Tag Archives: hardwork

6 December, Thursday – Foundation

6 December – Memorial for St. Nicholas, bishop

Nicholas (d. 346) was a priest and abbot, and the bishop of Myra, Lycia (modern Turkey). He was generous to the poor, and a special protector of the innocent and wrong. Many stories grew up around him prior to his becoming Santa Claus.

One story is that upon hearing that a local man had fallen on such hard times that he was planning to sell his daughters into prostitution, Nicholas went by night to the house and threw three bags of gold in through the window, saving the girls from an evil life. These three bags, gold generously given in time of trouble, became the three golden balls that indicate a pawn broker’s shop.

Another story is that he raised to life three young boys who had been murdered and pickled in a barrel of brine to hide the crime. These stories led to his patronage of children in general, and of barrel-makers besides.

Another St. Nicholas story is that he induced some thieves to return their plunder, which led to his protection against theft and robbery, and his patronage of them – he is not helping them to steal, but to repent and change. In the past, thieves have been known as Saint Nicholas’ clerks or Knights of St. Nicholas.

A fourth story is that during a voyage to the Holy Lands, a fierce storm blew up, threatening the ship. He prayed about it, and the storm calmed – hence the patronage of sailors and those like dockworkers who work on the sea.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 26:1-6

That day, this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
We have a strong city;
to guard us he has set
wall and rampart about us.
Open the gates! Let the upright nation come in,
she, the faithful one
whose mind is steadfast, who keeps the peace,
because she trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord for ever,
for the Lord is the everlasting Rock;
he has brought low those who lived high up
in the steep citadel;
he brings it down, brings it down to the ground,
flings it down in the dust:
the feet of the lowly, the footsteps of the poor
trample on it.

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Matthew 7:21,24-27

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘It is not those who say to me, “Lord, Lord,” who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven. ‘Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against that house, and it did not fall: it was founded on rock. But everyone who listens to these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and struck that house, and it fell; and what a fall it had!’

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…for the Lord is the everlasting Rock.

It is performance appraisal season at work and the oft-dreaded one-on-one conversations are going to come up soon. That is when I have to exercise a lot of patience and self-control, especially towards my staff, who may not have performed as strongly as I would have liked them to over the course of the year.

I have been fortunate to have staff who have been with me for more than 3 years and it is no easy task telling someone that he/she does not deserve to be given a certain rating, especially when it impacts on their performance bonuses. So the one thing I always fall back on is whether or not they have continued to build up a strong foundation that will enable them to weather any sort of organizational changes. Many people in communications tend to want the ‘sexy’ assignments or more ‘high value’ PR projects that will garner media attention. However, I always caution them that fame is fleeting and if they only focus on the superficial stuff that goes out into the news, they may be doing themselves a disservice by forgetting that by focusing on the substance, the stories will naturally emerge.

I believe it is the same when it comes to our faith. We can do all the ‘good’ things like going for Sunday mass, fasting, giving to causes and even giving our time to serve in various ministries. But if our foundation is not strong, if our faith is not built on solid ground, we will fall by the wayside at the first sign of trouble or when temptation rears its ugly head. This begs the oft-asked question – why are we serving Him? What are our motives? Are we trying to earn our way to heaven? Or are we trying to establish our own personal kingdoms within our parishes?

Sadly, where two or three are gathered in His name, that is also where the devil lurks. Pride, envy, greed, those are three predominant sins that tend to surface whenever there are opportunities for our own brethren to shine. Brothers and sisters, we must always remember that as we toil in His vineyard, we must not lose sight of the one goal – serving our God who has redeemed us with an ultimate sacrifice. If we can anchor ourselves on our faith in His love and mercy, that He is always present in our lives and that we are serving him in true humility and as a community united in faith and love, then we have nothing to fear.

Christ made St Peter the rock on which he built the church. A church that has certainly withstood the test of time and countless scandals over the centuries. Indeed, the ultimate master builder, the architect of our very faith made it extremely clear from the outset that our foundation needed to be strong. In going through our daily struggles, are we wavering all the time? If so, then perhaps a good look at our own foundation may be in order.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, give us the strength to persevere and to stand firm in the face of all our daily struggles.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for your gift of fortitude in our lives.

30 November, Friday – Full Speed Ahead

30 November – Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle

Andrew was the first Apostle of Jesus Christ. He was a fisherman by trade, and the brother of Simon Peter. He was a follower of John the Baptist. Andrew went through life leading people to Jesus, both before and after the Crucifixion. He was a missionary in Asia Minor and Greece, and possibly areas in modern Russia and Poland. He was martyred on a saltire (x-shaped) cross, and is said to have preached for two days from it.

