Tag Archives: obedience

16 September, Sunday – Deeper Way

16 September 2018

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Isaiah 50:5-9

The Lord has opened my ear.

For my part, I made no resistance,
neither did I turn away.
I offered my back to those who struck me,
my cheeks to those who tore at my beard,
I did not cover my face
against insult and spittle.

The Lord comes to my help,
so that I am untouched by the insults.
So, too, I set my face like flint;
I know I shall not be shamed.

My vindicator is hear at hand. Does anyone start proceedings against me?
Then let us go to court together.
Who thinks he has a case against me?
Let him approach me.
The Lord is coming to my help,
who dare condemn me?

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James 2:14-18

Take the case, my brothers, of someone who has never done a single good act but claims that he has faith. Will that faith save him? If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, “I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty” without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead.

This is the way to talk to people of that kind: “You say you have faith and I have good deeds; I will prove to you that I have faith by showing you my good deeds – now you prove to me that you have faith without any good deeds to show.”

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Mark 8:27-35

Jesus and his disciples left for the villages round Caesarea Philippi. On the way he put this question to his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist,” they said, “others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.” “But you,” he asked, “who do you say I am?” Peter spoke up and said to him, “You are the Christ.” And he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him.

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again; and he said all this quite openly. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. But, turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said to him, “Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way, but man’s.”

He called the people and his disciples to him and said, “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, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

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“Who do people say I am?” 

Imagine the scenario of our first encounter. We do not know each other yet since it is our first meeting. If I were to ask you “Who are you?”, you would probably have an immediate answer. It could be a general description of yourself, your job, or could be anything that you are not ashamed of. You already have this memorized narration that will give a good first impression.

How about if we were asked by Jesus, “Who do you say I am?”  What would our answer be? At the back of my mind, I know he was born more than 2000 years ago. He was from Nazareth. His mother was Mary and his father was Joseph, a carpenter. He had so many followers and performed many miracles. Yet, he was sentenced to death at the age of 33. We have known this much about Christ. And yet, there should be more to it; because it is not as simple as “Who is Jesus Christ?” but rather, who is Jesus Christ to us?

In the Gospel, Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Christ.”  This signifies that Peter is clearly stating that he knew Jesus as the Saviour that they had been waiting for. After Jesus told them not to tell anyone about Him, He also told them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again.  All that being said, Peter disagreed with Jesus. I feel that what Peter was saying was that it is impossible to happen.

Sometimes in life, we are so fixated on the glamorous side of things. Peter, similarly, was only focused on Jesus as the Messiah, neglecting the course of action to becoming one. Jesus is our Saviour and we must always remember that He died for the sake of us.  It is not enough that we only knew about it. We have to seek a deeper, personal encounter with Him. We have to find ways to respond to Jesus. Then we ask, “But how?” It will never be easy. Jesus said so Himself, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  The statement itself for me is very hard to bear. Imagine taking up my cross. That means I must carry all my burdens and hardships in life. And with all of those, I have to do the will of God. But as hard as it is, we have to remember that God is always with us. God gives us trials that we can overcome. It is by the grace of God that we can surpass all our difficulties.

The most important thing that we have to remember is to pray. We all have these memorized prayers.  Yes, it is okay to pray those. But let us pray from our hearts and not from our memory. Let us pray as if those words are our own and we say those to our God. Let us pray that we will be able to know God’s will, accept it, and fulfil it.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, please grant us the grace to know You more and to do Your will.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for giving us Your son, Jesus Christ to save us from our sins.

6 September, Thursday – In Faith and Trust

6 September

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1 Corinthians 3:18-23

Make no mistake about it: if any one of you thinks of himself as wise, in the ordinary sense of the word, then he must learn to be a fool before he really can be wise. Why? Because the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As scripture says: The Lord knows wise men’s thoughts: he knows how useless they are; or again: God is not convinced by the arguments of the wise. So there is nothing to boast about in anything human: Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life and death, the present and the future, are all your servants; but you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.

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Luke 5:1-11

Now Jesus was standing one day by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the crowd pressing round him listening to the word of God, when he caught sight of two boats close to the bank. The fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats – it was Simon’s – and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

When he had finished speaking he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.’ ‘Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.’ And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, so they signalled to their companions in the other boat to come and help them; when these came, they filled the two boats to sinking point.

When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying, ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.’ For he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners. But Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.’ Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.

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They left everything and followed him.

Over the past few years, the Lord has led various people into my life, who have been exemplary as Jesus’ disciples. As I hear the stories about their conversion, how convicted they were in their calling and doing the Lord’s work, living the life of Jesus — I am in awe. In their hearts, they heard the call, and kind of left everything or at least, what the world expected of them, and followed Him.

