Tag Archives: Justus Teo

4 June, Tuesday – True discipleship does not come cheap

4 Jun 2019

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Acts 20:17-27

From Miletus Paul sent for the elders of the church of Ephesus. When they arrived he addressed these words to them: ‘You know what my way of life has been ever since the first day I set foot among you in Asia, how I have served the Lord in all humility, with all the sorrows and trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews. I have not hesitated to do anything that would be helpful to you; I have preached to you, and instructed you both in public and in your homes, urging both Jews and Greeks to turn to God and to believe in our Lord Jesus. ‘And now you see me a prisoner already in spirit; I am on my way to Jerusalem, but have no idea what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit, in town after town, has made it clear enough that imprisonment and persecution await me. But life to me is not a thing to waste words on, provided that when I finish my race I have carried out the mission the Lord Jesus gave me – and that was to bear witness to the Good News of God’s grace. ‘I now feel sure that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will ever see my face again. And so here and now I swear that my conscience is clear as far as all of you are concerned, for I have without faltering put before you the whole of God’s purpose.’

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John 17:1-11

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:

‘Father, the hour has come:
glorify your Son
so that your Son may glorify you;
and, through the power over all mankind that you have given him,
let him give eternal life to all those you have entrusted to him.
And eternal life is this:
to know you,
the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
I have glorified you on earth
and finished the work that you gave me to do.
Now, Father, it is time for you to glorify me
with that glory I had with you
before ever the world was.
I have made your name known
to the men you took from the world to give me.
They were yours and you gave them to me,
and they have kept your word.
Now at last they know
that all you have given me comes indeed from you;
for I have given them the teaching you gave to me,
and they have truly accepted this, that I came from you,
and have believed that it was you who sent me.
I pray for them;
I am not praying for the world
but for those you have given me,
because they belong to you:
all I have is yours
and all you have is mine,
and in them I am glorified.
I am not in the world any longer,
but they are in the world,
and I am coming to you.’
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For I did not shrink from declaring to you, the whole purpose of God

When Christ hung on the cross at Calvary, He seemed a broken man. He was. Not a glorious victorious God of all creation but simply a broken man, forsaken by practically all his ‘followers’. Except for John, none of the other disciples were anywhere to be found. Not even Peter, who already gone through one round of betrayal of Jesus by his earlier denial, for which he clearly repented. Yet, again, at the foot of the cross, he was still very much the coward. Only a handful of weeping women (considered nobodies in traditional Jewish society) and one pathetic disciple, who at least had the guts to show up. The Devil, the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin and Pilate…they had a lot to celebrate that day. It was utter and total victory – their plan came to perfection. For a short while anyway.

3 days later, all that changed. And with Pentecost, the disciples of Jesus truly came into existence. God was ready to get His work done and kingdom-building could finally start in earnest. It took nothing less than the full power of the Holy Spirit to literally transform a bunch of inept, dispirited and broken cowards into the spiritual powerhouse that would rock the pagan world of the time and give birth to the true splendour, power and glory of the Christian God.

And yet, the foundation of the Catholic Church did not come easy. It literally took the blood and tears of the founding apostles and 300 years of courage, sacrifice and blood of martyrs to lay its foundations. The founding fathers of our faith paid a heavy price. Discipleship did not come cheap back then. It still does not come cheap today.

Amongst the apostles, Paul, above all others, best exemplified what true discipleship was all about. Paul was not only focused on his mission – he was practically fixated and totally single-minded. Pain, abuse, imprisonment, sleeplessness, starvation, slavery, floggings, whippings, stoning, cold, heat, fatigue, poverty, deprivation…the list goes on. All in a day’s work for him. Standard price of a ticket on the bus of true discipleship. And he was to pay that price over and over and over again. He had served the Lord faithfully with tears and trials. He had given testimony and witness to Jews and Gentiles. Paul showed that being a follower of Jesus involves both total commitment in trust to God and a re-ordering of one’s life in accordance with the Gospel. Despite the pleas of his followers not to go to Jerusalem as it meant signing his own death warrant, he described himself as being a “prisoner of the spirit” – the Spirit drove and compelled him forward. He knew what was waiting for him in Jerusalem. But it didn’t matter. The mission was the only thing that mattered. His life was not important to him. What was important was “that I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, namely, to bear witness to the gospel of God’s grace”.  As he tells the Philippians, compared to the sharing of the Gospel with others, life and death are secondary.

And although Paul was a great exemplar of such amazing discipleship, he was not unique. All the apostles, bar none, were on fire with the Holy Spirit. And the ancient world was set on fire by the spirit of Jesus Christ through these apostles. We owe our faith today to men such as these. And to countless others who paid dearly the price of true discipleship. Men and women who persevered in fidelity not just to God, but to the purpose and mission entrusted to them by Him. Men and women who understood that the price of discipleship did not come cheap but who were blessed to have discovered through divine revelation, that their God came with only one price tag – Priceless.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us. We fail to see the treasure we have in you and in the precious faith you have given us. We fail to recognize that the mission you entrust to us is for us alone to fulfill and that you are counting on us to do it. So often, we count the price of our discipleship to you and so often, our discipleship of you costs little. Our discipleship comes cheap. More often than not, it is practically worthless.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for the gift of the apostles who laid the foundations upon which our faith and our Church stands strong. Despite all the huge challenges it faces, we cling to the promise that it continues and will always continue to prevail. For it is a faith paid for dearly by the sacrifice of your most beloved Son and the priceless fidelity of your true disciples.

