Tag Archives: paul wee

13 January, Saturday – True Value

13 Jan – Memorial for St. Hilary, bishop and doctor of the Church

St. Hilary of Poitiers (315-368) was known as Athanasius of the West. He was born to wealthy polytheistic, pagan nobility. His early life was uneventful as he married, had children (one of whom was St. Abra), and studied on his own. Through his studies, he came to believe in salvation through good works, and then monotheism. As he studied the Bible for the first time, he literally read himself into the faith, and was converted by the end of the New Testament.

Hilary lived the faith so well that he was made Bishop of Poitiers from 353-368. He opposed the emperor’s attempt to run Church matters and was exiled; he used the time to write works explaining the faith. His teaching and writings converted many and, in an attempt to reduce his notoriety, he was returned to the small town of Poitiers where his enemies hoped he would fade into obscurity. His writings nonetheless continued to convert pagans.

Hilary introduced Eastern theology to the Western Church, fought Arianism with the help of St. Viventius, and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1851.

  • Patron Saint Index

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1 Samuel 9:1-4,17-19,10:1

Among the men of Benjamin there was a man named Kish son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah; a Benjaminite and a man of rank. He had a son named Saul, a handsome man in the prime of life. Of all the Israelites there was no one more handsome than he; he stood head and shoulders taller than the rest of the people. Now some of the she-donkeys of Saul’s father Kish had strayed, so Kish said to Saul, ‘My son, take one of the servants with you and be off; go and look for the she-donkeys.’ They passed through the highlands of Ephraim and passed through the land of Shalishah, but did not find them; they passed through the land of Shaalim, they were not there; they passed through the land of Benjamin, but did not find them.

When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, ‘That is the man of whom I told you; he shall rule my people.’ Saul accosted Samuel in the gateway and said, ‘Tell me, please, where the seer’s house is?’ Samuel replied to Saul, ‘I am the seer. Go up ahead of me to the high place. You are to eat with me today. In the morning I shall take leave of you and tell you all that is in your heart.

Samuel took a phial of oil and poured it on Saul’s head; then he kissed him, saying, ‘Has not the Lord anointed you prince over his people Israel? You are the man who must rule the Lord’s people, and who must save them from the power of the enemies surrounding them.’

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Mark 2:13-17

Jesus went out to the shore of the lake; and all the people came to him, and he taught them. As he was walking on he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus, sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

When Jesus was at dinner in his house, a number of tax collectors and sinners were also sitting at the table with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many of them among his followers. When the scribes of the Pharisee party saw him eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard this he said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’

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“Follow me”

As a couple, my wife and I attended our first Christian course known as the Christian Life Programme (CLP). When this ended, we joined a cell group and soon after, became facilitators in another CLP run in the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. At its conclusion, we continued our journey with the participants and became cell-group leaders.

One of the challenges was that we felt we were never ‘good enough’. As we prepared for our weekly cell group sessions, we prayed hard for divine inspiration and even when we came up with a topic or something inspired, we still never felt that we had ‘it’. We worked really hard and after a period of time, felt really tired.

The Catholic community we were in is known as ‘Couples for Christ’, and there were many members from the Philippines. One of the things we noticed was how cheerful and happy the Filipinos were in serving. No matter how daunting the project or task as hand, there was positive attitude and faith that it would accomplished. And despite all the challenges faced, every single project has been successful.

Jesus, in the Gospel of today, called on Levi to follow Him and dines with him, as well as sinners and tax collectors. In response to criticisms by the scribes for associating with these people, our Lord responds that it is precisely the sinners who need Him.

Our Lord recognises value in us and loves us. To Him, we are important for Him to spend time with. In order to live up to our full potential, we need to learn from our Filipino brothers and sisters, have faith in our Lord and draw our confidence from Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we will always see the same value in ourselves that You see in us.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for sending Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ to tend to us sinners. We praise You and thank You for showing us the way.

12 January, Friday – A True Relationship With God

12 January
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1 Samuel 8:4-7, 10-22

All the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. ‘Look,’ they said to him ‘you are old, and your sons do not follow your ways. So give us a king to rule over us, like the other nations.’ It displeased Samuel that they should say, ‘Let us have a king to rule us’, so he prayed to the Lord. But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for it is not you they have rejected; they have rejected me from ruling over them.’

All that the Lord had said Samuel repeated to the people who were asking him for a king He said, ‘These will be the rights of the king who is to reign over you. He will take your sons and assign them to his chariotry and cavalry, and they will run in front of his chariot. He will use them as leaders of a thousand and leaders of fifty; he will make them plough his ploughland and harvest his harvest and make his weapons of war and the gear for his chariots. He will also take your daughters as perfumers, cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields, of your vineyards and olive groves and give them to his officials. He will tithe your crops and vineyards to provide for his eunuchs and his officials. He will take the best of your manservants and maidservants, of your cattle and your donkeys, and make them work for him. He will tithe your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out on account of the king you have chosen for yourselves, but on that day God will not answer you.’

