Tag Archives: desmond soon

2 July, Tuesday – God, You’re So Good

2 July 2019

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Genesis 19:15-29

The angels urged Lot, ‘Come, take your wife and these two daughters of yours, or you will be overwhelmed in the punishment of the town.’ And as he hesitated, the men took him by the hand, and his wife and his two daughters, because of the pity the Lord felt for him. They led him out and left him outside the town.

As they were leading him out he said, ‘Run for your life. Neither look behind you nor stop anywhere on the plain. Make for the hills if you would not be overwhelmed.’ ‘No, I beg you, my lord,’ Lot said to them ‘your servant has won your favour and you have shown great kindness to me in saving my life. But I could not reach the hills before this calamity overtook me, and death with it. The town over there is near enough to flee to, and is a little one. Let me make for that – is it not little? – and my life will be saved.’ He answered, ‘I grant you this favour too, and will not destroy the town you speak of. Hurry, escape to it, for I can do nothing until you reach it.’ That is why the town is named Zoar.

As the sun rose over the land and Lot entered Zoar, the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord. He overthrew these towns and the whole plain, with all the inhabitants of the towns, and everything that grew there. But the wife of Lot looked back, and was turned into a pillar of salt.

Rising early in the morning Abraham went to the place where he had stood before the Lord, and looking towards Sodom and Gomorrah, and across all the plain, he saw the smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.

Thus it was that when God destroyed the towns of the plain, he kept Abraham in mind and rescued Lot out of disaster when he overwhelmed the towns where Lot lived.

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Matthew 8:23-27

Jesus got into the boat followed by his disciples. Without warning a storm broke over the lake, so violent that the waves were breaking right over the boat. But he was asleep. So they went to him and woke him saying, ‘Save us, Lord, we are going down!’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened, you men of little faith?’ And with that he stood up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and all was calm again. The men were astounded and said, ‘Whatever kind of man is this? Even the winds and the sea obey him.’

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Lord, we are going down!

Have you ever had that sinking feeling where you know you have made a huge ‘boo boo’ and that within the next few minutes (or even seconds), that scathing email or phone call from a superior or, worse still, your father/mother/in-laws will reach you? At times, in my youthful exuberance, I have been guilty of offending others with my ‘c’est la vie’ attitude towards my own mistakes and wrongdoings. For me, it is a case of having already done the crime, there is no point crying over spilt milk.

I wonder if the disciples felt more than just a sinking feeling on that boat, which was being tossed here and there by the strong, galeforce winds. It seems as if they were saying, “Why have you brought us this far, only to make us to feel frightened under your watch?”

Brothers and sisters, it can be just like that in ministry, isn’t it? For years, we labour in His vineyard and then when we encounter difficulty or, even worse, a very public airing of dirty laundry, who do we start blaming for our predicaments? For the lack of a scapegoat, may I suggest that you take out your rosary or crucifix and gaze at the sorry figure who was nailed to the cross.

Because in front of our very eyes is our ‘scapegoat’ – the one who took it upon himself to be the ultimate sacrifice for all of humankind. He who ‘went down’ for us and then rose again, so that we could live free as His sons and daughters. It is all well and good to praise and worship the Lord in good times, but when we encounter our own storms, how many of us actually look to Him in faith and trust that He will help us sail through? For many of us, we always feel the need to be in control, to be the captains of our own destinies. But put us in charge of a rudderless boat and we waver, we start blaming those around us. Worse still, we start to point the finger at God.

At a recent Corpus Christi celebration in CSC, the Lord demonstrated showed His presence in the lives of many as He performed miracles of healing. My own shoulder, which I had injured a few weeks prior, was healed as I stood by the video camera. How wonderful it felt to have been healed because I had faith that He would pave the way for me, knowing that we had a minimal crew to support the 9-hour session. Indeed, God is good!

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

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

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for all the healing miracles that we witnessed last weekend.

1 Jul, Monday – Here I Am

1 Jul 2019

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Genesis 18:16-33

From Mamre the men set out and arrived within sight of Sodom, with Abraham accompanying them to show them the way. Now the Lord had wondered, ‘Shall I conceal from Abraham what I am going to do, seeing that Abraham will become a great nation with all the nations of the earth blessing themselves by him? For I have singled him out to command his sons and his household after him to maintain the way of the Lord by just and upright living. In this way the Lord will carry out for Abraham what he has promised him.’ Then the Lord said, ‘How great an outcry there is against Sodom and Gomorrah! How grievous is their sin! I propose to go down and see whether or not they have done all that is alleged in the outcry against them that has come up to me. I am determined to know.’