3 Jun, Monday – Faith sees the God who can handle the problem

3 Jun – Memorial for St. Charles Lwanga & companions, martyrs

One of 22 Ugandan martyrs, St. Charles Lwanga is the patron of youth and Catholic action in most of tropical Africa. He protected his fellow pages aged 13 to 30 from the homosexual demands of the Bagandan ruler, Mwanga, and encouraged and instructed them in the Catholic faith during their imprisonment for refusing the ruler’s demands.

For his own unwillingness to submit to the immoral acts and his efforts to safeguard the faith of his friends, Charles was burned to death at in 1886, by Mwanga’s order. When Pope Paul VI canonized these 22 martyrs in 1964, he referred to the Anglican pages martyred for the same reason.

http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/SaintOfDay/default.asp?id=1403

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Acts 19:1-8

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul made his way overland as far as Ephesus, where he found a number of disciples. When he asked, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ they answered, ‘No, we were never even told there was such a thing as a Holy Spirit.’ ‘Then how were you baptised?’ he asked. ‘With John’s baptism’ they replied. ‘John’s baptism’ said Paul ‘was a baptism of repentance; but he insisted that the people should believe in the one who was to come after him-in other words Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus, and the moment Paul had laid hands on them the Holy Spirit came down on them, and they began to speak with tongues and to prophesy. There were about twelve of these men.

He began by going to the synagogue, where he spoke out boldly and argued persuasively about the kingdom of God. He did this for three months.

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John 16:29-33

His disciples said to Jesus, ‘Now you are speaking plainly and not using metaphors! Now we see that you know everything, and do not have to wait for questions to be put into words; because of this we believe that you came from God.’ Jesus answered them:

‘Do you believe at last?
Listen; the time will come – in fact it has come already –
when you will be scattered,
each going his own way and leaving me alone.
And yet I am not alone,
because the Father is with me.
I have told you all this
so that you may find peace in me.
In the world you will have trouble,
but be brave: I have conquered the world.’
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But take courage, I have conquered the world 

An evangelical protestant pastor once shared in one of her videos on Youtube that as each new day dawns, she would always get all fired up and eager to face the day. She would look forward to doing great things for the Lord and for humanity that day — to bring many to the Lord and all other sorts of good works, and be a blessing to everyone. But her punchline was that the minute she actually stepped out of bed and her feet touched the floor, all her courage and enthusiasm went out the window as reality hit her in the face.

That story provided more just than just a smile to me – it was actually quite a sobering thought. It brought home to me how frightening this world we live in can be. I have to confess…it takes a lot for me to find strength and courage to go out into the world each day. I need a long period of prayer and receiving the Eucharist each morning in order to find strength to face the day. I am conscious, perhaps overly so, that we live in the ‘valley of tears’. That evil is ever present and ever dominant in the people and circumstances we meet each day. That we live in a very broken and wounded world where sin, injustice, indifference, selfishness, the pressure to perform, where the weight of duty and responsibility towards our loved ones and towards God, can make life frightening and burdensome. The weight of the cross can be crushingly heavy. And then there is also the weight of the guilt we carry. More often than not, I am a huge part of all that evil and sin and have myself caused the deepest hurts and wounds to my own loved ones and others around me.

Pardon me if all this sounds somewhat depressing and pessimistic. I am only too conscious how weak my faith really is. Indeed, there are days when we really don’t want to get out of bed and go ‘out there’. I have come to accept that evil, suffering and strife are real and a part of our daily reality. The Bible has reminded us often to expect this.

However, I have also come to accept that this does not in any way mean that God is subservient to this evil and that He is powerless in our lives. Indeed not. In fact, I prepare to do battle every day. Not to sound overly dramatic, but to me the need for ‘daily martyrdom’ is very real.  This means, each day, we learn to die to self and to lean on Jesus and His Blessed Mother to take us through each day ‘safely’. But as Christians, we confront each day with hope, surrender and trust. In Revelations, through our Resurrected Saviour, we are already guaranteed final victory. It reminds us what today’s reading has pointed out — that our God has already conquered not only death, but He has conquered this sinful world.

Christ’s conquest over this world means this:

  • That we learn to lean not on ourselves but on Him
  • That we do not let the spirit of this world oppress us into submission to fear, anger, lust, pride, selfishness, self-sufficiency, injustice and anything else that does not come from the Holy Spirit
  • That we allow the Holy Spirit to take lordship over our feelings and thoughts so that the devil cannot manipulate, deceive and frighten us but learn to trust God’s love and care for us and our loved ones by faith
  • Cling on to God, to faith, to our Blessed Mother and to the Catholic Church even if by your fingernails.

We need to learn, often painfully and very slowly, to shift our focus away from this world and all its problems, pressures and brokenness towards the one who has the power to handle all these things. To allow Christ’s victory over our lives is to say to the devil, “I don’t have the answers to all these problems, obstacles and discouragements you have placed in my path, but I do know the ONE who has all the answers. I am weak, sinful and unworthy but Jesus is almighty, sinless and worthy. And in Him, I too will conquer”.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father, help us. This earthly journey often takes us through a valley of tears. There are many big things looming out there that frighten and discourage us. The people around us are difficult, selfish, demanding, unforgiving. Every day is a battle to cling on. And many of us are bone weary. Help us Jesus. Help us, Mother Mary.

