Tag Archives: faithfulness

22 March, Wednesday – So our children will believe

22 March 2017

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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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Tell them to your children and to your children’s children

Faith is relational. Although it is very much a personal journey undertaken by each person, we are all uplifted by the collective faith of our family, friends, and communities – just as Aaron and Hur supported Moses’ hands while he prayed for Israel’s triumph over the Amalekites (Exodus 17:12). In times of despair, we are strengthened by the stories, testimonies and journeys of faith that those around us share. We are invited to ponder deeper on this relational aspect of faith and fidelity in the readings today.

Moses reminds the Israelites that God desires them never to forget their history, their exile and journey, sufferings and triumphs:

“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… 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’.” (Deut 4:5-9)

Likewise, we are reminded today that parents are integral to the formation of a child’s faith. Faithful parents are important to the ongoing formation of their children’s faith. But many of us have sometimes simplistically equated being faithful to being perfect. We may strive for perfection, but in our human finiteness we can hardly boast of perfection. So how can we be faithful even as we are often imperfect?

The thread in scripture points to three important actions here: ‘Remember,’ ‘Teach,’ and ‘Do.’ Each of these is vital to the transmission of our faith within our communities, and yet all three pillars in unity are needed to truly help us be witnesses to God’s love and mercy. I have been encouraged and strengthened by the testimonies of others who not only help me remember God’s faithfulness, their reflections teach me about steadfast hope in trials, and their actions and fidelity to God point me to the Truth of God as Love.

Jesus tells his disciples that he did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to complete them. Indeed, Christ fulfills the Law by the law of love. God sent Christ to walk among us, to remind us of the Law and the testimonies of the Prophets; to teach us the way of the Beatitudes; and, to complete for us the promise of salvation by dying on the Cross.

Do you have a faith story? Is God calling you to share the struggles and the beauty of being Christian with your community and your children? Let us remember that without the cross, there can be no resurrection. Let us faithfully teach the laws, customs, and reasons of our faith. Let us complete this by striving humbly to put our faith to practice by our good works – so that our children and children’s children may remember and believe.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, help us by your grace to keep this flame of faith burning within, and to fan the fires of your love for other longing hearts.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for giving me the gift of my memory. Anoint my memory to recall your goodness and mercy all the days of my life.

16 March, Thursday – True Wealth

16 March 2017

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Jeremiah 17:5-10

The Lord says this:

‘A curse on the man who puts his trust in man,
who relies on things of flesh,
whose heart turns from the Lord.
He is like dry scrub in the wastelands:
if good comes, he has no eyes for it,
he settles in the parched places of the wilderness,
a salt land, uninhabited.

‘A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord,
with the Lord for his hope.
He is like a tree by the waterside
that thrusts its roots to the stream:
when the heat comes it feels no alarm,
its foliage stays green;
it has no worries in a year of drought,
and never ceases to bear fruit.

‘The heart is more devious than any other thing,
perverse too: who can pierce its secrets?
I, the Lord, search to the heart,
I probe the loins,
to give each man what his conduct
and his actions deserve.’

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Luke 16:19-31

Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

‘In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.” “My son,” Abraham replied “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”

‘The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too.” “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham “let them listen to them..” “Ah no, father Abraham,” said the rich man “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”’

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“A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord, with the Lord for his hope.”

A number of years ago, I spent a week in Mumbai in India for work. Every day, I would take a walk from the hotel I was staying in to my office.  This was a 15-minute walk filled with interesting sights and sounds.

One of the things I observed was that many of the poor were on the streets, living in little tents in huge groups. Interspersed between these dwellings were huge, beautiful and ornately-built homes and within these houses were exotic cars and stretch limousines. Very often, I saw these cars stop by the roadside, offloading their spiffily-dressed passengers on their way for dinner at the top restaurants.  I remember these scenes vividly in my mind, almost as though it happened yesterday.

Over the years, I have interacted with the well-to-do from Mumbai and very often, the discussion would go back to what I had seen. Many of these affluent people shared with me their views that they thought that the poor in India were indeed a ‘problem’.