The men left there and went to Sodom while Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Approaching him he said, ‘Are you really going to destroy the just man with the sinner? Perhaps there are fifty just men in the town. Will you really overwhelm them, will you not spare the place for the fifty just men in it? Do not think of doing such a thing: to kill the just man with the sinner, treating just and sinner alike! Do not think of it! Will the judge of the whole earth not administer justice?’ the Lord replied, ‘If at Sodom I find fifty just men in the town, I will spare the whole place because of them.’

Abraham replied, ‘I am bold indeed to speak like this to my Lord, I who am dust and ashes. But perhaps the fifty just men lack five: will you destroy the whole city for five?’ ‘No,’ he replied ‘I will not destroy it if I find forty-five just men there.’ Again Abraham said to him, ‘Perhaps there will only be forty there.’ ‘I will not do it’ he replied ‘for the sake of the forty.’

Abraham said, ‘I trust my Lord will not be angry, but give me leave to speak: perhaps there will only be thirty there.’ ‘I will not do it’ he replied ‘if I find thirty there.’ He said, ‘I am bold indeed to speak like this, but perhaps there will only be twenty there.’ ‘I will not destroy it’ he replied ‘for the sake of the twenty.’ He said, ‘I trust my Lord will not be angry if I speak once more: perhaps there will only be ten.’ ‘I will not destroy it’ he replied ‘for the sake of the ten.’

When he had finished talking to Abraham the Lord went away, and Abraham returned home.

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Matthew 8:18-22

When Jesus saw the great crowds all about him he gave orders to leave for the other side. One of the scribes then came up and said to him, ‘Master, I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’

Another man, one of his disciples, said to him, ‘Sir, let me go and bury my father first.’ But Jesus replied, ‘Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their dead.’

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The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head

This year’s Corpus Christi celebration at our centre saw one of our mission partners, Gloria Patri, run the programme from 9:00pm till 6:00am the next morning. Having just about recovered from a short bout of flu, I was worried if I would be able to withstand the nine hour celebration involving P&W, talks, mass, healing and adoration. It was the first time I would be supporting the sessions with my limited knowledge of AV as I had unknowingly volunteered to coordinate all the AV and on-ground requirements for the night/morning. None of my other brothers in the ministry were available as they had other commitments.

Bearing in mind I had attended a follow-up session for the recently-concluded Youth CER on the previous night (Friday), I was strangely ‘chill’ and not perturbed at all about having to spend yet another weekend at CSC. In fact, I was looking forward to the time with Christ and ended up experiencing a healing for my right shoulder at one of the sessions.

So what would have been a potentially fraught few days leading up to the sessions — our leaders were all away on holiday; and no one seemed to know what the 9-hour programme would consist of as our spiritual director was on leave till Saturday itself – ended up being a healing one for me. Truly, when one is driven by faith, the Lord never fails to provide. As I look back at some of the WhatsApp exchanges between the Gloria Patri coordinator and myself, I realised that he had complete trust that the session would sail on smoothly, despite not having met me before. As a stranger to the venue, he truly was relying on me to provide all the necessary backup, which I could not have accomplished without the able support of my two other leaders, who had come back from their own family holiday just 2 days prior.

Brothers and sisters, when we are called upon to provide a ‘safe haven’ for our Lord in which to be present, when He asks of us what we will be doing to prepare a place for Him, we cannot approach with fear and doubt. Instead, we should walk forward in faith that He will provide and send us the angels we need in order to accomplish our task. And we must always remember, it is not about who has done what. It is all about the heart of service and about taking a step back when someone more competent offers to lend a hand. For many of us in ministry, we tend to feel slighted when someone steps up, feeling as if we have been undermined. I have learnt over the years to look at them as angels who are sent my way, simply because I know not what I am doing.

So the next time someone approaches you to ask for help in the Lord’s vineyard, trust in His providence and just say ‘Yes’.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, in our own spiritual journeys here in earth, we know you are always with us and gently guiding us along. Keep us sensitive to your promptings to that we learn to decrease, in order for you to increase through others you send our way.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord, for your providence in our times of need.

