Tag Archives: mercy

21 July, Friday – Going Beyond the Superficial

Jul 21 – Memorial for St. Lawrence of Brindisi, priest, religious, doctor

St. Lawrence (1559-1619) joined the Capuchin Friars in 1575. He studied theology, the Bible, French, German, Greek, Spanish, Syriac, and Hebrew. He was an effective and forceful preacher in any of his several languages, founded convents and wrote catechisms.

As the chaplain of the army of the Holy Roman Empire in 1601, he led the army into battle against the Turks carrying only a crucifix and defeated them. Later, he carried out important and successful diplomatic peace missions. He was the spiritual director of the Bavarian army. St Lawrence was proclaimed Apostolic Doctor of the Church by Pope John XXIII in 1959.

– Patron Saint Index

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Exodus 11:10-12:14

Moses and Aaron worked many wonders in the presence of Pharaoh. But the Lord made Pharaoh’s heart stubborn, and he did not let the sons of Israel leave his country.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:

‘This month is to be the first of all the others for you, the first month of your year. Speak to the whole community of Israel and say, “On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock, one for each family: one animal for each household. If the household is too small to eat the animal, a man must join with his neighbour, the nearest to his house, as the number of persons requires. You must take into account what each can eat in deciding the number for the animal. It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may take it from either sheep or goats. You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel shall slaughter it between the two evenings. Some of the blood must then be taken and put on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where it is eaten. That night, the flesh is to be eaten, roasted over the fire; it must be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled, but roasted over the fire, head, feet and entrails. You must not leave any over till the morning: whatever is left till morning you are to burn. You shall eat it like this: with a girdle round your waist, sandals on your feet, a staff in your hand. You shall eat it hastily: it is a passover in honour of the Lord. That night, I will go through the land of Egypt and strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, man and beast alike, and I shall deal out punishment to all the gods of Egypt, I am the Lord! The blood shall serve to mark the houses that you live in. When I see the blood I will pass over you and you shall escape the destroying plague when I strike the land of Egypt. This day is to be a day of remembrance for you, and you must celebrate it as a feast in the Lord’s honour. For all generations you are to declare it a day of festival, for ever.”

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Matthew 12:1-8

Jesus took a walk one sabbath day through the cornfields. His disciples were hungry and began to pick ears of corn and eat them. The Pharisees noticed it and said to him, ‘Look, your disciples are doing something that is forbidden on the sabbath.’ But he said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he and his followers were hungry – how he went into the house of God and how they ate the loaves of offering which neither he nor his followers were allowed to eat, but which were for the priests alone? Or again, have you not read in the Law that on the sabbath day the Temple priests break the sabbath without being blamed for it? Now here, I tell you, is something greater than the Temple. And if you had understood the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless. For the Son of Man is master of the sabbath.’

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“What I want is mercy, not sacrifice.”

‘Substance over form’ was a mantra I first learned about in my basic law course in the polytechnic. Interestingly, this saying came up repeatedly over the 30 odd years of my working life, beginning in audit, investment research and finally, in banking.

In my first job as an auditor, I focused on both financial and internal audits. Many times, I would find transactions in companies structured one way or another to meet the requirements of some law or to avoid some legal constraints. In essence, however, these transactions still achieved the same goals although appearing to be different on the surface.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus said: “What I want is mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless.” Too often we look at following the ‘rules’, without thinking about the implications or equity if we were to follow this rules.

As Christians, we must always prioritise people above the rules; to be merciful as asked by our Lord. Rather than purely administering the regulations, we need to look at the issues through lenses of love.

I recently read about how a retail store worker in the United States was fired because he had worked with the police to prevent a kidnapping. The reason? All because in doing so, he had gone against company policy. It may sound incredible, but true!

We need to always look at people and situations through lenses of love and mercy, for it is only through this that we can be true Christians and followers of God’s Word.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father, thank You for showing us what it means to be a true Christian. Help us to go beyond what is on the surface and go into the ‘substance’ and give us the courage to do so.