Yet, when I was there, I was given clear instructions to ignore these poor when in the streets.  I was to simply look straight and walk and under no circumstances was I to ever engage with them.

These scenes are what I see when I read the passage about Lazarus and these rich people. How difficult it must be for either to reach out to the other! I wondered, many times, whether wealth and riches hindered rather than helped one to reach heaven.

I have seen people who have deliberately taken a step back from their wealth, choosing to give chunks of it away to help others. While obviously less wealthy, these people have become happier and more connected with God.

Jesus teaches us that if we choose detachment from our ‘things’ and ‘wealth’, we become more connected with those in need around us. May we always turn to God for our needs, rather than to our earthly possessions.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Lord, help us to never put our things above people. May we always be reminded that it is You who provides for all our needs.

ThanksgivingThank You Jesus, for giving us all we have. Thank you for the people you surround us with and for the love we receive from them.

14 March, Tuesday – Being Led by the True North Star

14 March 2017

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Isaiah 1:10,16-20

Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom;
listen to the command of our God,
you people of Gomorrah.

‘Wash, make yourselves clean.
Take your wrong-doing out of my sight.
Cease to do evil.
Learn to do good,
search for justice,
help the oppressed,
be just to the orphan,
plead for the widow.

‘Come now, let us talk this over,
says the Lord.
Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.

‘If you are willing to obey,
you shall eat the good things of the earth.
But if you persist in rebellion,
the sword shall eat you instead.’

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Matthew 23:1-12

Addressing the people and his disciples Jesus said, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses. You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practise what they preach. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they! Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader phylacteries and longer tassels, like wanting to take the place of honour at banquets and the front seats in the synagogues, being greeted obsequiously in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi.

‘You, however, must not allow yourselves to be called Rabbi, since you have only one master, and you are all brothers. You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor must you allow yourselves to be called teachers, for you have only one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.’

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“… do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do…”

As a father to 2 children, I learnt very early on that children are keen observers of your behavior.  They will first listen to what you have to say, but very quickly, they will pick up any difference between what you say and what you actually do.

When both my children were very young, we set strict rules that all forms of eating were to be done in the dining room, including the consumption of potato chips, drinks and other forms of titbits.  This went well for a period of time, until the time we forgot and my wife and I opened a pack of chips to go along with the movie we were watching in our bedroom.

In the midst of watching the movie, our children walked into the room and stood still as they looked at us, wide-eyed…. When we finally heard the dreaded words: “Dad and Mum.. I thought you said that we were ALL not supposed to eat in our rooms?”

Oops. Needless to say, chip-eating in the bedroom became common place in our household.

In essence, this is what human nature is all about. We are always (whether consciously or unconsciouly) reconciling what people say and what they do, and are quick to pounce on any dissonance between the two. If someone in authority breaks the rules, who are they to tell us to follow the same rules?  This is what is commonly seen in society, in the workplace and in the political arena.

In today’s gospel reading, our Lord Jesus talks about that. Rather than be outward-looking, He exhorts us to look within; to be guided by our faith and by our conscience. He asks us to always strive to do the right thing, and not be led to do wrong just because others choose to do the wrong thing.  Imagine what our world would have been like had Adam chosen not to do as Eve did.

Let us pray that we will always be led by the Spirit to do what is right in God’s eyes.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father God, we pray that you may strengthen us through the Holy Spirit and that you will always be our compass, leading our thoughts and works. We pray that in our weakness, we may always repent and turn to you.

ThanksgivingThank you Father, for sending your son Jesus to not just die for us, but also show us how to live.

11 March, Saturday – Love triumphs hate

11 March 2017

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Deuteronomy 26:16-19

Moses said to the people: ‘The Lord your God today commands you to observe these laws and customs; you must keep and observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.
‘You have today made this declaration about the Lord: that he will be your God, but only if you follow his ways, keep his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and listen to his voice. And the Lord has today made this declaration about you: that you will be his very own people as he promised you, but only if you keep all his commandments; then for praise and renown and honour he will set you high above all the nations he has made, and you will be a people consecrated to the Lord, as he promised.’