The people refused to listen to the words of Samuel. They said, ‘No! We want a king, so that we in our turn can be like the other nations; our king shall rule us and be our leader and fight our battles.’ Samuel listened to all that the people had to say and repeated it in the ears of the Lord. The Lord then said to Samuel, ‘Obey their voice and give them a king.’

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Mark 2:1-12

When Jesus returned to Capernaum, word went round that he was back; and so many people collected that there was no room left, even in front of the door. He was preaching the word to them when some people came bringing him a paralytic carried by four men, but as the crowd made it impossible to get the man to him, they stripped the roof over the place where Jesus was; and when they had made an opening, they lowered the stretcher on which the paralytic lay. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, ‘My child, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some scribes were sitting there, and they thought to themselves, ‘How can this man talk like that? He is blaspheming. Who can forgive sins but God?’ Jesus, inwardly aware that this was what they were thinking, said to them, ‘Why do you have these thoughts in your hearts? Which of these is easier: to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven” or to say, “Get up, pick up your stretcher and walk”? But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ – he turned to the paralytic – ‘I order you: get up, pick up your stretcher, and go off home.’ And the man got up, picked up his stretcher at once and walked out in front of everyone, so that they were all astounded and praised God saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this.’

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“My child, your sins are forgiven”

I used to help at the bookshop at my church. We sold everything from candles to incense, rosaries and other religious articles. What I really loved, however, were the books; and the one book I really adored was “Mister God, this is Anna”.

What caught my attention was the intimate relationship Anna, a precocious 4-year-old, had with God. It was not a conventional viewpoint of God and it was this special relationship that appealed to me. Her conversations with God troubled some people, who did not hesitate to let her know what they thought.

I have always been such a ‘follow the rules’ kind of person. For example, my wife laughs at how I continue to follow directional signs in car parks, even if the car park was empty. Similarly, I was always conventional in the way I worshipped God. I found it difficult to take part in Charismatic or Praise and Worship services, and found I could only properly do so during mass. Like the ‘conventional’ folks from the book, I was extremely uncomfortable with other forms of worship.

In the Gospel, the scribes objected to Jesus telling the paralytic man that his sins were forgiven. Responding to this, Jesus instead told the man to pick up his stretcher and walk. While the ‘form’ looks different, this does not change the essence of what Jesus was saying, or Jesus’ relationship with the man.

“Mister God, This is Anna” really opened my mind, and also taught me that our relationship with God is more just about “looking and acting right”. It goes beyond that. It has also showed me that our relationship with our God is precisely that — our own, and not for others to judge and dictate.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we may not be like the scribes and be blinded by what ‘ought to be’. Help us Father, to recognise that our primary focus should always be on You.

Thanksgiving: Lord Jesus, we praise and thank You for teaching us that faith is a personal relationship with You. Thank You for Your love.

11 January, Thursday – True vs Superficial Worship

11 January
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1 Samuel 4:1-11

It happened at that time that the Philistines mustered to fight Israel and Israel went out to meet them in battle, encamping near Ebenezer while the Philistines were encamped at Aphek. The Philistines drew up their battle line against Israel, the battle was hotly engaged, and Israel was defeated by the Philistines and about four thousand of their army were killed on the field. The troops returned to the camp and the elders of Israel said, ‘Why has the Lord allowed us to be defeated today by the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of our God from Shiloh so that it may come among us and rescue us from the power of our enemies.’’ So the troops sent to Shiloh and brought away the ark of the Lord of Hosts, he who is seated on the cherubs; the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, came with the ark. When the ark of the Lord arrived in the camp, all Israel gave a great shout so that the earth resounded. When the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, ‘What can this great shouting in the Hebrew camp mean?’ And they realised that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp. At this the Philistines were afraid; and they said, ‘God has come to the camp.’ ‘Alas!’ they cried ‘This has never happened before. Alas! Who will save us from the power of this mighty God? It was he who struck down Egypt with every kind of plague! But take courage and be men, Philistines, or you will become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been slaves to you. Be men and fight.’ So the Philistines joined battle and Israel was defeated, each man fleeing to his tent. The slaughter was great indeed, and there fell of the Israelites thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured too, and the two sons of Eli died, Hophni and Phinehas.

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Mark 1:40-45

A leper came to Jesus and pleaded on his knees: ‘If you want to’ he said ‘you can cure me.’ Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘Of course I want to!’ he said. ‘Be cured!’ And the leprosy left him at once and he was cured. Jesus immediately sent him away and sternly ordered him, ‘Mind you say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offering for your healing prescribed by Moses as evidence of your recovery.’ The man went away, but then started talking about it freely and telling the story everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town, but had to stay outside in places where nobody lived. Even so, people from all around would come to him.

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“Why has the Lord allowed us to be defeated today by the Philistines?”

My soon-to-be-13-year-old just entered Secondary 1, having completed the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).

