Tag Archives: nicholas chia

30 March, Monday – Judging others

30 March

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Daniel 13:1-9,15-17,19-30,33-62

In Babylon there lived a man named Joakim. He had married Susanna daughter of Hilkiah, a woman of great beauty; and she was God-fearing, because her parents were worthy people and had instructed their daughter in the Law of Moses. Joakim was a very rich man, and had a garden attached to his house; the Jews would often visit him since he was held in greater respect than any other man. Two elderly men had been selected from the people that year to act as judges. Of such the Lord said, ‘Wickedness has come to Babylon through the elders and judges posing as guides to the people.’ These men were often at Joakim’s house, and all who were engaged in litigation used to come to them. At midday, when everyone had gone, Susanna used to take a walk in her husband’s garden. The two elders, who used to watch her every day as she came in to take her walk, gradually began to desire her. They threw reason aside, making no effort to turn their eyes to heaven, and forgetting its demands of virtue. So they waited for a favourable moment; and one day Susanna came as usual, accompanied only by two young maidservants. The day was hot and she wanted to bathe in the garden. There was no one about except the two elders, spying on her from their hiding place. She said to the servants, ‘Bring me some oil and balsam and shut the garden door while I bathe.’

Hardly were the servants gone than the two elders were there after her. ‘Look,’ they said ‘the garden door is shut, no one can see us. We want to have you, so give in and let us! Refuse, and we will both give evidence that a young man was with you and that was why you sent your maids away.’ Susanna sighed. ‘I am trapped,’ she said ‘whatever I do. If I agree, that means my death; if I resist, I cannot get away from you. But I prefer to fall innocent into your power than to sin in the eyes of the Lord.’ Then she cried out as loud as she could. The two elders began shouting too, putting the blame on her, and one of them ran to open the garden door. The household, hearing the shouting in the garden, rushed out by the side entrance to see what was happening; once the elders had told their story the servants were thoroughly taken aback, since nothing of this sort had ever been said of Susanna.

Next day a meeting was held at the house of her husband Joakim. The two elders arrived, in their vindictiveness determined to have her put to death. They addressed the company: ‘Summon Susanna daughter of Hilkiah and wife of Joakim.’ She was sent for, and came accompanied by her parents, her children and all her relations. All her own people were weeping, and so were all the others who saw her. The two elders stood up, with all the people round them, and laid their hands on the woman’s head. Tearfully she turned her eyes to heaven, her heart confident in God. The elders then spoke. ‘While we were walking by ourselves in the garden, this woman arrived with two servants. She shut the garden door and then dismissed the servants. A young man who had been hiding went over to her and they lay down together. From the end of the garden where we were, we saw this crime taking place and hurried towards them. Though we saw them together we were unable to catch the man: he was too strong for us; he opened the door and took to his heels. We did, however, catch this woman and ask her who the young man was. She refused to tell us. That is our evidence.’

Since they were elders of the people, and judges, the assembly took their word: Susanna was condemned to death. She cried out as loud as she could, ‘Eternal God, you know all secrets and everything before it happens; you know that they have given false evidence against me. And now have I to die, innocent as I am of everything their malice has invented against me?’

The Lord heard her cry and, as she was being led away to die, he roused the holy spirit residing in a young boy named Daniel who began to shout, ‘I am innocent of this woman’s death!’ At which all the people turned to him and asked, ‘What do you mean by these words?’ Standing in the middle of the crowd he replied, ‘Are you so stupid, sons of Israel, as to condemn a daughter of Israel unheard, and without troubling to find out the truth? Go back to the scene of the trial: these men have given false evidence against her.’