Thanksgiving: Father, help us always remember that you are God and we are mere creatures. Thank you for the gift of hope and for binding all the wounds that this sinful world has inflicted on us. For each day that you have led us through and kept us safe, you have done so out of the immensity of your love and care for us. Thank you for giving us your Son and Our Blessed Mother to show us the way to rise above this world and to conquer it.

2 June, Sunday – Will you be ready?

2 June 2019

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Acts 7:55-60

Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. ‘I can see heaven thrown open’ he said ‘and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ At this all the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they all rushed at him, sent him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man called Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and said aloud, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’; and with these words he fell asleep.

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Apocalypse 22:12-14,16-17,20

I, John, heard a voice speaking to me: ‘Very soon now, I shall be with you again, bringing the reward to be given to every man according to what he deserves. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Happy are those who will have washed their robes clean, so that they will have the right to feed on the tree of life and can come through the gates into the city.’

I, Jesus, have sent my angel to make these revelations to you for the sake of the churches. I am of David’s line, the root of David and the bright star of the morning.

The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ Let everyone who listens answer, ‘Come.’ Then let all who are thirsty come: all who want it may have the water of life, and have it free.

The one who guarantees these revelations repeats his promise: I shall indeed be with you soon. Amen; come, Lord Jesus.

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John 17:20-26

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:

‘Holy Father,
I pray not only for these,
but for those also
who through their words will believe in me.
May they all be one.
Father, may they be one in us,
as you are in me and I am in you,
so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.
I have given them the glory you gave to me,
that they may be one as we are one.
With me in them and you in me,
may they be so completely one
that the world will realise that it was you who sent me
and that I have loved them as much as you loved me.
Father, I want those you have given me
to be with me where I am,
so that they may always see the glory you have given me
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Father, Righteous One,
the world has not known you,
but I have known you,
and these have known that you have sent me.
I have made your name known to them
and will continue to make it known,
so that the love with which you loved me may be in them,
and so that I may be in them.’
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Behold, I am coming soon

At the Feast of the Ascension, when Jesus rose heavenward, the apostles were literally dumbfounded. If we take a moment to visualize the scene, it can be awe-inspiring and yet perhaps a little humorous when we see the reaction of the apostles. Their jaws must have literally dropped. To be fair, if it were me, I don’t think I would have fared differently. At that scene in Acts 1: 10-11 “… two men in white robes suddenly appeared asking the disciples,  “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

In the drama of the Ascension, we may inadvertently think that it’s all about Jesus returning to the Father and it may be easy to miss the more poignant, salvific event — that the Lord will one day return. It is the Second Coming of Christ that we need to be vigilant about. The Second Coming of Christ will signal the end times, the final judgement, the final battle between evil and good, death and resurrection. It will also be the time when the victory of Christ will be final and complete. There will be that historic end-time event or when Christ comes to us at the end of our own personal journey. Regardless when, whether it be to all of humanity or just to us at our own appointed end time, it will come.

The reaction of those around Stephen at his martyrdom also tells a lot about how unprepared many, if not most of us, would be when Christ comes again. How many of us would similarly ‘cover our ears’ when discipleship gets too demanding, or truth gets too inconvenient or God’s will gets in the way of our own?  Saul was present at the stoning of Stephen. It took an equally dramatic event for Saul’s own conversion to occur when on the road to Damascus. That conversion was also part of the salvific plan of God for Paul, who then went on to become one of the, if not, the greatest instrument of evangelization by which God calls His people to know Him, to love Him and to be ready for the day of reckoning when we will all, bar none, come face to face with Him.

Are we ready now? If not, will we be ready? If not, when will we want to be ready? Will we be able to respond as the Psalmist did to Christ when he said, “Yes, I am coming soon”. Can we too say, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus. I am ready!”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us. Keep us focused on what is truly important – your will that we all become One as you are one with the Father. How often we fail to know the truth of our oneness with God for we are often lost in the midst of our divisions, our sin and indifference to the eternal truth that we are your children created by You, to be one with you.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for never giving up on us. For you hold on to your oneness with us despite our failure to hold on to our oneness with you. Prepare us for when your Son returns and help us to be ready to say, Come Lord Jesus, we are ready. We are one.

13 April, Saturday – All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing

13 April 2019

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Ezekiel 37:21-28 

The Lord says this: ‘I am going to take the sons of Israel from the nations where they have gone. I shall gather them together from everywhere and bring them home to their own soil. I shall make them into one nation in my own land and on the mountains of Israel, and one king is to be king of them all; they will no longer form two nations, nor be two separate kingdoms. They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and their filthy practices and all their sins. I shall rescue them from all the betrayals they have been guilty of; I shall cleanse them; they shall be my people and I will be their God. My servant David will reign over them, one shepherd for all; they will follow my observances, respect my laws and practise them. They will live in the land that I gave my servant Jacob, the land in which your ancestors lived. They will live in it, they, their children, their children’s children, for ever. David my servant is to be their prince for ever. I shall make a covenant of peace with them, an eternal covenant with them. I shall resettle them and increase them; I shall settle my sanctuary among them for ever. I shall make my home above them; I will be their God, they shall be my people. And the nations will learn that I am the Lord, the sanctifier of Israel, when my sanctuary is with them for ever.’