It was an anxious time for his cohort. Parents were understandably nervous; and the WhatsApp chat groups were filled with requests for solutions to questions from all sorts of mock exam papers.

There were also the prayer services and vigils that accompanied the examinations.

To be candid, these services and prayers troubled me.

During the examination period, I heard parents telling me that I should say a certain prayer or attend a certain novena because they “work”.

In today’s first reading, we read about how the elders of Israel decided to bring out the Ark of the Covenant to rescue them from their enemies. When the Ark arrived among the ranks of the soldiers, the Israelites gave a great shout and drew the attention of the Philistines. Aware of the ‘power’ of the Ark, this ironically motivated them, resulting in the loss of some 30,000 men, and consequently the battle.

How was it possible that the Ark had ‘failed’ the Israelites when it had been so ‘successful’ in the Battle of Jericho?

When we look into scripture, we realise that there is a huge difference; in the Battle of Jericho, it was the Lord who had shown the Israelites what to do, while the elders themselves took the decision to use the Ark as a weapon because it was something that they thought would ‘work’.

Brothers and sisters, the ultimate target of any prayer should not be ourselves. Instead, our eyes should always be cast on God. We should never use these prayers to honour and praise our God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, we pray that we will always keep our eyes on You. Teach us Lord, to never use You for our own purposes.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for showing us what is right. We are grateful for Your protection and Your love.

10 January, Wednesday – The Courage To Follow

10 January
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1 Samuel 3:1-10, 19-20

The boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli; it was rare for the Lord to speak in those days; visions were uncommon. One day, it happened that Eli was lying down in his room. His eyes were beginning to grow dim; he could no longer see. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying in the sanctuary of the Lord where the ark of God was, when the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ He answered, ‘Here I am.’ Then he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, since you called me.’ Eli said, ‘I did not call. Go back and lie down.’ So he went and lay down. Once again the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, since you called me.’ He replied, ‘I did not call you, my son; go back and lie down.’ Samuel had as yet no knowledge of the Lord and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. Once again the Lord called, the third time. He got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, since you called me.’ Eli then understood that it was the Lord who was calling the boy, and he said to Samuel, ‘Go and lie down, and if someone calls say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

The Lord then came and stood by, calling as he had done before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Samuel answered, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’

Samuel grew up and the Lord was with him and let no word of his fall to the ground. All Israel from Dan to Beersheba came to know that Samuel was accredited as a prophet of the Lord.

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Mark 1:29-39

On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went with James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew. Now Simon’s mother-in-law had gone to bed with fever, and they told him about her straightaway. He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up. And the fever left her and she began to wait on them.

That evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were sick and those who were possessed by devils. The whole town came crowding round the door, and he cured many who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another; he also cast out many devils, but he would not allow them to speak, because they knew who he was.

In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. Simon and his companions set out in search of him, and when they found him they said, ‘Everybody is looking for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go elsewhere, to the neighbouring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.’ And he went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out devils.

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“Speak, Lord, your servant is listening”

I have had quite a few experiences where I believe I heard the voice of God.

The first came when I was feeling quite anxious and had been mulling over my concerns for quite a few days. I remember visiting a friend of mine at her office and I was enjoying the comfort of the room when I heard it: “Don’t be afraid”. It was a soft voice, and what I felt was warmth in my heart. I felt comforted.

The next time was at a silent retreat in Malaysia. I was meditating on the Beatitudes when Jesus turned to me and spoke with me. It was about something that I was not even aware of. It was a few weeks after that, when I realised that the conversation I had with my Lord Jesus was prophetic. It was a beautiful experience!

In today’s first reading, Samuel heard God’s call but did not know it was God that called him. More importantly, he responded thinking it was Eli who had summoned him. While he was ‘wrong’ in that sense, the fact is that he took action and responded. Imagine if he had just ignored the ‘callings’ and just continued to lay in his bed. God rewarded Samuel for his faithfulness by making him His prophet.

Unlike Samuel, too many times we hear/feel/sense the Holy Spirit but choose not to respond. I know that there have been times when I have chosen to ignore the ‘little voice’ that prompts me to do or say something or be there for somebody. Yet when I do act on these promptings, I often find that there was indeed something positive that came out of it.

Let us pray that we are able to overcome our disbelief and pride and be open to God’s constant ‘little voice’.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, We pray that we may open our ears and our hearts and be able to respond to You.

Thanksgiving: Father God, thank You for showing what it means for us to be open to You. Thank You for giving us an example in Samuel to follow.

9 January, Tuesday – True Authority

9 January
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1 Samuel 1:9-20

After they had eaten in the hall, Hannah rose and took her stand before the Lord, while Eli the priest was sitting on his seat by the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. In the bitterness of her soul she prayed to the Lord with many tears and made a vow, saying, ‘O Lord of Hosts! If you will take notice of the distress of your servant, and bear me in mind and not forget your servant and give her a man-child, I will give him to the Lord for the whole of his life and no razor shall ever touch his head.’