– Patron Saint Index

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Romans 10:9-18

If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved. When scripture says: those who believe in him will have no cause for shame, it makes no distinction between Jew and Greek: all belong to the same Lord who is rich enough, however many ask his help, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

But they will not ask his help unless they believe in him, and they will not believe in him unless they have heard of him, and they will not hear of him unless they get a preacher, and they will never have a preacher unless one is sent, but as scripture says: The footsteps of those who bring good news are a welcome sound. Not everyone, of course, listens to the Good News. As Isaiah says: Lord, how many believed what we proclaimed? So faith comes from what is preached, and what is preached comes from the word of Christ. Let me put the question: is it possible that they did not hear? Indeed they did; in the words of the psalm, their voice has gone out through all the earth, and their message to the ends of the world.

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Matthew 4:18-22

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew; they were making a cast in the lake with their net, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ And they left their nets at once and followed him. Going on from there he saw another pair of brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they were in their boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. At once, leaving the boat and their father, they followed him.

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Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.

I recently changed cars, having decided that I would purchase a livelier yet more affordable one than my outgoing ride. I settled on a ten-year old Japanese car with a manual transmission. God really blessed the entire process; the car was in good condition, accident-free, and had just undergone a full engine overhaul. It feels brand new!

Interestingly, it isn’t a pleasant car to drive in traffic or at very slow speeds. There is little sound insulation, and the suspension is very firm. The engine has very little torque in the lower RPM bands and really needs to be worked hard to get the car moving. However, on stretches of winding roads or on the highways, the car comes alive.

The suspension and handling tighten up, the increased aerodynamic forces plant the car firmly on the tarmac, and the engine sonorously and eagerly revs to right up to its limit. It truly is transformed once it is worked hard and pushed aggressively. The car reaches its full potential.

And this is the message that God has been trying to bring across to me. Opting for an easy life, or one where we merely cruise along is not the most satisfying way to live. We shortchange ourselves, and the beneficiaries of our gifts, when we do not fully evolve into the creations that God wants us to be. The process can be arduous and long, with stress and pain along the way. But when we function at our limits, when our bodies, hearts, minds, and consciousness are joyfully aligned, we begin to discover just how unfathomably vast the possibilities of life are.

Dear friends, I invite you to dig a little deeper, push a little harder, and grow a little faster in the days to come. Life is certainly more fun in sixth gear.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dearest Lord, may we become fully alive in the days ahead. Grant us the courage to constantly push our limits.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Jesus, for making us just the way we should be.

5 November, Monday – #Freeloaders

5 November

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Philippians 2:1-4

If our life in Christ means anything to you, if love can persuade at all, or the Spirit that we have in common, or any tenderness and sympathy, then be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind. That is the one thing which would make me completely happy. There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everybody is to be self-effacing. Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, So that nobody thinks of his own interests first but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead.

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Luke 14:12-14

Jesus said to his host, one of the leading Pharisees, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’

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“Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you”

How do you know if the charity that you do goes towards a truly worthwhile cause, or if it is enabling freeloading behaviour? I’ve had reason to ask myself this over the last year. It’s particularly difficult to address when that freeloading behaviour comes from members of one’s own family. Do you risk fraying family ties by calling it out? Do you put up with it in the interest of maintaining household harmony? How can encouraging bad behaviour be a sustainable solution for the long term? Someone or something has to give at some point.

That old yarn about how ‘charity begins at home’ doesn’t tell us what to do when those who inhabit our ‘home’ are serial scroungers. These are the relatives who seem to have an endless supply of sob stories, who guilt us into giving up our time, effort and money yet think nothing of posting pictures on social media of how they’re living up #thisblessedlife. They’ll never have enough money to see to repairs at home or meet their credit card payments yet seem to always find the funds for #awesome vacations. How does the math add up?

Scripture tells us this about giving – “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind… because of their inability to repay you”. It also makes it abundantly clear that we are not to enable freeloading behaviour, “…keep away from any brother who lives an undisciplined life and not according to the tradition they received from us … if anyone is not willing to work, neither should he eat” (Thess 3: 6-10). The strong work ethic that was once the backbone of our great country now seems to have been replaced by an insidious kind of ‘victim complex’ entitlement. Didn’t work for it? Don’t worry you’re entitled to it because of your circumstances, connections and your ability to work the system. Whatever happened to pride in an honest day’s work?

The holiday season will be upon us soon; ‘high noon’ for those of us who grapple with the scroungers in our lives. Maybe this year, I will develop a backbone and call this behaviour out for what it is. All our treasure ultimately comes from God. As stewards of His capital, it is our job to figure out the best use for it. Funding someone’s show-off social media hashtags doesn’t seem to be the answer. And I become part of the problem if I enable this behaviour by saying and doing nothing.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the strength and fortitude our cross, and to make the difficult to carry and often unpopular decisions that come with it.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the prayers and support of those that God sends to help us with carrying our cross.