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John 11:45-56

Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what Jesus did believed in him, but some of them went to tell the Pharisees what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and Pharisees called a meeting. ‘Here is this man working all these signs’ they said ‘and what action are we taking? If we let him go on in this way everybody will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy the Holy Place and our nation.’ One of them, Caiaphas, the high priest that year, said, ‘You do not seem to have grasped the situation at all; you fail to see that it is better for one man to die for the people, than for the whole nation to be destroyed.’ He did not speak in his own person, it was as high priest that he made this prophecy that Jesus was to die for the nation – and not for the nation only, but to gather together in unity the scattered children of God. From that day they were determined to kill him. So Jesus no longer went about openly among the Jews, but left the district for a town called Ephraim, in the country bordering on the desert, and stayed there with his disciples.

The Jewish Passover drew near, and many of the country people who had gone up to Jerusalem to purify themselves looked out for Jesus, saying to one another as they stood about in the Temple, ‘What do you think? Will he come to the festival or not?’

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What action are we taking?

There was an interesting story related by Scott Hahn at one of his talks, which I caught on youtube. It tells of how when at the Pearly Gates, Scott managed to get into heaven. However, a friend of his from high school, let’s call him John, did not. At the Pearly Gates, when St Peter showed John the path to the other door, John desperately pleaded for mercy, kicking and ranting. John caught sight of Scott at the other door and asked him how come he got into heaven. Scott replied because he had come to know and to love Jesus who redeemed and saved him. John then asked Scott why he did not tell him about this Jesus all these years that they had been friends. Scott’s reply was, “Well, I did not think it would have been ecumenically and politically correct, I did not want to impose myself on you, I felt I should mind my own business and you did not seem very open to it and I did not want to jeopardize our friendship or make you feel awkward.” And as the gates to the underworld slowly closed on John, he screamed out his last desperate curses at Scott, “Damn you Scott, damn you … you could at least have tried!”.

There is a saying — “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing” — a phrase which may be familiar to some of you. I especially find this quote very provoking yet very empowering. Many of us may have experienced the frustrations of encountering apathetic individuals who, when faced with situations where affirmative action was needed, simply chose to look away, turn a blind eye, shrug a shoulder. Perhaps some of these situations may be familiar to us …

…a ‘friend’ whom we have not seen for some time, suddenly connects and seeks financial help in order to provide for his critically ill child and we do all we can to pretend we never knew him;

…when we spot a beggar from a distance and we change the route we walk to avoid him;

…when the frequent company of buddies over a few pints makes for more exciting and extended evenings, knowing a spouse or elderly parent or a child sits alone and lonely at home, hoping for your return to talk to and spend time with them;

…when self-righteousness and arrogance come before desperate calls for help from the Church for parishioners to step forward to help in the many areas which sorely lacked laborers in His vineyard;

…when this world’s pleasures come before silent adoration before Almighty God;

… when we refuse to forgive a spouse, a friend, a child when we are hurt by them and continue to treat them coldly and harshly in retribution, often leaving behind scars that would never heal.

Let us reflect on how easy and insidious our own journey towards self-deception, self-righteousness and self-indulgence is. Selfishness, pride and apathy are the roots of the sins of omission that strangle our Christian virtue but the ones that they choke are often those around us whom we failed to love, to help and to serve. These situations are indeed very familiar to me. I think you know why.

Let me end by drawing on another story which brings us to the gates of hell. The parable of ‘The Rich Man and Lazarus’ in Luke 16:19-27 is a poignant reminder. Whilst the rich man was too busy maxing out on the indulgences of life, he was totally blind and indifferent to Lazarus who was at his gates, starving and with dogs licking his open sores. But Lazarus’ plight was not blind to God. God was the silent witness to all that was happening (and not happening). Precious in the eyes of God was the suffering of Lazarus. So much so that when Lazarus died, God sent angels to carry him tenderly into the bosom of Abraham. In life, Lazarus was a ‘nobody’, but he mattered to God. When the rich man died, he was just buried. No angels came for him. It would seem that the many sins of omission committed by the rich man against Lazarus made him the real nobody in the eyes of God. He remained a nameless, rich man who lived only for himself, died, was buried and was sent to Hell. God, it seemed, had long since turned his gaze away from him and focused his eyes on Lazarus instead, with a heart overflowing with mercy, compassion and love for him.

Unrepentance for grievous sins we commit will send us to hell one day; but so too will sins of not doing good when we could have and should have. Just ask the rich man, if you are ever unfortunate enough to go to the same place he ended up in.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us. We have sinned for all the chances we have missed, for all the graces we resist, for all the evil we have done and for all the good we have failed to do.

Thanksgiving: Father, for all the chances we have missed, for all the graces we resist, for all the evil we have done and for all the good we have failed to do, thank you for the mercy you give us through the Eucharist of your Son and through the sanctifying merits and graces of our Blessed Mother. For by these, you have redeemed us.