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Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

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… [L]ove your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

Hatred is like a parasite which feeds on the energy within the hearts of people and causes much grief. Whilst some parasites do not announce their presence, the host will eventually wear out and disappear. The readings of today remind us of the need to stay close to God and to allow Him to be the centre of our lives and actions.

Jesus reminds us of the need to be counter-intutive to the ways of the world. As children who are believers of the light, we need to realise that our lives are being held to account by non-believers. They look to us for examples of how to behave and can be quite cruel if they find out that our behaviours do not align with the beliefs we are supposed to hold. The Jews were reminded by Moses of the need to remain faithful to the Lord so that the people will be consecrated by God. I believe that we also need to remind ourselves that we have been separated for a very unique and special purpose which God has planned for us.

As we come to the end of the first week of Lent, we are in a very special time to pause and ask God what exactly do we need to do to be closer to Him in His journey towards Calvary? What are the issues and challenges in our lives which we need to let go of so that He can come in? In this point of reflection, we can then discover what it means to stay closer to God and how we can then demonstrate to the world the wonderful love which God has shown us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace to be honest in our failings and be courageous in facing them.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who love us.

10 March, Friday – Gentleness and Compassion

10 March 2017

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Ezekiel 18:21-28

Thus says the Lord:
‘If the wicked man renounces all the sins he has committed, respects my laws and is law-abiding and honest, he will certainly live; he will not die. All the sins he committed will be forgotten from then on; he shall live because of the integrity he has practised. What! Am I likely to take pleasure in the death of a wicked man – it is the Lord who speaks – and not prefer to see him renounce his wickedness and live?

‘But if the upright man renounces his integrity, commits sin, copies the wicked man and practises every kind of filth, is he to live? All the integrity he has practised shall be forgotten from then on; but this is because he himself has broken faith and committed sin, and for this he shall die. But you object, “What the Lord does is unjust.”

Listen, you House of Israel: is what I do unjust? Is it not what you do that is unjust? When the upright man renounces his integrity to commit sin and dies because of this, he dies because of the evil that he himself has committed. When the sinner renounces sin to become law-abiding and honest, he deserves to live. He has chosen to renounce all his previous sins; he shall certainly live; he shall not die.’

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Matthew 5:20-26

Jesus said to his disciples, If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire.

So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.’

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Am I likely to take pleasure in the death of a wicked man?

There are some who believe that the death penalty is a sentence which can be used to ensure that people who have committed much evil be punished. It appears to be the suitable punishment for a person that has done something terrible. However, the readings of today allow us to see a different perspective – one which is filled with love and kindness.

Ezekiel’s message may seem contrary to the Jews at a point in time where they expected everything to follow the principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The love of God transcends this principle because we are all God’s children. It is not his point to see us die. No parent would like to see their child die because of the transgressions which they have done. Instead, they would rather the child repent and return to them; always willing to forgive the faults of the child.

God calls us to live a life which is in line with what He wants for us. Sometimes we think we know better than Him but in reality, we feel we know better. In this season of Lent, sometimes we feel that the resolutions we make are not being met and this causes us to despair and falter. Let us not lose heart but instead, ask God to grant us the grace to be able to accept the frailty of our wounded selves and make us whole again.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for your healing power to make us whole.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who journey with those who face struggles in their daily lives.

8 March, Wednesday – Compassion and Love

8 Mar – Memorial for St. John of God, religious

Juan (1495-1550) grew up working as a shepherd in the Castile region of Spain. He led a wild and misspent youth, travelling over much of Europe and North Africa as a soldier in the army of Charles V, and a mercenary. He fought through a brief period of insanity. He peddled religious books and pictures in Gibraltar, though without any religious conviction himself.

In his 40s, he received a vision of the Infant Jesus who called him ‘John of God’. To make up for the misery he had caused as a soldier, he left the military, rented a house in Granada, Spain, and began caring for the sick, poor, homeless and unwanted. He gave what he had, begged for those who couldn’t, carried those who could not move on their own, and converted both his patients and those who saw him work with them.

He was a friend of St. John of Avila, on whom he tried to model his life. John founded the Order of Charity and the Order of Hospitalers of St. John of God.