29 August, Wednesday – Work as Our Gifts to God

29 August – Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

To endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather is was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward. Since death was ever at hand, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: “You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake.” He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that His chosen ones should suffer for Him: “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.”

– from a homily by Saint Bede the Venerable on the death of John the Baptist

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2 Thessalonians 3:6-10,16-18

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we urge you, brothers, to keep away from any of the brothers who refuses to work or to live according to the tradition we passed on to you.

You know how you are supposed to imitate us: now we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we ever have our meals at anyone’s table without paying for them; no, we worked night and day, slaving and straining, so as not to be a burden on any of you. This was not because we had no right to be, but in order to make ourselves an example for you to follow.

We gave you a rule when we were with you: do not let anyone have any food if he refuses to do any work. May the Lord of peace himself give you peace all the time and in every way. The Lord be with you all.

From me, PAUL, these greetings in my own handwriting, which is the mark of genuineness in every letter; this is my own writing. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

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Mark 6:17-29

Herod sent to have John arrested, and had him chained up in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife whom he had married. For John had told Herod, ‘It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife.’ As for Herodias, she was furious with him and wanted to kill him; but she was not able to, because Herod was afraid of John, knowing him to be a good and holy man, and gave him his protection. When he had heard him speak he was greatly perplexed, and yet he liked to listen to him.

An opportunity came on Herod’s birthday when he gave a banquet for the nobles of his court, for his army officers and for the leading figures in Galilee. When the daughter of this same Herodias came in and danced, she delighted Herod and his guests; so the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me anything you like and I will give it you.’ And he swore her an oath, ‘I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.’ She went out and said to her mother, ‘What shall I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the Baptist’ The girl hurried straight back to the king and made her request, ‘I want you to give me John the Baptist’s head, here and now, on a dish.’ The king was deeply distressed but, thinking of the oaths he had sworn and of his guests, he was reluctant to break his word to her. So the king at once sent one of the bodyguard with orders to bring John’s head. The man went off and beheaded him in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard about this, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

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“We worked night and day… so as not to be a burden on any of you…”

After I left my corporate job some 4 years ago, I explored doing various businesses. One that was particularly alluring promised lots of fun, travel, money and a complete life of leisure. I was taken with the idea and for a while, dabbled in this.

My wife and I soon went for a couple of holidays, but soon realised that there was only so much time one could spend in leisure. I missed spending time working. With work, I enjoyed interacting with other people. I enjoyed putting in a hard day’s work to earn my living. What I found, also, was that by doing my work and doing it well, I was glorifying God.

The Apostle Paul was teaching this to the Thessalonians — that there is value in work. Only by working together, can everyone contribute to and grow with the community. The specific instructions given by the disciples were to avoid associating with those who choose to leech off others and not working for their keep.

Another point that struck me from the First Reading of today was the fact that the Apostle Paul and the leaders of the early Church not only gave guidance to the followers, but strove hard to be good examples as leaders. Instead of mere lip service, these men demonstrated, like Jesus, what it means to be servant leaders.

Brothers and sisters, let us all be thankful for the work that God gives us in our daily lives so that in achieving our goals, we can glorify Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer:  We pray we may always do our best at our work, and to lift our work as our gifts to God.

Thanksgiving:  We thank You Father, for giving us work, so that we may find ways of continuing to glorify You.

12 October, Wednesday – Fruit of the earth, work of human hands

12 October

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Galatians 5:18-25

If you are led by the Spirit, no law can touch you. When self-indulgence is at work the results are obvious: fornication, gross indecency and sexual irresponsibility; idolatry and sorcery; feuds and wrangling, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels; disagreements, factions, envy; drunkenness, orgies and similar things. I warn you now, as I warned you before: those who behave like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control. There can be no law against things like that, of course. You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires.

Since the Spirit is our life, let us be directed by the Spirit.

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Luke 11:42-46

The Lord said to the Pharisees:

‘Alas for you Pharisees! You who pay your tithe of mint and rue and all sorts of garden herbs and overlook justice and the love of God! These you should have practised, without leaving the others undone. Alas for you Pharisees who like taking the seats of honour in the synagogues and being greeted obsequiously in the market squares! Alas for you, because you are like the unmarked tombs that men walk on without knowing it!

A lawyer then spoke up. ‘Master,’ he said ‘when you speak like this you insult us too.’

‘Alas for you lawyers also,’ he replied ‘because you load on men burdens that are unendurable, burdens that you yourselves do not move a finger to lift.’