Thanksgiving Lord Jesus, thank You for giving us a compass in our lives. We thank You also for providing a faith community to support us to do so.

14 November, Monday – Light from Light

14 November

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Apocalypse 1:1-4,2:1-5

This is the revelation given by God to Jesus Christ so that he could tell his servants about the things which are now to take place very soon; he sent his angel to make it known to his servant John, and John has written down everything he saw and swears it is the word of God guaranteed by Jesus Christ. Happy the man who reads this prophecy, and happy those who listen to him, if they treasure all that it says, because the Time is close.

From John, to the seven churches of Asia: grace and peace to you from him who is, who was, and who is to come, from the seven spirits in his presence before his throne.

I heard the Lord saying to me: ‘Write to the angel of the church in Ephesus and say, “Here is the message of the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and who lives surrounded by the seven golden lamp-stands: I know all about you: how hard you work and how much you put up with. I know you cannot stand wicked men, and how you tested the impostors who called themselves apostles and proved they were liars. Know, too, that you have patience, and have suffered for my name without growing tired. Nevertheless, I have this complaint to make; you have less love now than you used to. Think where you were before you fell; repent, and do as you used to at first.”’

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Luke 18:35-43

As Jesus drew near to Jericho there was a blind man sitting at the side of the road begging. When he heard the crowd going past he asked what it was all about, and they told him that Jesus the Nazarene was passing by. So he called out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.’ The people in front scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he shouted all the louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ Jesus stopped and ordered them to bring the man to him, and when he came up, asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Sir,’ he replied ‘let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight. Your faith has saved you.’ And instantly his sight returned and he followed him praising God, and all the people who saw it gave praise to God for what had happened.

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Receive your sight. Your faith has saved you.

Having grown up and lived in a bustling city almost all my life, and having recently relocated to another major city, I often find myself immersed in the sights and sounds that surround me. It is not a bad thing, especially when you are living alone in a strange new city, to have the company of people around all the time, music streaming out of shops and cafes, and the bright lights of a city alive with all sorts of interactions and possibilities.

Yet, I’ve found that it is also easy to lose yourself in the city, to become distracted by all the activities and communities that present themselves to you. Indeed, as I look out of my apartment window onto the streets below, I see people hustling to the nearby bar or cafe for another night out with friends. Ironically, it is silence that is so hard to find in the city. But it is also in silence that God speaks loudest to us.

Perhaps we are like the blind man in Jericho: we have lost our sight amid the sights and sounds of our lives; we perceive but we do not see. And no matter how much entertainment we are able to absorb, how often have you felt a tugging in the depths of your heart — that there must be more to life than this? How often do we binge on Netflix because having watched one episode of our favourite TV show, we feel dissatisfied and thus have to watch another episode to fill the emptiness? And after that, yet another episode. And it goes on.

And being distracted by the playground of the city, and not forgetting our ‘hard work and perseverance’, we also find  that we have “less love now than formerly”. In my favourite cafe by Harvard Square, I often look out of the windows and see two sets of people. First, there are the students rushing to get to class, or just ambling along answering emails or text messages on their smartphones. But no more than 3 feet from these students, who are all absorbed in their glowing screens, sit the homeless.

Truly, we are often too captivated by the man-made lights of our cities and smartphones to stop and look around us. If we do, we will see a world filled with both desolation and hope. Desolation from the people who are suffering, often right next to us. But hope too, for the Light of Christ is there for us, given freely and given with much love. We must refocus our sight on this Light. We must continue to cling to the Lord, and to see Him in those in need.

When we do that, we can be sure that Jesus is saying to each of us: “Receive your sight. Your faith has saved you”. For He has always been ready to give us His light, a light that makes all the lights of the city pale in comparison, ‘light from Light’. The question is: are we ready to receive our sight from Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)

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Prayer: Lord, we pray for the poor, the vulnerable and the sick. May they, in their physical desolation, find spiritual consolation in Your light. May we also find the wisdom to see You in those around us.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for His continued guidance, for being the good shepherd that He is to us.  

