Tag Archives: journey with God

18 October, Tuesday – No excess baggage

18 October – Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist

Luke (d. 74) was born to pagan Greek parents, and possibly a slave. He was one of the earliest converts, and a physician studying in Antioch and Tarsus. He probably travelled as a ship’s doctor, and many charitable societies of physicians are named after him. Legend has that he was also a painter who may have done portraits of Jesus and Mary, but none have ever been correctly or definitively attributed to him; this story, and the inspiration his Gospel has always given artists, led to his patronage of them.

He met St. Paul at Troas, and evangelised Greece and Rome with him, being there for the shipwreck and other perils of the voyage to Rome, and stayed in Rome for Paul’s two years in prison. He wrote the Gospel According to Luke, much of which was based on the teachings and writings of Paul, interviews with early Christians, and his own experiences. He also wrote a history of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles. He was likely to have been martyred for his faith.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Timothy 4:10-17

Demas has deserted me for love of this life and gone to Thessalonika, Crescens has gone to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia; only Luke is with me. Get Mark to come and bring him with you; I find him a useful helper in my work. I have sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak I left with Carpus in Troas, and the scrolls, especially the parchment ones. Alexander the coppersmith has done me a lot of harm; the Lord will repay him for what he has done. Be on your guard against him yourself, because he has been bitterly contesting everything that we say.

The first time I had to present my defence, there was not a single witness to support me. Every one of them deserted me – may they not be held accountable for it. But the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.

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Luke 10:1-9

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.”’

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Peace to this household

Would you go on a journey without a change of clothes and money? Imagine the freedom of not having to pack or unpack nor having to lug along a heavy piece of luggage to the airport – that can sure sound refreshing to some of us.

Some of us are all too familiar with the meaning of excess baggage – of dragging along items in our lives which we do not need anymore — hoarding ill feelings, unforgiveness, hurt, anger, resentment and even unrequited love. It is sensible for us to realise what sort of baggage we still carry. Just as car which is overloaded with things consumes more fuel, a part of us works extra hard to carry the burden that is no longer ours to bear. What baggage do we carry today which you can check in to God?

On my recent pilgrimage to Poland for World Youth Day, I was under the impression that I travelled light. I carried 4 t-shirts, 2 pants, a light jacket, clothes for our performances and my prayer books and bible as well as souvenirs. It was easy to handle my luggage and there was still room for the other material we received there. I felt liberated to carry a bag which I could handle. One of the other things that I had to do was to apply for 15 days of annual leave, leaving me with 3 days of leave from August to the end of the year.

In September, my dad feel ill. There were days when I could not follow him for doctor’s appointments or even send my parents to the hospital. While he was hospitalised, my mum had to take a cab each morning from my house to visit him. I found myself in a constant dilemma about how best to utilise the 3 days of leave. The guilt was eating me when I could only take time off work; when I would rather be by his bedside or even to be around and talk to the doctors. I was desperately wishing that I had not gone for World Youth Day. Over the 3 weeks of hospital visits and doctor’s appointment, I started realising that I had to learn to lean on God, to send us the right person or the solution to fulfil my needs. It was then that I realised that those few weeks were not so stressful at work and I managed to take time off, as and when required. Thankfully, my other family members were around for my parents on the days that I could not.

My pilgrimage was an experience of mercy and peace and during my dad’s illness, everything seemed like it was swept away. But I realised His peace remained and so did His mercy. The only change was my perception.

As members of the International Centre of Evangelisation at World Youth Day, we were reaching out to so many people. On a daily basis, my group would be out in the streets handing out leaflets on our faith, talking to people and praying with and for them. It is not much different from what the 72 did in today’s gospel. We ate the food that was served as I had run out of funds and walked endlessly although most of us travelled by car everywhere on a daily basis. Was it too big a price to pay for the salvation of others? This cannot be the case.

What is God asking of you today, so that you bring His peace to others? What is He asking us to check in at His counter of mercy, the mercy which He offers in equal measure to both you and your trespassers. Are you convinced of His blessings in your life? Do you believe that you are made an instrument of His peace and mercy to a world who knows you and not Him?