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What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control

There was a vacant pot of soil in my family’s apartment corridor garden. Once, after eating a delightfully sweet blood orange, I decided to lay two seeds in the soil. Then, I buried a random assortment of other seeds into this pot. This was a strange magpie instinct in me to hoard the seeds in my ‘pot of treasures,’ curiously waiting for what might erupt from the soil. When my dad found out, he laughed and called me ‘kooky’ for not even labeling them in separate pots. Who knew which would grow? What if the different seedlings strangle each other as they vied for root space?

It is a mysterious thing: how life forms, how nature pushes forth from the deep darkness of seeming nothingness but a single seed. Lo and behold, one sturdy stalk sprung forth and just kept on growing. It was anyone’s guess which plant it was. But we committed to water and watch it. Its leaves grew larger, its ring of branches began to exhibit a pattern of growth. So, from pot to bigger pot, dad then moved it to the common ground below my window. It was only two feet tall then. Left outside to grow, we learnt to surrender our tending and tilling to the aid of the elements. Stood the assault of wind and rain it did. Once, bending almost halfway down.

And so it goes, that the work of our hands is really both about the graces given by God in opportunities and talents, as well as the intention and effort we pour into our work. In today’s Galatians verse, it is no coincidence that each fruit of the Spirit is both a noun and a verb. It may be a given quality, but it too needs to be cultivated by action. This is what virtue is: in unequal parts nature and nurture, by God’s design.

So as the priest prays these words over the bread and wine on the Altar before they are consecrated to God and become transubstantiated as the Body and Blood of Christ:

“Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink.”

We recognise the mystery of our co-operation in God’s grace. As we have received the earth and seeds as gifts through God’s goodness, these wheat and grapes have grown from the earth by God’s blessing by the movements of Nature. At the same time, the bread and wine are indeed the work of human hands – through our tilling, cultivation, harvesting, threshing, milling, ingenuity and baking. It is the same when grapes are amazingly transformed into wine. Hence we offer to Him the fruit of our labours through our participation in His design, yet recognising that the very origin of these produce comes alone from His goodness.

Finally, in our offering on the Altar, we surrender to Him what we have worked on and created unto His Will. We return the true and divine Authorship of mystery unto the Lord, just as we cannot see nor comprehend how the first seeds of all manner of life first came to be, God shall transform this bread of life and spiritual drink yet again – mystically – into the real Body and Blood of Christ (John 6:53-56; Matthew 16:5-12).

We are collaborators with God in His work of creation. True spiritual fruits require both divine grace and human effort to become abiding virtues that stand the test of time.

Over the past months, the plant has grown taller than me. Its once small leaves now larger than my palm. Its green stalk browns now as it turns to a wider trunk. We don’t quite know which of the seeds this is. But certainly its flowers and fruits will tell.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer: Let us see the work of our hands as a means of worship and praise to the Lord. May our work be suffused with true virtue and charity. No work is too menial when offered for God’s delight.

Thanksgiving: We bless the Lord for giving us hope that the fruit of our work, when offered to God, is eternally significant.

9 October, Sunday – I am with you, always

9 October

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2 Kings 5:14-17

Naaman the leper went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, as Elisha had told him to do. And his flesh became clean once more like the flesh of a little child.

Returning to Elisha with his whole escort, he went in and stood before him. ‘Now I know’ he said ‘that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel. Now, please, accept a present from your servant.’ But Elisha replied, ‘As the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will accept nothing.’ Naaman pressed him to accept, but he refused. Then Naaman said, ‘Since your answer is “No,” allow your servant to be given as much earth as two mules may carry, because your servant will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any god except the Lord.’

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2 Timothy 2:8-13

Remember the Good News that I carry, ‘Jesus Christ risen from the dead, sprung from the race of David’; it is on account of this that I have my own hardships to bear, even to being chained like a criminal – but they cannot chain up God’s news. So I bear it all for the sake of those who are chosen, so that in the end they may have the salvation that is in Christ Jesus and the eternal glory that comes with it.

Here is a saying that you can rely on:

If we have died with him, then we shall live with him.
If we hold firm, then we shall reign with him.
If we disown him, then he will disown us.
We may be unfaithful, but he is always faithful,
for he cannot disown his own self.

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Luke 17:11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered one of the villages, ten lepers came to meet him. They stood some way off and called to him, ‘Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.’ When he saw them he said, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ Now as they were going away they were cleansed. Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. This made Jesus say, ‘Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner.’ And he said to the man, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’

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We may be unfaithful, but he is always faithful

The readings today point to the need for faithfulness and gratitude. Both Naaman the leper and the Samaritan were considered outcasts and marginalised by society. Though both were unbelievers at the beginning of the story, they equally received the healing that they needed so badly. Out of humility and gratefulness, they turned their faces towards God and gave thanks. For Naaman, even though Elisha turned down his offering, he insisted that his heart was no longer set on making offerings to lesser gods but only the Lord; while the Samaritan ran to embrace Jesus’ feet and gave thanks to God. This turnabout of heart seems to be a recurrent exercise in my faith life.