30 June, Sunday – Raise A Hallelujah (RAH)

30 June 2019

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1 Kings 19:16,19-21

The Lord said to Elijah, ‘Go, you are to anoint Elisha son of Shaphat, of Abel Meholah, as prophet to succeed you.’

Leaving there, Elijah came on Elisha son of Shaphat as he was ploughing behind twelve yoke of oxen, he himself being with the twelfth. Elijah passed near to him and threw his cloak over him. Elisha left his oxen and ran after Elijah. ‘Let me kiss my father and mother, then I will follow you’ he said. Elijah answered, ‘Go, go back; for have I done anything to you?’ Elisha turned away, took the pair of oxen and slaughtered them. He used the plough for cooking the oxen, then gave to his men, who ate. He then rose, and followed Elijah and became his servant.

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Galatians 5:1,13-18

When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. My brothers, you were called, as you know, to liberty; but be careful, or this liberty will provide an opening for self-indulgence. Serve one another, rather, in works of love, since the whole of the Law is summarised in a single command: Love your neighbour as yourself. If you go snapping at each other and tearing each other to pieces, you had better watch or you will destroy the whole community.

Let me put it like this: if you are guided by the Spirit you will be in no danger of yielding to self-indulgence, since self-indulgence is the opposite of the Spirit, the Spirit is totally against such a thing, and it is precisely because the two are so opposed that you do not always carry out your good intentions. If you are led by the Spirit, no law can touch you.

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Luke 9:51-62

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

As they travelled along they met a man on the road who said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus answered, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’
Another to whom he said, ‘Follow me’, replied, ‘Let me go and bury my father first.’ But he answered, ‘Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.’
Another said, ‘I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say goodbye to my people at home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’

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When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free.

As I write this, I have just about recovered from a small bout of flu (runny nose and a bit of a cough) and am doing physio on my shoulder, which I injured 3 weeks ago at a prep camp for the Youth Conversion Experience Retreat, which I was privileged and blessed to serve as a facilitator in last week. What a life-giving experience it was as 130-odd young adults (between 18 and 29 yrs of age) encountered Christ and were liberated from their spiritual chains.

At the last P&W session, I was literally running between the retreatants as everyone was lifting their hands to God and thanking Him for freeing them from their bondages. Over the 4 days of ministering, I had learnt a lot about bonding as a ministry, and being part of a community who truly cared for, and shared in, each others’ wounds. During one of the paraliturgies, I was led by the Holy Spirit to come to a greater understanding about my ‘father wounds’ and I believe it enabled the spirit to speak through me to the retreatants who approached me during the session.

I was also blessed to have witnessed first-hand, the zeal, passion, honesty and raw emotion present in the magnificent army we have at CSC. The young adults who, despite being at various life stages (some are just starting families, some are in university, some have just started their first jobs), gave everything they had emotionally, spiritually and physically to the cause. We adults truly have much to learn from this bunch of committed ministry members. Sure, there were hiccups along the way (and a few ‘meltdowns’) but as I watched them sing during a healing session, I was moved to tears. There must have been 30 or more of us signing from our vantage point in the hall and I had never, in all my 8 years in ministry, seen this kind of fervour. Indeed, we were turning a melody into weapons for God – swords and flaming arrows against all manner of sin, oppression and against the evil one. Due to privacy restrictions, I could not capture the moment, but I for one would not want to face up against that moving mass of faith and fervour.

I still have the song in my head and it continues to move me – Raise A Hallelujah. There is a youtube video about the genesis of that song and I urge you to search it out so that you can appreciate how a song, when sung from the heart, can truly become a weapon (I am resisting some elaboration here as I don’t want to spoil the moment for you) against unbelief and tear down walls of fear.

Brothers and sisters, the retreat was another heart-wrenching, eye-opening, life-giving experience for me as I was reminded that we, as sons and daughters of God, should NOT be slaves to fear; to anything negative, nor to others. We have been created in His image and surely, He would make us into His most beloved people, free to do whatever we wish, free to enjoy His favour and grace. Free to sing with songs from deep within our hearts, or express our joy and gratitude through the talents He has given us. Because WE ARE GOOD. And that is a sentiment I shared with my brothers and sisters from the St Francis of Assisi group.