All the people hurried back, and the elders said to Daniel, ‘Come and sit with us and tell us what you mean, since God has given you the gifts that elders have.’ Daniel said, ‘Keep the men well apart from each other for I want to question them.’ When the men had been separated, Daniel had one of them brought to him. ‘You have grown old in wickedness,’ he said ‘and now the sins of your earlier days have overtaken you, you with your unjust judgements, your condemnation of the innocent, your acquittal of guilty men, when the Lord has said, “You must not put the innocent and the just to death.” Now then, since you saw her so clearly, tell me what tree you saw them lying under?’ He replied, ‘Under a mastic tree.’ Daniel said, ‘True enough! Your lie recoils on your own head: the angel of God has already received your sentence from him and will slash you in half.’ He dismissed the man, ordered the other to be brought and said to him, ‘Spawn of Canaan, not of Judah, beauty has seduced you, lust has led your heart astray! This is how you have been behaving with the daughters of Israel and they were too frightened to resist; but here is a daughter of Judah who could not stomach your wickedness! Now then, tell me what tree you surprised them under?’ He replied, ‘Under a holm oak.’ Daniel said, ‘True enough! Your lie recoils on your own head: the angel of God is waiting, with a sword to drive home and split you, and destroy the pair of you.’

Then the whole assembly shouted, blessing God, the saviour of those who trust in him. And they turned on the two elders whom Daniel had convicted of false evidence out of their own mouths. As prescribed in the Law of Moses, they sentenced them to the same punishment as they had intended to inflict on their neighbour. They put them to death; the life of an innocent woman was spared that day.

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John 8:1-11

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak he appeared in the Temple again; and as all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them.

The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in full view of everybody, they said to Jesus, ‘Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and Moses has ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?’ They asked him this as a test, looking for something to use against him. But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. As they persisted with their question, he looked up and said, ‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Then he bent down and wrote on the ground again. When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained standing there. He looked up and said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir’ she replied. ‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus ‘go away, and do not sin any more.’

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‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus ‘go away, and do not sin any more.’

It is quite amazing how people jump to conclusions very quickly. There are many videos circulating on the internet which remind us that what we see is not what the original intention was meant to be. The readings of today remind us of the need to not take everything at the surface level but that we need to probe deeper with the help of the Holy Spirit.

It feels really good to be accusing another person of their wrongdoings. I will be the first to admit that I have done such an action before and that it is not the best of behaviour. What makes it worst is that the process starts from within my mind. There is an entire whirlwind of thoughts and words in my head which go about whenever I see a person. It could range from the behaviour they are exhibiting to the words which they are saying. The strangest thing is that I get very worried that these remarks are being said by others about me. In other words, I am worried about being judged!

Indeed, such is the nature of my life where I judge others and yet seek God’s forgiveness whenever I fear that I am being judged. The readings of today remind us that such actions have already been present since Biblical times. What matters is that we are always contrite and willing to turn to God immediately for forgiveness. However, what is even more important is when we ask God to allow us to probe deeper into why we are behaving in this manner. Only by bringing such behaviour to the light will we be able to discover the flawed nature of ourselves and submit ourselves to God for healing. Let us take this time to offer to God all our weaknesses and ask Him to heal us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the humility to submit all our flaws to you.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who love us despite our imperfections.

27 January, Monday – Source of Power

27 January 2020

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2 Samuel 5:1-7,10

All the tribes of Israel then came to David at Hebron. ‘Look’ they said ‘we are your own flesh and blood. In days past when Saul was our king, it was you who led Israel in all their exploits; and the Lord said to you, “You are the man who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you shall be the leader of Israel.”’ So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a pact with them at Hebron in the presence of the Lord, and they anointed David king of Israel.

David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned for forty years. He reigned in Hebron over Judah for seven years and six months; then he reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel and Judah for thirty-three years.

David and his men marched on Jerusalem against the Jebusites living there. These said to David, ‘You will not get in here. The blind and the lame will hold you off.’ (That is to say: David will never get in here.) But David captured the fortress of Zion, that is, the Citadel of David.

David grew greater and greater, and the Lord, the God of Hosts, was with him.

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Mark 3:22-30

The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem were saying, ‘Beelzebul is in him’ and, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts devils out.’ So he called them to him and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot last. And if a household is divided against itself, that household can never stand. Now if Satan has rebelled against himself and is divided, he cannot stand either – it is the end of him. But no one can make his way into a strong man’s house and burgle his property unless he has tied up the strong man first. Only then can he burgle his house.