During the past two months, I experienced a great tension in my life. There was a conflict of attending to various life projects, of feeling torn in different directions and geographical locations. I could not settle. This anxiety crawled on my skin and irritated me to the point of constant restlessness. I had spent a short few weeks in Boston setting up a home for my coming marriage. Then I had to fly back to Singapore, and in less than a week, off again to Brisbane for a week of work. Meanwhile, I knew that I was sorely in need of a quiet retreat with the Lord to tend to my drying spiritual garden. With various needs of my life calling out like a siren, I grew dissatisfied no matter where I was. It seemed I was always neglecting something else.

On the plane to Brisbane, I was sad, wishing that I had not planned for the trip. At the same time, a little voice nudged at me to trust that maybe God had a plan in all this. Maybe, just maybe, this trip could be the ‘retreat’ I needed to recover from my anxiety attacks…

It took me a couple of days to settle into the rhythm of (yet another) new timezone, culture, environment. As the waves of restlessness slowly ebbed away from my skin over the first few days, I learnt not to put boxes over various aspects of my life. God does not belong in a box; and neither do I. Even the kind of ‘quiet place’ that God can lead me away to, may take on different forms. It did not need to resemble a retreat house or a secluded space – even the midst of a bustling city centre can be a place of repose. Can I be open to behold this? Ah, the scales over my eyes were still being lovingly pried away…

To my delight, I found that my hotel was smack on the same street as the St Stephen Cathedral (Brisbane’s Archdiocese seat), and I was able to attend daily Mass and receive our Lord in both bread and wine! In between work commitments, I had the chance to meander along the riverfront, form new friendships in my travelmates, and appreciate the private quietude of exploring a new city on foot. Yet in the midst of work and repose, I still could not help experiencing the habitual pangs of worry. Deep down, I yearned to be rid of this recent affliction. God still had a surprise in store.

My healing moment was a beautiful Sunday when I ventured out for a run in the Botanic Gardens. I stumbled on a weekend farmer’s market full of music, craft, and food. I jogged along the waterfront, explored the garden hills, sprinted across a foot bridge with spectacular views, and watched sunkissed lovers and children soaking in the nascent spring warmth. A food truck vendor gave me an extra portobello mushroom with my breakfast order. I cradled in my hands, a fresh cup of coffee.

And there it was – a tiny flutter of a heart in awe. A gasp of gratitude for this undeserved grace and blessing, encased in a moment of private reverie with Jesus. As I sat still, taking in all of this serendipitous beauty, certain of his presence and companionship, I felt these simple words – “I am with you, always.”

I was humbled to recognise the mystery and redemption in this apparent ‘displacement’ God had put me through. On hindsight, in the mere appearance of being reluctantly jostled and displaced, there was a deeper message of God’s unchanging faithfulness to me in all of life’s stations. Even if I should thrash about, He waits patiently for my heart to still, for my ears to hear, and for my eyes to gaze long enough to see Him loving me all the while.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer: Help me Lord to believe that there are grace-filled moments in everyday life, to trust in your companionship as I go through each day.

Thanksgiving: That we may ever hold onto steadfast hope in the redemptive power of your love and plan for our good.

4 October, Tuesday – Decluttering from the every day

4 October – Memorial for St. Francis of Assisi

Francis Bernardone (1181–1226) was the son of Pietro Bernadone, a rich cloth merchant. Though he had a good education and became part of his father’s business, he also had a somewhat misspent youth. He was a street brawler and some-time soldier. He was captured during a conflict between Assisi and Perugia, and spent over a year as prisoner of war. During this time, he had a conversion experience, including a reported message from Christ calling him to leave this worldly life. Upon release, Francis began taking his religion seriously.

He took the Gospel as the rule of his life, Jesus Christ as his literal example. He dressed in rough clothes, begged for his sustenance, and preached purity and peace. His family disapproved, and his father disinherited him; Francis formally renounced his wealth and inheritance. He visited hospitals, served the sick, preached in the streets, and took all men and women as siblings.

He began to attract followers in 1209, and with papal blessing founded the Franciscans based on a simple statement by Jesus: “Leave all and follow me.” In 1212, Clare of Assisi became his spiritual student, which led to the founding of the Poor Clares. He visited and preached to the Saracens. He composed songs and hymns to God and nature. He lived with animals, worked with his hands, cared for lepers, cleaned churches, and sent food to thieves. In 1221 he resigned direction of the Franciscans.

While in meditation on La Verna (Mount Alvernia) in the Apennines in September 1224, Francis received the stigmata, which periodically bled during the remaining two years of his life. This miracle has a separate memorial on 17 September.

In the Middle Ages, people who were believed to be possessed by Beelzebub especially called upon the intercession of St. Francis, the theory being that he was the demon’s opposite number in heaven.