22 October, Saturday – Repent in order to know Him

22 October – Memorial for St. John Paul II

Karol Józef Wojty?a was born in 1920 in Wadowice, Poland. After his ordination to the priesthood and theological studies in Rome, he returned to his homeland and resumed various pastoral and academic tasks. He became first auxiliary bishop and, in 1964, Archbishop of Kraków and took part in the Second Vatican Council. On 16 October 1978 he was elected pope and took the name John Paul II. His exceptional apostolic zeal, particularly for families, young people and the sick, led him to numerous pastoral visits throughout the world. Among the many fruits which he has left as a heritage to the Church are above all his rich Magisterium and the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church and for the Eastern Churches. In Rome on 2 April 2005, the eve of the Second Sunday of Easter (or of Divine Mercy), he departed peacefully in the Lord. He was canonized by Pope Francis on 27 April, the Second Sunday of Easter 2014.

– Universalis

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Ephesians 4:7-16

Each one of us has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it. It was said that he would:

When he ascended to the height, he captured prisoners,
he gave gifts to men.

When it says, ‘he ascended’, what can it mean if not that he descended right down to the lower regions of the earth? The one who rose higher than all the heavens to fill all things is none other than the one who descended. And 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.

Then we shall not be children any longer, or tossed one way and another and carried along by every wind of doctrine, at the mercy of all the tricks men play and their cleverness in practising deceit. If we live by the truth and in love, we shall grow in all ways into Christ, who is the head by whom the whole body is fitted and joined together, every joint adding its own strength, for each separate part to work according to its function. So the body grows until it has built itself up, in love.

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Luke 13:1-9

Some people arrived and told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices. At this he said to them, ‘Do you suppose these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell and killed them? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’

He told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to the man who looked after the vineyard, “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?” “Sir,” the man replied “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.”’

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‘…but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’

It seems to me as though today’s first reading is a combination of the readings from the previous few days. Knowing God, growing in faith, and becoming the image and likeness of God. Indeed, when we have fulfilled the above and grow to become the Perfect Man, who is Jesus, then surely we can be gifted to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.

But it is never that easy. Sin continues to knock at our door and causes us to fall often.

Fortunately for us, Jesus tells us today in the gospel, that unless we repent we will perish like the Galileans and the eighteen who were crushed under the weight of the tower of Siloam.

If we are willing to repent, God gives us the space and time to do it as in the parable of the fig tree. Even after being a barren fruit tree, the man who looked after it pleaded with the owner to leave it one year and allow him to tend to it.

Yes, God gives us the chance to grow and change our lives; yet we shouldn’t be taking our own sweet time to do it, because we do not know the hour the Son of Man is coming.

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. John Paul II. A great saint of our time. A great man who epitomises what it means to have faith in God. I recall his inaugural speech at the beginning of his pontificate where he exhorted the faithful three times to not be afraid to welcome Christ in our hearts and open the door wide for Him to enter.

Truly, if we take faith in following the Lord, we will get to know Him, love Him and serve Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Lee)

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Prayer: Father, show me the way to live a life that is worthy of Your calling. Help me never to turn away from You and reject Your love for me.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank You for always showing me Your love and mercy, even if I fall over and over again.

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.

25 September, Sunday – Mercy & Grace

25 September

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Amos 6:1,4-7

The almighty Lord says this:
Woe to those ensconced so snugly in Zion
and to those who feel so safe on the mountain of Samaria,
those famous men of this first of nations
to whom the House of Israel goes as client.
Lying on ivory beds
and sprawling on their divans,
they dine on lambs from the flock,
and stall-fattened veal;
they bawl to the sound of the harp,
they invent new instruments of music like David,
they drink wine by the bowlful,
and use the finest oil for anointing themselves,
but about the ruin of Joseph they do not care at all.
That is why they will be the first to be exiled;
the sprawlers’ revelry is over.