  ‘I tell you solemnly, all men’s sins will be forgiven, and all their blasphemies; but let anyone blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and he will never have forgiveness: he is guilty of an eternal sin.’ This was because they were saying, ‘An unclean spirit is in him.’

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David grew greater and greater, and the Lord, the God of Hosts, was with him

Today’s readings are a thought provoking one because it points out where the source of power comes from as a form of legitimacy. King David obtained power because the people approached him to be king of both the Northern and Southern kingdom. Indeed, most of us are familiar with this type of power which is the general public selecting a group of people to enact decisions on their behalf.

However, the nature of power is such that it tends to corrupt the person holding it. I guess the idea of being able to lord over others does change others as the person can now be the master of the fate of others. This is where Jesus reminds us that the power of His ministry comes from God. It does not come from the legitimacy of men but from a divine source. Sometimes I see some question the decisions that office holders in church make and this does trouble me because it seems that there is a sense that there is a comparison of the positions.

The ways of the world have sometimes subtly entered the church in terms of organisation and structure. As we begin a new week, I ask that we pray and reflect upon the role which Jesus has called us to do and how can we do it in a manner which serves the people around us and not seek to advance our own interests.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I pray for the strength to let you work through me.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for the love you have shown me. 

30 December, Monday – Prayerful contemplation

30 December

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1 John 2:12-17

I am writing to you, my own children,
whose sins have already been forgiven through his name;
I am writing to you, fathers,
who have come to know the one
who has existed since the beginning;
I am writing to you, young men,
who have already overcome the Evil One;
I have written to you, children,
because you already know the Father;
I have written to you, fathers,
because you have come to know the one
who has existed since the beginning;
I have written to you, young men,
because you are strong and God’s word has made its home in you,
and you have overcome the Evil One.
You must not love this passing world
or anything that is in the world.
The love of the Father cannot be
in any man who loves the world,
because nothing the world has to offer
– the sensual body,
the lustful eye,
pride in possessions –
could ever come from the Father
but only from the world;
and the world, with all it craves for,
is coming to an end;
but anyone who does the will of God
remains for ever.

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Luke 2:36-40

There was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well on in years. Her days of girlhood over, she had been married for seven years before becoming a widow. She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. She came by just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.

When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.

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Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.

I often wondered how Jesus’s childhood went by. Was it one which was uneventful, like a typical ordinary child? Did he also struggle with the usual issues that a young child of his age would face? The Gospels are silent on this but I am sure that throughout this process, it was a prayerful family. A prayerful family means a family which always remember to offer up their joys and struggles to the Lord.

The life of a Christian is not an easy one. There are struggles and challenges which we face from the secular world which often force us to make questions that wonder if we are doing the right thing. St John reminds us in the first reading that the world as we know it is passing away. As children of God, we should not be having a love for the world but instead focus on the heavenly kingdom. I struggle with this all the time because it is easy to get caught up with the issues in the world. The pleasures of the flesh and the pursuit of status and power is something that I really find it hard to push away. It is in situations like this that I believe that prayer is important for each one of us.

Prayer opens up the communication channels with God and allows us to discover what is God’s plan for us. Through the reading of Sacred Scripture and silent time with God, we discover for ourselves the plan which God has meant for us. The end of the calendar year allows us to discover the areas where we have grown and the areas where we have fallen short. Let us approach the Lord in thanksgiving for all that has come to us and ask Him to show the way for the future.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us discover the plan you have for us and let us not waver in our aim to achieve it.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the people who have shown us love.

 

29 November, Friday – Learning to live

29 November

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Daniel 7:2-14

I, Daniel, have been seeing visions in the night. I saw that the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea; four great beasts emerged from the sea, each different from the other. The first was like a lion with eagle’s wings; and as I looked its wings were torn off, and it was lifted from the ground and set standing on its feet like a man; and it was given a human heart. The second beast I saw was different, like a bear, raised up on one of its sides, with three ribs in its mouth, between its teeth. “Up!” came the command “Eat quantities of flesh!” After this I looked, and saw another beast, like a leopard, and with four bird’s wings on its flanks; it had four heads, and power was given to it. Next I saw another vision in the visions of the night: I saw a fourth beast, fearful, terrifying, very strong; it had great iron teeth, and it ate, crushed and trampled underfoot what remained. It was different from the previous beasts and had ten horns.