12 April, Friday – Praying through Pixels

12 April 2019

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Jeremiah 20:10-13

Jeremiah said:

I hear so many disparaging me,
‘“Terror from every side!”
Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’
All those who used to be my friends
watched for my downfall,
‘Perhaps he will be seduced into error.
Then we will master him
and take our revenge!’
But the Lord is at my side, a mighty hero;
my opponents will stumble, mastered,
confounded by their failure;
everlasting, unforgettable disgrace will be theirs.
But you, O Lord of Hosts, you who probe with justice,
who scrutinise the loins and heart,
let me see the vengeance you will take on them,
for I have committed my cause to you.
Sing to the Lord,
praise the Lord,
for he has delivered the soul of the needy
from the hands of evil men.

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John 10:31-42

The Jews fetched stones to stone him, so Jesus said to them, ‘I have done many good works for you to see, works from my Father; for which of these are you stoning me?’ The Jews answered him, ‘We are not stoning you for doing a good work but for blasphemy: you are only a man and you claim to be God.’ Jesus answered:

‘Is it not written in your Law:
I said, you are gods?
So the Law uses the word gods
of those to whom the word of God was addressed,
and scripture cannot be rejected.
Yet you say to someone the Father has consecrated and sent into the world,
“You are blaspheming,”
because he says, “I am the son of God.”
If I am not doing my Father’s work,
there is no need to believe me;
but if I am doing it,
then even if you refuse to believe in me,
at least believe in the work I do;
then you will know for sure
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’

They wanted to arrest him then, but he eluded them.

He went back again to the far side of the Jordan to stay in the district where John had once been baptising. Many people who came to him there said, ‘John gave no signs, but all he said about this man was true’; and many of them believed in him.

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Even if you refuse to believe in me, at least believe in the work I do

One trait which cuts across consistently throughout the public ministry of Jesus was the way in which those around him often were not able to see the truth of who He was. They were focused more on the superficial actions of what Jesus did and what he said. The Jewish people and their leaders could only interpret the actions and words of Jesus through the lens of Judaism – and from this lens, they were not able to accept the many revelations of God through Jesus sent to be the Messiah. It is through this lens that they could only see the miracles, especially those of healing and casting out of devils. They were also not able to accept the revelations of Jesus as the Son of God (which became only blasphemy), the Messiah sent to redeem the world (reducing him to just another prophet or the reincarnations of Moses or Elijah) or that their focus was on how Jesus desecrated the Sabbath rather than the revelation that mercy is what God’s love is all about, not rituals. Because they were unable to cast off the lens of Judaism, many of them were unable to let the light of truth penetrate and they remained in darkness, to be forever lost.

Many remain lost in that darkness through modern day lenses — materialism, humanism, or even through the viewpoint of Americanism which defines a great part of the evangelical Christian sects, so dominant in America, which are so vocal in the condemnation of God’s revelations through the Catholic faith. All of which does not allow the light of God’s revelations to shine through.

In the gospel, Jesus therefore makes a simple but succinct point. That if we cannot believe his words, then let his actions bring forth the revelations and lead us to the light.

We too often lose sight of the truth of God’s presence and intimacy in our lives — of His sovereignty, His power, His mercy, His blessing, His graces. When the storms of our lives blow hard and furious, when the desert of our lives make our faith dry and parched, when we are too busy being strangled in the thorn-bushes of worry and responsibilities of this world, we question God’s promises, His Will and His word. These too become our own lenses and they too are just as powerful in preventing God’s light and truth from penetrating into the reality of our lives.

In such times, let me suggest you do this – close your bible, keep your prayer cards, store away your spiritual readings. Then take out your phone and open up the gallery where you store all the photos contained therein. As you go through them, you will probably have captured photos from a myriad of events that have happened to you — celebrations marking family milestones, the birth of your child, a birthday, a wedding anniversary, your child’s first step or perhaps the wedding of one of your children, an unforgettable outing with your best pals, various events at church, a reunion with a special someone in your life, graduation of your child, perhaps your kid did great in school and got an award, a statue of your favorite saint you chanced upon, a promotion celebration for you in your office, an amazing sunset — and of course, all those wonderful memories of the family holidays you may have had.

Your memories tug at your heart and perhaps, you can reflect and come to realize just who made all those great memories and events in your life possible in the first place. God not only blessed you abundantly, He was also present with you at those great moments of your life. More importantly, you begin to see that indeed, God acted in your life. He worked in your life to bring you providence, achievement, joy, fulfillment, growth, peace, hope.

Sometimes, he even made miracles happen just for you.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us. We forget easily. We doubt all the time. When your will differs from ours, when we feel the weight of the cross, when the bright lights and glitz of this world beckon, we doubt. We forget who you are — Almighty God, faithful friend and brother. Instead, we see you as weak, indifferent, distant, unattainable, often, we don’t see you at all. Help us to break through the lens of our preconceived notions, of our stubborn habits, of our unbending minds and wills.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for showing us once again, who you really are and where you have always been. Thank you for bringing the light of your truth to pierce through the deepest darkness of our hearts and helping us shatter the lenses that keep us in bondage to our sins, our doubts and which stops us from reaching you. Our Almighty God, our friend and brother who never left our side. Not for even one second.