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1 Timothy 6:11-16

As a man dedicated to God, you must aim to be saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle. Fight the good fight of the faith and win for yourself the eternal life to which you were called when you made your profession and spoke up for the truth in front of many witnesses. Now, before God the source of all life and before Christ, who spoke up as a witness for the truth in front of Pontius Pilate, I put to you the duty of doing all that you have been told, with no faults or failures, until the Appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,

who at the due time will be revealed
by God, the blessed and only Ruler of all,
the King of kings and the Lord of lords,
who alone is immortal,
whose home is in inaccessible light,
whom no man has seen and no man is able to see:
to him be honour and everlasting power. Amen.

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Luke 16:19-31

Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

‘In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.” “My son,” Abraham replied “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”

‘The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too.” “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham “let them listen to them..” “Ah no, father Abraham,” said the rich man “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”’

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“If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”

As we begin the new week, we begin with an uncomfortable realisation. What is our faith about? How is our relationship with God? What are we living for? How are we living our lives?

The readings today remind us of the many things we have taken for granted of. Not to say that we must live in poverty, in suffering, pain or shame, but are we aware of the people around us, the people in our lives? Do we live as people of the light, people of love, proclaimers of the Gospel, defenders of the truth?

As in the Gospel today, are we like the rich man that is consumed by his wealth or do we count our blessings?

Many of us fear what’s to come after death, we go for daily mass, say daily prayers, offer much donation in order that we will not suffer eternally. However, our actions usually show otherwise, where we fail to see the “poor” standing right in front of us, whether it’s the “poor” intellectually, physically, emotionally or financially. We criticise, judge, condemn, make fun and abuse them rather than bless them with what God has blessed us with.

It eventually comes down to where we choose to stand, on the side of love and truth or that of selfishness and pride. We see the life of God’s only begotten Son and the side He chose, not just for Himself but also for all of us. It meant, the pain, suffering and death that He had to go through but it also meant the life and the glory that He brought to all of us and to His Father.

What is it we want? What is it we really need? For when the rich man knew that there was no way he could save himself, he finally asked if his brothers could be warned. Do we need to wait till we are in that position for us to realise?

It is this mercy and grace that we need for what God has given, He too can also take away. Our calling is that understanding that we are called also to be givers of this love, mercy and grace to the people around us in order that all may have a share in God’s kingdom here on earth and especially when we all return to Him, as one, for eternity.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

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Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for this mercy and grace that we so often overlook, as we ourselves are consumed by the things of this world. Help us to focus on you, on love, in order that we may live as one and return to our home with you when the day comes.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your love, your Word and the Truth. Thank you for this freedom.

14 September, Wednesday – Do For Him

14 September – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

The feast was celebrated in Rome before the end of the 7th century. Its purpose is to commemorate the recovering of that portion of the Holy Cross which was preserved at Jerusalem, and which had fallen into the hands of the Persians. Emperor Heraclius recovered this precious relic and brought it back to Jerusalem on 3 May 629.

– Patron Saints Index

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Numbers 21:4-9

On the way through the wilderness the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.’

At this God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel. The people came and said to Moses, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede for us with the Lord to save us from these serpents.’ Moses interceded for the people, and the Lord answered him, ‘Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live.’ So Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard, and if anyone was bitten by a serpent, he looked at the bronze serpent and lived.

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Philippians 2:6-11

His state was divine,
yet Christ Jesus did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings
in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

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John 3:13-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who came down from heaven,
the Son of Man who is in heaven;
and the Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.’

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God loved the world so much

We meet with many struggles at the different stages of our lives here on Earth. These struggles are depicted both in the old and new testaments. Up until today, people continue to struggle for their freedom. On a more peaceful and personal level, perhaps from where I come from, we struggle with meeting expectations to be seen as successful. At these tough moments, where we come across an obstacle in our life, we question why we are being led to this stage. We prayed to get out of a sticky situation, and then we blame God again for leading us to the next obstacle. We are hard to please isn’t it?

Today’s reading, we are reminded of God’s mercy towards us. The Lord has given us love, forgiveness, life eternal when we felt like we are too tired for anything else. He gave us Jesus, who died to be the saviour of the world. These are all heavenly things that is given to us because He love us so. He had made this world, created us to be the good people He likes to see us as. The cross and the passion are images and a message for us to be reminded of the world He has created it for. For us to embrace the positivity and yet reality of life with the purpose of being obedient and living fully in His name.

