Tag Archives: God’s love

21 September, Saturday – Only God Can Judge Me

Sep 21 – Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Matthew was the son of Alphaeus, and he lived at Capernaum on Lake Genesareth. He was a Roman tax collector, a position equated with collaboration with the enemy by those from whom he collected taxes. Jesus’ contemporaries were surprised to see the Christ with a traitor, but Jesus explained that he had come “not to call the just, but sinners”.

Matthew’s Gospel is given pride of place in the canon of the New Testament, and was written to convince Jewish readers that their anticipated Messiah had come in the person of Jesus. He preached among the Jews for 15 years; his audiences may have included the Jewish enclave in Ethiopia, and places in the East.

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Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13

I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.

Each one of us, however, has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it. To some, his gift was that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; so that the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ. In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.

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Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus was walking on, he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

While he was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’

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I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.

Matthew the tax collector, was a sinner in the righteous eyes, yet was chosen and called to be Jesus’ disciple, one of the twelve apostles, and continued to become one of the great evangelists. Today’s Gospel reminds us, “Who are we to judge anyone?” And especially if we call ourselves Christians, should we not show mercy to everyone, just as Jesus did?

Some of the gripes of people who have fallen away from the faith, are that we Christians or Catholics are hypocrites. We claim to be righteous, to be holy and do good, yet often we are quick to judge a fellow brother or sister, just because they do not conform to certain outwardly appearances or practices. Do we take the time to understand someone else’s circumstances, and even if they may truly be at fault, do we exercise compassion?

I serve in a ministry where I have the privilege to hear people’s stories; their willingness to be vulnerable and share deeply always touches me. And often I am shocked by what they have gone through, the phrase ‘do not judge a book by its cover’ always rings true. People are very capable of hiding under a mask, but when there’s trust and mercy, they will dare to be uncovered.

Last month, I shared a personal testimony on my return to the church in front of a bunch of total strangers. With the help of trusted friends, I rewrote my story many times, cautious of the unknown audience I was going to be delivering it to. When the day finally came, I was filled with nervousness and anxiety, but I believed that it was a safe space, and that the people present, strangers as they may be, could possibly identify with me and parts of my story. I got emotional and choked at one point, but I also think that just proved my humanness.

The whole experience was very humbling, and at the same time, edifying. As part of my testimony, I shared that despite all my sins and mistakes, God was still always there. And like Matthew the tax collector, God still chose me. I understand first-hand, what’s it like to be judged without mercy, but I know that it is God who sees me, and I am good enough for Him. I also pray that I can strive to be like Jesus, and be the conduit for grace and love to flow.

(Today’s Oxygen by Kristel Wang)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to be compassionate and merciful to everyone, especially to those whom we find difficult. Help us not to be judgmental, but to be kind and graceful, just as you are.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for always being there, for choosing us, and for always loving us, despite our shortcomings. Amen.

25 December, Mass in the Day – The Reason for the Season

25 December – Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord (Mass in the Day)

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Isaiah 52:7-10

How beautiful on the mountains,
are the feet of one who brings good news,
who heralds peace, brings happiness,
proclaims salvation,
and tells Zion,
‘Your God is king!’

Listen! Your watchmen raise their voices,
they shout for joy together,
for they see the Lord face to face,
as he returns to Zion.

Break into shouts of joy together,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord is consoling his people,
redeeming Jerusalem.

The Lord bares his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.

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Hebrews 1:1-6

At various times in the past and in various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our own time, the last days, he has spoken to us through his Son, the Son that he has appointed to inherit everything and through whom he made everything there is. He is the radiant light of God’s glory and the perfect copy of his nature, sustaining the universe by his powerful command; and now that he has destroyed the defilement of sin, he has gone to take his place in heaven at the right hand of divine Majesty. So he is now as far above the angels as the title which he has inherited is higher than their own name.

God has never said to any angel: You are my Son, today I have become your father; or: I will be a father to him and he a son to me. Again, when he brings the First-born into the world, he says: Let all the angels of God worship him.

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John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word:
and the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things came to be,
not one thing had its being but through him.
All that came to be had life in him
and that life was the light of men,
a light that shines in the dark,
a light that darkness could not overpower.

A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.