How can you be like the faithful 72 disciples he sent out, today and for the rest of your life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

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Prayer: Lord help me to trust in you, believe in your providence and be always aware that I can expect it. Mary, let me never lose my God. St Luke, pray for us and all the doctors who treat us.

Thanksgiving: Lord I thank you for your peace and mercy. I will pass it on.

14 October, Friday – Can you see me?

14 October – Memorial for St. Callistus I, Pope and Martyr

Callistus (d. 223) was born a slave, owned by Carpophorus, a Christian in the household of Caesar. His master entrusted a large sum to Callistus to open a bank, which took in several deposits, made several loans to people who refused to pay them back, and went broke. Knowing he would be personally blamed and punished, Callistus fled, but was caught and returned to his owner. Several depositers begged for his life, believing that he had not lost the money, but had stolen and hid it.

They were wrong; he wasn’t a thief, just a victim, but he was sentenced to work the tin mines. By a quirk of Roman law, the ownership of Callistus was transferred from Carpophorus to the state, and when he was later ransomed out of his sentence with a number of other Christians, he became a free man. Pope St. Zephyrinus put Callistus in charge of the Roman public burial grounds, today still called the Cemetery of Saint Callistus. He later became an archdeacon and the 16th pope.

Most of what we know about him has come down to us from his critics, including an anti-Pope of the day. He was, on more than one occasion, accused of heresy for such actions as permitting a return to Communion for sinners who had repented and done penance, or for proclaiming that differences in economic classes were no barrier to marriage.

This last put him in conflict with Roman civil law, but he stated that in matters concerning the Church and the sacraments, Church law trumped civil law. In both cases he taught what the Church has taught for centuries, including today, and though a whole host of schismatics wrote against him, his crime seems to have been to practice orthodox Christianity. He was martyred for his faith.

– Patron Saints Index

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Ephesians 1:11-14

It is in Christ that we were claimed as God’s own,
chosen from the beginning,
under the predetermined plan of the one who guides all things
as he decides by his own will;
chosen to be,
for his greater glory,
the people who would put their hopes in Christ before he came.
Now you too, in him,
have heard the message of the truth and the good news of your salvation,
and have believed it;
and you too have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit of the Promise,
the pledge of our inheritance
which brings freedom for those whom God has taken for his own, to make his glory praised.

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Luke 12:1-7

The people had gathered in their thousands so that they were treading on one another. And Jesus began to speak, first of all to his disciples. ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees – that is, their hypocrisy. Everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. For this reason, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in hidden places will be proclaimed on the housetops.

‘To you my friends I say: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. I will tell you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has the power to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Can you not buy five sparrows for two pennies? And yet not one is forgotten in God’s sight. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. There is no need to be afraid: you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.’

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Every hair on your head has been counted.

 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. This line of the scripture is one of my favourites. It fascinates me and also comforts me. This was the line that struck me during my conversion 5 years ago and continues to carry me though. Fascinating — to think that God actually counts every hair on my head, knows me through and through. He actually sees me and knows everything about me.

Recently, I embarked on a mini spiritual walk starting in Portugal and concluding in Spain. I walked with a friend of mine. The Portuguese route, while marked clearly, doesn’t quite tell us where we are. One of those mornings, we began our walk fresh from a good night’s rest. As usual, the familiar yellow arrows — which were our ‘signposts’ for the direction to take — pointed us towards a path. About 300 metres along, we came to a junction. No more signposts and we were faced with 3 different routes to take.

My travel companion asked “So where do we go?” I had been the navigator during the trip and this time, I wasn’t quite sure. After some discussion, and walking back to look at where that original yellow ‘signpost’ was pointing, we decided to take a particular path straight ahead of us.

The path was narrower than the usual paths we had taken those past few days. Not at all well-trodden by pilgrims. As we walked further and further, the path kind of disappeared, and soon we were walking on overgrown vegetation and vines. I was beginning to wonder to myself if we had picked the wrong route. Thorny creepers lined this path and we had to be very careful not to get pricked. We had walked quite far along by then, and we were faced with the decision of whether to backtrack or to keep moving forward. I could not see any clearing ahead of us. The overgrown path seemed to continue as far as I could see.

