasted that he would have used the language he did in our chat. Back in the day, however ‘bad’ a situation got with any client of mine, I still respected them as my customers and would never talk back at them.

Perhaps times have changed and the newer generation of entrepreneurs is more vocal and are prepared to stand their ground more, or even turn their back on a customer because they believe in their principles. So in calling for a ‘clear the air’ meeting within 48 hours, I took the approach of offering everyone around the table a chance to learn from this experience. I decided that the best outcome would have to stem from a gentler approach to the situation and in hearing all the grievances and challenges the young team faced in trying to deliver our project.

In today’s gospel, Jesus uses the parable of the ungrateful servant to demonstrate how God will look upon us on our day of reckoning. For it is not so much how we treat those who are good to us that matters, but those who wrong us. How Christ-like are we going to be to the neighbour who always parks in our spot, to the family member who finds a way to always use our favourite mug or even our own bathroom? How do we react to a boss who has a habit of speaking ill of us in front of our colleagues, or a ministry member who talks a lot at meetings and then does not show up when it matters. Are we compassionate, or do we pass judgement, as if we are God?

Brothers and sisters, if we go about our daily lives looking to judge others for their actions without first understanding why they seem to always be doing us wrong, then we are not destined for happiness. Because we will end up questioning others all the time, instead of embracing them and acknowledging their weaknesses and faults. The more we can get rid of this ‘tit for tat’ mentality in our lives, the more open we are to allow God’s healing graces to flow within us.

Then, as we learn to embrace others, warts and all, we will come to the realization that all of us are the same in the eyes of God. That no one deserves more or less than the other brother or sister; everyone deserves the same measure of love from God – infinite, boundless and indescribable.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, grace us with the humility of Mother Mary and the love of your son Jesus Christ so that we can in turn love as they did.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for your gift of love.

25 March, Monday – True Obedience

25 Mar – Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

The annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary by Gabriel the archangel that she was to be the Mother of God (Luke 1), the Word being made flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The feast probably originated about the time of the Council of Ephesus (c. 431), and is first mentioned in the Sacramentary of Pope Gelasius (d. 496).

The Annunciation has been a key topic in Christian art in general, as well as in Roman Catholic Marian art, particularly during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It is represented in art by many masters, among them Fra Angelico, Hubert Van Eyck, Ghirlandajo, Holbein the Elder, Lippi, Pinturicchio, and Del Sarto.

This feast is celebrated on Mar 25, nine months before the feast of the Nativity of Jesus (Christmas) on Dec 25.

The Annunciation is also mentioned twice in the Quran, the holy book for the Muslims.

  • Patron Saint Index, Wikipedia

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Isaiah 7:10-14,8:10

The Lord spoke to Ahaz and said, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign for yourself coming either from the depths of Sheol or from the heights above.’ ‘No,’ Ahaz answered ‘I will not put the Lord to the test.’
Then he said:
Listen now, House of David:
are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men
without trying the patience of my God, too?
The Lord himself, therefore,
will give you a sign.
It is this: the maiden is with child
and will soon give birth to a son
whom she will call Immanuel,
a name which means ‘God is with us.’

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Hebrews 10:4-10

Bulls’ blood and goats’ blood are useless for taking away sins, and this is what Christ said, on coming into the world:

You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation,
prepared a body for me.
You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin;
then I said,
just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book,
‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’

Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin,and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.

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Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

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Let what you have said be done to me

How many times have we said ‘Yes’ to our parents or to our superiors and then acted against their orders, thinking either that we know better or that those who have instructed us have lost touch with reality? Many of us face that dilemma at work, especially those of us in middle management who have teams reporting to us or groups of colleagues working on a particular project, which we just want to complete without too much ‘interference’ from our superiors.

I cannot imagine the turmoil within Mother Mary when she first heard the words of the archangel Gabriel. And while she posed a fair question, I for one would have been thinking to myself, “Alright, how can I get out of this? There is no way I will be able to do this no matter what this strange figure with wings says. What are my exit strategies going to be?” Unlike Mary, we lack absolute faith in God and the humility to trust in His hand within our lives.