When there are others whom you have difficulty working with, when we reach a very sad and difficult issue to deal with in our everyday lives, when we are not able to meet the expectations of our loved ones, disappointing them, and always hoping not to lose them, we should try to turn to God asking for the heavenly gifts in getting us through. We remind ourselves that we are not doing it for our personal gain, we do it in the name of Jesus, that we are motivated to strive in work that pleases Him. In this way, we are able to know what is of more importance and continue to get motivated for a fulfilling life here on Earth.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

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Thanksgiving: We lift up our worries and struggles everyday, so that You may guide us to live a more fulfilling life with our loved ones.

Prayer: Let me look beyond the difficulties that I often encounter, but to give thanks and count the blessings of what You have given me.

11 September, Sunday – Mercy Unto Us

11 September

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Exodus 32:7-11,13-14

The Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down now, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostatised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice. “Here is your God, Israel,” they have cried “who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘I can see how headstrong these people are! Leave me, now, my wrath shall blaze out against them and devour them; of you, however, I will make a great nation.’

But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘why should your wrath blaze out against this people of yours whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with arm outstretched and mighty hand? Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your servants to whom by your own self you swore and made this promise: “I will make your offspring as many as the stars of heaven, and all this land which I promised I will give to your descendants, and it shall be their heritage for ever.”’
So the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

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1 Timothy 1:12-17

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, and who judged me faithful enough to call me into his service even though I used to be a blasphemer and did all I could to injure and discredit the faith. Mercy, however, was shown me, because until I became a believer I had been acting in ignorance; and the grace of our Lord filled me with faith and with the love that is in Christ Jesus. Here is a saying that you can rely on and nobody should doubt: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I myself am the greatest of them; and if mercy has been shown to me, it is because Jesus Christ meant to make me the greatest evidence of his inexhaustible patience for all the other people who would later have to trust in him to come to eternal life. To the eternal King, the undying, invisible and only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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Luke 15:1-10

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

‘What man among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” he would say “I have found my sheep that was lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance.

‘Or again, what woman with ten drachmas would not, if she lost one, light a lamp and sweep out the house and search thoroughly till she found it? And then, when she had found it, call together her friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” she would say “I have found the drachma I lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.’

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The Lord relented

Ever so often we see God in such a dictatorship kind of way. That we are being watched by Him, and there is this set of rules set out by God and the church talk about behaviours and the ‘Don’ts’ that are sinful in the eyes of God. We probably grew up thinking, we should not do this or that, otherwise, it is a great sin. Some of us might even think that we are condemned for life. In today’s readings and Gospel, the message is clear that God our Father is a merciful one and He listen to our plea.

The Church is currently celebrating the Jubilee Year of Mercy. In today’s readings, the Lord relented after Moses pleaded to God about saving His people from Egypt and despite their behaviour of worshipping a false god, that they be forgiven for their behaviour. In the Gospel, our loving God do not require great acts to gain back his trust and love, all He favour is a change of heart and us sinners be repentant for the wrong we did. It is essentially our behaviour towards others. We are called to be witnesses of Christ, because of what He has done for us. It is because we have lived in difficulty for Christ gave us the hope to live fully and be at peace. Therefore, we should be of a good example in character, to be merciful to those who have wronged us, to be able to forgive and be open to the many difficult situations in our world.

We will never know the reasons and stories behind others just by looking at them and judging their behaviours against ours. Be loving and kind to our neighbours, be patient and humble, and so we look unto others with an openness and Christ-like approach. It is actually very difficult to forgive and be merciful when I am in fit of anger, only over time, do I realise that if I am to behave just like how Jesus is, being the loving and merciful Father that He is, forgiving will make the surroundings better.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

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Thanksgiving: In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we pray for those who are in conflict, that a peaceful solution will come soon to resolve their issues.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for forgiving us the wrong that we have done, and continue to grace us with the behaviour that is like your son Jesus.