So thank you Aaron, AmO to Am4, Ashwin, BE (you know who you are), Ben (what nice feet you have), Brittany, Bryan, Charmaine, Chelsea, Chen Chen, Cheryl ‘llama’, Christa, Daniel, DDP (and your growing tribe!!!), DKong, Dom, Eunice, Fionn, Gabe, ‘GabLong’, Grace (YNWA), Gus, Janice, Jerm, Jerome, JJ, JLA, Joanne, Jolene, John, Jonathan, the 2 Joshes, Jules, Kat, Kelly, Kieran, Marie, Mark, Melly, Melvin (and your beautiful precious daughter), Moira, the 3 Nats, the Nicks, Ollie, Pius (the gentle giant), Rachel, Randall, Ruth, Sam, Sharrrr, Stefan, ‘Stelle’ (who had the courage to ask us in the first place), T(h)eresa, Val, Vic (U2 should engage you for their sound team). Thank you for opening up more possibilities in my spiritual journey and for freeing me to dance among the liberated that Sunday afternoon.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Father, we thank you for making us good. And for counting us worthy to be your sons and daughters.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your tremendous outpouring of graces during the recent YCER. May you always hold the retreatants and us, your humble servants, in your loving arms.

12 June, Wednesday – What Degree Do You Have?

12 June 2019

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2 Corinthians 3:4-11

Before God, we are confident of this through Christ: not that we are qualified in ourselves to claim anything as our own work: all our qualifications come from God. He is the one who has given us the qualifications to be the administrators of this new covenant, which is not a covenant of written letters but of the Spirit: the written letters bring death, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the administering of death, in the written letters engraved on stones, was accompanied by such a brightness that the Israelites could not bear looking at the face of Moses, though it was a brightness that faded, then how much greater will be the brightness that surrounds the administering of the Spirit! For if there was any splendour in administering condemnation, there must be very much greater splendour in administering justification. In fact, compared with this greater splendour, the thing that used to have such splendour now seems to have none; and if what was so temporary had any splendour, there must be much more in what is going to last for ever.

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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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All our qualifications come from God

I work in a university and we are doing our level best to shake up the higher education landscape with a different pedagogy – one that focuses on applied teaching and learning. Since I joined the institute in Feb 2010, I have been privileged to be part of its evolution and transformation, albeit with the strong support of our far-sighted government. It is a journey that encourages learning and unlearning, and this will not stop even as we prepare to move into a brand new campus in 2023.

Over the past few years, the debate about the paper chase and how universities have to adapt to the disruption in our economic landscape has certainly gained much attention. In today’s age of technological disruption, how relevant is a degree that qualifies someone as being able to study hard and to regurgitate facts in a 3-hour examination? Is that going to be a true marker of one’s ability out in the working world? If a country continues to eschew paper qualifications without considering that many of its citizens may be more suited to a ‘hands on’ approach to learning, what sort of path are we creating?

Educators have begun to accept that no amount of formal teaching is ever going to prepare someone to face a future filled with disruption. The oft-quoted examples of how the founders of Apple, Microsoft and Facebook became successes without completing their degrees do have some bearing when we consider how ‘qualified’ someone is to lead.

Having spent time with a group of young leaders recently, I witnessed first-hand how God ‘qualifies the called’ rather than ‘calls the qualified’. Line up the 12 young adults and you’d think they were just a bunch of normal guys and girls (I think some of us do them the injustice of calling them ‘kids’). Ask them to put a business proposal together and they may flounder. But get them to run a P&W session or a 4-day stay-in retreat for 130 retreatants and sit back and watch the fireworks. I am pretty sure when they received the call initially, they were probably filed with anxiety and self-doubt. But having witnessed the goings-on and being part of their preparation camp, I can only say – “BOOM!” (to quote the now championship-winning coach of the team that just won the European Cup for the 6th time).

Brothers and sisters, God indeed qualifies us to be his saints by virtue of our baptism. Let us not walk in fear, filled with self-doubt but stride forward with our heads held high. Not everyone is given the gift of learning. But we are all given the gift of free will as children of God. Let us choose to answer His call when He makes the connection in our heart. All we have to do is to say ‘Yes’ and surrender the outcome to Him. Who knows? It may be the ‘BOOM’ moment you have been waiting for all your life.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the young adults who will be attending YCER#16 as well as the organisers. Fill them with a double outpouring of your love, joy and peace so that they may encounter you in all your glory.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all those who have nothing to give except their time and their hearts. We thank you for these selfless warriors who soldier on in spite of their crosses in life.