Under my breath, I whispered “Lord, help me out here. Cause I am kinda lost and don’t know if this is the right way.” Not long after, I saw a couple of cyclists appear some 100 metres ahead. One of them stopped at the intersection of that overgrown path, looked directly at me and then cycled ahead of him. What a relief to see them! They were cycling pilgrims; an indication that we were on the right track, or at least the path ahead would lead us back on the right track. And so we continued our walk.

The rest of the day’s walk was ‘trying’. I was so preoccupied with getting us to our destination in Facha that I failed to appreciate the beauty of the landscape and God’s creation. I was agitated, frustrated, hot and hungry.

As I reflected on the walk, I realised that as usual, I was taking everything into my own hands. Getting all too caught up in the details, that I failed to see that Jesus was there with me all along.

He had sent angels along the way when we got lost – the cyclists, the tiny lady appearing out of her window, who gesticulated the way we should continue and then disappeared again, the grapes from the vine that sustained me when I was famished. If only I had looked up to see Him, He was right ahead of me. If only I silenced myself to feel His presence and appreciate the beauty around me. He would never let me get lost. He knew exactly where I was, He was leading me all along. He is so profoundly close to me, to all of us. If only I would just let go. And trust. If the little sparrows are never forgotten or lost in the sight of Jesus, would He lose sight of me?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

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Prayer: Lord, teach us to open our eyes to see your presence. You are so profoundly close and yet we never take the time to look up to see you. Teach us to walk through life’s journey with complete faith and trust, knowing that You are there to lead us.

Thanksgiving: Lord Jesus, thank you for teaching us that You are always present in our lives. That through life’s journey, as mysterious and untrodden as it may seem, You are always there to lead, never losing sight of us.

13 October, Thursday – Saying ‘Yes!’

13 October

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Ephesians 1:1-10

From Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, to the saints who are faithful to Christ Jesus. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ.
Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ,
to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence,
determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ
for his own kind purposes,
to make us praise the glory of his grace,
his free gift to us in the Beloved,
in whom, through his blood, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.
Such is the richness of the grace
which he has showered on us
in all wisdom and insight.
He has let us know the mystery of his purpose,
the hidden plan he so kindly made in Christ from the beginning
to act upon when the times had run their course to the end:
that he would bring everything together under Christ, as head,
everything in the heavens and everything on earth.

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Luke 11:47-54

Jesus said:

‘Alas for you who build the tombs of the prophets, the men your ancestors killed! In this way you both witness what your ancestors did and approve it; they did the killing, you do the building.

‘And that is why the Wisdom of God said, “I will send them prophets and apostles; some they will slaughter and persecute, so that this generation will have to answer for every prophet’s blood that has been shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was murdered between the altar and the sanctuary.” Yes, I tell you, this generation will have to answer for it all.

‘Alas for you lawyers who have taken away the key of knowledge! You have not gone in yourselves, and have prevented others going in who wanted to.’

When he left the house, the scribes and the Pharisees began a furious attack on him and tried to force answers from him on innumerable questions, setting traps to catch him out in something he might say.

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He chose us in Christ

 By the time you read this reflection, I would have celebrated a milestone birthday. Last week, my better half threw me a huge surprise birthday party, with the help of some close friends. Quite frankly, I am happy to let the event slip by quietly. If you know me well enough, I absolutely abhor surprises and I do not like being the centre of attention. I am not the ‘fade into the background’ kind of person, but am happy to be added entertainment to a party. Not the main act. My friends told me after the fact that they were afraid that I’d throw a hissy fit over this surprise, ruining everything my loved ones had planned. But I went along with the evening’s festivities and really enjoyed myself. It was great to see a sea of familiar faces screaming ‘Surprise!’ It’s like a tapestry of my life made up of family (I have a huge, extended one), old and new friends. Just looking at all of them, I was reminded about different phases of my life, where I have been, where I came from and where I am today.