6 September, Tuesday – The Myth of Sinlessness

6 September

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1 Corinthians 6:1-11

How dare one of your members take up a complaint against another in the law courts of the unjust instead of before the saints? As you know, it is the saints who are to ‘judge the world’; and if the world is to be judged by you, how can you be unfit to judge trifling cases? Since we are also to judge angels, it follows that we can judge matters of everyday life; but when you have had cases of that kind, the people you appointed to try them were not even respected in the Church. You should be ashamed: is there really not one reliable man among you to settle differences between brothers and so one brother brings a court case against another in front of unbelievers? It is bad enough for you to have lawsuits at all against one another: oughtn’t you to let yourselves be wronged, and let yourselves be cheated? But you are doing the wronging and the cheating, and to your own brothers.

You know perfectly well that people who do wrong will not inherit the kingdom of God: people of immoral lives, idolaters, adulterers, catamites, sodomites, thieves, usurers, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers will never inherit the kingdom of God. These are the sort of people some of you were once, but now you have been washed clean, and sanctified, and justified through the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and through the Spirit of our God.

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Luke 6:12-19

Jesus went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God. When day came he summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them; he called them ‘apostles’: Simon whom he called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.

He then came down with them and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. People tormented by unclean spirits were also cured, and everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all.

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because power came forth from him and healed them all.

Today, like most days, I found myself struggling with my (relatively new-found) faith. It is no secret that the bible offers hard lessons for all of us. As an introvert, I have spent many parties looking (with great envy) at the way that everyone seems able to socialise so easily. For the young man that I was then, I was particularly struck by how easily other guys could win the affection and attention of young women.

As an older man, I find it easy to look at the shenanigans of today’s youth, judging them as debauchery and hedonism. Yet we have been taught over and over again that we should not judge, that we should ‘let he who is sinless cast the first stone’. Yes, none of us is free from sin. Indeed, the more that we believe in our alleged sinlessness, the more we have already sinned. Not having sinned in appearance does not guarantee any sort of interior moral purity.

That is a lesson that I have learned the hard way. As a socially awkward yet precocious youth, I have often found myself judging far too easily. Such tendencies do not go away, even after one has outgrown adolescence. As a consequence, I have found myself constantly stepping on others’ toes. Worse yet, I find myself becoming bitter. The first reading says: do not be deceived.

The deception lies in the belief that we are ‘okay’, that those idolators, adulterers and thieves found in the bible must be referring to somebody else. But it is with the less-than-friendly admonition of a friend or even the loss of one that the truth becomes painfully true — that we have sinned without realising it ourselves. But the second reading also shows Jesus going out to heal everyone. Yes, everyone.

Regardless of whether you have sinned or not, or how serious those sins are, Jesus wants to heal all of us. And as the first reading also reminds us, we are now washed clean and sanctified, despite being sinners before. But this healing cannot come to us, if we do not humble ourselves and ask for it.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we continue to pray for your forgiveness and love. For all the times we have sinned knowingly or unknowingly, we pray for your spiritual healing.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for the daily reminders and signs of our own weaknesses.

5 August, Friday – This Cruel Marketplace

5 August – Memorial for Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome

First raised at the order of Pope Liberius in the mid-fourth century, the Liberian Basilica was rebuilt by Pope Sixtus III shortly after the Council of Ephesus affirmed Mary’s title as Mother of God in 431. Rededicated at that time to the Mother of God, St. Mary Major is the largest church in the world honouring God through Mary.

St. Mary Major is one of the four Roman basilicas known as patriarchal cathedrals in memory of the first centres of the Church. This basilica represents the See of Antioch, where Mary is supposed to have spent most of her life.

http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/SaintOfDay/default.asp?id=1098

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Nahum 2:1,3,3:1-3,6-7

See, over the mountains the messenger hurries!
‘Peace!’ he proclaims.
Judah, celebrate your feasts,
carry out your vows,
for Belial will never pass through you again;
he is utterly annihilated.
Yes, the Lord is restoring the vineyard of Jacob
and the vineyard of Israel.
For the plunderers had plundered them,
they had broken off their branches.