While I was looking at these horns, I saw another horn sprouting among them, a little one; three of the original horns were pulled out by the roots to make way for it; and in this horn I saw eyes like human eyes, and a mouth that was full of boasts. As I watched:

Thrones were set in place
and one of great age took his seat.
His robe was white as snow,
the hair of his head as pure as wool.
His throne was a blaze of flames,
its wheels were a burning fire.
A stream of fire poured out,
issuing from his presence.
A thousand thousand waited on him,
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
A court was held
and the books were opened.

The great things the horn was saying were still ringing in my ears, and as I watched, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and committed to the flames. The other beasts were deprived of their power, but received a lease of life for a season and a time.

I gazed into the visions of the night.
And I saw, coming on the clouds of heaven,
one like a son of man.
He came to the one of great age
and was led into his presence.
On him was conferred sovereignty,
glory and kingship,
and men of all peoples, nations and languages became his servants.
His sovereignty is an eternal sovereignty
which shall never pass away,
nor will his empire ever be destroyed.

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Luke 21:29-33

Jesus told his disciples a parable: ‘Think of the fig tree and indeed every tree. As soon as you see them bud, you know that summer is now near. So with you when you see these things happening: know that the kingdom of God is near. I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all will have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.’

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Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

I have always thought about what legacy which I would want to leave after I have passed on. There was this saying in one of Mitch Albom’s books that goes “Only when learn how to die, then we learn how to live.” I find this statement very true because only when we accept our mortality do we then realise that perhaps all the work should be directed towards glorifying God. There is a need to identify what it means to be a Christian and how our actions and words can reflect our identity as a Christian.

Indeed, this is something that we could reflect upon as we come to the end of the Church’s liturgical year. As we reflect upon what we have accomplished in the past year , perhaps we could give thanks to God for our lives. Indeed, sometimes we take many things for granted which others may be envious. God has given us many talents that we possess. We will need to make the effort to discern what plan God has for us in our lives and to work towards seeing how we can align God’s will for us with our talents and the needs of the community where we live in.

Only through this process can we discover how to become a more congruent person. This may require us to die to our former selves and instead live a life based on Christian virtues and values. Let us be confident to handle the challenges that come our way knowing that God is with us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit into our lives to help us find out what you want from us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the people who continue to impart the faith.

28 November, Thursday – Strong faith

28 November

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Daniel 6:12-28

The presidents and satraps came along in a body and found Daniel praying and pleading with God. They then came to the king and said, ‘Have you not just signed an edict forbidding any man for the next thirty days to pray to anyone, god or man, other than to yourself O king, on pain of being thrown into the lions’ den?’ ‘The decision stands,’ the king replied ‘as befits the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.’ Then they said to the king, ‘O king, this man Daniel, one of the exiles from Judah, disregards both you and the edict which you have signed: he is at his prayers three times each day.’ When the king heard these words he was deeply distressed, and determined to save Daniel; he racked his brains until sunset to find some way out. But the men came back in a body to the king and said, ‘O king, remember that in conformity with the law of the Medes and the Persians, no edict or decree can be altered when once issued by the king.’

The king then ordered Daniel to be fetched and thrown into the lion pit. The king said to Daniel, ‘Your God himself, whom you have served so faithfully, will have to save you.’ A stone was then brought and laid over the mouth of the pit; and the king sealed it with his own signet and with that of his noblemen, so that there could be no going back on the original decision about Daniel. The king returned to his palace, spent the night in fasting and refused to receive any of his concubines. Sleep eluded him, and at the first sign of dawn he was up, and hurried off to the lion pit. As he approached the pit he shouted in anguished tones, ‘Daniel, servant of the living God! Has your God, whom you serve so faithfully, been able to save you from the lions?’ Daniel replied, ‘O king, live for ever! My God sent his angel who sealed the lions’ jaws, they did me no harm, since in his sight I am blameless, and I have never done you any wrong either, O king.’ The king was overjoyed, and ordered Daniel to be released from the pit. Daniel was released from the pit, and found to be quite unhurt, because he had trusted in his God. The king sent for the men who had accused Daniel and had them thrown into the lion pit, they, their wives and their children: and they had not reached the floor of the pit before the lions had seized them and crushed their bones to pieces.