So how can we reconcile this tension within us to live a life that is dedicated to God yet having to deal with the various challenges that seem to surface just when we think we’ve struck a balance? It is something that I have not been able to put my finger on until a recent testimony given by a retreatant who attended CER61. He testified that after not stepping into a church since he was 12 years old, he now found solace in reciting the rosary after his conversion. He said that he had always been skeptical about having to repeatedly say the prayers but now, he found comfort in saying the rosary each day. He began to understand humility required in order to bow down and accede to God’s call each day, and as a result, he is a much calmer, more loving individual who now cares for his family.

Brothers and sisters, let us embrace the humble rosary and make a pledge to say it every day. Because it is the one thing the devil fears – this devotion to our heavenly Mother. When our hearts are focused on Mother Mary, the Lord will mould us to become humble of heart and teach us true obedience to Him so that we can live the lives that He intended for each and every one of us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for giving us Mary as our loving Mother.

24 March, Sunday – Time to Mature

24 March 2019

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Exodus 3:1-8,13-15

Moses was looking after the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law priest of Midian. He led his flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in the shape of a flame of fire, coming from the middle of a bush. Moses looked; there was the bush blazing but it was not being burnt up. ‘I must go and look at this strange sight,’ Moses said, ‘and see why the bush is not burnt.’ Now the Lord saw him go forward to look, and God called to him from the middle of the bush. ‘Moses, Moses!’ he said. ‘Here I am,’ Moses answered. ‘Come no nearer,’ he said. ‘Take off your shoes, for the place on which you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your fathers,’ he said, ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ At this Moses covered his face, afraid to look at God.

And the Lord said, ‘I have seen the miserable state of my people in Egypt. I have heard their appeal to be free of their slave-drivers. Yes, I am well aware of their sufferings. I mean to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians and bring them up out of that land to a land rich and broad, a land where milk and honey flow, the home of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites.’

Then Moses said to God, ‘I am to go, then, to the sons of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you.” But if they ask me what his name is, what am I to tell them?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I Am who I Am. This’ he added ‘is what you must say to the sons of Israel: “I Am has sent me to you.”’ And God also said to Moses, ‘You are to say to the sons of Israel: “The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.” This is my name for all time; by this name I shall be invoked for all generations to come.’

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1 Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12

I want to remind you, brothers, how our fathers were all guided by a cloud above them and how they all passed through the sea. They were all baptised into Moses in this cloud and in this sea; all ate the same spiritual food and all drank the same spiritual drink, since they all drank from the spiritual rock that followed them as they went, and that rock was Christ. In spite of this, most of them failed to please God and their corpses littered the desert.

These things all happened as warnings for us, not to have the wicked lusts for forbidden things that they had. You must never complain: some of them did, and they were killed by the Destroyer.

All this happened to them as a warning, and it was written down to be a lesson for us who are living at the end of the age. The man who thinks he is safe must be careful that he does not fall.

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Luke 13:1-9

Some people arrived and told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices. At this he said to them, ‘Do you suppose these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell and killed them? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’

He told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to the man who looked after the vineyard, “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?” “Sir,” the man replied “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.”’

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It may bear fruit next year

It has been just over a year since a few of us decided to take the plunge and step up to certain core leadership roles within our ministry. Since then, there has been attrition due to various reasons and as I look around, there are probably a quarter of us left still earnestly striving hard to make the necessary changes in a few areas so that we can continue to attract new members and retain some of those who recently joined us.

In order to move forward, I have always believed that a community needs to take a long, hard look at themselves to see where the weak links are so that they can be addressed strategically and systematically. One key area is succession planning, something which is not uncommon within parishes and even in successful organizations. This time last year, I made a commitment to myself that I needed to step up and improve on certain competencies if I was going to be taken seriously in my eventual role within my ministry. So I embarked on a few small initiatives and, looking back, I can see for myself the growth that has occurred. Like the fig tree in today’s gospel, I have undergone fertilization, pruning and a bit of nurturing through one of our leaders. While it has not been an easy journey, I believe that I have come out a lot surer and more confident in my current role. And I am under no illusion that if I were to continue, it is only going to get more difficult and arduous.

Brothers and sisters, when we say ‘Yes’ to God and decide to devote time in his vineyard, we must be prepared to endure all kinds of hardship. Hours spent in meetings may come to nought because of indecision, a well-laid plan may be turned upside down because of a last-minute decision by a priest, a piece of equipment that worked during practice or rehearsal may just decide to not function 5 minutes before a worship session. This is when a certain maturity and understanding is called for, especially from those in leadership roles. No point getting irritated or staring daggers at the ministry member(s) involved, nor panicking and throwing a tantrum. When the fires rage, cool heads are called for and most certainly prayer and intercession.