So as I celebrate this milestone birthday, I reflect upon my life and am amazed at where I am today. Before the world was made, he chose us….. for his own kind purpose.  Indeed He has chosen me. Recently, I was asked what my conversion story was. I responded “It was a matter of time!” I converted to the Catholic faith some twenty four years ago, with the blessing of my parents. Unlike some of you who have amazing ‘hit you square in the eye’ type of conversion stories, mine is slow, gingerly but definite. And because our Lord knows I do not like huge surprises, He has been kind with me as well. Slowly and gently coaxing me along into a life that (I think) He has chosen for me.

Ten years ago, when I celebrated my then milestone birthday, I had quite definite ideas and plans about my goals and where my life would lead. Today, I have no idea where my life is leading me, except I trust that our Lord already has it all mapped out. Yeah, I freak out time and again wondering what on earth am I to do – and He continues to surprise me with events that unfold, projects he decrees and people that I meet. Is it anything I had envisioned my life to be ten years ago? Certainly not! Not by any measure of the imagination. Then again, what we imagine is but a small scene of a larger feature film; the vastness of what God sees and plans. Do I like what I am experiencing? Nope. I hate surprises remember? God may have chosen us, but we also need to co-operate in His plans. He needs us to say ‘Yes!’ And that one single decision could change everything and set you on an amazing adventure you never dreamed possible. That ‘Yes’ is actually the perfect path for God’s plan for your life. Just like my surprise birthday party – I simply let go of my natural tendency to control; and what an amazing time I had! Will you say ‘Yes; to God’s plan? He has chosen you, my brothers and sisters.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

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Prayer: Teach us Lord, to be obedient to your will. To be silent and to heed your call. For you have chosen us to be your sons and daughters. Give us the courage to take that very first step and allow you to work in our lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for choosing us – to be holy and spotless. For your spiritual gifts. For working you perfect plan in our lives the moment we said ‘Yes!’ For taking us on this amazing life journey and giving us this perfect opportunity to be and to show love to our fellow brothers and sisters.

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.

5 October, Wednesday – Facing up to challenges every day

5 October

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Galatians 2:1-2,7-14

It was not till fourteen years had passed that I went up to Jerusalem again. I went with Barnabas and took Titus with me. I went there as the result of a revelation, and privately I laid before the leading men the Good News as I proclaim it among the pagans; I did so for fear the course I was adopting or had already adopted would not be allowed. On the contrary, they recognised that I had been commissioned to preach the Good News to the uncircumcised just as Peter had been commissioned to preach it to the circumcised. The same person whose action had made Peter the apostle of the circumcised had given me a similar mission to the pagans. So, James, Cephas and John, these leaders, these pillars, shook hands with Barnabas and me as a sign of partnership: we were to go to the pagans and they to the circumcised. The only thing they insisted on was that we should remember to help the poor, as indeed I was anxious to do.

When Cephas came to Antioch, however, I opposed him to his face, since he was manifestly in the wrong. His custom had been to eat with the pagans, but after certain friends of James arrived he stopped doing this and kept away from them altogether for fear of the group that insisted on circumcision. The other Jews joined him in this pretence, and even Barnabas felt himself obliged to copy their behaviour.

When I saw they were not respecting the true meaning of the Good News, I said to Cephas in front of everyone, ‘In spite of being a Jew, you live like the pagans and not like the Jews, so you have no right to make the pagans copy Jewish ways.’

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Luke 11:1-4

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘Say this when you pray:

“Father, may your name be held holy,
your kingdom come;
give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us.
And do not put us to the test.”’

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And do not put us to the test.

Every day, we are faced with tests. From the time we hit the road, making our way to work, to the time we reach home, having to deal with other personal matters, God puts before us situations and people that test us to see if we truly are worthy to be called sons and daughters of God. Having just returned from three weeks in Spain and having faced certain challenges while there, I have finally settled back in to life at work and at home.

They say that walking the Camino changes you. That while a part of you remains on The Way, the person who returns is different. Over the past week, I have had various colleagues and ministry members remark that I seem to look different now. A few have even said that there is a certain glow. While I certainly feel diferent inside, I am not too sure if I look different on the outside. But after my various encounters along The Way, I know that I return with a deeper appreciation of God’s love for us.