10 June, Monday – Happyness

10 June – Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church

The joyous veneration given to the Mother of God by the contemporary Church, in light of reflection on the mystery of Christ and on his nature, cannot ignore the figure of a woman (cf. Gal 4:4), the Virgin Mary, who is both the Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church.

In some ways this was already present in the mind of the Church from the premonitory words of Saint Augustine and Saint Leo the Great. In fact the former says that Mary is the mother of the members of Christ, because with charity she cooperated in the rebirth of the faithful into the Church, while the latter says that the birth of the Head is also the birth of the body, thus indicating that Mary is at once Mother of Christ, the Son of God, and mother of the members of his Mystical Body, which is the Church. These considerations derive from the divine motherhood of Mary and from her intimate union in the work of the Redeemer, which culminated at the hour of the cross.

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Genesis 3:9-15,20

After Adam had eaten of the tree the Lord God called to him. ‘Where are you?’ he asked. ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden;’ he replied ‘I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.’ ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ he asked ‘Have you been eating of the tree I forbade you to eat?’ The man replied, ‘It was the woman you put with me; she gave me the fruit, and I ate it.’ Then the Lord God asked the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman replied, ‘The serpent tempted me and I ate.’

Then the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this,

‘Be accursed beyond all cattle,
all wild beasts.
You shall crawl on your belly and eat dust
every day of your life.
I will make you enemies of each other:
you and the woman,
your offspring and her offspring.
It will crush your head
and you will strike its heel.’

The man named his wife ‘Eve’ because she was the mother of all those who live.

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John 19:25-34

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son.’ Then to the disciple he said, ‘This is your mother.’ And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home.
After this, Jesus knew that everything had now been completed, and to fulfil the scripture perfectly he said, ‘I am thirsty.’

A jar full of vinegar stood there, so putting a sponge soaked in the vinegar on a hyssop stick they held it up to his mouth. After Jesus had taken the vinegar he said, ‘It is accomplished’; and bowing his head he gave up his spirit.

  It was Preparation Day, and to prevent the bodies remaining on the cross during the sabbath – since that sabbath was a day of special solemnity – the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken away. Consequently the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with him and then of the other. When they came to Jesus, they found he was already dead, and so instead of breaking his legs one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance; and immediately there came out blood and water.

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It is finished

Over the past weekend, I attended a preparation camp for an upcoming retreat for young adults. A few of us (5 adults) had been approached a few months back by the organisers to help out as facilitators and I gladly said ‘Yes’ because I had nothing on and could take leave for the 4-day/3-night retreat happening this very week.

At the stay-in camp, I got a chance to interact with the young adults in my centre and boy was I blown away. From their sharings to the worship sessions, the way everything was planned and organised, I could tell that this bunch of 50 or so youth were truly fired up with the Holy Spirit in their hearts. This was in spite of their challenges as 25 to 30-something Christians, one or two of whom already in the stage of parenthood.

Having expected nothing from this camp, I came away extremely humbled and envious of these soldiers for Christ. Many of them have been serving in the centre since their teens, some even longer than myself. I shared with one of the leaders that I was envious because they had encountered God so early in their lives (compared to me). So I considered myself merely an infant compared to most of those serving in the team.

And while I discerned that many were struggling with various issues in their lives, they truly gave their all when it came to worship and intercession. The prayers they lifted up for the retreatants, the songs they lifted up in worship to praise the Lord – the feeling of real joy was evident and was reflected in the way everyone came together to pray for those who were hurting, and even in the packing up after the camp came to an end at 4pm on Sunday.

Heading home that evening, I realised that our work was only beginning even though the camp had effectively ‘finished’ for me. Nursing a wounded shoulder (I stumbled and fell awakwardly during a game), I could only marvel at how these young adults, each with their own crosses to bear, were all giving so willingly of themselves to ministering to brothers and sisters who are also struggling but who were yet to encounter God in their lives.

Having been part of the company of young adults whose passion and zeal burn brightly, I can only say that the retreat (please pray for the 131 retreatants who will be coming this Thursday) is in the safe hands of our young leaders, who are more than ready and willing to pass on the love of Christ which they in turn received at their own encounters. They are all sitting at the foot of every cross being shouldered, ready to catch, ready to give loving support and willing to listen and share with similarly wounded souls.

