Tag Archives: faithfulness

1 September, Saturday – Called to Greatness

1 September

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1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Take yourselves for instance, brothers, at the time when you were called: how many of you were wise in the ordinary sense of the word, how many were influential people, or came from noble families? No, it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame what is strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything. The human race has nothing to boast about to God, but you, God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom. As scripture says: if anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord.

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Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.

‘The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.”

‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”’

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…those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything

I must admit, for the longest time, I struggled with today’s Gospel text. I never understood why the last servant was punished for being prudent. I guess, being a risk averse person, I totally identified with the servant that hid his 1 talent to safeguard what little he has — afraid to, or perhaps not willing to work towards multiplying the talents given by God.

However, in my journey out of corporate life and walking towards the path God has paved for me, I began to appreciate what Jesus is teaching in this parable. My talents are not mine to keep and bury. By limiting myself and not showing up as who I really am or could be — sharing with the world the gifts and talents that God has blessed me with — I am doing God a huge disservice. You can even say I have sinned by refusing to partake in His plan for me!

Yet, many times I struggle. I lack the faith and courage to step into the possibilities that God has given me and shrink into my old way of being. How could I, this imperfect being, be called to greatness? Surely not? And yet, He reminds us that “those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything.”

I still have a long way to go with this. I am humbled by this calling and yet, in my humanness, I walk with trepidation towards the ultimate purpose God has planned for me. I must constantly remind myself that it is only through His grace and His alone, that I do what I do. I need Jesus in my life to nourish and guide me, “God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness and our freedom”. I need His wisdom and strength, to shine for the world. Writing today’s reflection reminded me of a beautiful gift I received from a friend when I started on my journey:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’

Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others”. —- Marianne Williamson

(Today’s OXYGEN by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer:  Jesus, you are my wisdom, my virtue, my holiness and freedom. Teach me dear Lord, to lean on you and seek your counsel so that I not only embrace the talents given by my Heavenly Father, but be a beacon of light to others and in turn, encourage others to shine for God.

Thanksgiving:  Thank you my Heavenly Father, for your grace and mercy; for choosing me to be a little light in the world.

16 May, Tuesday – Faith without Fear

16 May 2017

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Acts 14:19-28

Some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium, and turned the people against the apostles. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the town, thinking he was dead. The disciples came crowding round him but, as they did so, he stood up and went back to the town. The next day he and Barnabas went off to Derbe.

Having preached the Good News in that town and made a considerable number of disciples, they went back through Lystra and Iconium to Antioch. They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith. ‘We all have to experience many hardships’ they said ‘before we enter the kingdom of God.’ In each of these churches they appointed elders, and with prayer and fasting they commended them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.

They passed through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. Then after proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia and from there sailed for Antioch, where they had originally been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.

On their arrival they assembled the church and gave an account of all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the pagans. They stayed there with the disciples for some time.

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John 14:27-31

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you,
a peace the world cannot give,
this is my gift to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me say: I am going away, and shall return.
If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father,
for the Father is greater than I.
I have told you this now before it happens,
so that when it does happen you may believe.
I shall not talk with you any longer,
because the prince of this world is on his way.
He has no power over me,
but the world must be brought to know
that I love the Father
and that I am doing exactly what the Father told me.’

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“Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid”

One of the benefits of being educated in Catholic schools for 12 years is the regular exposure to the Catholic faith. Based on oral tradition and, from passages in the bible, we learn how almost all of Jesus’ disciples (with the exception of John) died violent deaths for their faith.

We see a similar situation in today’s first reading, where, despite being almost beaten to death, the apostle Paul returns to his work at the earliest opportunity and with extra vigour as well, encouraging the disciples that they should expect to experience hardships before entering heaven.

I have often wondered what many of us would do under similar situations. Would we have the same strong belief and faith to do what they did?

We find the reason behind such faithfulness, where Jesus promises His disciples peace and assures them of His return. Because they were there and they knew and experienced what it was like to be TRULY in the presence of God. This faithfulness demonstrated by the disciples clearly proves to me that our Lord and God is real. Putting myself in their situation, I would never sacrifice myself for something or someone whom I thought was not authentic. Why would they have done otherwise?

Living now about 2,000 years after Jesus’ time on earth and, not having the benefit of knowing our Lord in person, we need to spend time to develop a strong relationship with our God, so that like the disciples, we too will not be afraid to stand up for Him, regardless of the consequences.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer May we learn to be close to You, Jesus, as Your disciples were as close to You. Help us to experience Your love intimately.

ThanksgivingThank you Jesus, for reaching out to us and showing us what it means to be loved. Thank You for always being there for us.