11 April, Thursday – I AM

11 April 2019

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Genesis 17:3-9

Abram bowed to the ground and God said this to him, ‘Here now is my covenant with you: you shall become the father of a multitude of nations. You shall no longer be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I make you father of a multitude of nations. I will make you most fruitful. I will make you into nations, and your issue shall be kings. I will establish my Covenant between myself and you, and your descendants after you, generation after generation, a Covenant in perpetuity, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land you are living in, the whole land of Canaan, to own in perpetuity, and I will be your God.’

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John 8:51-59

Jesus said to the Jews:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
whoever keeps my word
will never see death.’
The Jews said, ‘Now we know for certain that you are possessed. Abraham is dead, and the prophets are dead, and yet you say, “Whoever keeps my word will never know the taste of death.” Are you greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? The prophets are dead too. Who are you claiming to be?’ Jesus answered:
‘If I were to seek my own glory
that would be no glory at all;
my glory is conferred by the Father,
by the one of whom you say, “He is our God”
although you do not know him.
But I know him,
and if I were to say: I do not know him,
I should be a liar, as you are liars yourselves.
But I do know him, and I faithfully keep his word.
Your father Abraham rejoiced
to think that he would see my Day;
he saw it and was glad.’
The Jews then said, ‘You are not fifty yet, and you have seen Abraham!’ Jesus replied:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
before Abraham ever was,
I Am.’
At this they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself and left the Temple.

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Before Abraham ever was, I Am

Two little words. Beyond understanding, beyond explanation, beyond comprehension. The only two words given by God himself, that could ever be used to completely encapsulate God Almighty. That can contain the essence of the eternal Godhead. No other words could suffice, just two little words — I AM.

I AM…Your Almighty Creator

I AM…one with the Father and the Spirit

I AM…Spirit that moved upon the earth before the beginning of time

I AM…Son of God and son of Mary

I AM…the one the Holy Prophets proclaimed through every age

I AM…strength and courage of the holy martyrs as they spilled their blood for love of me

I AM…human weakness, broken, despised and hung upon the Cross

I AM…beyond pain, beyond suffering, beyond sin

I AM…the Resurrection…beyond death

I AM…King of Kings before whom all other kings fall prostrate

I AM…your Redeemer, Your Healer, Your Savior

I AM…beyond your ability to contain in the limits of your human nothingness

I AM…in the wounded, the broken, the forsaken, the hopeless, the despairing

I AM…the glory and splendor of the holy Saints

I AM…the foundation of the Holy Catholic Church which no power on earth and in hell can overcome

I AM…the source and summit of mercy, present in word, in flesh and in blood in the Holy Eucharist

I AM…with you, in your darkest moments and in your greatest joys

I AM…your Shepherd, your friend, your brother.

I AM…your Almighty God and you are my people

I AM…yesterday, today and for all eternity, always thinking about you and loving you, my precious child.

 

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us. Forgive our folly for all the times we have made you so small, so helpless, so weak and unable. Forgive us for all the times, we think too large of you, that you are too far away to be able and willing to be with us, to know our pain and to love us despite our imperfections.

Help us to see, by the light of your grace, all that you have always been, that you are and that you will always be Our father who loves us, your children…the great I AM.

Thanksgiving: Father, illuminate our hearts and minds to know that your love and care for us is infinite and incomprehensible. And in that, thank you for letting us come to realize why we can never be able to contain you in the limits of our human understanding.  Help us instead to simply be limitless in our gratitude to all that you are and have been for us.

25 December, Midnight Mass – Born to bringing us back to our Father’s love

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

The name “Christmas” was derived from Old English: “Cristes Maesse”, Christ’s Mass. It is a celebration of the anniversary of the birth of our Lord. In the earliest days of the Church there was no such feast; the Saviour’s birth was commemorated with the Epiphany by the Greek and other Eastern Churches.

The first mention of the feast, then kept on May 20, was made by Clement of Alexandria in the year 200. The Latin Church began in the year 300 to observe it on Dec 25, though there is no certainty that our Lord was born on that day.

Priests have, on this day, the privilege of saying three Masses, at midnight; daybreak, and morning. This was originally reserved for the pope alone; beginning about the fourth century, he celebrated a midnight Mass in the Lateran Basilica (in which according to tradition, the manger of Bethlehem is preserved), a second in the church of St. Anastasia, whose feast comes on Dec 25, and a third at the Vatican Basilica.

Many peculiar customs of the day are the outcome of the pagan celebrations of the January calends. The Christmas tree, of which the first known mention was made in 1605 at Strasbourg, was introduced into France and England in 1840. The feast is a holy day of obligation, preceded by the preparatory season of Advent and by a special vigil; should it fall on a Friday it abrogates the law of abstinence.

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Isaiah 9:1-7

The people that walked in darkness
has seen a great light;
on those who live in a land of deep shadow
a light has shone.
You have made their gladness greater,
you have made their joy increase;
they rejoice in your presence
as men rejoice at harvest time,
as men are happy when they are dividing the spoils.

For the yoke that was weighing on him,
the barb across his shoulders,
the rod of his oppressor,
these you break as on the day of Midian.

For all the footgear of battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
is burnt,
and consumed by fire.