Brothers and sisters, if I could only bottle up the zeal and unabashed joy that each of my fellow service team members exudes during their prep sessions, I would be a millionaire many times over. Truly, God qualifies those He calls and I look forward in anticipation of sharing and being a part of this already life-giving retreat.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the young adults who will be attending YCER#16 as well as the organisers. Fill them with a double outpouring of your love, joy and peace so that they may encounter you in all your glory.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all those who have nothing to give except their time and their hearts. We thank you for these selfless warriors who soldier on in spite of their crosses in life.

8 June, Saturday – Come On! Follow Me!

8 June 2019

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Acts 28:16-20,30-31

On our arrival in Rome Paul was allowed to stay in lodgings of his own with the soldier who guarded him.
 
After three days he called together the leading Jews. When they had assembled, he said to them, ‘Brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. They examined me and would have set me free, since they found me guilty of nothing involving the death penalty; but the Jews lodged an objection, and I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I had any accusation to make against my own nation. That is why I have asked to see you and talk to you, for it is on account of the hope of Israel that I wear this chain.’
Paul spent the whole of the two years in his own rented lodging. He welcomed all who came to visit him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ with complete freedom and without hindrance from anyone.
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John 21:20-25
Peter turned and saw the disciple Jesus loved following them – the one who had leaned on his breast at the supper and had said to him, ‘Lord, who is it that will betray you?’ Seeing him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘What about him, Lord?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to stay behind till I come, what does it matter to you? You are to follow me.’ The rumour then went out among the brothers that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus had not said to Peter, ‘He will not die’, but, ‘If I want him to stay behind till I come.’
This disciple is the one who vouches for these things and has written them down, and we know that his testimony is true.
There were many other things that Jesus did; if all were written down, the world itself, I suppose, would not hold all the books that would have to be written.
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You are to follow me

 Last year while on pilgrimage in Europe, we stopped by Zaragosa where one of the local guides, a rather scholarly-looking man with a grey beard, led us through the cathedral with a rather distinctive, “Come on, follow me!” whenever he needed our group of 30 to move due to the rather large crowd within the centuries-old building.

Sometimes, I wish those around me would be just as obliging and obedient. As we prepare for a hectic and significant year in our young history, I struggle to get my team of millenials and young parents (very evenly balanced between make and female as well) to be on their toes and to level up in terms of delivering on projects and their work. I have been questioning my leadership style of late, wondering what it is that I lack in order to get my people to go above and beyond for me – just like the apostles did for Jesus.

Those who follow football will know of the incredible season that Liverpool is having under their coach of 3 years, Jurgen Klopp. He truly epitomises the kind of leader I admire – motivating, empathetic, always smiling and definitely has a personal bond with every single one of his players (it is plainly obvious from the hugs he gives, even to those who have been sidelined). What a truly loving mentor he is!

Even a former captain said that he is jealous that the current squad get to play for such an inspiring coach – who finally won a cup final at the seventh try. He has certainly turned ‘doubters’ in ‘believers’ and in a span of 4 short years, the club is back where it belongs – at the pinnacle of European football.

Brothers and sisters, are we jealous of the apostles, who got to walk with Jesus during His ministry and witnessed first-hand, all those miracles he performed? We ‘follow’ many stars and pay good money to watch performances when they come to our shores (or even within the region). But do we pursue Christ with the same passion and zeal? At a recent young adult retreat preparation camp, we shared about what passion and zeal means as a Christian. The word ‘passion’ came from that very seminal moment in history – Jesus’ passion as he approached his death. Along the centuries, the word has taken on different meanings but its root comes from the love of a god who gave us His only son and who, in turn, gave up His life for us because He loved us.

And why would such an awesome God do that for you and me? Because He created us in His image and saw that it was good. Brothers and sisters, you and I are good. There is no need for any comparison nor any qualification of how good we are. Because God says that we are good and that is why we can walk in his footsteps and follow Him to our eternal home in paradise.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, we thank you for making us good. So good that you call us your sons and daughters.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for all the times you have held on to us, in spite of our doubts, failures and propensity to sin.