The three pilgrim masses I attended in the cathedral in Santiago were truly anointed. Many of the pilgrims had themselves endured their own ‘tests’ along their journeys. Many had to endure blisters, some ran out of money, others were battling their own inner demons and frailties. There was, however, one thing for certain – everyone who arrived at the Plaza del Obradorio in Santiago de Compostela celebrated a personal victory. There were tears of joy, relief; there were people hugging each other. And as we queued for more than two hours in the Pilgrim’s Office just to get our compostela (the certificate issued for pilgrims who had walked more than 100km), no one complained about the wait. We all spent the time joking and sharing our own experiences, and getting reacquainted with pilgrims we had encountered along The Way.

Brothers and sisters, God does not put us to the test. Rather, He places situations in front of us and allows us to choose what we ourselves would do. So in many ways, the problems and challenges we encounter are of our own doing. However, what God does is that He protects and watches over us by sending us angels to guide and help us. Or He fashions solutions for us which we put down to coincidence or plain luck. During my 300-plus km journey, I prayed the rosary a lot. And I know that each day, as we negotiated rough terrain, inclement weather and weariness, He was always there by our side pushing us along. Just as He does each and every day of our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

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Prayer: Dear God, pour out your Wisdom on us, so that we may always know to choose the right path whenever we find ourselves at a crossroad in our life.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord, for always giving me the opportunity to choose my own path in life. And for always being there to catch me whenever I fall.

2 October, Sunday – Breaking away from the everyday

2 October

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Habakkuk 1:2-3,2:2-4

How long, O Lord, am I to cry for help
while you will not listen;
to cry ‘Oppression!’ in your ear
and you will not save?
Why do you set injustice before me,
why do you look on where there is tyranny?
Outrage and violence, this is all I see,
all is contention, and discord flourishes.
Then the Lord answered and said,

‘Write the vision down,
inscribe it on tablets
to be easily read,
since this vision is for its own time only:
eager for its own fulfilment, it does not deceive;
if it comes slowly, wait,
for come it will, without fail.
See how he flags, he whose soul is not at rights,
but the upright man will live by his faithfulness.’

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2 Timothy 1:6-8,13-14

I am reminding you to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God.

Keep as your pattern the sound teaching you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. You have been trusted to look after something precious; guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

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Luke 17:5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ The Lord replied, ‘Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you.

‘Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal immediately”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper laid; make yourself tidy and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink yourself afterwards”? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”’

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God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the spirit of power, and love, and self control.

I have just come back from Spain, where I walked the Camino de Santiago, along the Camino Frances, starting from Leon. By all accounts, the three weeks I spent journeying outside of the comforts of home (literally), exposed me to the elements as well as to myself. From the harsh noonday sun prior to crossing into Galicia, where the whether was unpredictable, chilly and damp, each day brought forth challenges which we’d normally not face back home.

I also met dozens of pilgrims and listened to their stories of why and how they were on this road. Some were seeking answers, some carried the prayers and burdens of loved ones, others were heavily laden by their own circumstances back home; yet, despite their sufferings, you could see and hear in them the conviction they had as they spoke powerfully about how Christ sustained them through each day.

As for me, I was rewarded each and every day on the road. With shelter, food and a camaraderie forged through hours of walking. And just as I was wondering if Jesus would ever appear, He did so, about 12km outside of Santiago. The moment is forever etched in my heart as He gave me a smile and a big hug through tear-stained eyes. And then He walked with us into Santiago and dined with us. I could never ever describe well enough the feelings I experienced that day – joy, relief, sadness, fear – all rolled into one. But for me, this was my ‘Camino moment’.

In the ensuing days which I spent in Santiago and the surrounding towns, I fully understood why some pilgrims do this each year. It is an opportunity for us to really break away from our normal, everyday lives and to just be ourselves. And to be with God. From the glorious sunrises I had the privilege of enjoying on high mountain passes each morning, to the cool breeze and pitter patter of an incessant drizzle, the Lord was always present. In the faces, gestures, laughter and tears of our fellow peregrinos, to the welcoming smiles of those who ran the albergues, we never lacked anything along the Way. All we had to do was to ask.