While she prayed before the Lord which she did for some time, Eli was watching her mouth, for she was speaking under her breath; her lips were moving but her voice could not be heard. He therefore supposed that she was drunk and said to her, ‘How long are you going to be in this drunken state? Rid yourself of your wine.’ ‘No, my lord,’ Hannah replied ‘I am a woman in great trouble; I have taken neither wine nor strong drink – I was pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not take your maidservant for a worthless woman; all this time I have been speaking from the depth of my grief and my resentment.’ Then Eli answered her: ‘Go in peace,’ he said ‘and may the God of Israel grant what you have asked of him.’ And she said, ‘May your maidservant find favour in your sight’; and with that the woman went away; she returned to the hall and ate and was dejected no longer.

They rose early in the morning and worshipped before the Lord and then set out and returned to their home in Ramah. Elkanah had intercourse with Hannah his wife and the Lord was mindful of her. She conceived and gave birth to a son, and called him Samuel ‘since’ she said ‘I asked the Lord for him.’

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Mark 1:21-28

Jesus and his followers went as far as Capernaum, and as soon as the sabbath came he went to the synagogue and began to teach. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.

In their synagogue just then there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit and it shouted, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him. The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. ‘Here is a teaching that is new’ they said ‘and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.’ And his reputation rapidly spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.

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He taught them with authority

I am an avid user of social media, and one of the most memorable memes I have seen is that concerning the difference between a leader and a manager. The manager ‘leads’ from the back, often dictating what his employees are supposed to do and drives all actions with commands and instructions. His power comes from his official position within the formal organisation.

The leader, on the other hand, leads by example. He is often in the trenches and shows his followers through his actions. His actions lead people, not his words.

As someone leading a team in the past, I have reflected on which category of leader I belonged to; and I concluded that I was probably a blend of both, depending on which organisation and circumstances I was in. Despite calling myself a Christian and a Catholic, I was ashamed that I was not a better reflection of my faith.

In the Gospel today, Jesus shows His authority in ordering the unclean spirit to leave the possessed man. When I reflect on this, I realised that, apart from being the Son of God, Jesus derived a large part of this authority from His relationship with the Father. Before the events in today’s Gospel, Jesus had been baptised and had spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness. In the wild, Jesus got to spend time fasting and praying, building His relationship with God the Father.

Looking back at my times as a leader, I found that during the times when I was the ‘negative leader’, I tended not to be grounded with God and when I demonstrated ‘positive leadership’, I felt closer to God.

Let us continue to seek God so that He may cover us with His Spirit. Only through this are we able to draw on His strength to lead our lives authoritatively as Christians. May we learn to become models of our faith.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, we pray we may learn to draw on Your strength and our relationship with You. Help us, Father, to be better.

Thanksgiving: Jesus Lord, thank You for coming among us to lead us by example. Thank You for showing us what it means to be true Christians. Thank You for helping us go beyond the shallow, and touch what is real.

8 January, Monday – Recognising The Truly Important

8 January – The Baptism of the Lord

The Baptism of the Christ (or the Baptism of Christ) is the feast day commemorating the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. Originally the baptism of Christ was celebrated on Epiphany, which commemorates the coming of the Magi, the baptism of Christ, and the wedding at Cana. Over time in the West, however, the celebration of the baptism of the Lord came to be commemorated as a distinct feast from Epiphany. It is celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church as well as the Anglican and Lutheran Churches on the first Sunday following The Epiphany of Our Lord (6 January).

– Wikipedia

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Isaiah 55:1-11

Thus says the Lord:
Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty;
though you have no money, come!
Buy corn without money, and eat,
and, at no cost, wine and milk.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
your wages on what fails to satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and you will have good things to eat
and rich food to enjoy.
Pay attention, come to me;
listen, and your soul will live.

With you I will make an everlasting covenant
out of the favours promised to David.
See, I have made of you a witness to the peoples,
a leader and a master of the nations.
See, you will summon a nation you never knew,
those unknown will come hurrying to you,
for the sake of the Lord your God,
of the Holy One of Israel who will glorify you.

Seek the Lord while he is still to be found,
call to him while he is still near.
Let the wicked man abandon his way,
the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn back to the Lord who will take pity on him,
to our God who is rich in forgiving;
for my thoughts are not your thoughts,
my ways not your ways – it is the Lord who speaks.
Yes, the heavens are as high above earth
as my ways are above your ways,
my thoughts above your thoughts.

Yes, as the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.

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1 John 5:1-9

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ
has been begotten by God;
and whoever loves the Father that begot him
loves the child whom he begets.
We can be sure that we love God’s children
if we love God himself and do what he has commanded us;
this is what loving God is –
keeping his commandments;
and his commandments are not difficult,
because anyone who has been begotten by God
has already overcome the world;
this is the victory over the world –
our faith.