The Word was the true light
that enlightens all men;
and he was coming into the world.
He was in the world
that had its being through him,
and the world did not know him.
He came to his own domain
and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to all who believe in the name of him
who was born not out of human stock
or urge of the flesh
or will of man
but of God himself.

The Word was made flesh,
he lived among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father,
full of grace and truth.

John appears as his witness. He proclaims:
‘This is the one of whom I said:
He who comes after me ranks before me
because he existed before me.’

Indeed, from his fullness we have, all of us, received –
yes, grace in return for grace,
since, though the Law was given through Moses,
grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God;
it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart,
who has made him known.

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The Word was made flesh, and lived among us

Advent is the season of waiting and preparation in anticipation of the Lord’s coming.  Yet many of us find ourselves caught up with worldly activities – family vacations, company parties, Christmas shopping, feasting and general festivities. Not that we should be cutting these out from our calendars, but it is timely to consider whether these may have overtaken the significance of Jesus’ coming in our lives.

Christmas is not a historical event that took place in a distant land centuries ago, nor a time for merry-making. For us Christians, it is a time to not only relive the gift of Jesus’ birth but also a time to receive Jesus the gift, given anew once more.

Even as we go about our festivities, let us bear in mind that the nativity of our Lord is God becoming man to dwell among us, so that all of us may have everlasting life in God’s love.A love that is freely given through His grace, one not earned by our merits.

This Christmas, let us celebrate the fulfilment of God’s promise of love by giving us the greatest gift of all – His Son, Jesus Christ, to show us the way.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, may we always remember the birth of Your Son as the fulfilment of Your promise and perfect love.  Just as Jesus has come to do Your will, may we learn to always seek and do Your will.

Thanksgiving: Thank you God for revealing the gift of Your Son to us.  Help us to always seek You the giver, the Reason for this Season.

25 December, Mass at Dawn – Wonderfully Made

25 December – Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord (Mass at Dawn)

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Isaiah 62:11-12

This the Lord proclaims
to the ends of the earth:

Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Look,
your saviour comes,
the prize of his victory with him,
his trophies before him.’
They shall be called ‘The Holy People’,
‘the Lord’s Redeemed.’
And you shall be called ‘The-sought-after’,
‘City-not-forsaken.’

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Titus 3:4-7

When the kindness and love of God our saviour for mankind were revealed, it was not because he was concerned with any righteous actions we might have done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own compassion that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and by renewing us with the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our saviour. He did this so that we should be justified by his grace, to become heirs looking forward to inheriting eternal life.

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Luke 2:15-20

When the angels had gone from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; it was exactly as they had been told.

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It was no reason except His own compassion that He saved us

As the year drew to a close, I did a 7-day silent retreat at Da Lat, Vietnam.  It was my way of seeking closure for the year gone by, and making peace with the developments and decisions in my life.

2018 has been challenging on many fronts in terms of work, personal, health and family life. It felt like each time I surmounted an obstacle, three others would surface. As I grappled with the weight of my expectations and those of others, I often felt like I was not doing enough, even though I was doing all I could. It was with this sense of ‘running on empty’ that I entered the retreat.

The song “Wonderfully Made” was played during adoration one evening.  While I struggled to see God’s presence in my life in the past year, I felt Him speaking directly to me through the lyrics.

Wonderfully Made (Mark Lopez, SJ)

I’ve seen ev’ry tear that you’ve cried

The fears and the failures you struggle to hide

The worthiness doubted beneath all that pride

The visions and dreams left behind.

I know your remorse and regret

The secrets and stories you ache to forget

So many people you’d die to be yet

[Chorus]

I choose you, I choose you

Do you know why I choose you?

I choose you.

If only you could see yourself the way that I do

And know yourself the way I know you

Then you’d love yourself

As somebody who is wonderfully made

Wonderfully made are you.

How faultless you are in my eyes

So gentle and guiltless, so perfect and prized

There’s so much to love that you don’t realise

My child, My beloved, My pride.

A future with so much in store

A gift those around you are so grateful for

Nothing can alter that anymore.

[Chorus]

Wonderfully made

Wonderfully made

Wonderfully made are you.