Brothers and sisters, not all of us will have the opportunity to walk the Camino. I have been truly blessed and, as many testify, a part of me remains there in Spain. But as Christians, we are all called to walk our own ‘Way’ each and every day of our life. The signposts are there and He is definitely walking with us. Let us all learn to harness the power that He has given us and not allow ourselves to wallow in fear and anxiety. Rather, let us walk on proudly as sons and daughters of a loving, merciful and giving God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

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Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for boldness to confront our fears and to take courage each day as we awake, so that we can confidently face all the challenges that come our way.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for empowering us with your spirit.

1 October, Saturday – Rejoice

1 October – Memorial for St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor, Patroness of Missions

Born to a pious middle-class French family of tradesmen, Francoise-Marie Therese Martin (1873–1897) was the daughter of Saint Louis Martin and Saint Marie-Azelie Guerin Martin, and all four of her sisters became nuns. Her mother died when Francoise-Marie was only four, and the family moved to Lisieux, Normandy, France to be closer to family.

She was cured from an illness at the age of 8 when a statue of the Blessed Virgin smiled at her. She was educated by the Benedictine nuns of Notre-Dame-du-Pre, and confirmed there at the age of 11. Just before her 14th birthday, she received a vision of the Child Jesus. She immediately understood the great sacrifice that had been made for her, and developed an unshakeable faith.

She tried to join the Carmelites, but was turned down due to her age. She was a pilgrim to Rome for the Jubilee of Pope Leo XIII whom she met and who knew of her desire to become a nun. She joined the Carmelites at Lisieux on 9 April 1888 at the age of 15, taking her final vow on 8 September 1890 at the age of 17.

She is known by all for her complete devotion to spiritual development and to the austerities of the Carmelite Rule. Due to health problems resulting from her ongoing fight with tuberculosis, her superiors ordered her not to fast. She became novice mistress at the age of 20, and at age 22 was ordered by her prioress to begin writing her memories and ideas. The material would turn into the book History of a Soul.

She defined her path to God and holiness at The Little Way, which consisted of child-like love and trust in God. She had an ongoing correspondence with the Carmelite missionaries in China, often stating how much she wanted to come work with them. Many miracles are attributed to her and she was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1997 by Pope John Paul II.

“You know well enough that our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.” – Saint Therese of Lisieux

– Patron Saints Index

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Job 42:1-3,5-6,12-17

This was the answer Job gave to the Lord:

I know that you are all-powerful:
what you conceive, you can perform.
I am the man who obscured your designs
with my empty-headed words.
I have been holding forth on matters I cannot understand,
on marvels beyond me and my knowledge.
I knew you then only by hearsay;
but now, having seen you with my own eyes,
I retract all I have said,
and in dust and ashes I repent.

The Lord blessed Job’s new fortune even more than his first one. He came to own fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand she-donkeys. He had seven sons and three daughters; his first daughter he called ‘Turtledove’, the second ‘Cassia’ and the third ‘Mascara.’ Throughout the land there were no women as beautiful as the daughters of Job. And their father gave them inheritance rights like their brothers.

After his trials, Job lived on until he was a hundred and forty years old, and saw his children and his children’s children up to the fourth generation. Then Job died, an old man and full of days.

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Luke 10:17-24

The seventy-two came back rejoicing. ‘Lord,’ they said ‘even the devils submit to us when we use your name.’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.’

It was then that, filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, he said, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

Then turning to his disciples he spoke to them in private, ‘Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.’

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“Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.”

As we conclude the week, we read in the first reading of God blessing Job with new fortune, even more than his first one. Indeed, our lives, our faith, it isn’t one about continuous sufferings or struggles but God has something far much greater that He wants to share with us, hence sometimes He tries to lead us away from the small temporary distractions that seem to attract us.

As in the 2 readings, most of the time, we need to see in order to believe and the Lord acknowledges that. But what is important is not the miracles we see daily or whether or not we are bestowed with gifts of healing and so on. What is truly important as emphasised in the Gospel, “yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.”