Who can overcome the world?
Only the man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God:
Jesus Christ who came by water and blood,
not with water only,
but with water and blood;
with the Spirit as another witness –
since the Spirit is the truth –
so that there are three witnesses,
the Spirit, the water and the blood,
and all three of them agree.
We accept the testimony of human witnesses,
but God’s testimony is much greater,
and this is God’s testimony,
given as evidence for his Son.

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Mark 1:7-11

In the course of his preaching John the Baptist said, ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’

It was at this time that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised in the Jordan by John. No sooner had he come up out of the water than he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’

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“Here is the servant whom I uphold my chosen one in whom my soul delights”

In the last few months, I have been having conversations with my ex-schoolmates and friends who are in all in their fifties. Strangely, while we have never previously discussed or shared our views, all of us talked of spending more time with our families, time with God, doing charity works or simply relaxing more.

And yet, these are men, who at first worked hard in their studies and later became very successful in their businesses and careers. Somehow over the years, these same men despite having all their ‘successes’, agreed that something was still missing in their lives. The common refrain I hear from them was, “There is more to life than money/career/success/…”

In our later years, my friends and I have realised that the pursuit of riches still leaves us wanting more. In my case, I realised in early 2016, when I attended CER, that the missing ‘something’ was my experience of God’s love. While His love was never lacking and was always there for me, my earthly issues and distractions kept me from noticing it.

Just like John the Baptist, who recognised that Jesus was God, and willingly bowed down to His Godliness, I pray that I may always be able to see God everywhere and in everyone around me. I pray that I may be able to give up my ego and pride and offer myself to our One True God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we may be able to give up everything for our Father and Lord God, that we may be able to always see God around us.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for choosing and creating us to be Your children, Father God. Thank You for being there for us and for sending Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ to us.

7 January, Sunday – Our Unlimited Potential

7 January

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Isaiah 60:1-6

Arise, shine out, Jerusalem, for your light has come,
the glory of the Lord is rising on you,
though night still covers the earth
and darkness the peoples.

Above you the Lord now rises
and above you his glory appears.
The nations come to your light
and kings to your dawning brightness.

Lift up your eyes and look round:
all are assembling and coming towards you,
your sons from far away
and your daughters being tenderly carried.

At this sight you will grow radiant,
your heart throbbing and full;
since the riches of the sea will flow to you,
the wealth of the nations come to you;

camels in throngs will cover you,
and dromedaries of Midian and Ephah;
everyone in Sheba will come,
bringing gold and incense
and singing the praise of the Lord.

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Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6

You have probably heard how I have been entrusted by God with the grace he meant for you, and that it was by a revelation that I was given the knowledge of the mystery. This mystery that has now been revealed through the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets was unknown to any men in past generations; it means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them, in Jesus Christ, through the gospel.

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Matthew 2:1-12

After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east. ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews?’ they asked. ‘We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.’ When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born. ‘At Bethlehem in Judaea,’ they told him ‘for this is what the prophet wrote:

And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
you are by no means least among the leaders of Judah,
for out of you will come a leader
who will shepherd my people Israel.’

Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared, and sent them on to Bethlehem. ‘Go and find out all about the child,’ he said ‘and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’ Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward, and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.

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“Arise, shine out, Jerusalem, for your light has come”

My family and I love reading books. Since I was about 9, I developed a lifelong habit of reading for at least an hour daily. I am blessed that my wife, too, has a strong love for reading and am happy to add that both my children are avid readers as well.

Motivated by the stories I read and fascinated by the exciting lives of the characters, I sought to understand how authors seemed to be able to put such lovely plots together. I dug deeper into the themes and came across the ‘Hero’s Journey’, illustrating how a ‘hero’ comes about. Typically, he moves from his current, comfortable position and faces extraordinary challenges. Through these trials, he learns (many times reluctantly) how to step up and face these obstacles. At the end of the journey, he realises that he has become a different person altogether and, unknowingly, has become a hero!

Our Lord’s story does not quite fit this narrative as our Lord Jesus did know His purpose — to show us the way to live and to bear and die for our sins. The Gospel of today does, however, show the challenges He had to go through in His early days as an infant. We see how the wise men had to deal with a cunning and jealous Herod, who went out of his way to try to kill Jesus. In essence, this is Jesus’ ‘Hero Journey’.

However, because of Jesus’ coming, this Epiphany shows our own personal journeys as heroic. In His coming, He shows us what and who we can become. Jesus, through His life and teachings, teaches us HOW to live and WHAT WE CAN BECOME if we follow His path. How powerful is this and how blessed are we!

In celebrating the Epiphany, let us celebrate God’s gift of eternal life and His gift of potential to us! Praise be to God!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, we pray that we will always be thankful for the life that You have given us. We pray that no matter what happens, You will be there for us as You were there for Your Son.

Thanksgiving: Thank You, Father, for showing in us, through Your Son Jesus, our potential. Thank You for showing us the right way to live and for loving us.