I have a very deep affection for our priests; giving up on freedom, financial security, their own hopes and dreams, attachment to family and friends, to give fully of themselves for the love of Christ, to be shepherds to us. Just recently, we were blessed to celebrate the Diaconate Ordination of a wonderful young brother. His thanksgiving speech was both funny and heartfelt. The most moving part was his tribute and thanks to his mother. I am sure that every calling and ‘yes’ answer is not easy. The sacrifice is not just theirs alone, but involves their loved ones as well.

Recently, a few of us got together for tea and one of my friends shared that she had plans to review her life and finances – both to finance her children’s university education and also to be able to devote her time to a vocation she feels she’s being led to. Being the primary breadwinner for the family, this was indeed not an easy decision. Yes, her first and primary vocation now is to be a good wife and mother, but she also knows that the Lord has greater plans for her. And hence her plan to be free of the things that would tie her down, preventing her from being free to be led by God.

Another friend shared that he is now truly financially free – for he owned nothing. He had left the secular world behind (despite having a good, well-paying job) to heed the call to a religious life. Fast forward to today, he felt his calling was to be a lay person doing God’s work, and till today, he still owns nothing, but continues to give of himself; using the gifts and talents God has equipped him with, to help and journey with others. And truly, he does a wonderful and amazing job. He gets but a small stipend for what he does. But the Lord has been so graceful and generous by providing for his needs, including a scholarship for his studies in the area that he is in currently.

In today’s gospel, Simon was asked by Jesus to go out into the deep water and start fishing. Now Simon was an old hand in fishing. So perhaps in a condescending manner, he acceded to Jesus’ request but thinking to himself, “We know that there aren’t any fish there, but just to make you happy, we’ll just let our nets down.” We know how this story ends. The miraculous haul of fish and this call of the disciples to be fishers of men.

The Lord calls all of us to be his disciples. As Christians and Catholics, we have a duty to answer that call, but not all of us do. Perhaps we didn’t hear Him, His call was too soft? Perhaps we heard but chose to put the call on mute. Or some of us may think we heard wrongly. ‘No…. I can’t possibly be called to religious life? I am simply not holy enough.’ These are some of the more common excuses I’ve heard used. But, my brothers and sisters, we are called according to His plan, His job description for us and His time. It also does not mean that we are all to be priests and cloistered nuns. Every one of us has different roles to play in this mission. Religious and lay people – we have our own calling to live the life of Jesus and be Jesus to others.

As I reflect on today’s gospel, even in the past, I often felt like a loser, disobedient and stubborn. Why? Because I did not immediately leave everything and followed Him. In fact it took a good 19 years before I stopped being just a regular Sunday pew warmer to being active in a community. This journey continues. As I reflected on this further, I know our God is patient and not forceful. But if we just say ‘yes’, He will show us our mission and vocation.

Brothers and sisters, when you receive the call, are we willing to leave our boats and nets; the security on which our lives and our families depend on, throw in our lot totally with Jesus wherever He leads? The disciples left them and everything else. Yes, some of us take a little longer but this is faith, this is trust. Without it, the mission cannot succeed.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, you have a plan and greater purpose for our lives. To live beyond ourselves but for others. Give us deeper faith and trust in you. The courage to follow you. Knowing that in our collective mission as priests and lay people, we will find peace and joy.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your patience with us. Especially for times when we did not immediately heed your call.  

2 September, Sunday – God Save Our Church

2 September 2018

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Deuteronomy 4:1-2.6-8

Moses said to the people: ‘Now, Israel, take notice of the laws and customs that I teach you today, and observe them, that you may have life and may enter and take possession of the land that the Lord the God of your fathers is giving you. You must add nothing to what I command you, and take nothing from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God just as I lay them down for you. Keep them, observe them, and they will demonstrate to the peoples your wisdom and understanding. When they come to know of all these laws they will exclaim, “No other people is as wise and prudent as this great nation.” And indeed, what great nation is there that has its gods so near as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call to him? And what great nation is there that has laws and customs to match this whole Law that I put before you today?’

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James 1:17-18.21-22.27

It is all that is good, everything that is perfect, which is given us from above; it comes down from the Father of all light; with him there is no such thing as alteration, no shadow of a change. By his own choice he made us his children by the message of the truth so that we should be a sort of first-fruits of all that he had created. So do away with all the impurities and bad habits that are still left in you – accept and submit to the word which has been planted in you and can save your souls. But you must do what the word tells you, and not just listen to it and deceive yourselves.

Pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father is this: coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.

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Mark 7:1-8.14-15.21-23

The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus, and they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. For the Pharisees, and the Jews in general, follow the tradition of the elders and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow; and on returning from the market place they never eat without first sprinkling themselves. There are also many other observances which have been handed down to them concerning the washing of cups and pots and bronze dishes. So these Pharisees and scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?’ He answered, ‘It was of you hypocrites that Isaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of scripture:

This people honours me only with lip-service,
while their hearts are far from me.
The worship they offer me is worthless,
the doctrines they teach are only human regulations.