King Darius then wrote to men of all nations, peoples and languages throughout the world, ‘May peace be always with you! I decree: in every kingdom of my empire let all tremble with fear before the God of Daniel:

‘He is the living God, he endures for ever,
his sovereignty will never be destroyed
and his kingship never end.
He saves, sets free, and works signs and wonders
in the heavens and on earth;
he has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.’

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Luke 21:20-28

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you must realise that she will soon be laid desolate. Then those in Judaea must escape to the mountains, those inside the city must leave it, and those in country districts must not take refuge in it. For this is the time of vengeance when all that scripture says must be fulfilled. Alas for those with child, or with babies at the breast, when those days come!

‘For great misery will descend on the land and wrath on this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive to every pagan country; and Jerusalem will be trampled down by the pagans until the age of the pagans is completely over.

‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.’

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When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.’

We live in times where many say might be the end times. There are concerns that climate change may change the way we live in the world. There are also others who may think that the various conflicts in the world suggest that there might be no hope left in this world. The readings of today remind us that we should hold our trust in God.

Daniel held strongly to the faith in the First Reading. He never wavered from his obligation towards being faithful to God. Though he was persecuted, he held strongly to his faith. This is something that we can follow. Our faith is challenged in various places and in various ways yet God always ask that we remain close to Him.

It is our faith which will allow us to go through the challenges that we face with confidence and courage. This means that instead of using our own strength, we offer to God all our struggles and let Him work through us. As we go about our lives, let us remember that God loves us and will always hold us close to Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please allow us to deepen our faith in you.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who love us.

27 November, Wednesday – No Need to be Afraid

27 November

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Daniel 5:1-6,13-14,16-17,23-28

King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for his noblemen; a thousand of them attended, and he drank wine in company with this thousand. As he sipped his wine, Belshazzar gave orders for the gold and silver vessels to be brought which his father Nebuchadnezzar had looted from the sanctuary in Jerusalem, so that the king, his noblemen, his wives and his singing women could drink out of them. The gold and silver vessels looted from the sanctuary of the Temple of God in Jerusalem were brought in, and the king, his noblemen, his wives and his singing women drank out of them. They drank their wine and praised their gods of gold and silver, of bronze and iron, of wood and stone. Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared, and began to write on the plaster of the palace wall, directly behind the lamp-stand; and the king could see the hand as it wrote. The king turned pale with alarm: his thigh-joints went slack and his knees began to knock.

Daniel was brought into the king’s presence; the king said to Daniel, ‘Are you the Daniel who was one of the Judaean exiles brought by my father the king from Judah? I am told that the spirit of God Most Holy lives in you, and that you are known for your perception, intelligence and marvellous wisdom. As I am told that you are able to give interpretations and to unravel difficult problems, if you can read the writing and tell me what it means, you shall be dressed in purple, and have a chain of gold put round your neck, and be third in rank in the kingdom.’

Then Daniel spoke up in the presence of the king. ‘Keep your gifts for yourself,’ he said ‘and give your rewards to others. I will read the writing to the king without them, and tell him what it means. You have defied the Lord of heaven, you have had the vessels from his Temple brought to you, and you, your noblemen, your wives and your singing women have drunk your wine out of them. You have praised gods of gold and silver, of bronze and iron, of wood and stone, which cannot either see, hear or understand; but you have given no glory to the God who holds your breath and all your fortunes in his hands. That is why he has sent the hand which, by itself, has written these words. The writing reads: Mene, Mene, Tekel and Parsin. The meaning of the words is this: Mene: God has measured your sovereignty and put an end to it; Tekel: you have been weighed in the balance and found wanting; Parsin: your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.’