Let us not be distracted by our ultimate goal which is eternal life with our Father in heaven. Even though we may not be able to see or hear God’s voice, we know deep down within us, we are called to love, to care, to forgive, not just because the Bible says so, but it is very much who each and every one of us are, who we are all called to be.

We are given “power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you” but we will not know who the enemy is till we know who our master is. Let us not focus on the “power” but on the giver for the “power” may be temporary but the giver, eternal.

As the psalmist says, “let your face shine on your servant, O Lord”. Help us to live a life in order that when many see us, they see you too. Help us to love the way you love. Let us rejoice for you have blessed us abundantly and will only continue to bless us more. Let us rejoice for our lives, our faith is in your safe hands. Let us rejoice for we are yours. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

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Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for a continuous awareness of the distractions that turn our focus away from you. Help us to be reminded of your love and mercy. Help us to be your light and your love to all. Help us to trust in you. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for all the blessings you have bestowed on us. Thank you for your Word and your assurance that you are with us always.

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.

21 September, Wednesday – Follow Me

21 September – 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.

– Patron Saints Index

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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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He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.

Before he became one of the Twelve Apostles, St. Matthew worked as a tax collector in Capernaum. At the time, tax collectors were viewed negatively by the people, as evidenced in the Bible, particularly in today’s Gospel reading. When people saw Jesus sitting at the table with tax collectors, the Pharisees questioned this, lumping tax collectors with sinners. Because of his prior incarnation as a tax collector, St. Matthew is the patron saint of tax collectors, accountants and bankers.

Today’s world hasn’t changed much. Bankers are still viewed negatively: the “fat cats” of Wall Street and other major financial capitals in the world. Not long ago, people were up in arms over bankers who collected huge bonuses while the world experienced a global financial crisis. The Occupy Wall Street movement raised issues of inequality, both socially and economically, greed and corruption, in particular within the financial sector. The bankers’ lives of excess as portrayed in the media also added more fuel to the fire.

So it is with interest that one would question why Jesus called Matthew to follow him. Can a person perceived as greedy and in cahoots with the Romans be deemed worthy enough to follow the Messiah? Jesus rebukes the Pharisees and says, “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Jesus probably saw the flaws in Matthew, and perhaps Matthew might not have been perfect in character. But he was the perfect canvas for Jesus to paint on, to convert someone so mired in materialism, and that would not be any different from us today. We don’t even have to be a banker, or tax collector or accountant. Perhaps there is a certain sort of life that we are living, that we can’t let go of. Would we be in a position to put it down, leave everything and go when Jesus calls us?

Recall the story of the rich man who did everything that Jesus exhorted, and asked what more he could do. He went away depressed when Jesus told him to sell all his possessions and donate the proceeds to the needy (Mark 10:17-31), for this man was rich indeed. But Jesus has promised us eternal life for those who leave everything to follow him.

If we fear or second guess our ability to come whenever Jesus calls, let us doubt no further but say to ourselves, if St. Matthew could do it, and walk away from it all to a higher calling, then so can we.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Thanksgiving: St. Matthew, we pray to you not to let our lives be attached to the material things on earth that will pass in time. Help us train our eyes instead to a greater treasure in heaven, which Jesus has promised us.

Prayer: St. Matthew, thank you for being our shining example of will power and knowing what is worth following. As Jesus comes to call the sinners, pray for us that we will hear when he calls us too.

8 September, Thursday – Searching For Peace

8 September – Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary announced joy and the approaching salvation of a lost world. Mary was brought into the world not like other children of Adam, infected with the contagion of sin, but pure, holy, beautiful, and glorious, adorned with all the most precious graces fitting for the one predestined to be the Mother of the Saviour. Never did she have the slightest inclination towards anything other than the absolute and immediate Will of God.