You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.’ He called the people to him again and said, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.’

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You must do what the word tells you, and not just listen to it and deceive yourselves.

These are extremely tough times for our Catholic Church today. More specifically, I am speaking about the recent sex scandal news that broke within the American Catholic diocese, this August 2018. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a Grand Jury report on one of the broadest-ever investigations into Catholic clerical sex abuse of minors in the United States. More than 300 priests have been credibly accused of child sex abuse by more than 1,000 victims, with cases known to stretch all the way back to 1947. Worldwide, Catholics have been shaking in sorrow, outrage, disbelief, and also, indignation.

With a quick web search, one can find numerous reports, commentaries and discussions arising on this news. One of the appalling ways this has divided the church is a very aggressive blame-game from various “camps”, investigative exposé on the alarming ecclesial infighting within Vatican, and many calls for pinning the proverbial tail on the donkey Pope(s) and their Secretaries of State and closest aides. Many are seeking justice for these crimes of covering up the sex abuses cases, for the playing of musical chairs of sullied priests to different Archdioceses in the US.

Yet, to all these commentaries, camps and voices, I ask this:

Where are the ears to listen gently to the victims’ stories – many of which have been smothered for decades? Where is the bleeding heart to ache with compassion for the trauma and wounds suffered by the wounded and their loved ones? The wounds inflicted by the sex predator, are subsequently further burdened by persons in power who have told them to remain silent, who would cover-up and feign peace. Now, these wounds are repeatedly being ripped apart because the scandal is actually not entirely about the ‘cover-up’ – but that they happened at all in the first place. Instead, the wounds of the wounded are not being given the proportionate space for their pain and reality.

For years, many young children, young adults, men and women, were being sexually tormented and abused by the men of God who were ordained to shepherd and guide them. Theirs are no theoretical abuse. Theirs are real human lives ripped apart by the sins of others. They are now older and aged. They and their stories deserve to be given the dignity of care. To allow the more salacious Vatican’s political scandals to overshadow this, is to further drive into obscurity the true painful stories of Mike McDonnell, Robert, Carolyn… By our priority of concerns, we may actually hinder the wounded and vulnerable from finding healing and communion with God and our community.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14).

Are we inadvertently flooding the forum with chaotic debates about the state of the Church’s politics and drowning out the cries for mercy and compassion from the wounded? Should Jesus be standing in the temple courtyard today, I imagine that he would overturn the tables and say the same: “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a marketplace.” (John 2:16) Some of us have been too heatedly distracted by the debates in our public fora – filling our minds with the latest news, trading opinions and commentaries. These can hinder us as a Church from truly grieving and repenting for the wounded.

Perhaps some of us are still reeling from shock and shame that our beloved Church has hidden so much filth and sin. But it is now time for us to act in spirit and with action. Let us sit with these wounded and listen to their stories; not make a spectacle of their pain. Shall we pray for and with them? We need to remember the victims and hold their pain gently in our prayers and intercessions. As the larger laity and clergy, we must seek to understand and how and where we have disabled the disenfranchised and vulnerable from speaking up. How have we casually brushed aside some curious or suspicious account by someone who was too afraid to speak bravely? If we were not able to discern well before, let us not waste time in discerning now with sincere wisdom. To ask: how can I, from here on, be part of a movement to prevent future abuses of power and the vulnerable within our community?

“Pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father is this: coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.” (James: 1:27)

The Church must remain Christ-like through this ordeal. Us, the church laity, are Christ’s hands and feet. Only we can go places and touch lives that, at this point, are hurting and alienated from the very institution that is expected to serve and protect its flock. While we mobilise ourselves to petition for accountability and justice within the Church, we must mobilise more fervently to pray for healing and to reach out to heal each other.

I know my reflection today treads on divisive ground. But hear me out, for today’s Scripture readings speak to the heart of this great sin and debacle that is corroding our Church. Jesus speaks in no uncertain terms:

Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.’ (Mark 7:15, 21-23)

“Accept and submit to the word which has been planted in you and can save your souls. But you must do what the word tells you, and not just listen to it and deceive yourselves.” (James 1:21-22)

Let us be rightly moved and outraged to compassionate action. If you have an hour this week, please join me in either one of these dedications: To devote a Mass for the healing and restoration of all the victims (known and unreported); to pray the Rosary to our Holy Mother to gather her children and to bind up the wounds of God’s people and the Church; to spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration to sit with our Lord and to sit with our brothers and sisters as we remember the tragedy that is innocence lost, lives and relationships broken, dreams shattered. I believe that it is in thoughtfully sitting with this immense grief of our larger family, that we as Church can move forward into healing and reparation.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: We pray to our Lord and Saviour Jesus, to touch our hearts in compassion for the real wounded faces and lives among us. We seek His wisdom and His heart of justice and mercy as we navigate our understanding of righteousness and grief in this troubled history of our Church.