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Luke 21:12-19

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives.’

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I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom

We recently came to a decision to split our cell group into two smaller sub-groups, in the hope that it would encourage deeper sharings as well as make organising the fellowships a bit less daunting and more manageable. Naturally, the leaders had a discussion among ourselves before consulting the ministry heads, who offered various suggestions on how it could be done.

The day came when the four of us had agreed to meet to discuss how we would manage the process of informing our fellow brothers and then agreeing on which route to go in terms of how we would split the 14 of us. And because it happened to be a day when most of the members were around, we ended up ‘drawing lots’ and ending up with both groupings within the span of 10 minutes.

That night, I slept fitfully. Something gnawed at me and two days later, I decided to message the other three leaders to inform them that I was not comfortable with the way we had proceeded to hurriedly do what was necessary just because 9 or 10 of us happened to be around. I felt that for such an important decision to be carried out, we had been too focussed on the outcome without really discerning the right process. So I offered to meet with the other members who had been absent during our ballot to get a better sense of how they were feeling about being part of our group and the way forward.

Two weeks later, we all convened again and, to the exasperation of some of the other members, I explained why I felt that we had to reconsider the way we had arrived at the sub groupings. After almost an hour of sharing, where I urged other members to open up and share their thoughts, we ended up settling for the previous decision. However, in speaking out and convening the meeting (at the inconvenience of some), I felt that we had done the right thing, regardless of what the outcome would have been.

Brothers and sisters, I thank God for my discipleship group of 14 spiritually alive and aware brothers. It is rare that frank, open and, at times, heated discussion results in something beneficially for everyone. In daring to speak about my feelings openly (I used to shun confrontation), I had nothing to lose because I was relying on the Spirit to lead us to whatever outcome was going to occur. And thankfully, all my other brothers eventually realised that and we achieved what we intended. I ask for your prayers for Albert, Alfie, Ben, Charles, Clement, Eugene, Gabriel, Gavin, Jason, Lionel, Nick, Philip and Sylvester. That as we embak on our new faith journeys, we are empowered to speak out our true feelings for one another.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer We pray for the gift of Wisdom; that You may always guide us in every thought, word and deed.

Thanksgiving Thank You for never judging us and for being our faithful Father.

25 September, Wednesday – Called to Proclaim

25 Sep 2019

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Ezra 9:5-9

At the evening sacrifice I, Ezra, came out of my stupor and falling on my knees, with my garment and cloak torn, I stretched out my hands to the Lord my God, and said:

‘My God, I am ashamed, I blush to lift my face to you, my God. For our crimes have increased, until they are higher than our heads, and our sin has piled up to heaven. From the days of our ancestors until now our guilt has been great; on account of our crimes we, our kings and our priests, were given into the power of the kings of other countries, given to the sword, to captivity, to pillage and to shame, as is the case today. But now, suddenly, the Lord our God by his favour has left us a remnant and granted us a refuge in his holy place; this is how our God has cheered our eyes and given us a little respite in our slavery. For we are slaves; but God has not forgotten us in our slavery; he has shown us kindness in the eyes of the kings of Persia, obtaining permission for us to rebuild the Temple of our God and restore its ruins, and he has found us safety and shelter in Judah and in Jerusalem.’

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Luke 9:1-6

Jesus called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, ‘Take nothing for the journey: neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there; and when you leave, let it be from there. As for those who do not welcome you, when you leave their town shake the dust from your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and healing everywhere.

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So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and healing everywhere.

I once went for a holiday where I did not have any check-in baggage. Instead, I had just a small hand-carry suitcase which contained all my clothes for the entire duration of the trip. My travel companions were all surprised by how little I carried. They wondered if I had packed enough clothes. It turned out that I had packed enough for myself and they had to lug their heavy bags every where they go.

We carry in our lives a lot of baggage. The past hurts which we have suffered and also the nasty remarks made by others all add unnecessary burden in our lives. The Gospel of today tells us that we need to travel ‘light’ and to move around with the least of items so that we can easily proclaim the Word of God to the people around us.