“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.” – St. Francis of Assisi

– Patron Saint Index

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Galatians 1:13-24

You must have heard of my career as a practising Jew, how merciless I was in persecuting the Church of God, how much damage I did to it, how I stood out among other Jews of my generation, and how enthusiastic I was for the traditions of my ancestors.

Then God, who had specially chosen me while I was still in my mother’s womb, called me through his grace and chose to reveal his Son in me, so that I might preach the Good News about him to the pagans. I did not stop to discuss this with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were already apostles before me, but I went off to Arabia at once and later went straight back from there to Damascus. Even when after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days, I did not see any of the other apostles; I only saw James, the brother of the Lord, and I swear before God that what I have just written is the literal truth. After that I went to Syria and Cilicia, and was still not known by sight to the churches of Christ in Judaea, who had heard nothing except that their one-time persecutor was now preaching the faith he had previously tried to destroy; and they gave glory to God for me.

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Luke 10:38-42

Jesus came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking. Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered: ‘Martha, Martha,’ he said ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’

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…and yet few are needed, indeed only one.

Many of us tend to be more like Martha – always planning ahead, worrying and fretting about this and that. Over the past few months, while preparing for my long holiday in Spain, I tried to accomplish as much as possible at work so that my team would be able to function as best as possible while I was away. Indeed, at my last debrief with my unit heads, I told them that I would not be checking emails each day (as I usually do when on holiday) as I would be on the road walking most of the time.

The time away proved absolutely refreshing and essential for my spiritual renewal. To my own surprise, I quickly dismissed all thoughts about work and other commitments the moment I got to the airport. I even checked myself out of quite a few group chats, saying that I would rejoin when I got back home. It was rather uncharacteristic of me but I knew that all my physical preparation for my journey would come to naught if I was going to worry about what was happening back home all the time.

And while on my walk, stripped of many of the creature comforts of home, I fould myself enjoying each day as we headed towards our destination. I began to enjoy ‘living in the present’ and being more attuned to the sights, sounds and smells that the Spanish countryside and villages had to offer. Even after we had arrived in Santiago and spent a few days in Madrid, I hardly (I can’t say ‘never’) checked on emails from the office. For the first time in a long while, I wasn’t planning ahead and fussing about what we were going to have for dinner while eating breakfast. I left everything in His hands and trusted fully that He would deliver each and every day.

Brothers and sisters, it is very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day ‘doing’ of things at work, running errands, completing chores, attending meetings, fulfilling appointments and just generally living the hectic lives that WE choose for ourselves. But in the end, what’s more important is that we must learn and develop the habit of being still in order to listen effectively to Christ speaking to us – in the faces that we meet, the helping hand that we shake, the greeting from an office cleaner first thing in the morning, the ‘free cuppa’ from the pantry – the list goes on. It is difficult to keep calm and carry on while all around us, things are turning topsy-turvy or becoming chaotic. But are they? Or are we simply fretting about things just so that we can keep our minds occupied?

Taking it one step further — are we really that busy at work, at home, even in church, that we can’t spare 15 minutes (at the very least) being ‘busy’ with God?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

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Prayer: Dear God, bless us with patience and humility so that we learn to me more attuned to you and to your constant presence in our hustle-and-bustle lives. Teach us to enjoy the present rather than to constantly fret about the future.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for the being so patient with us and for always being there for us in spite of our inattentiveness.

22 September, Thursday – Vanity Of Vanities

22 September

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Ecclesiastes 1:2-11

Vanity of vanities, the Preacher says. Vanity of vanities. Vanity of vanities. All is vanity! For all his toil, his toil under the sun, what does man gain by it?

A generation goes, a generation comes, yet the earth stands firm for ever. The sun rises, the sun sets; then to its place it speeds and there it rises. Southward goes the wind, then turns to the north; it turns and turns again; back then to its circling goes the wind. Into the sea all the rivers go, and yet the sea is never filled, and still to their goal the rivers go. All things are wearisome. No man can say that eyes have not had enough of seeing, ears their fill of hearing. What was will be again; what has been done will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun. Take anything of which it may be said, ‘Look now, this is new.’ Already, long before our time, it existed. Only no memory remains of earlier times, just as in times to come next year itself will not be remembered.

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Luke 9:7-9

Herod the tetrarch had heard about all that was being done by Jesus; and he was puzzled, because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life. But Herod said, ‘John? I beheaded him. So who is this I hear such reports about?’ And he was anxious to see Jesus.

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For all his toil, what does Man gain by it?

What a question! These existentialist questions have long been written about by philosophers who posited that Man’s very true essence is his individuality, his independent actions and his conscious ‘being’ in the world, through which he creates his own values and determines a meaning to his life. There is a kind of hapless desperation to such a worldly definition of man’s existence. It creates a need in one to ‘make good of life’, or else there is nothing worthy to be talked of about one’s existence at the end of life!