Thanksgiving: I thank you God for humbling me and challenging me to look into the pain and reality of those who have been wounded. I know there can be nothing greater than bringing your love and healing to them, in any way I can.

12 April, Thursday – Be That Good Apostle

12 April
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Acts 5:27-33

When the officials had brought the apostles in to face the Sanhedrin, the high priest demanded an explanation. ‘We gave you a formal warning’ he said ‘not to preach in this name, and what have you done? You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and seem determined to fix the guilt of this man’s death on us.’ In reply Peter and the apostles said, ‘Obedience to God comes before obedience to men; it was the God of our ancestors who raised up Jesus, but it was you who had him executed by hanging on a tree. By his own right hand God has now raised him up to be leader and saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins through him to Israel. We are witnesses to all this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’

This so infuriated them that they wanted to put them to death.
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John 3:31-36

John the Baptist said to his disciples:

‘He who comes from above is above all others;
he who is born of the earth is earthly himself
and speaks in an earthly way.
He who comes from heaven
bears witness to the things he has seen and heard,
even if his testimony is not accepted;
though all who do accept his testimony
are attesting the truthfulness of God,
since he whom God has sent
speaks God’s own words:
God gives him the Spirit without reserve.
The Father loves the Son
and has entrusted everything to him.
Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life,
but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life:
the anger of God stays on him.’

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Obedience to God comes before obedience to men

Have you ever felt frustrated with the people at your workplace, to the extent where you have somehow felt mistreated and misunderstood? Have you ever felt oppressed by that someone who is probably not a team player and has some power over you at work? Where do our allegiance lie? These are tough, draining situations, where most of our focus and energy is channelled towards thinking about what went wrong and how not only do you only have yourself to blame for not being able to explain yourself, but that the blame should not besolely on you. Do we allow ourselves to be cornered and depressed over such incidents in toxic work environments? Because it is obedience to such people that brings no peace to our own life.

In today’s reading and Gospel, we turn to the passion that Christ Jesus had acted on, freeing us from sin and empowering us with the truth that God is everything we need to live for. Just like Jesus, until the very last moment of His life on earth, He was obedient to God the Father. And just like Jesus, we should have the same obedience to God as well. Let us not allow secular worries to weigh us down with such heavy yokes, but with the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus, let us learn to move away and to be that bigger person who continuously seeks, preaches and lives the Gospel truth. Let not our decisions and actions betray the teachings of God.

Brothers and sisters, let us learn to live a life that leaves us gracious and beautiful, not worried and depressed. The positivity and hope in the apostles are great example of how they dealt with the difficulties and outlook of non-believers. Similarly, with the people we meet today who remain thorns in our lives, those who are not able to be a ‘good person’ but only make others around them feel uneasy and difficult; let us deal with them in the same way as the apostles did with their detractors. Let us be walking testimonies of Christ, to be as faithful and loyal as the apostles, spreading the Good News that hope is here, Christ is risen!

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We continue to pray for all non-believers, that they do not turn away from the word of God, but re able to see the light and hope during this Easter season.

Thanksgiving: We are thankful for those who work with us, giving us the stability and peace in our workplaces; that we forge close relationships with others, and that they may see the goodness in us.