7 May, Sunday – Call to Holiness

7 May 2017

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Acts 2:14,36-41

On the day of Pentecost Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed the crowd in a loud voice: ‘The whole House of Israel can be certain that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.’
Hearing this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, ‘What must we do, brothers?’ ‘You must repent,’ Peter answered ‘and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise that was made is for you and your children, and for all those who are far away, for all those whom the Lord our God will call to himself.’ He spoke to them for a long time using many arguments, and he urged them, ‘Save yourselves from this perverse generation.’ They were convinced by his arguments, and they accepted what he said and were baptised. That very day about three thousand were added to their number.

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1 Peter 2:20-25

The merit, in the sight of God, is in bearing punishment patiently when you are punished after doing your duty.

This, in fact, is what you were called to do, because Christ suffered for you and left an example for you to follow the way he took. He had not done anything wrong, and there had been no perjury in his mouth. He was insulted and did not retaliate with insults; when he was tortured he made no threats but he put his trust in the righteous judge. He was bearing our faults in his own body on the cross, so that we might die to our faults and live for holiness; through his wounds you have been healed. You had gone astray like sheep but now you have come back to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

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John 10:1-10

Jesus said:
‘I tell you most solemnly, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but gets in some other way is a thief and a brigand. The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice. They never follow a stranger but run away from him: they do not recognise the voice of strangers.’
Jesus told them this parable but they failed to understand what he meant by telling it to them.
So Jesus spoke to them again:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
I am the gate of the sheepfold.
All others who have come
are thieves and brigands;
but the sheep took no notice of them.
I am the gate.
Anyone who enters through me will be safe:
he will go freely in and out
and be sure of finding pasture.
The thief comes
only to steal and kill and destroy.
I have come
so that they may have life and have it to the full.’

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I am the gate of the sheepfold

There are some tourist attractions where the entire building has been demolished and only the gate has been conserved as a memorial to the place where the building once stood. Whether it is a former school or performing arts venue, these gates serve as a memorial for the many people whom have passed through their doors. The readings of today remind us that Jesus Christ is the gate through which we must pass through in order to live life to the fullest.

A gate may seem insignificant, but it has an important role in allowing people to come in and out of a place. It serves as an indicator for people that they are entering into a different environment. The life of a Christian is also about entering through the gate of Jesus Christ where He has poured out upon us His precious blood to save us from all our sins. We depend on Christ for the strength to continue in our journey in life. The blows which He bore during the scourging and crowning of thorns is, as St Paul reminds us in the second reading, to allow us to be healed.

As Christians, we are marked with the sign of Christ from our Baptism. This means that we are called to a life of holiness where our actions and words are all examples for others to follow. Unlike the metal gates found in tourist attractions which are susceptible to rust and attacks by the weather, the gate which we pass through is the gate of life – the gate where we will be safe and can find eternal life.

It is with this in mind that the Church has designated today as Vocation Sunday. Traditionally, it has been the day where we are called to give thanks for the many men and women who have answered the call to religious and priestly life. For us who live in the secular world, it is also a reflection of our vocation as either married or single people. We are called each day to go deeper into our lives to find out if our plans are in alignment with what God’s plan is for us. This reflection process is supposed to help us then be an echo of God’s love to the world – to show the world that there is hope in Jesus Christ our Lord.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I pray that you open our hearts to let us be receptive to the plan you have for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who have found their vocation call in life.

27 April, Thursday – Obedience to God or man

27 April 2017

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Acts 5:27-33

When the officials had brought the apostles in to face the Sanhedrin, the high priest demanded an explanation. ‘We gave you a formal warning’ he said ‘not to preach in this name, and what have you done? You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and seem determined to fix the guilt of this man’s death on us.’

In reply Peter and the apostles said, ‘Obedience to God comes before obedience to men; it was the God of our ancestors who raised up Jesus, but it was you who had him executed by hanging on a tree. By his own right hand God has now raised him up to be leader and saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins through him to Israel. We are witnesses to all this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’

This so infuriated them that they wanted to put them to death.

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John 3:31-36

John the Baptist said to his disciples:

‘He who comes from above is above all others;
he who is born of the earth is earthly himself
and speaks in an earthly way.
He who comes from heaven
bears witness to the things he has seen and heard,
even if his testimony is not accepted;
though all who do accept his testimony
are attesting the truthfulness of God,
since he whom God has sent
speaks God’s own words:
God gives him the Spirit without reserve.
The Father loves the Son
and has entrusted everything to him.
Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life,
but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life:
the anger of God stays on him.’