  • Patron Saint Index

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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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God saw their efforts to renounce their evil behaviour, and God relented.

I am always intrigued by the television dramas which feature the lives of the imperial family of the various Chinese dynasties. There is a usual punishment where the entire clan of the offender is killed. It is the way the Emperor exerts his influence and prevents any possible threat of revenge from coming along. Perhaps the readings of today are instructive to us regarding the unnecessary need to begrudge the woes of our enemies and, instead, to focus on the sincere desire to repent.

God the Father loves His children but Prophet Jonah felt that He was too merciful. I sometimes do have this Jonah complex, where I believe in the mercy of God but wish ill upon my enemies. This season of Lent is a good opportunity for us to reflect upon the need to be empathetic to the people around us. All of us are facing tough and difficult challenges at work and in our personal lives. We need to learn from God to be gentle and forgiving to all who hurt us because sometimes, they may not know what they are doing.

Jesus said that this was a wicked generation and sometimes I feel that it is due to the fact that we do not recognise that the kingdom of God is near at hand and, in fact, is amongst us. We look for extraordinary signs for indications of something wonderful which will happen in our lives but perhaps God is acting in our lives now. The gift of health and life, the gift of speech, the opportunity to repent in the midst of the evil before us are all chances that we have to enjoy the mercy of God. We who desire this mercy of God must then, in turn, extend it to the people around us. As we enter into the middle of the first week of Lent, let us take time to pause to encounter the Lord Jesus in the silence of our hearts.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear God, we pray for the grace to forgive all who have hurt us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who help us see the light of forgiveness.

5 March, Sunday – Focus of our Life

5 March 2017

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Genesis 2:7-9,3:1-7

The Lord God fashioned man of dust from the soil. Then he breathed into his nostrils a breath of life, and thus man became a living being.
The Lord God planted a garden in Eden which is in the east, and there he put the man he had fashioned. The Lord God caused to spring up from the soil every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat, with the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden.

Now the serpent was the most subtle of all the wild beasts that the Lord God had made. It asked the woman, ‘Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?’ The woman answered the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden. But of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, “You must not eat it, nor touch it, under pain of death.” ‘ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘No! You will not die! God knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.’ The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye, and that it was desirable for the knowledge that it could give. So she took some of its fruit and ate it. She gave some also to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realised that they were naked. So they sewed fig-leaves together to make themselves loin-cloths.

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Romans 5:12-19

Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned. Sin existed in the world long before the Law was given. There was no law and so no one could be accused of the sin of ‘law-breaking’, yet death reigned over all from Adam to Moses, even though their sin, unlike that of Adam, was not a matter of breaking a law.

Adam prefigured the One to come, but the gift itself considerably outweighed the fall. If it is certain that through one man’s fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift. The results of the gift also outweigh the results of one man’s sin: for after one single fall came judgement with a verdict of condemnation, now after many falls comes grace with its verdict of acquittal. If it is certain that death reigned over everyone as the consequence of one man’s fall, it is even more certain that one man, Jesus Christ, will cause everyone to reign in life who receives the free gift that he does not deserve, of being made righteous.

Again, as one man’s fall brought condemnation on everyone, so the good act of one man brings everyone life and makes them justified. As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

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Matthew 4:1-11

Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, after which he was very hungry, and the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves.’ But he replied, ‘Scripture says:

Man does not live on bread alone
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

The devil then took him to the holy city and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple. ‘If you are the Son of God’ he said ‘throw yourself down; for scripture says:

He will put you in his angels’ charge,
and they will support you on their hands
in case you hurt your foot against a stone.’

Jesus said to him, ‘Scripture also says:

You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘I will give you all these’ he said, ‘if you fall at my feet and worship me.’ Then Jesus replied, ‘Be off, Satan! For scripture says:

You must worship the Lord your God,
and serve him alone.’

Then the devil left him, and angels appeared and looked after him.

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You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.