In measuring ourselves by the world’s definition of success, our efforts will never be enough. We will never do enough to earn salvation on our own merit. Rather, we are saved by God’s infinite mercy and grace. He sent His Son out of love for us.

As we await the coming of Jesus, let us remember who is truly important — God’s love and our identity as children of God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Dear Father, we pray that we may always cherish the gift of Your Son. Just as You have loved us, help us to love the people around us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for the gift of Your love. We thank you for always walking with us and guiding us in every step of our journey.

13 May, Sunday – Not One Was Lost

13 May

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Acts 1:15-17,20-26

One day Peter stood up to speak to the brothers – there were about a hundred and twenty persons in the congregation: ‘Brothers, the passage of scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit, speaking through David, foretells the fate of Judas, who offered himself as a guide to the men who arrested Jesus – after having been one of our number and actually sharing this ministry of ours. Now in the Book of Psalms it says:

Let someone else take his office.

‘We must therefore choose someone who has been with us the whole time that the Lord Jesus was travelling round with us, someone who was with us right from the time when John was baptising until the day when he was taken up from us – and he can act with us as a witness to his resurrection.’

Having nominated two candidates, Joseph known as Barsabbas, whose surname was Justus, and Matthias, they prayed, ‘Lord, you can read everyone’s heart; show us therefore which of these two you have chosen to take over this ministry and apostolate, which Judas abandoned to go to his proper place.’ They then drew lots for them, and as the lot fell to Matthias, he was listed as one of the twelve apostles.

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1 John 4:11-16

My dear people, since God has loved us so much, we too should love one another.

No one has ever seen God; but as long as we love one another God will live in us and his love will be complete in us.

We can know that we are living in him and he is living in us because he lets us share his Spirit.

We ourselves saw and we testify that the Father sent his Son as saviour of the world.

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him, and he in God.

We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves.

God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.

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John 17:11-19

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:

‘Holy Father, keep those you have given me true to your name, so that they may be one like us.

While I was with them, I kept those you had given me true to your name. I have watched over them and not one is lost except the one who chose to be lost, and this was to fulfil the scriptures.

But now I am coming to you and while still in the world I say these things to share my joy with them to the full.

I passed your word on to them, and the world hated them, because they belong to the world no more than I belong to the world.

I am not asking you to remove them from the world, but to protect them from the evil one.

They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.

Consecrate them in the truth; your word is truth.

As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world, and for their sake I consecrate myself so that they too may be consecrated in truth.’

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God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in Him.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals that none of His were lost except the son of destruction – the evil one. The evil one left by choice, exercising his free will. Because of His great love, God gives each of us free will in deciding our thoughts, actions and words. Indeed, true love is free.

But the love of God cannot be considered as something that is just free; it is a free gift to us, which was paid for by His blood.

Today’s gospel tells us that God is love and whoever who chooses to remain in God, remains in love and God resides in Him. Though this may sound like an exchange of sorts, it is really more a consequence of the grace of God.

Love is often misunderstood as a passing feeling, or even as lust; none of them is love. Ironically, even God is misunderstood as the provider of comfort and joy. And by looking at the bible passage which equates God to love, it is evident that ‘love’ is divine, it seeks the good of the other, and it is kind, patient and not jealous. Love never fails. If you read the passage on 1 Corinthians 13, it spells out what love is and it really makes sense that you replace the ‘word’ love in the passage, to ‘God.’

Let us not be complacent and limit our thoughts that love has its place only at weddings. Indeed, the love shared by husband and wife is a foretaste of heaven. But love is present in the Eucharist, in the sacraments, in our acts of wanting to seek the best of the other despite our own circumstances.

Recently, I had to get my driver’s license renewed and, in conveying the message to my dad, I was less than loving. Out of his love for me, He advised that I should be more vigilant of such important matters so that I can improve myself. But my pride got in the way, yet it did not extinguish the love of my dad, who made two trips to the registration office so that I could renew my license. To me, knowing that my dad puts up with me, despite my failures, is a reminder that my Father in heaven rejoices over this one sinner whom He does not want to lose. Though the fact remains that when we choose to act unlovingly, there are consequences — and in this instance, I hurt my father’s feelings.