For there is a child born for us,
a son given to us
and dominion is laid on his shoulders;
and this is the name they give him:
Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God,
Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace.
Wide is his dominion
in a peace that has no end,
for the throne of David
and for his royal power,
which he establishes and makes secure
in justice and integrity.
From this time onwards and for ever,
the jealous love of the Lord of Hosts will do this.

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Titus 2:11-14

God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race and taught us that what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions; we must be self-restrained and live good and religious lives here in this present world, while we are waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the Appearing of the glory of our great God and saviour Christ Jesus. He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good.

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Luke 2:1-14

Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a census of the whole world to be taken. This census – the first – took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and everyone went to his own town to be registered. So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee and travelled up to Judaea, to the town of David called Bethlehem, since he was of David’s House and line, in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn.

In the countryside close by there were shepherds who lived in the fields and took it in turns to watch their flocks during the night. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly with the angel there was a great throng of the heavenly host, praising God and singing:

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace to men who enjoy his favour.’

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“…and dwelt amongst us…”

To say that the Christmas story is so well known is probably an understatement. It is probably safe to say that the greater part of humanity, Christian and otherwise, knows when Jesus was born. And yes, to them, it is probably just one big party. For Christians, the birthday of Jesus whilst also an occasion for celebration and gathering with loved ones, also centers on that momentous event in salvation history, when God became man in the form of the infant Jesus – in Emmanuel, God comes to be with us.

Some years back, it came to me that the birth of Jesus, besides being the incarnation of God as man, also encapsulates a number of other hugely significant revelations of faith that are so poignant and central to our Christian faith. In this sharing, I would like to share my reflection of two of these ‘revelations’.

The first centers on the theme of family – and this ties in to my reflection yesterday on the genealogy of Jesus.

On the night when Jesus was born, Mary also became a mother. And so too, Joseph became a father. And the three of them formed a brand new family. On the night when Jesus was born, God’s family on earth came to be. Just as the birth of baby Jesus created and completed the Holy Family, it created and completes all of us as part of God’s family — sons and daughters of the Father, sisters and brothers of the Son, united and held together by the bond of love which is the Spirit.

At the heart of this is the revelation that God our Father’s greatest desire and most urgent reminder to all of humanity, precisely through the human but holy family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus, is simply but poignantly, that, we are family. We are His family. His children. He is our Father and he has nothing but overwhelming love for us as our father. And this is at the very heart of our faith. This is what it is all about – He is our Father, we are His children. He loves us. He wants us to be with him one day in eternal and blissful communion. And he sent His Son to redeem us and to show us the way back to the Father’s love for all his children.

The second theme I would like to reflect on is that of mission. Christ was born for one reason and one reason alone … to die. A little morbid to talk about dying on such a beautiful feast? Not if you understand that for Jesus, it is to die that we might be saved. No birth, no death on the cross, no salvation for all of us. Christmas was a necessary pre-condition in the eternal plan of the Father, in order that there would be an eventual Easter. A birth so serene and humble would be the pre-cursor of a Resurrection so glorious. The birth of Jesus was the second step of the salvation mission set out by the Father (the first step was Mary’s “yes” to Angel Gabriel).

And so, each and every one of us has also been given a mission by the Father, which is intended for us and us alone. This mission we have been given, which was already in the plan of the Father since before the beginning of time, is to be fulfilled only by us or otherwise remain uncompleted. Whether you are a religious, or as parents, tasked to give life to our spouses and children, or even in the ministries we do in church, as parents to give life and to be leaders of our families and in whatever work we feel called to in building the kingdom of God.

Indeed, Christmas is a celebration but far, far beyond the superficiality of merely party, family, food and friends. Instead, Christmas is one big momentous celebration of our Christian calling and vocation, purpose and mission. It was the day Christ was born into this world in answer to His calling by the Father, and to show us that all of us are also called to know the Father, to love the Father and to serve the Father. Perhaps this Christmas, in the silence and simplicity of Christmas at the manger, you begin to discover how you too can begin to truly live up to this mission and calling? How will You come to know, to love and to serve our Father?

Be silent this Christmas…perhaps you might hear the echo as Jesus affirms to us…“Yes .. I was born for this, I came into the world for this ” (John 18:37)

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: We adore you Lord Jesus, born to us that we may one day be saved. We adore you Lord Jesus, born to us in simplicity, peace and humility that we may find our way to you through simplicity, peace and humility. Help us to know what it fully means always, to walk in the fullness of being your child.

Thanksgiving: Father, we thank you for calling us into your family. Help us never forget how great a gift and privilege it is to call you Father and to know of your love for us.

24 December (Monday), Vigil Mass – Jesus — Truly God, Truly Man

24 December – Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord (Vigil Mass)

Dear Readers!

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Today, we welcome Justus Teo and Stephanie Seet, two new contributors to our OXYGEN team. We are really happy to have Justus and Stephanie on board and hope they grow in this journey of writing reflections and sharing the glory of our Lord with all of our readers.

Here is a little about them:

Justus:

Justus is a cradle Catholic, having come from several generations of Catholic lineage. His grandmother’s deep devotion to our Lady and his dad’s fidelity to the Church when they were both still alive, left deep impressions of faith and planted the roots of faith within him. Today, he professes that he is fiercely proud to be Catholic.

His journey has been a gradual unfolding of the heart of Christ and encounter of Him from the head towards the heart. In the last few years, the call to service has also grown slowly but surely and has is now a compelling cry to love Christ and His Mother, by serving the church and those they have chosen to entrust to him in my daily encounters.