One of the first things I learnt when I was studying Economics in junior college was that there are always tradeoffs to be made in our lives, which then requires individual people to make choices in their lives. The readings of today remind us that as a Christian, our lives must be centred upon Jesus Christ. There can be no compromise nor trade-off with any other opposing need because if we do so, our focus on the Lord Jesus will be lost and we may end up being distracted from the things that truly matter to us.

The three temptations of Jesus today are the same challenges which we face in our lives. The desire to want to possess material goods, recognition from others and to test the Lord’s patience are all issues which we will face at one time or another. The Evil One is also able to quote Scripture against us but we need to know the purpose and intent of the author. This is where a continued trust in God is necessary as we allow Him to enlighten our hearts and share with us what it means to be His follower. Jesus Christ was a man of action; he went through the same problems which everybody faced in their lives and showed us the way to cope with it.

Life may appear to be about compromises and drawing a balance between the practical and the reality of life. Jesus reminds us that there can be no compromise in matters of our Faith but instead we should let our Faith illuminate every action and word which we speak in our life. This season of Lent is a good opportunity for us to discover what it means to re-connect with God and to allow Him to be the centre of our Life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the courage to admit our faults and allow us to remember that you are the centre of our lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who plan and prepare for retreats.

2 March 2017, Thursday – I never promised you a rose garden

02 March 2017

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Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Moses said to the people: ‘See, today I set before you life and prosperity, death and disaster. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I enjoin on you today, if you love the Lord your God and follow his ways, if you keep his commandments, his laws, his customs, you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to make your own. But if your heart strays, if you refuse to listen, if you let yourself be drawn into worshipping other gods and serving them, I tell you today, you will most certainly perish; you will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today: I set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live, in the love of the Lord your God, obeying his voice, clinging to him; for in this your life consists, and on this depends your long stay in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob he would give them.’

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Luke 9:22-25

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The Son of Man is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’

Then to all he said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to have won the whole world and to have lost or ruined his very self?’

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Take up his cross every day and follow me.

When things are going hunky dory, when life runs smoothly, following Jesus is easy. It’s when we face trials and difficulties that is when our true commitment is revealed.

‘I beg your pardon I never promised you a rose garden

Along with the sunshine there’s gotta be a little rain sometime’

I remember my dad singing that song when I was a wee toddler. A catchy tune but when you actually read the lyrics, it’s a profound truth of what life is and also what it means to follow Jesus. He assured us that trials will come to His followers. Discipleship demands sacrifice, and Jesus does not make the path of discipleship sound easier or less costly than it really is. Jesus gave His life in total surrender to the will of God, that we might, through his death, come to realize the forgiveness of our sins and our acceptance as a child of God. To follow Jesus, to become his disciple, means that we embrace the road he walked. It means that we surrender and are called to live our lives to according to the will of God.

I know first-hand that with discipleship comes heartache and sacrifice. Reading this passage of scripture has often freaked me out. I am human. I have my trappings and attachments to stuff. Sure I have also given up quite a bit since my conversion some 5 years ago. But as I mature in my faith, the harder it becomes to follow Him. Many a time, it’s really painful as well. There is nothing entertaining about Christ’s call to discipleship. Following Jesus is not always fun nor easy. Sometimes the choices he asks us to make are tough.

We say ‘Yes’ when we are fervent and on the high. But when the Lord moulds and prunes us and leads us down His way, we hesitate. And we are not sure if we really want to be His disciple. We plead and bargain with Jesus, often try to adjust His teachings and call to follow Him to our life and expectations, when it is our lives that require change and transformation.

Are we willing to give up all our human comforts? Loss of friends, family, career, reputation, and yes perhaps give up your life? This is what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.” Commitment to Christ means taking up your cross daily. Sometimes we have been faithful to our Lord’s call. Sometimes we have not. But the good news is He doesn’t expect us to get it right all at once and He doesn’t expect us to do it alone either. But once we make up our minds to follow Him, we must never look back. Following Him requires us to make a commitment that is real and permanent; in total obedience and trust. Do you have the courage to abandon yourself and follow Him?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace to make a lasting and permanent commitment to take up our cross daily. In good and in rough times, let us keep persevering, keep strong in or faith. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, help us to hear Your Word with open hearts and minds, and grant us courage to follow You. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Lord Jesus, thank you for coming to us in your humanity. For bearing all our sins. Thank you for your total obedience to Our Father and giving up your life for us. We pray that we may be worthy of your love and selflessness.