Woe to the city soaked in blood,
full of lies,
stuffed with booty,
whose plunderings know no end!
The crack of the whip!
The rumble of wheels!
Galloping horse,
jolting chariot,
charging cavalry,
flash of swords,
gleam of spears…
a mass of wounded,
hosts of dead,
countless corpses;
they stumble over the dead.
I am going to pelt you with filth,
shame you, make you a public show.
And all who look on you will turn their backs on you and say,
‘Nineveh is a ruin.’
Could anyone pity her?
Where can I find anyone to comfort her?

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Matthew 16:24-28

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?

‘For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and, when he does, he will reward each one according to his behaviour. I tell you solemnly, there are some of these standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming with his kingdom.’

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What has a man to offer in exchange for his life?

The world is a marketplace. This description is too cruelly realistic for us to be content with it. What do I mean? The ‘marketplace’ is an arena of commercial dealings, trades, transactions. So what? Some may say it is a fact and this is just what is necessary. We need to trade and cut deals. We need to maximise profit, minimise loss. I’ve got to keep my job. Money talks. Business is not charity. “Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness. I am kind to everyone, but when someone is unkind to me, weak is not what you are going to remember about me.” This quote, attributed to big-time 19th century New York gangster Al Capone, pretty much paints today’s reality in the world of trade and industry.

The grave problem here is, the terms and objects of transactions are more than inanimate commodities. For some parts of the world, and in some societies, people are the goods and services. Yes, we cannot turn a blind eye to this. Prostitution, slavery, child labour, sweatshop industries, exploitation of wages/lives/trust/hope of refugees and the common man… these today are the ills of our world. In the words of Pope Francis, “This is terrorism too.”

The first reading from the Book of Nahum gives us a clue about the extent of man’s igornance, sin, and indifference to sin.

Woe to the city soaked in blood,
full of lies,
stuffed with booty,
whose plunderings know no end!
…a mass of wounded,
hosts of dead,
countless corpses;
they stumble over the dead.

Isn’t this image so real even today? Stories of garment factories in India who have utter disregard for fire regulations cause hundreds of their workers to perish by fire. Captains of the South Korean MV Sewol Ferry who told their passengers, numbering hundreds and with school children onboard, to stay in their cabins as the ferry capsizes – just so they themselves could escape in the limited numbers of lifeboats. Thousands of migrant construction workers (from India, Nepal, and elsewhere) who die from extreme working conditions in Qatar in the frantic infrastructure construction surrounding the 2022 World Cup stadium. These are but some examples of how our cities are indeed soaked in blood.

I do not have the answer for such clearly complex and wicked problems – so many actors and layers of decision-making are at play here. However, Jesus poses the ultimate question: “What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?” At the end of the day, it boils down to each individual and our personal encounter with Christ who hangs before us on the Cross, asking: “Do you choose me? If you want to be a follower of mine, will you renounce yourself and take up your cross and follow me?”

Are there any big and small decisions you face today that Jesus is asking you to surrender and obey Him? Are there any seemingly banal choices that we make each day which may seem insignificant, but are actually grounded in ethical and moral dimensions? Let us pause and confront this heartless and maddening marketplace for what it is. The Lord is calling us out of our distractions/obsessions/compulsions – to ponder and cherish the dignity of each human life formed in His divine image. How shall we honour our Heavenly Father? What is God revealing to you at this moment? Truly, when it comes down to our last breath, nothing we own in this world can be used for barter with God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: May our hearts be open today to receive the correction that Jesus lovingly points out. There is nothing beyond His forgiveness. He has the message of true and eternal life.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, for loving me while I was still a sinner mired in my own chaos and ignorance. Lift me up with Your mercy and help me bring glory to You with my life and my choices.

4 August, Thursday – I Want to Know Your Heart

4 August – Memorial for St. John Mary Vianney, Priest

In his youth, John Mary Vianney (1786-1859) taught other children their prayers and catechism. As a priest, was assigned to a parish which suffered from very lax attendance. He began visiting his parishioners, especially the sick and poor, spent days in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, did penance for his parishioners, and led his people by example. Crowds came to hear him preach, and to make their reconciliation because of his reputation with penitents.