25 February, Sunday – Love in Action

25 February 2018

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Genesis 22:1-2,9-13,15-18

God put Abraham to the test. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he called. ‘Here I am’ he replied. ‘Take your son,’ God said ‘your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will point out to you.’
When they arrived at the place God had pointed out to him, Abraham built an altar there, and arranged the wood. Then he bound his son Isaac and put him on the altar on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son.
But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he said. ‘I am here’ he replied. ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy’ the angel said. ‘Do not harm him, for now I know you fear God. You have not refused me your son, your only son.’ Then looking up, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. Abraham took the ram and offered it as a burnt-offering in place of his son.
The angel of the Lord called Abraham a second time from heaven. ‘I swear by my own self – it is the Lord who speaks – because you have done this, because you have not refused me your son, your only son, I will shower blessings on you, I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants shall gain possession of the gates of their enemies. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.’
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Romans 8:31-34
With God on our side who can be against us? Since God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all, we may be certain, after such a gift, that he will not refuse anything he can give. Could anyone accuse those that God has chosen? When God acquits, could anyone condemn? Could Christ Jesus? No! He not only died for us – he rose from the dead, and there at God’s right hand he stands and pleads for us.
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Mark 9:2-10
Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter spoke to Jesus: ‘Rabbi,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say; they were so frightened. And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and there came a voice from the cloud, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.
As they came down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean.
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All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.
One of the traits which makes a military effective is the ability to obey orders. When commanders give instructions, every individual soldier has to obey even if the command was difficult and sometimes fatal. The true test is whether the individual is willing to set aside the self-preservation instinct of every human being for a higher goal. The readings of today remind us of our role as Christians which is to look forward to eternal happiness with the Lord Jesus Christ and to share this joy with the rest of the world.
In the first reading, Abraham demonstrated to us what it means to have faith in the Lord. He was willing to sacrifice his own son who was conceived in his old age because he trusted in the Lord. Sometimes trust in the Lord is very difficult for us because what we want is different from what the Lord has planned for us. The issue is for us to trust in the process which God has for us like how Abraham trusted in the Lord. God provided with the ram for the sacrifice to replace Isaac and Abraham received a promise from God where his descendants would be numerous.
The Transfiguration of our Lord is a preview of the eternal reward which we will receive. His disciples were in a daze when they saw the transfiguration and perhaps it is metaphorical for the effect of the state of sin in our lives. Sin causes us to lose focus of the purpose of our Christian life. It may result in us unable to recognise the Lord when He comes in our lives. It is in times like this that we need to follow the example of the three apostles who obeyed the Lord and kept everything secret until the appropriate time.
As we enter into the 2nd Sunday of Lent, we need to stay close to our faith and obey the Lord in what He has commanded us to do. Let us stay close to the Lord through prayer and be nourished through frequent reception of the Eucharist.
(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us remain obedient to your Son and not lose faith
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who have taken the vow of obedience

25 February, Sunday – Love in Action

25 February 2018

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Genesis 22:1-2,9-13,15-18

God put Abraham to the test. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he called. ‘Here I am’ he replied. ‘Take your son,’ God said ‘your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will point out to you.’
When they arrived at the place God had pointed out to him, Abraham built an altar there, and arranged the wood. Then he bound his son Isaac and put him on the altar on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son.
But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he said. ‘I am here’ he replied. ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy’ the angel said. ‘Do not harm him, for now I know you fear God. You have not refused me your son, your only son.’ Then looking up, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. Abraham took the ram and offered it as a burnt-offering in place of his son.
The angel of the Lord called Abraham a second time from heaven. ‘I swear by my own self – it is the Lord who speaks – because you have done this, because you have not refused me your son, your only son, I will shower blessings on you, I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants shall gain possession of the gates of their enemies. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.’
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Romans 8:31-34
With God on our side who can be against us? Since God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all, we may be certain, after such a gift, that he will not refuse anything he can give. Could anyone accuse those that God has chosen? When God acquits, could anyone condemn? Could Christ Jesus? No! He not only died for us – he rose from the dead, and there at God’s right hand he stands and pleads for us.
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Mark 9:2-10
Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter spoke to Jesus: ‘Rabbi,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say; they were so frightened. And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and there came a voice from the cloud, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.
As they came down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean.
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All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.
One of the traits which makes a military effective is the ability to obey orders. When commanders give instructions, every individual soldier has to obey even if the command was difficult and sometimes fatal. The true test is whether the individual is willing to set aside the self-preservation instinct of every human being for a higher goal. The readings of today remind us of our role as Christians which is to look forward to eternal happiness with the Lord Jesus Christ and to share this joy with the rest of the world.
In the first reading, Abraham demonstrated to us what it means to have faith in the Lord. He was willing to sacrifice his own son who was conceived in his old age because he trusted in the Lord. Sometimes trust in the Lord is very difficult for us because what we want is different from what the Lord has planned for us. The issue is for us to trust in the process which God has for us like how Abraham trusted in the Lord. God provided with the ram for the sacrifice to replace Isaac and Abraham received a promise from God where his descendants would be numerous.
The Transfiguration of our Lord is a preview of the eternal reward which we will receive. His disciples were in a daze when they saw the transfiguration and perhaps it is metaphorical for the effect of the state of sin in our lives. Sin causes us to lose focus of the purpose of our Christian life. It may result in us unable to recognise the Lord when He comes in our lives. It is in times like this that we need to follow the example of the three apostles who obeyed the Lord and kept everything secret until the appropriate time.
As we enter into the 2nd Sunday of Lent, we need to stay close to our faith and obey the Lord in what He has commanded us to do. Let us stay close to the Lord through prayer and be nourished through frequent reception of the Eucharist.
(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us remain obedient to your Son and not lose faith
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who have taken the vow of obedience