27 February, Monday – Re-aligning our Purpose

27 February 2017

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Ecclesiasticus 17:20-28

To those who repent, God permits return,
and he encourages those who were losing hope.
Return to the Lord and leave sin behind,
plead before his face and lessen your offence.
Come back to the Most High and turn away from iniquity,
and hold in abhorrence all that is foul.
Who will praise the Most High in Sheol,
if the living do not do so by giving glory to him?
To the dead, as to those who do not exist, praise is unknown,
only those with life and health can praise the Lord.
How great is the mercy of the Lord,
his pardon on all those who turn towards him!

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Mark 10:17-27

Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’

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“…then come, follow me”

Priorities in life have to be made because there are competing needs on our time and energy. Being humans, we tend to gravitate towards activities that our senses can experience. This can either be in the form of good food, satisfaction of listening to good music or even the pleasure of viewing good art pieces. The readings of today remind us that the activities mentioned above are not as important as returning to God and remaining faithful to Him.

Jesus reminds us of the danger of being too worldly wise and being involved in the world. We can appear to be fulfilling the requirements of the commandments of the Church but perhaps these are only superficial things. Our hearts are still attached to work and money. We may not say it and we may not behave in that manner but sometimes we would never know how attached we are to material things until we are forced to make a choice like the man of today. He had to make a choice as to whether he should renounce all his wealth and follow Jesus or if he should remain attached to the material items he had.

Jesus reminds us today of the need to remain close to Him. This means we need to put aside all the distractions in our lives and focus on Him. These distractions may also occur in the form of thoughts and emotions which prevent us from seeing God clearly in our lives. The only way to put aside these distractions is to be with God constantly in prayer, which is communication with God. Let our prayers allow us to encounter Jesus in our lives so that He can illuminate all the dark corners of our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: We pray for the strength to remain faithful to God in this world of distractions.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who love us just as we are.

25 February, Saturday – Becoming a Child

25 February 2017

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Ecclesiasticus 17:1-13

The Lord fashioned man from the earth,
to consign him back to it.
He gave them so many days’ determined time,
he gave them authority over everything on earth.
He clothed them with strength like his own,
and made them in his own image.
He filled all living things with dread of man,
making him master over beasts and birds.
He shaped for them a mouth and tongue, eyes and ears,
and gave them a heart to think with.
He filled them with knowledge and understanding,
and revealed to them good and evil.
He put his own light in their hearts
to show them the magnificence of his works.
They will praise his holy name,
as they tell of his magnificent works.
He set knowledge before them,
he endowed them with the law of life.
Their eyes saw his glorious majesty,
and their ears heard the glory of his voice.
He said to them, ‘Beware of all wrong-doing’;
he gave each a commandment concerning his neighbour.
Their ways are always under his eye,
they cannot be hidden from his sight.

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Mark 10:13-16

People were bringing little children to Jesus, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.

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Let the children come to me

In Jesus’ time, children had little or no status. Clearly, the disciples did not think much of them, rebuking people who were bringing children to Jesus for His blessings. But this caused one of the few episodes in the gospels where Jesus was described as feeling indignant, showing that he has great love for children.

How does one become like a little child in order to enter God’s kingdom? Perhaps one of the best references is the writings of Saint Therese, well-loved and famous for her ‘Little Way’. Saint Therese had a remarkable perception of her relationship with God from a young age, figuring out that the way to heaven for her is to do small things with great love and obedience. Like how a child is completely dependent on his/her parents, she would put her total trust in God, accepting whatever He gives her, and loving others as He has loved her.

I attempted to apply some of Saint Therese’s teachings to the way I deal with my own issues. It is a lot more challenging than it looks, especially when despair is always more tempting than trusting God. Perhaps it is not so much about avoiding or getting rid of negative feelings, but trusting God enough to still give and love in spite of the pain.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we can empty ourselves this Lent in order for God to fill it up.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the abundant and ever-present love of the Lord.