By the world’s standards, we count our gain from the successes of our toils. What is my worth? For some, “I am my paycheck; I am my job description; I am the praises or insults that others accord me; I am the success of my career; I am the beautiful house and property I own.” This we count as our legacy.

“Into the sea all the rivers go, and yet the sea is never filled, and still to their goal the rivers go […] What was will be again; what has been done will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun.” This we are told in today’s first reading. Let us not feel sorry for ourselves that our lives are but the river waters that flow into the same sea, or that our lives and accomplishments are in reality nothing new under the sun. Let us rejoice in this amazing truth that we are all made for eternity – that, our lives having been redeemed by Christ is worth far more than the dollars and cents that we count, scrimp, and save, in this world. We live this life not by taking or keeping, but by giving and sharing.

How does this transform your understanding of your existence today? You are part of God’s great plan of humanity; your search for meaning in this life, in your daily toils is shared by the people who trudge alongside you in this seeming daily drudgery. Your quenchless thirst for significance beyond your economic contribution to this country, your loved ones, is deeply felt by Jesus who came down to earth and lived a life like yours. Do not feel alone. Do not feel helpless. Do not despair. Come to the Father who will give you a true meaning and purpose in life.

“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, says the Lord; No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

P.S. This reflection is pulled from our Archives of 2012.

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Prayer: Jesus, I ask you to show me the way to eternity. Show me the little simple ways in which I can grow in faith in You and discover my life’s meaning.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord Jesus for walking beside me as I search for the meaning of my life, as I try to grapple with your purpose for me as I am here in this family, this workplace, this world.

18 September, Sunday – Be Still and Know that I am God

18 September

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Amos 8:4-7

Listen to this, you who trample on the needy
and try to suppress the poor people of the country,
you who say, ‘When will New Moon be over
so that we can sell our corn,
and sabbath, so that we can market our wheat?
Then by lowering the bushel, raising the shekel,
by swindling and tampering with the scales,
we can buy up the poor for money,
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and get a price even for the sweepings of the wheat.’
The Lord swears it by the pride of Jacob,
‘Never will I forget a single thing you have done.’

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1 Timothy 2:1-8

My advice is that, first of all, there should be prayers offered for everyone – petitions, intercessions and thanksgiving – and especially for kings and others in authority, so that we may be able to live religious and reverent lives in peace and quiet. To do this is right, and will please God our saviour: he wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth. For there is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God and mankind, himself a man, Christ Jesus, who sacrificed himself as a ransom for them all. He is the evidence of this, sent at the appointed time, and I have been named a herald and apostle of it and – I am telling the truth and no lie – a teacher of the faith and the truth to the pagans.

In every place, then, I want the men to lift their hands up reverently in prayer, with no anger or argument.

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Luke 16:1-13

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘There was a rich man and he had a steward denounced to him for being wasteful with his property. He called for the man and said, “What is this I hear about you? Draw me up an account of your stewardship because you are not to be my steward any longer.” Then the steward said to himself, “Now that my master is taking the stewardship from me, what am I to do? Dig? I am not strong enough. Go begging? I should be too ashamed. Ah, I know what I will do to make sure that when I am dismissed from office there will be some to welcome me into their homes.”

Then he called his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?” “One hundred measures of oil” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond; sit down straight away and write fifty.” To another he said, “And you, sir, how much do you owe?” “One hundred measures of wheat” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond and write eighty.”

‘The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness. For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.

‘And so I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?

‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’

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I urge that entreaties and prayers… be made on behalf of all men… that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

My life is a constant buzz right now. From dawn to dusk, I am constantly on the move. My sleep is not one of peacefulness nor full rest, and most of the time I wake up feeling tired, not energized. The reason for my whirlwind of activity is my role as a new mother; had I been single say ten years ago, I would have said that my job was the reason. Or my social life. Now in the dim glow of my night light while I attend to my infant son, I sometimes call out to God in desperation. And in the quiet of the night, sometimes God answers.

Nothing could have quite prepared me for motherhood. You can read all the books ever written on the subject, but until your child arrives on the scene, you never quite know the extent that your life can be turned around. I used to be a stickler for house chores and having my home in right order and cleanliness. Now I would be lucky if I can get ahead of my ever-piling laundry. In the past, I would dream and cook up elaborate meals; I would be satisfied now to have something that I could whip up or reheat instantly. I tried to do it all. I still try to do it all, the cooking, cleaning, caring of baby. Between work and home and being a mother, I have not even had the time to look for hired help. I confess for an OCD person like me, it was hard to get used to this “new way of life”. Sometimes I feel like a tightly wound up toy let loose, and I can’t stop.