This is easier said than done. The ability to trust in the Lord is something that is very difficult to do. We are unwilling to allow the Holy Spirit to enter into the darkest recesses of our heart to heal the hurts we have. This could stem from a desire to want to stay uncorrected because it would risk exposing our own failures. Yet proclaiming the Gospel in the world requires us to live authentic lives. Authentic lives are lives where our speech and actions all are in sync with each other. As Christians, these 2 are the best ways we can reach out to the people around us.

What can we do to be ready to journey in a world where there is so much uncertainty in our lives? We can nourish ourselves with Scripture and the Sacraments which provide us with the grace to live out a Christian life in the world around us.  Strengthened by these two pillars, we will be ready to accept the challenge of proclaiming the Gospel to places where we never expect to do so. Let us trust in the Lord and make use of the tools which He has given us to proclaim His message of love wherever we go.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear Lord, let us go in peace to glorify you with our lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who continue to proclaim the Word of God.

22 September, Sunday – Purposeful life

22 September 2019

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Amos 8:4-7

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

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1 Timothy 2:1-8

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

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

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Luke 16:1-13

Jesus said to his disciples:

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

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

‘The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness. For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.
‘And so I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?
‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’

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No servant can be the slave of two masters

There was once a friend of mine who had to worry about care giving arrangements for her young child and her professional career. She was unsure which was important for her. This tension is faced by many people in their lives. But in the spiritual domain, this is presented to us in a special way in the Gospel today – what is important in our life?

Each of us hold many identities in our lives. We live the life in our professional domain, our family life and our social life. Yet I believe that these are masks that we put on. Jesus invites us today to re-focus our attention towards what we are called to do in our lives. It is to use the resources we possess to advance the mission of a Christian – to evangelise the word of God to all around us.

God is calling you and me to a special purpose in our lives. This requires a discernment into the voice of God. There will be distractions in our life but Jesus reminds us that we can only serve one master well.

Through prayer and reading of Scripture, God speaks to us and shows us the way that He wants us to follow. If we co-operate with Him, it will lead us to a life filled with joy and peace. It is not a life which is obstacle-free or free of problems but a life where we can handle the challenges confidently.

I pray for each one of you that you respond generously to God’s call.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us accept the plan you have for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who help others clarify their purpose in life.

12 July, Friday – Loving God through our lives

12 July 2019

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Genesis 46:1-7, 28-30

Israel left Canaan with his possessions, and reached Beersheba. There he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God spoke to Israel in a vision at night, ‘Jacob, Jacob’, he said. ‘I am here’, he replied. ‘I am God, the God of your father’, he continued. ‘Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I myself will go down to Egypt with you. I myself will bring you back again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.’ Then Jacob left Beersheba. Israel’s sons conveyed their father Jacob, their little children and their wives in the waggons Pharaoh had sent to fetch him.

Taking their livestock and all that they had acquired in the land of Canaan, they went to Egypt, Jacob and all his family with him: his sons and his grandsons, his daughters and his grand-daughters, in a word, all his children he took with him to Egypt.

Israel sent Judah ahead to Joseph, so that the latter might present himself to him in Goshen. When they arrived in the land of Goshen, Joseph had his chariot made ready and went up to meet his father Israel in Goshen. As soon as he appeared he threw his arms round his neck and for a long time wept on his shoulder. Israel said to Joseph, ‘Now I can die, now that I have seen you again, and seen you still alive.’

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Matthew 10:16-23

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Remember, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; so be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves.

‘Beware of men: they will hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you. ‘Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved. If they persecute you in one town, take refuge in the next; and if they persecute you in that, take refuge in another. I tell you solemnly, you will not have gone the round of the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.’