15 January, Monday – Obeying God

15 January

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1 Samuel 15:16-23

Samuel said to Saul, ‘Stop! Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.’ Saul said, ‘Tell me.’ Samuel continued, ‘Small as you may be in your own eyes, are you not head of the tribes of Israel? the Lord has anointed you king over Israel. The Lord sent you on a mission and said to you, “Go, put these sinners, the Amalekites, under the ban and make war on them until they are exterminated.” Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you fall on the booty and do what is displeasing to the Lord?’ Saul replied to Samuel, ‘But I did obey the voice of the Lord. I went on the mission which the Lord gave me; I brought back Agag king of the Amalekites; I put the Amalekites under the ban. From the booty the people took the best sheep and oxen of what was under the ban to sacrifice them to the Lord your God in Gilgal.’ But Samuel replied:

‘Is the pleasure of the Lord in holocausts and sacrifices or in obedience to the voice of the Lord?

Yes, obedience is better than sacrifice, submissiveness better than the fat of rams.

Rebellion is a sin of sorcery, presumption a crime of teraphim.

‘Since you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.’

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Mark 2:18-22

One day when John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, some people came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Why is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?’ Jesus replied, ‘Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of fasting while the bridegroom is still with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they could not think of fasting. But the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them, and then, on that day, they will fast. No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak; if he does, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. And nobody puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins too. No! New wine, fresh skins!’

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“Obedience is better than sacrifice”

Growing up, I would often comply with instructions in a bid to obey others; however, I would often question these instructions because I believed that things could be done in a different way, while achieving the same results. I would slowly start to tweak the instructions (and sometimes even sacrifice my nerves) in apprehension that it would not work. Should everything go according to plan, I would celebrate secretly as I had outwitted those who provided me with the instructions.

Likewise, in my relationship with God, I often convinced myself that I was doing what the Lord wanted by tweaking His instructions and plans. I compensated by sacrificing my time and energy to the ministry I was serving in, as well as at the workplace. However, I realized that despite all that I have been doing, I have not been obedient to what He wants me to do. I have slackened in my quiet time with Him, not responding entirely to His call when He has asked me to do something. I would also often bargain with Him, telling Him that I had already sacrificed enough for Him.

My wake-up call came when I started questioning my purpose in life. I realized that despite doing so much (by my standards), I felt empty. I decided to take a step back from everything that I had busied myself with, and to rebuild my relationship with God. I asked God for forgiveness because I was full of pride, built up from over the years, and I invited God to renew my spirit to do His work according to His will. It has been a few months, and I am still on this journey as obedience is not something that comes easily to me.

Brothers and sisters, today’s reading from Samuel reminds us that God first looks not at our sacrifices, but our obedience to Him. When we obey God, He renews our spirit and gives us the grace to experience meaning in our lives.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Dearest Father, we pray for the grace to listen to Your voice, and to be obedient in all that You have asked us to do.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank You for loving us even though we are disobedient, often questioning your plans for us.

8 December, Friday – ‘Fiat’

8 December – Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
On this, and the following eight days, the Church celebrates, with particular solemnity, the immaculate conception of the ever-blessed Virgin Mary who, from all eternity, was chosen to be the daughter of the heavenly Father, the spouse of the Holy Ghost, the Mother of the Divine Redeemer, and, by consequence, the queen of angels and of men.
The consideration of these prerogatives convinced the most enlightened fathers and teachers of the Catholic Church that she was conceived immaculate, that is, without original sin. It is very remarkable that among the shining hosts of saints who have, in every century, adorned the Church, no one wrote against this belief, while we find it confirmed by the decisions of the holy fathers from the earliest times.
Pope Piux IX forced, as it were, by the faith and devotion of the faithful throughout the world, finally on 8 December 1854, sanctioned, as a dogma of faith falling within the infallible rule of Catholic traditions, this admirable prerogative of the Blessed Virgin.
It is, therefore, now no longer, as formerly, a pious belief, but an article of the faith that Mary, like the purest morning light which precedes the rising of the most brilliant sun, was, from the first instant of her conception, free from original sin.
– Patron Saint Index
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Genesis 3:9-15,20
After Adam had eaten of the tree the Lord God called to him. ‘Where are you?’ he asked. ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden;’ he replied ‘I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.’ ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ he asked ‘Have you been eating of the tree I forbade you to eat?’ The man replied, ‘It was the woman you put with me; she gave me the fruit, and I ate it.’ Then the Lord God asked the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman replied, ‘The serpent tempted me and I ate.’
Then the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this,
‘Be accursed beyond all cattle,
all wild beasts.
You shall crawl on your belly and eat dust
every day of your life.
I will make you enemies of each other:
you and the woman,
your offspring and her offspring.
It will crush your head
and you will strike its heel.’
The man named his wife ‘Eve’ because she was the mother of all those who live.
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Ephesians 1:3-6,11-12
Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ.
Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ,
to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence,
determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ
for his own kind purposes,
to make us praise the glory of his grace,
his free gift to us in the Beloved,
And it is in him that we were claimed as God’s own,
hosen from the beginning,
under the predetermined plan of the one who guides all things
as he decides by his own will;
chosen to be,
for his greater glory,
the people who would put their hopes in Christ before he came.
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Luke 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.
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“let what you have said be done to me” (Mary’s Fiat)

St Irenaeus tells us that death came into the world by the disobedience of one virgin (Eve), and so our redemption was brought about the obedience of another virgin, Mary, the new Eve.