Our spiritual director recently exhorted that should the devil decide to attack the archdiocese, he would attack two pillars here in Singapore, and his primary tactic would be to sow discord and disunity among ministry leaders. Therefore we all need to make sure that we are able to stand firm by nourishing ourselves with the Word of God each and every day. Constant prayer and constant intercession are crucial if we are to continue bearing good fruit and reaching out to others in need. A steady diet of good Christian literature and daily celebrations of the Eucharist will ensure that as we mature in our spirituality, we will not allow ourselves to be toppled nor have our faith uprooted.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, we ask you to continue to tend to us and to nourish us daily with your Word as we toil in your vineyard. Give us the strength to persevere and be patient as we grow in our own spirituality

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for always being patient with us and for your kindness and mercy.

13 March, Wednesday – Signs

13 March 2019

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Jonah 3:1-10

The word of the Lord was addressed a second time to Jonah: ‘Up!’ he said ‘Go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach to them as I told you to.’ Jonah set out and went to Nineveh in obedience to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was a city great beyond compare: it took three days to cross it. Jonah went on into the city, making a day’s journey. He preached in these words, ‘Only forty days more and Nineveh is going to be destroyed.’ And the people of Nineveh believed in God; they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least. The news reached the king of Nineveh, who rose from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth and sat down in ashes. A proclamation was then promulgated throughout Nineveh, by decree of the king and his ministers, as follows: ‘Men and beasts, herds and flocks, are to taste nothing; they must not eat, they must not drink water. All are to put on sackcloth and call on God with all their might; and let everyone renounce his evil behaviour and the wicked things he has done. Who knows if God will not change his mind and relent, if he will not renounce his burning wrath, so that we do not perish?’ God saw their efforts to renounce their evil behaviour, and God relented: he did not inflict on them the disaster which he had threatened.

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Luke 11:29-32

The crowds got even bigger, and Jesus addressed them:

‘This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign. The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here. On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.’

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This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign

I shared a cartoon on my Facebook feed last week which garnered quite a few quick ‘Likes’. Basically, it showed three piles of ‘dust’ — ‘Gold Dust’, ‘Star Dust’ and ‘Glitter Dust’. Above each were the respective captions – ‘You May Be Rich’, ‘You May Be Famous’, ‘You May Be Talented’. Then the punchline, ‘But We Are All Dust’, which pointed to a cross made of ash.
As I bore my ‘sign’ proudly on Ash Wednesday, I couldn’t help but wonder how the early Christians would have felt walking around with that brand on their foreheads. I must admit that until my conversion experience, I was quite shy about revealing that cross on my forehead every time Ash Wednesday came around (if I even bothered to go for mass). Today, I would like to challenge all of us to think about the sign as something to confront Satan with. Because when I look around today, I feel more and more that it is the devil himself who is asking to see the sign in order that he does not bother us. Pride, envy, anger, lust, greed… they are all around us in the news and have crept into hallowed arenas that typically should bring joy and hope; for example, in sport, in government and more recently, in our very own church.

It is almost the ‘new normal’ to become desensitized and numb to the array of sins that are played out each and every day around us. We are starting to get used to reading so much bad news that a report about an act of honour, decency or courage is now greatly applauded and shared as if it is some sort of a one-in-a-million occurrence. Have we become so wicked, and have our hearts hardened so much, that we need a sign to remind ourselves of our birthright? Surely not.

And while the sign marks us as sons and daughters of God, what happens when it eventually fades off? Do we carry that imprint on our hearts? Do we, through our good acts, show others around us what it means to be Catholic? Or do we get a reaction of surprise from those who encounter us? It was interesting that when I answered, “It’s Ash Wednesday” to colleagues that expressed concern about the mark on my forehead, more than half seemed to understand what I meant.

So brothers and sisters, how do we ‘sign’ ourselves to others at home, in the office, or out in society? Especially to non-Christians who are curious about why we would walk around with a cross on our forehead. Do we shrink in embarassment? Or do we proudly proclaim what the sign means and why we observe Lent? More importantly, how ready are we to confront sin head-on and say, “Get behind me, for I am a child of God”?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, we ask you to give us the courage to stand up to all forms of temptation, firm in the belief that you are rooting for us.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for your gift of Jesus Christ.