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The Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you
Fear of public speaking is certainly an issue which many people grapple with. I believe that for us as Catholic Christians, it is perhaps the fear of publicly proclaiming the Word of God to the people around us. The readings today share with us that such a fear is unfounded and that we have Jesus with us who will guide us in what to do.
Jesus has shown us the importance of trusting in Him. Unfortunately, not all of us can remember this point well. Sometimes we go about our own actions and think that this is probably what God wants us to do, resulting in us engaging in behaviours which may not be the most prudent, nor the wisest to engage in. It is prudent for us to pause and ask ourselves if what we are doing is grounded in a solid foundation of love for God and love for our neighbour. The importance of this cannot be overstated because it will allow us to bear with the pain and suffering of persecution which is mentioned in the Gospel. Deepening our prayer life will allow us to trust in God and this will help guide our actions in our daily life.
The love of God must animate all our actions. We need not always speak out loud to the people around us, of how God has worked wonders within us; although, that is certainly one way. The way we treat our parents, siblings, relatives, friends, colleagues and strangers is perhaps the most visible way we can share the Gospel message to the people around us. Let us ask God to help us with this wonderful task.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the love to share your Word to all around us.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all missionaries.

21 June, Friday – Priorities in Life

21 June 2019

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2 Corinthians 11:18,21-30

If I am to boast, let me boast of my own feebleness

So many others have been boasting of their worldly achievements, that I will boast myself. But if anyone wants some brazen speaking – I am still talking as a fool – then I can be as brazen as any of them, and about the same things. Hebrews, are they? So am I. Israelites? So am I.

Descendants of Abraham? So am I. The servants of Christ? I must be mad to say this, but so am I, and more than they: more, because I have worked harder, I have been sent to prison more often, and whipped many times more, often almost to death. Five times I had the thirty-nine lashes from the Jews; three times I have been beaten with sticks; once I was stoned; three times I have been shipwrecked and once adrift in the open sea for a night and a day. Constantly travelling, I have been in danger from rivers and in danger from brigands, in danger from my own people and in danger from pagans; in danger in the towns, in danger in the open country, danger at sea and danger from so-called brothers. I have worked and laboured, often without sleep; I have been hungry and thirsty and often starving; I have been in the cold without clothes. And, to leave out much more, there is my daily preoccupation: my anxiety for all the churches. When any man has had scruples, I have had scruples with him; when any man is made to fall, I am tortured.

If I am to boast, then let me boast of my own feebleness.

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Matthew 6:19-23

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and woodworms destroy them and thieves can break in and steal. But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor woodworms destroy them and thieves cannot break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

‘The lamp of the body is the eye. It follows that if your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light. But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be all darkness. If then, the light inside you is darkness, what darkness that will be!’

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For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

During my university studies, someone once shared with me that life is about priorities. This statement was made when I made a remark expressing my envy of schoolmates who could seemingly balance everything in their lives. They were able to get good grades, participate actively in non-academic life and also to maintain strong relationships. That statement got me thinking and the Gospel of today reminds me of the need to remain focused on what matters to me.

The time which we have is a gift which God has given to us. Every moment we spend cannot be returned and this is especially important for all of us as we will be called to account for every unit of our time in life when we meet God. As Christians, we are called to radiate God’s love to all the people around us. This is what our primary duty calls us to do – to be an example for the people around us. This is definitely not easy but the fact that we put in the effort is testimony to that we are aware of what we are supposed to do and are learning how to become better. Every fall in our attempt to live as a Christian is another opportunity for us to be a better Christian.

The same person in the first paragraph who shared with me the insight that life is about priorities then continued by saying that, “And I know what your priority is – that of being a good Christian.” Frankly, I was surprised by his observation and naturally asked him why. He shared that he noticed I would always make an effort to go for Mass whenever I could and that I was always trying to listen to the other person’s side of the story and not try to impose my perspective.

God has a plan for us and we will need to co-operate with Him to allow the plan to achieve its completion. We can follow the example of St Paul who shares with us how he suffered greatly for Christ. This was not something which is easy to do especially since St Paul was put through tremendous risk in his life to proclaim the Gospel. I do hope that when the time comes for us to face such trials, we may be able to handle them with grace and patience.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, give us the grace to bear with the challenges in life with patience and love.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the people who teach us patience.