I tend to speak about obedience quite a bit and I cant help but come back to this point again. I would say that the 2 things that would make our ministry lives more pleasant and less tense would be — obedience and honesty.

Through disobedience, Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden, a metaphor for falling out of grace; they lost their preternatural gifts. The church teaches us that these are the preternatural gifts they lost: impassibility (freedom from pain), immortality (freedom from death), integrity (freedom from concupiscence, or disordered desires), infused knowledge (freedom from ignorance in matters essential for happiness). And so for us, disobedience to parents, to ministry leaders, our priests, Holy Mother Church and even bosses, will lead us down this slippery slope because we have been cut off (so to speak) from our head, our authority. In spiritual life, I liken this as well to protection from evil.

Let’s take two quotes to drive home this point on obedience.

“The Devil doesn’t fear austerity but holy obedience.” – St. Francis de Sales

“Obedience unites us so closely to God that in a way transforms us into Him, so that we have no other will but His. If obedience is lacking, even prayer cannot be pleasing to God.” – St. Thomas Aquinas

Honesty lets everyone know what kind of space you are in, in life, at the moment. Many arguments and disagreements and even false judgements are formed when people are dishonest. In community, we   practice something called ‘checking in’. Before we begin a meeting or prayer, it is always helpful to know where a person is in life. We should be less concerned with the ‘quality of work’ a person produces and more in tune with the actual person. Often, we will hear of people who are coming from tough circumstances — a tense atmosphere at home, the loss of a loved one, loss of a job — and if we just continue to pile on them like machines, we get very unhappy ministries. Very recently, I made this mistake and it left me with a sick feeling in my stomach because I didn’t see two sides of a story. With Mary’s help, we might be a little more human. So let us see, with Jesus’ eyes, people for who they are — themselves.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer: Hail Mary, full of Grace the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death. Amen.

 Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for giving us a mother who was human, so that we too might be more human and see more humanly!

4 July, Tuesday – Who is that man?

4 July – Memorial for St. Elizabeth of Portugal

Elizabeth (1271-1336) was a princess with a pious upbringing who became Queen of Portugal before she was a teenager. Elizabeth suffered through years of her husband’s abuse and adultery, praying all the while for his conversion, and working with the poor and sick. She rode onto the battlefield to reconcile her family members twice; once between her husband and son when they clashed in civil war, and between her son and his son-in-law years later, preventing bloodshed. This led to her patronage as a peacemaker, and as one invoked in time of war and conflict.

– Patron Saint Index

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Genesis 19:15-29

The angels urged Lot, ‘Come, take your wife and these two daughters of yours, or you will be overwhelmed in the punishment of the town.’ And as he hesitated, the men took him by the hand, and his wife and his two daughters, because of the pity the Lord felt for him. They led him out and left him outside the town.

As they were leading him out he said, ‘Run for your life. Neither look behind you nor stop anywhere on the plain. Make for the hills if you would not be overwhelmed.’ ‘No, I beg you, my lord,’ Lot said to them ‘your servant has won your favour and you have shown great kindness to me in saving my life. But I could not reach the hills before this calamity overtook me, and death with it. The town over there is near enough to flee to, and is a little one. Let me make for that – is it not little? – and my life will be saved.’ He answered, ‘I grant you this favour too, and will not destroy the town you speak of. Hurry, escape to it, for I can do nothing until you reach it.’ That is why the town is named Zoar.

As the sun rose over the land and Lot entered Zoar, the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord. He overthrew these towns and the whole plain, with all the inhabitants of the towns, and everything that grew there. But the wife of Lot looked back, and was turned into a pillar of salt.

Rising early in the morning Abraham went to the place where he had stood before the Lord, and looking towards Sodom and Gomorrah, and across all the plain, he saw the smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.

Thus it was that when God destroyed the towns of the plain, he kept Abraham in mind and rescued Lot out of disaster when he overwhelmed the towns where Lot lived.

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Matthew 8:23-27

Jesus got into the boat followed by his disciples. Without warning a storm broke over the lake, so violent that the waves were breaking right over the boat. But he was asleep. So they went to him and woke him saying, ‘Save us, Lord, we are going down!’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened, you men of little faith?’ And with that he stood up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and all was calm again. The men were astounded and said, ‘Whatever kind of man is this? Even the winds and the sea obey him.’