Mother Mary has been unfailing in leading him to Christ, through her own fidelity to her Son. And the one event that has influenced a personal conversion was his consecration to Mary. And this call to serve with Oxygen is a strange one for someone who does not pay as much attention to encounter with God through His Word. But he sees this as one more step taken in trust and faith that this is the step Jesus has asked him to take, through his mother, to help him come to truly know Him, for love of God and others and from God’s love for others and himself. The spiritual journey can be so surprising and yet so wonderful and so amazing.

Stephanie:

Stephanie was born and raised a Catholic in the Serangoon district of Singapore. She spent many years adrift after Confirmation, pursuing higher education abroad in UK and US, and subsequently, her career. After attaining a significant career milestone which she spent years working towards, she soon realised that joy lies neither in achievement nor in possession. She embarked on a sabbatical, lacing up her hiking boots and travelling the world in search of a higher calling.

She really need not have left her shores. Stephanie re-encountered God at the Catholic Spirituality Centre during the Conversion Experience Retreat (CER) in August 2016. This prompted her career switch into social services, with a charity serving the physically challenged. The tenacity of her clients inspires her to see the best in people and recognise the untapped potential in each individual.

Stephanie credits her friend, Shaun, for nudging her towards CER and introducing her to Oxygen. As a fledging contributor, she hopes that these baby steps will help her stay close to God and cultivate a greater discipline in reading and meditating on His Word.

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Isaiah 62:1-5

About Zion I will not be silent,
about Jerusalem I will not grow weary,
until her integrity shines out like the dawn
and her salvation flames like a torch.

The nations then will see your integrity,
all the kings your glory,
and you will be called by a new name,
one which the mouth of the Lord will confer.
You are to be a crown of splendour in the hand of the Lord,
a princely diadem in the hand of your God;

no longer are you to be named ‘Forsaken’,
nor your land ‘Abandoned’,
but you shall be called ‘My Delight’
and your land ‘The Wedded’;
for the Lord takes delight in you
and your land will have its wedding.

Like a young man marrying a virgin,
so will the one who built you wed you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride,
so will your God rejoice in you.

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Acts 13:16-17,22-25

When Paul reached Antioch in Pisidia, he stood up in the synagogue, held up a hand for silence and began to speak:

‘Men of Israel, and fearers of God, listen! The God of our nation Israel chose our ancestors, and made our people great when they were living as foreigners in Egypt; then by divine power he led them out.

‘Then he made David their king, of whom he approved in these words, “I have selected David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will carry out my whole purpose.” To keep his promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour, whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel. Before John ended his career he said, “I am not the one you imagine me to be; that one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo his sandal.”’

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Matthew 1:1-25

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.

The sum of generations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to 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.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home and, though he had not had intercourse with her, she gave birth to a son; and he named him Jesus.

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“… and the Word was made flesh …”

In the lead up to Christmas, Matthew’s Gospel details the long genealogy of Jesus to us. Fascinating though it may be, is this merely a record of the ancestry of Jesus? Perhaps not quite. It showed that the bloodline of Jesus went way back in time – not just physical time, but through the ages and through the history of the people of Israel itself. From Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to David, to Ahaz and eventually that of Jacob and Joseph, the genealogy seems to be pointing out that Jesus has always been the “Emmanuel” – it has been the eternal plan of the Father, from the beginning of time, that Emmanuel was to be and that he has always journeyed with Israel, His people, throughout the ages. Emmanuel has always journeyed with us in our own personal history with him. It was not a last-minute after-thought to salvage a people that seemed incorrigible.

The genealogy of Jesus drummed home the point of the true incarnation of the Son of God as man. That he is both divine AND human. That he was part of an earthly bloodline but yet no less in divinity as Son of God in the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary through the Holy Spirit.

And this has greatly shaped my own spiritual life and journey for Jesus has been to me, both God and brother. For the times I have knelt in awe at my God and Savior who has created the universe and yet loved me, who, in the entirety of everything, is not even a speck. But whom He has called His own and for whom He found worthy to hang on a cross for. Only God can do that. Only my God can do that for me.

And for the times, when I turn to my brother, the human Jesus, who like me, has felt the weight of this earthly human life of strife and struggle, pain and evil. For Jesus too, experienced the whole spectrum of the human condition – joy and friendship; pain and betrayal.

Only in the Catholic-Christian faith, do we find a God who is both divine and human. A God who is able and willing to save His people, and a God who knew exactly what his people needed to be saved from. The human Jesus knows exactly how tough human existence in this “vale of tears” can sometimes be. Only my human brother Jesus can truly relate to that. Only a human Jesus could know how much we needed God to save us. Where God and Man become as one – there is the abundance of life and of love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Loving Father, gentle Brother, help us never forget your unfailing love for us and that you are fully able to be with us in the midst of the joys and pain of our lives. Lift us by your Spirit that we can encounter the saving presence of you as our Almighty God. And come to us for the times when we are bound to earth’s darkness, as our brother who feels our pains and fears. Help us to persevere through your grace as our God and your friendship as our brother.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for calling us into your family as your sons and daughters and for the lavish love you have showered upon us as our Father.