6 June, Thursday – One-ness

6 June – Memorial for St. Norbert, bishop, religious founder 

St. Norbert (1080-1134) had been born to the nobility and raised around the royal court. There he developed a very worldly view, taking holy orders as a career move when he joined the Benedictines. A narrow escape from death led him to a conversion experience, and taking his vows seriously.

He founded a community of Augustinian canons, starting a reform movement that swept through European monastic houses. St. Norbert also reformed the clergy in his see, using force when necessary. He worked with St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Hugh of Grenoble to heal the schism caused by the death of Pope Honorius II, and for heresy in Cambrai, France with the help of St. Waltmann. He is one of the patron saints of peace.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 22:30,23:6-11

Since the tribune wanted to know what precise charge the Jews were bringing, he freed Paul and gave orders for a meeting of the chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin; then he brought Paul down and stood him in front of them. Now Paul was well aware that one section was made up of Sadducees and the other of Pharisees, so he called out in the Sanhedrin, ‘Brothers, I am a Pharisee and the son of Pharisees. It is for our hope in the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.’ As soon as he said this a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was split between the two parties. For the Sadducees say there is neither resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, while the Pharisees accept all three. The shouting grew louder, and some of the scribes from the Pharisees’ party stood up and protested strongly, ‘We find nothing wrong with this man. Suppose a spirit has spoken to him, or an angel?’ Feeling was running high, and the tribune, afraid that they would tear Paul to pieces, ordered his troops to go down and haul him out and bring him into the fortress.

Next night, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘Courage! You have borne witness for me in Jerusalem, now you must do the same in Rome.’

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John 17:20-26

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:

‘Holy Father,
I pray not only for these,
but for those also
who through their words will believe in me.
May they all be one.
Father, may they be one in us,
as you are in me and I am in you,
so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.
I have given them the glory you gave to me,
that they may be one as we are one.
With me in them and you in me,
may they be so completely one
that the world will realise that it was you who sent me
and that I have loved them as much as you loved me.
Father, I want those you have given me
to be with me where I am,
so that they may always see the glory you have given me
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Father, Righteous One,
the world has not known you,
but I have known you,
and these have known that you have sent me.
I have made your name known to them
and will continue to make it known,
so that the love with which you loved me may be in them,
and so that I may be in them.’

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May they be one in us as you are in me and I am in you

The scenario is familiar – have more than one meeting (about a problem/rectification that needs to be solved/done), align the approach over email or a meeting, then proceed to call for vendors to provide their recommendations. Compile the various quotes/recommendations and send them ‘up’ to a committee of external people who will approve the vendor recommendation then away we go to get the work done.

At work, many of my colleagues deal with this scenario (and its various complicated manoeuvres) on an almost daily basis, causing much stress, annoyance and many fraught meetings (I have attended more than a few). Then again, millions of dollars are involved and these all add up to a significant sum which needs to be accounted for to a Board of Trustees. So, in the interests of ‘getting the job done’ and making sure the projects proceed efficiently, everyone is focussed on an outcome (desired or otherwise) and we just put our heads down and ‘get on with it’.

In today’s first reading, it appears that Paul possessed this single-mindedness of purpose, where he managed to find a way to evade judgement from both camps. I surely would have been quaking in my boots had I been in his predicament. However, I can fully appreciate if Paul was ‘possessed’ by the Holy Spirit and filled with courage to press on. Because at work, I don’t allow any hurdles or circumstances to hinder me from achieving what I set out to do, especially when I know that the desired outcome is right.

This is something I struggle with when it comes to those in my team who may lack that determination or drive. There is always some ‘excuse’ or circumstance beyond one’s control that causes a delay or a less-than-favourable outcome. It is always easy to shift the blame to another party or to a committee, but I find that if the desire to achieve something is already not there and one is prepared to be dictated by the situations that arise, then one is pre-determining a ‘compromise’ outcome.

So brothers and sisters, are we like Paul? If we find ourselves aimlessly wandering along each day whether at work, at home, or in our spiritual journey, are we truly being intentional each day by allowing Jesus to work fully within us? Do we wander along our spiritual journey and allow the winds to buffet us (and weaken our resolve)? Do we allow a boulder in our way to cause us to detour? Or do we persevere in faith and press on, regardless of the rocky roads and the hills and valleys that need to be conquered, knowing that the Holy Spirit will lead us to our one, intended, final destination – into the arms of our loving Father?

(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.

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.’

__________________

…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.