He has been declared patron saint for all priests.

– Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 31:31-34 

See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel (and the House of Judah), but not a covenant like the one I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant of mine, so I had to show them who was master. It is the Lord who speaks. No, this is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel when those days arrive – it is the Lord who speaks. Deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I will be their God and they shall be my people. There will be no further need for neighbour to try to teach neighbour, or brother to say to brother, ‘Learn to know the Lord!’ No, they will all know me, the least no less than the greatest – it is the Lord who speaks – since I will forgive their iniquity and never call their sin to mind.

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Matthew 16:13-23

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’ Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

From that time Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. ‘Heaven preserve you, Lord;’ he said ‘this must not happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

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They will all know me, the least no less than the greatest.

How do you love someone? The slow-learner in me realises more and more these days, that the paramount way to love someone is to know them. To know someone – not in a casual, cursory, or comfortable way – but in a way that communicates love, is to intently and intensely listen. Without judgement.

We hear it often today — trite phrases like “deep down we all want to be known/to be recognised/to be valued.” But how, and why? It is not easy. Because to love someone, however imperfectly, is to seek to know them in their moments of light and dark – and try to receive them in their progress of growth. Paradoxically, as much as we all try to avoid our own darkness, there is a deep craving within each of us, to have someone see us fully and yet continue to choose us and to choose to love us. It is this unconditional decision by someone to love us (not indulgently), that ultimately liberates us to receive and accept our own imperfection. It bestows both courage and detemination to keep on growing. This kind of thorough, deep, and authentic knowledge of others/ourself redeems us. Do you recall a time when you received the forgiveness and tender love of a parent, sibling, friend, or lover – in spite of the pain you inflicted upon them? The kind of wrong that you would not forgive, had it been done to you? And yet – you experienced mercy… how did you feel?

Though you may have initially felt undeserving, did you eventually experience a lightness of being – a deep sense of liberation and peace? The antidote to personal and spiritual stagnation is a contrite heart.

This is the heart of our Father in Heaven. The prophet Jeremiah recounts the trespasses that the ancestors of Israel committed against God by breaking the covenant He made with them. Although God brought to bear His holy anger upon the peoples, He renews a new covenant of Love with them – “deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts… I will be their God and they shall be my people.” God forgives our iniquities and calls upon our sins no more.

As I reflect on the Responsorial Psalm today (Ps. 50), the Psalmist reminds me to constantly cry out to God to “Create a clean heart in me, O God.” It is a necessary reminder, because the Gospel passage reveals clearly that while I may proclaim to love Jesus-the-man and to know Him (as Simon Peter did) in one moment; I actually do not really KNOW Christ-the-Saviour and the extent of His mission and sacrifice. This is why Jesus rebuked Peter: “You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.”

This is the depth to which God knows me, and the lack of knowledge of my Father in Heaven. But I am assured – I cannot earn, nor study, nor pledge my way to Heaven. For this relationship rests not solely on my efforts, but on the love and grace of my Lord, and my willingness to keep on confessing my weakness, seeking restoration, praying without ceasing, and dying to my self in all my human wiles.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the ageless covenant, designed by God, that actively administers the healing salve of His mercy and restoration to us. God chose to use Jesus to carry out His plan of salvation. And Jesus chose the repentant Saint Peter to loose us from the chains of sin with ‘keys of the kingdom of heaven.’ In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we pray: “[Jesus] You are the visible face of the invisible Father, of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy: let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified. You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error: let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.” (excerpt from Pope Francis’ Prayer for the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy).

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, create in me a clean heart. Help me to extend mercy to myself and to my neighbour. Teach me to also practice mercy to your ministers, our priests, who themselves are clothed in the same human weaknesses I have. We are all equally in need of Your grace and love.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for revealing Your heart of love to me Lord. Thank You for always listening to my heart, even when I do not speak to You. This day and more often, help me to listen closely to Your heartbeat and draw closer to You.