25 November, Saturday – God Alone Knows

Nov 25 – Memorial for St. Catherine of Alexandria, virgin, martyr

Catherine (d. 305) was a noble who was learned in science and oratory. After receiving a vision, she converted to Christianity. At the age of 18, during the persecution of Maximus, she offered to debate the pagan philosophers. Many were converted by her arguments, and immediately martyred. Maximus had her scourged and imprisoned.

The empress and the leader of Maximus’ army were amazed by the stories and went to see Catherine in prison. They converted and were martyred. Maximus ordered her broken on the wheel, but when she touched it, the wheel was destroyed. She was then beheaded, and her body whisked away by angels.

Catherine was immensely popular during the Middle Ages, and there were many chapels and churches devoted to her throughout western Europe. She was reported as one of the divine advisors to St. Joan of Arc. Her reputation for learning and wisdom led to her patronage of libraries, librarians, teachers, archivists, and anyone associated with wisdom or teaching. Her debating skill and persuasive language has led to her patronage of lawyers. And her torture on the wheel has led to those who work with them asking for her intercession. She is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

While there may well have been a noble, educated, virginal lady who swayed pagans with her rhetoric during the persecutions, the accretion of legend, romance and poetry has long since buried the real Catherine.

The Fourteen Holy Helpers are a group of saints invoked with special confidence because they have proven themselves efficacious helpers in adversity and difficulties. Though each has a separate feast or memorial day the group was collectively venerated on Aug 8, until the feast was dropped and suppressed in the 1969 reform of the calendar.

They are invoked as a group because of the Black Plague which devastated Europe from 1346-1349. Among its symptoms were the tongue turning black, a parched throat, violent headache, fever, and boils on the abdomen. It attacked without warning, robbed its victims of reason, and killed within a few hours; many died without the last Sacraments. Brigands roamed the roads, people suspect of contagion were attacked, animals died, people starved, whole villages vanished into the grave, social order and family ties broke down, and the disease appeared incurable. The pious turned to Heaven, begging the intervention of the saints, praying to be spared or cured. This group devotion began in Germany, and the tradition ahs remained strong there.

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1 Maccabees 6:1-13

King Antiochus was making his way across the upper provinces; he had heard that in Persia there was a city called Elymais, renowned for its riches, its silver and gold, and its very wealthy temple containing golden armour, breastplates and weapons, left there by Alexander son of Philip, the king of Macedon, the first to reign over the Greeks. He therefore went and attempted to take the city and pillage it, but without success, since the citizens learnt of his intention, and offered him a stiff resistance, whereupon he turned about and retreated, disconsolate, in the direction of Babylon. But while he was still in Persia news reached him that the armies that had invaded the land of Judah had been defeated, and that Lysias in particular had advanced in massive strength, only to be forced to turn and flee before the Jews; these had been strengthened by the acquisition of arms, supplies and abundant spoils from the armies they had cut to pieces; they had overthrown the abomination he had erected over the altar in Jerusalem, and had encircled the sanctuary with high walls as in the past, and had fortified Bethzur, one of his cities. When the king heard this news he was amazed and profoundly shaken; he threw himself on his bed and fell into a lethargy from acute disappointment, because things had not turned out for him as he had planned. And there he remained for many days, subject to deep and recurrent fits of melancholy, until he understood that he was dying. Then summoning all his Friends, he said to them, ‘Sleep evades my eyes, and my heart is cowed by anxiety. I have been asking myself how I could have come to such a pitch of distress, so great a flood as that which now engulfs me – I who was so generous and well-loved in my heyday. But now I remember the wrong I did in Jerusalem when I seized all the vessels of silver and gold there, and ordered the extermination of the inhabitants of Judah for no reason at all. This, I am convinced, is why these misfortunes have overtaken me, and why I am dying of melancholy in a foreign land.’

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Luke 20:27-40

Some Sadducees – those who say that there is no resurrection – approached him and they put this question to him, ‘Master, we have it from Moses in writing, that if a man’s married brother dies childless, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Well then, there were seven brothers. The first, having married a wife, died childless. The second and then the third married the widow. And the same with all seven, they died leaving no children. Finally the woman herself died Now, at the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife since she had been married to all seven?’

Jesus replied, ‘The children of this world take wives and husbands, but those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the resurrection from the dead do not marry because they can no longer die, for they are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God. And Moses himself implies that the dead rise again, in the passage about the bush where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.’

Some scribes then spoke up. ‘Well put, Master’ they said – because they would not dare to ask him any more questions.

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“…because things had not turned out for him as planned… ”

In my early twenties and having been just baptised, I spent a lot of time contemplating the Catholic faith. I wondered about what was going on in the Church and in the world. I argued and thought about the things that would happen after I died. I thought about eternal salvation and tried to decipher who would be saved and who would not.

At mass one day, I heard the story about how St Augustine was walking along a beach trying to understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity. There he saw a small boy running to and from the water’s edge to a hole in the sand, using a sea shell to carry water. When asked what he was doing, the boy answered, saying, “I am trying to move all the water of the sea into the hole in the sand!”. St Augustine laughed, thinking it was impossible. It was at that point St Augustine recognised that he was just like the little boy; only difference being that he was trying to fill his mind with God’s mysteries.