And so something gave in me during that time, and unfortunately it was my time with God. I stopped seeking Him as much as I used to, seeking Him only in my sleep-deprived state of mind, which was when the busy-ness of my life got out of control. My need to be on top of my hectic life not only pushed God out, it also pushed other people out, relationships that matter to me.

Have we ever felt that way before, when we are so busy with life – our work, social commitments, extra -curricular activities, even church activities – that we forget who the Lord of our work is? He made all this possible for us, giving us the responsibilities because He knew we could be trusted with our roles. At the same time, He also hoped that in challenging us to strive to be our best, we would also call out to Him to help us. Or perhaps sit a while with Him to thank Him for the blessings or just to talk about how our day has been, chaotic or otherwise.

It is funny that I am realizing this whilst writing this reflection, that my life has just been so busy that I have not reached out to ask God for the one thing that I crave the most at this point: a quiet and tranquil moment, where I can sit for a while and reflect. I know it is not too late, for God is everywhere. We only have to seek Him, and He will be there.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Thanksgiving: Lord, it has taken me this long to reach out to You for help. I thought I could do it all, but I know I can’t. Help me to take a step back, quieten down, and reflect. Help me to appreciate the small but wonderful moments in life that You have blessed me with. Help me to realize that in peace, shall I find sanity, serenity, and You.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for helping me to realize that I should slow down before I self-destructed. Let me remember always, to “be still and know” that You are God.

7 September, Wednesday – Our Eternal Reward

7 September

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1 Corinthians 7:25-31

About remaining celibate, I have no directions from the Lord but give my own opinion as one who, by the Lord’s mercy, has stayed faithful. Well then, I believe that in these present times of stress this is right: that it is good for a man to stay as he is. If you are tied to a wife, do not look for freedom; if you are free of a wife, then do not look for one. But if you marry, it is no sin, and it is not a sin for a young girl to get married. They will have their troubles, though, in their married life, and I should like to spare you that.

Brothers, this is what I mean: our time is growing short. Those who have wives should live as though they had none, and those who mourn should live as though they had nothing to mourn for; those who are enjoying life should live as though there were nothing to laugh about; those whose life is buying things should live as though they had nothing of their own; and those who have to deal with the world should not become engrossed in it. I say this because the world as we know it is passing away.

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Luke 6:20-26

Fixing his eyes on his disciples Jesus said:

‘How happy are you who are poor: yours is the kingdom of God.
Happy you who are hungry now: you shall be satisfied.
Happy you who weep now: you shall laugh.

Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven. This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

‘But alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now.
Alas for you who have your fill now: you shall go hungry.
Alas for you who laugh now: you shall mourn and weep.

‘Alas for you when the world speaks well of you! This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.’

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Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. 

Relocating to a new city is never easy. Aside from the usual logistics of establishing a new household, there is also the very pertinent question of money. Those of us who have set out to live on your own will remember how financially taxing it was the very first time. Everything needed to be bought, from a new pot to a can of beans. As you watch your bank balances decline, it is all too easy to despair. It is also far too easy to throw yourself further into work, hoping to earn those extra dollars.

What is difficult to do is that familiar reminder — God will provide. Whether it is material or spiritual needs, God will give us what we need. In the hustle and bustle of the city, it is often easy to forget that. However, today’s readings present us with an even more pressing and very stark reminder: the world in its present form is passing away. For those of us who are beset with bills and expenses, it may well be a relief to hear that (maybe all our bills will pass away with this ‘present’ world!).

Jokes aside, today’s readings are reminding us to focus on the kingdom of God. As Jesus said: blessed are the poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. Jesus is teaching us that if we focus on His Kingdom, we will find our rewards there, and all the suffering and hardships that we have to endure in our earthly life will all be worth it. While these heavenly treasures are not tangible (we cannot touch them nor see them right now), we know for sure that they are eternal.

Surely, things that are eternal are far worthier of our pining than our material desires and possessions? So (and with much great difficulty) I continue to lift up my worries to God each day, having faith (despite not knowing completely) that God will provide. No matter what the situation, God will help me find a way. All we need to do is to have faith, and to pray.

Jon Bon Jovi (perhaps unintentionally) says it best in his classic hit (and a staple of my teenhood): We’re halfway there. Livin’ on a prayer.

We’re halfway there. No longer condemned due to our faith in Christ, but not quite saints yet. When all else fails and we find ourselves with nothing left and nobody to turn to, that is when we really need to pray. To pray as if our lives depend on it; to live on every prayer that escapes our lips.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, while the lives we live are not always easy, we continue to place our faith and trust in You, praying and believing with full confidence that You will lift us up on our final days and shower us with Your love.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for all the people in our lives who have offered us a helping hand in difficult times.