I also read this, “it is easier to love people who are far away than people whom we see daily.” How very true, that we take our families and friends for granted and treat them in a manner that is lacking of love. God knows I need Him in putting out the fumes in my words which are unloving, my actions that need purification and my thoughts that need sanctifying. I urge you also my sisters and brothers, to offer to God everything that is not of love in your lives, in your families, in your relationships and within yourself. Remember, our precious Lord cried out to God, His Father, so that we would not be lost, that we would be one with Him, just as He is one with the Father. How can we deny Him that noble desire?

Today, I pray that all we do, say, think, and breathe, is Love.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, forgive us for all our unloving ways. Help us to remain in love and in you. Bless all our mothers today as we celebrate Mother’s Day.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for loving us and for choosing us. Thank you for the tender gift of motherhood and its life-giving ways.

4 May, Friday – His Greatest Commandment

4 May

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ. As we continue to toil in God’s vineyard, he continues to watch over us and sends us those who He calls to share about their faith journeys. Today, we welcome Lorraine, who has decided to become a contributor after discerning His call at a recent inner healing retreat. We ask for your prayers and the continued protection of our loving Father as He reaches out to us and speaks to our hearts.

On behalf of the Oxygen Core Team

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Acts 15:22-31

The apostles and elders decided to choose delegates to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; the whole church concurred with this. They chose Judas known as Barsabbas and Silas, both leading men in the brotherhood, and gave them this letter to take with them:

‘The apostles and elders, your brothers, send greetings to the brothers of pagan birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We hear that some of our members have disturbed you with their demands and have unsettled your minds. They acted without any authority from us; and so we have decided unanimously to elect delegates and to send them to you with Barnabas and Paul, men we highly respect who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accordingly we are sending you Judas and Silas, who will confirm by word of mouth what we have written in this letter. It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials: you are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols; from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from fornication. Avoid these, and you will do what is right. Farewell.’

The party left and went down to Antioch, where they summoned the whole community and delivered the letter. The community read it and were delighted with the encouragement it gave them.

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John 15:12-17

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘This is my commandment:
love one another,
as I have loved you.
A man can have no greater love
than to lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends,
if you do what I command you.
I shall not call you servants any more,
because a servant does not know
his master’s business;
I call you friends,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learnt from my Father.
You did not choose me:
no, I chose you;
and I commissioned you
to go out and to bear fruit,
fruit that will last;
and then the Father will give you
anything you ask him in my name.
What I command you is to love one another.’

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“This I command you, to love one another.”

While this is a familiar scripture passage which I have come across countless times, what struck me as I reflected upon today’s gospel is verse 16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you …”

Prior to me attending the Conversion Experience Retreat in May 2016, I had always prided myself on being rather independent; not needing any support nor help from anyone as I believed I had the strength, knowledge and understanding to push on in life. Of course, looking back, I realized how foolish I had been and how difficult my ways were! When I let go and let God, I discovered a new-found freshness and aliveness as I abide in Him.

Of course, because of our fallen nature, I do not come close to His definition of love. But I do have Jesus as my role model, and every time I fall short of this commandment to love, I pick myself up, dust myself off and try again. This is how I am responding to His love, how can I not? When I have learnt that there is nothing I can do to ever win His love and the love he has for me has always been there — “HE CHOSE ME”! He loves me without any condition and I do not need to do anything to earn this love. So, the least I can do is respond to Him in all my brokenness and offer up to him my sinful ways but the key is…I keep trying!

Is it difficult to love as He does? Of course, but life will be worthless, if, in the face of difficulties, we just give up, sit back and throw our hands up in vain, wouldn’t it? Humanity would not have progressed, if everyone took this attitude towards hardship and tribulation. Most, if not all, of advancement in humanity was forged through perseverance and grit. But for me, the big difference now is that the Father has revealed to me through Jesus, His key to salvation! I would rather strive in His vineyard with Jesus by my side, than out in the desert on my own!

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Father God, we pray that we never give up on my work towards agape love

Thanksgiving: We thank you for choosing us as your children and sending Jesus on earth to walk the talk and show us what you mean by Love.

21 June, Wednesday – A Father’s Love

21 June 2017

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2 Corinthians 9:6-11

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

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

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Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

Jesus said to his disciples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

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

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