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Obedience to God comes before obedience to men

You may have heard of this rather famous social psychology experiment called the Milgram experiment. In 1961, psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted a series of experiments on Americans to test if German Nazi soldiers were merely following orders in their massacre and abuse of their prisoners. He had volunteers (the test subjects) administer ‘electric shocks’ of increasing voltage to another person (the ‘learner’) in another room but visible to the volunteers, whenever the learner got questions wrong. The electric shocks were not real, although the learner pretended to receive it. At some point, the participants got uncomfortable, but 65% of them went on to administer the final shock of 450 volts, with prompting from the experimenter.

Although the experiment has had its fair share of criticism for its methodology, I am quite disturbed by its results and when I imagine myself in such a situation. Would my subjection to authority override my moral values? I cannot say that it will definitely not happen.

Thanks to the deviousness of our human nature and influence from previous experiences, we will likely need to struggle to make a variety of moral decisions on a daily basis. Sometimes, it is not just a matter of struggling against our own will, but also against that of others. The latter can prove to be a lot more challenging than the former. What if your parents, or your superior at work, or even the law, requires you to do something that is morally wrong, by which I mean against the teachings of the Church?

I would assume that most of us were brought up in cultures where it is the norm to respect and obey authority; and, similar to the conclusions drawn by the Milgram researchers, we would tend to conform to that norm. That is of course a good and necessary thing for a functioning, structured society, but there is such a sin called the sin in excess against servility – meaning adherence to a directive that is contrary to a higher law. For example, civil law permits abortion, but that is against the law of our church.

Thomas Aquinas declared in his Summa Theologica that God is to be obeyed in all things, while human authorities are to be obeyed in certain things. It takes a lot of guts and a firm conviction in one’s faith to disobey authority who is commanding something contrary to God’s law. Most of us will not come naturally equipped with the resources to do this, and it is really only through God’s grace that we can rise up above ourselves.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that the Spirit will give us the courage to stand up to injustice and abuse of authority.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the role models around us who have dared to give witness to the faith.

26 April, Wendesday – Joy of Easter

26 April 2017

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Acts 5:17-26

The high priest intervened with all his supporters from the party of the Sadducees. Prompted by jealousy, they arrested the apostles and had them put in the common gaol.

But at night the angel of the Lord opened the prison gates and said as he led them out, ‘Go and stand in the Temple, and tell the people all about this new Life.’ They did as they were told; they went into the Temple at dawn and began to preach.

When the high priest arrived, he and his supporters convened the Sanhedrin – this was the full Senate of Israel – and sent to the gaol for them to be brought. But when the officials arrived at the prison they found they were not inside, so they went back and reported, ‘We found the gaol securely locked and the warders on duty at the gates, but when we unlocked the door we found no one inside.’ When the captain of the Temple and the chief priests heard this news they wondered what this could mean. Then a man arrived with fresh news. ‘At this very moment’ he said, ‘the men you imprisoned are in the Temple. They are standing there preaching to the people.’ The captain went with his men and fetched them. They were afraid to use force in case the people stoned them.

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John 3:16-21

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned;
but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,
because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.

On these grounds is sentence pronounced:
that though the light has come into the world
men have shown they prefer darkness to the light
because their deeds were evil.
And indeed, everybody who does wrong
hates the light and avoids it,
for fear his actions should be exposed;
but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light,
so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.’

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God loved the world so much

“Happy Easter!” I believe that many people greet, or expect to greet Easter with some degree of happiness. With that expectation comes disappointment when the happy feeling fails to arrive. Bells are ringing during Easter day mass, the priest is telling the congregation to wish each other “Happy Easter”, but maybe in your heart you are thinking – Okay, Jesus has risen, I know that. But I am not feeling very happy, though I think I ought to be.

“God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.” Today’s gospel reading begins with the lines that form the core of the entire gospel. Our creator, our God, has showed us that our lives are worth living, and that there is something to look forward to at the end.

As eloquently expressed by Pope Benedict XVI, “He who follows the will of God knows that in the middle of all the horrors he may encounter, he will not lose the ultimate protection. He knows that the foundation of the world is love and that therefore even where no man can, or will help him, he can go forward trusting in Him, who loves him.” This is what we should be happy about – a deep assurance and faith in His love.

In the film Castaway, the island castaway Chuck Noland describes to a friend what he felt after his failed suicide attempt on the island where he spent four long years in solitude. He is reflecting on that after realising that he cannot be together with the love of his life after his rescue and return to his home.

I had power over *nothing*. And that’s when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that’s what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I’m back. In Memphis, talking to you. I have ice in my glass… And I’ve lost her all over again. I’m so sad that I don’t have Kelly. But I’m so grateful that she was with me on that island. And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?

To me, Chuck’s blanket of warmth represents the substance of faith. In the face of deep loss, sadness and despair, can we still ask, “Who knows what the tide could bring?”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that our faith will be a disciplined one.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the silver linings and unexpected good things that God has sent our way.

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.