She appeared indeed in the weak condition of all mortals, but in the eyes of Heaven she already transcended the highest seraphim in purity, humility, charity, and the richest ornaments of grace. God had created her in the original grace, as in the beginning Adam and Eve had enjoyed that ineffable privilege; after original sin, it was lost for all Adam’s posterity, until the time of the Redemption dawned in Mary. (Cf. I Cor. 15:21-23)

The nations celebrate, often too noisily, the birthdays of the great ones of this earth… How then ought we, Christians, to rejoice in that of the Virgin Mary, Mother of our Salvation, and to present publicly to God the homage of our best praises and thanksgiving for the great mercies He has shown in her, imploring her mediation with her Divine Son!

Jesus of Nazareth will not reject the supplications of His most holy Mother, through whom He chose to descend from Heaven; she, the Spouse of the Canticle, is all beautiful and is the one He was pleased to obey while on earth. Her love, care, and tenderness for Him, the title and qualities which she bears, the charity and graces with which she is adorned, and the crown of glory with which she is honoured, incline Him readily to receive her recommendations and petitions.

– http://www.magnificat.ca/cal/engl/09-08.htm

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Micah 5:1-4

The Lord says this:

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
the least of the clans of Judah,
out of you will be born for me
the one who is to rule over Israel;
his origin goes back to the distant past,
to the days of old.
The Lord is therefore going to abandon them
till the time when she who is to give birth gives birth.
Then the remnant of his brothers will come back
to the sons of Israel.
He will stand and feed his flock
with the power of the Lord,
with the majesty of the name of his God.
They will live secure, for from then on he will extend his power
to the ends of the land.
He himself will be peace.

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Matthew 1:1-16,18-23

A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, Tamar being their mother,
Perez was the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram was the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon was the father of Boaz, Rahab being his mother,
Boaz was the father of Obed, Ruth being his mother,
Obed was the father of Jesse;
and Jesse was the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Azariah,
Azariah was the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah;
and Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers.
Then the deportation to Babylon took place.

After the deportation to Babylon:
Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor was the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud was the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob;
and Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary;
of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.

This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son
and they will call him Emmanuel,

a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’

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He shall be peace 

By the time you read this, I should have already started off on my Camino from Leon. When I first decided to do this walk last October, little did I know that the preparation would lead me to the challenges that I encountered during the past month or so. And while the challenges were mainly work-related, I found myself getting drained and feeling dry from other ‘work’ matters that I had been called to do.

In fact, until about 6 weeks ago, when one of my worship leaders asked me how preparations were going, I could confidently reply that I was physically ready. Thereafter, it was the spiritual challenges that started to wear me down; especially when challenges at work came rushing to the fore. In all the years since I made an about face and started to journey back to God, I cannot recall ever feeling so ‘tested’. But in expectant faith, I know that He is with me and will be with us on our pilgrimage. At my last sacrament of reconciliation, the priest offered this nugget for me to contemplate on – think of the walk as both of you on the road to Emmaus, and pray that the Lord appears before you.

The moment I heard those words, I came to a firm realisation as to the purpose of my journey. Far from being something to ‘check off’ on a bucket list, I knew right away that my original reason – to give thanks to the Lord for all His blessings over the past 49 years of my life – was valid. And that He was in fact calling me to encounter Him powerfully. Whether or not it happens, I can only open my heart each day as I walk towards Santiago de Compostela; and not be so desperate as to search for Him in every encounter, but to just let it happen. Because I know that He will come among us in His own way, at His own time.

As it is, I am not too sure what to expect. I am quietly excited and very much looking forward to the time away from everyone and everything to contemplate and to be at peace. Is it a form of escapism? I know deep down that I am strong enough to face everything in my path. But perhaps it is just God’s way of telling me, “Enough son. Come and be with me, let me take care of you all of your worries.” I know that life back home will go on. I just wonder what it will be like when I return.

Brothers and sisters, we are all on a journey with a definite end. How many of us can truly say that at the end, when we finally meet God, that we will have found our peace? I will be praying for all in this ministry and all the lives that have been touched. Pray for me, that as I journey towards my destination, the Lord will bless me with His everlasting peace and undying love so that I can carry on His work.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, grant us the peace that you have ordained for each and every one of us. Help us to see that our worries are unfounded and that above all, you have the power to wipe them all away.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord, for all the times that you have blessed us with your peace and joy. We ask that you continue to shower us with your everlasting love.