So many of us try so hard to figure out what will happen when we go to heaven. Despite all our scholarly studies and discourses, the reality is that only God knows. If I argued with someone else about, say, salvation and purgatory, does it mean that my viewpoint is correct if I am able to better argue my point of view?

Similarly, we plan our own paths in life, strategizing and working out ways to achieve what we want. Again, as our life experience shows us time and again, actual events tend not to conform to our plans. Again, only God knows what will happen exactly.

May we learn to be like little children sitting at our Lord’s feet. And like little children, we need to set aside our arrogance and self-importance and learn to be led.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we may learn to give up our own egos and our sense of self-importance. Help us Father, to always look to You for guidance.

Thanksgiving : We are grateful, Lord, for showing us that You are the true source of knowledge. Help us to continue to remember that.

24 November, Friday – Perfect Forgiveness

Nov 24 – Memorial for St. Andrew Dung-Lac, priest, martyr, and companions, Martyrs of Vietnam

Between the arrival of the first Portuguese missionary in 1533, through the Dominicans and then the Jesuit missions of the 17th century, the politically inspired persecutions of the 19th century, and the Communist-led terrors of the 20th, there have been many thousands of Catholics and other Christians murdered for their faith in Vietnam. Some were priests, nuns, or religious brothers. Some were lay people, some were foreign missionaries, but most were native Vietnamese killed by their own government and people.

Record keeping being what it was, and because the government did not care to keep track of the people it murdered, we have no information on the vast bulk of the victims. In 1988, Pope John Paul II recognized over a hundred of them, including some whose Causes we do have, and in commemoration of those we do not. They are collectively known as the Martyrs of Vietnam.

Andrew Dung Lac (1785-1839) was a Vietnamese priest who worked in the missions with the priests of the Foreign Mission Society of Paris (MEP). He was imprisoned and repeatedly tortured in the persecutions of Minh-Meng. He died with St. Peter Thi, beheaded in Hanoi for the offense of being a priest. He was canonized on 19 Jun 1988 by Pope John Paul II. He is one of the Martyrs of Vietnam.

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1 Maccabees 4:36-37, 52-59

Judas and his brothers said, ‘Now that our enemies have been defeated, let us go up to purify the sanctuary and dedicate it.’ So they marshalled the whole army, and went up to Mount Zion.

On the twenty-fifth of the ninth month, Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-eight, they rose at dawn and offered a lawful sacrifice on the new altar of holocausts which they had made. The altar was dedicated, to the sound of zithers, harps and cymbals, at the same time of year and on the same day on which the pagans had originally profaned it. The whole people fell prostrate in adoration, praising to the skies him who had made them so successful. For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar, joyfully offering holocausts, communion sacrifices and thanksgivings. They ornamented the front of the Temple with crowns and bosses of gold, repaired the gates and the storerooms and fitted them with doors. There was no end to the rejoicing among the people, and the reproach of the pagans was lifted from them. Judas, with his brothers and the whole assembly of Israel, made it a law that the days of the dedication of the altar should be celebrated yearly at the proper season, for eight days beginning on the twenty-fifth of the month Chislev, with rejoicing and gladness.

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Luke 19:45-48

Jesus went into the Temple and began driving out those who were selling. ‘According to scripture,’ he said ‘my house will be a house of prayer. But you have turned it into a robbers’ den.’

He taught in the Temple every day. The chief priests and the scribes, with the support of the leading citizens, tried to do away with him, but they did not see how they could carry this out because the people as a whole hung on his words.

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“My house will be a house of prayer. But you have turned it into a robbers’ den.”

The readings of today talk about purity. In the first reading, Judas and his brothers purified the sanctuary and dedicated it to God, while Jesus, in the Gospel of today, drove out the money changers and merchants who had made the Temple their place of commerce. Thereafter, He taught there every day, according the respect that should be accorded the Temple.

In the Letter to Corinthians, the Apostle Paul reminds us that our bodies belong to God, and that we were purchased at a price; through Jesus’ crucifixion.

I think about the times that as a child of God, I have not lived my life as one. I have committed sins, spread gossip and behaved in ways unbecoming of a Christian. And yet, God has given us a way back to Him, and the Church through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Just like the sanctuary and the Temple, we need to constantly rededicate ourselves to God, and to do it as often as we need to. Often, we allow the shame of our sins to stop us from doing so, despite the fact that is precisely what we need.

May we constantly keep our eyes on God and remember to return to him in contrition. We are in constant need for renewal and rededication.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, please take away our shame and allow the Holy Spirit to prompt us to return to You in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for Your constant love and patience. We praise You and thank You for Your gift of forgiveness.