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… but he was asleep

Don Moen songs say that ‘He never sleeps’, which is quite contrary to today’s gospel. But he was asleep when the boat was swamped by the waves. Today are we disappointed with God? Do we think that He can do much more for us?

One of the great things about love and friendship is to trust that the other person will come through for you. In several occasions I have trusted my friends, like how we used to hang out late into the night, I know that they would do anything to protect me if danger stricks. Even with my colleagues, I know that I can come to work without my wallet and not go hungry, because I know that they would not want to see me hungry and they to trust that I would pay them back the next day. Relationships are based on trust.

Our experience in life may have made it difficult for us to trust others. I once knew 2 loving sisters who would do anything for their friends but they found it hard to trust others and not choosing to trust brought a lot of stress to their relationships.

If today, we have a problem with trust in general, it is quite likely that we are disconnected and not in touch with the essence of what it means to be human.

Jesus is not asleep but really, I wonder what He is doing right now? Is He thinking about me and smilling at me? Is He waiting for me at the Eucharist? Is He holding the hands of the people I have failed? I am only human, I could never guess. But as a Catholic, I know that He loves me and His is my lover and my loving Lord; He adores me and Has great plans for me. Do I need to know more? I trust Him enough to know that He will feed me more than my colleagues can, trust me more than my friends do, accepts me even when I am disappointed with myself and when that is not enough for my restless heart, I will run hastily towards His bosom and even when I cannot go to Him, He will never let me go.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Father, we pray for the people of America as they celebrate their independence day. May they (and we too) continue to trust in You.

Thanksgiving: Lord I run to you, all my hope and trust is in you. Jesu Ufam Tobie.

14 June, Wednesday – There is space in Heaven still

14 June 2017

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2 Corinthians 3:4-11

Before God, we are confident of this through Christ: not that we are qualified in ourselves to claim anything as our own work: all our qualifications come from God. He is the one who has given us the qualifications to be the administrators of this new covenant, which is not a covenant of written letters but of the Spirit: the written letters bring death, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the administering of death, in the written letters engraved on stones, was accompanied by such a brightness that the Israelites could not bear looking at the face of Moses, though it was a brightness that faded, then how much greater will be the brightness that surrounds the administering of the Spirit! For if there was any splendour in administering condemnation, there must be very much greater splendour in administering justification. In fact, compared with this greater splendour, the thing that used to have such splendour now seems to have none; and if what was so temporary had any splendour, there must be much more in what is going to last for ever.

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Matthew 5:17-19

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.’

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I have come not to abolish but to fulfill

As I read today’s gospel, I am comforted by a reality that is so fundamental to our Christian faith: Obedience. Today, Jesus taught that “whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heave”. The opposite is, of course, also true, i.e. disobeying the commandments will also lead to one being called least in the Kingdom of heaven. There are two interesting dimensions to today’s gospel passage.

First, in teaching about the importance of obeying the commandments, Jesus Himself exhibits a deep obedience to God. Indeed, Jesus started off by saying that “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill”. Yes, even God Himself (incarnate as Jesus) is obedient to His own commandments. This is an example of the sort of interior consistency that we, as Christians, need to display as well. In other words, we need to practice what we preach.

Second, Jesus makes an interesting point when He says that “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven”. He did not say that those who break a commandment will be condemned. Rather they will simply be called least, albeit still in the Kingdom of heaven, where the last is supposed to come first. How do we square this circle? The key to understanding this seeming conundrum lies in mercy.

While Jesus makes clear that breaking the commandments is an act of sin, He does not condemn the sinner. As always, the hope of salvation and forgiveness is held out, like an olive branch from God Himself. For those of us who have sinned (it is safe to say that all of us fall into this category, unless you are reading this from heaven – in which case, please pray for me), Jesus is telling us that there is space in Heaven for us still.

There is space in Heaven for us. There is no greater assurance of God’s love for His children, no greater cause for hope than the gates of Heaven left open to us always. All we need to do is to take a step towards those pearly gates, and that first step is to repent – to repent for our sins and seek the Lord’s forgiveness. As Jesus promised, He has come not to abolish, but to fulfil. He was not simply talking about the commandments. He has also come not to abolish us, we who have sinned so woefully, but to fulfil our destiny as children of God and co-heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven.

(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for Your forgiveness, for in the depths of our hearts, we are sorrowful for all the times that we have let You down. But we are weak, often even too weak to admit our failings. We pray for your love and patience.  

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for His everlasting love and forgiveness, for granting us admittance to His Kingdom, and asking of us no more than our love and repentance.