23 November, Thursday – Tears Of Love

Nov 23 – Memorial for St. Clement I, pope, martyr; Memorial for St. Columban, abbot

Clement (d. 101) was the fourth pope, and an apostolic Father. The Basilica of St. Clement in Rome is one of the earliest parish churches in the city, and is probably built on the site of Clement’s home. He is the author of the ‘Epistle to the Corinthians’. His name occurs in the Canon of the Mass. Origen and St. Jerome identify him as working with St. Paul the Apostle.

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Columban (543–615) was well-born, handsome, and educated. He was torn between a desire for God and easy access to the pleasures of the world. Acting on advice of a holy anchoress, he decided to withdraw from the world. His family opposed the choice, his mother going so far as to block the door. He became a monk at Lough Erne. He studied Scripture extensively, and wrote a commentary on the Psalms. He became a monk at Bangor under abbot St. Comgall.

At middle age, Columban felt a calling to missionary life. With 12 companions, he travelled to Scotland, England, and then to France in 585. The area, though nominally Christian, had fallen far from the faith, but were ready for missionaries, and they had some success. They were warmly greeted at the court of Gontram, and the king of Burgundy invited the band to stay. They chose the half-ruined Roman fortress of Annegray in the Vosges Mountains for their new home with Columban as their abbot.

The simple lives and obvious holiness of the group drew disciples to join them, and the sick to be healed by their prayers. Columban, to find solitude for prayer, often lived for long periods in a cave seven miles from the monastery, using a messenger to stay in touch with his brothers. When the number of new monks overcrowded the old fortress, King Gontram gave them the old castle of Luxeuil to found a new house in 590. Soon after, a third house was founded at Fontaines. Columban served as master of them all, and wrote a Rule for them; it incorporated many Celtic practices, and was approved by the Council of Macon in 627, but was superseded by the Benedictine.

Problems arose early in the 7th century. Many Frankish bishops objected to a foreign missionary with so much influence, to the Celtic practices he brought, especially those related to Easter, and his independence from them. In 602, he was summoned to appear before them for judgment; instead of appearing, he sent a letter advising them to hold more synods, and to concern themselves with more important things than which rite he used to celebrate Easter. The dispute over Easter continued for years, with Columban appealing to multiple popes for help, but was only settled when Columban abandoned the Celtic calendar when he moved to Italy.

In addition to his problems with the bishops, Columban spoke out against vice and corruption in the royal household and court, which was in the midst of a series of complex power grabs. Brunehault stirred up the bishops and nobility against the abbot; Thierry ordered him to conform to the local ways, and shut up. Columban refused, and was briefly imprisoned at Besancon, but he escaped and returned to Luxeuil. Thierry and Brunehault sent an armed force to force him and his foreign monks back to Ireland. As soon as his ship set sail, a storm drove them back to shore; the captain took it as a sign, and set the monks free.

They made their way to King Clothaire at Soissons, Neustria and then the court of King Theodebert of Austrasia in 611. He travelled to Metz, France, then Mainz, Germany, Suevi, Alamanni, and finally Lake Zurich. Their evangelisation work there was unsuccessful, and the group passed on to Arbon, then Bregenz, and then Lake Constance. St. Gall, who knew the local language best, took the lead in this region; many were converted to the faith, and the group founded a new monastery as their home and base.

However, a year later, political upheaval caused Columban to cross the Alps into Italy, arriving in Milan in 612. The Christian royal family treated him well, and he preached and wrote against Arianism and Nestorianism. In gratitude, the Lombard king gave him a tract of land call Bobbio between Milan and Genoa in Italy. There he rebuilt a half-ruined church of St. Peter, and around it he founded an abbey that was to be the source for evangelisation throughout northern Italy for centuries to come.

Columban always enjoyed being in the forests and caves, and as he walked through the woods, birds and squirrels would ride on his shoulders. Toward the end of his life came word that his old enemies were dead, and his brothers wanted him to come back north, but he declined. Knowing that his time was almost done, he retired to a cave for solitude, and died as he had predicted. His influence continued for centuries as those he converted handed on the faith, the brothers he taught evangelised untold numbers more, and his brother monks founded over one hundred monasteries to protect learning and spread the faith.

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1 Maccabees 2:15-29

The commissioners of King Antiochus who were enforcing the apostasy came to the town of Modein to make them sacrifice. Many Israelites gathered round them, but Mattathias and his sons drew apart. The king’s commissioners then addressed Mattathias as follows, ‘You are a respected leader, a great man in this town; you have sons and brothers to support you. Be the first to step forward and conform to the king’s decree, as all the nations have done, and the leaders of Judah and the survivors in Jerusalem; you and your sons shall be reckoned among the Friends of the King, you and your sons shall be honoured with gold and silver and many presents.’ Raising his voice, Mattathias retorted, ‘Even if every nation living in the king’s dominions obeys him, each forsaking its ancestral religion to conform to his decrees, I, my sons and my brothers will still follow the covenant of our ancestors. Heaven preserve us from forsaking the Law and its observances. As for the king’s orders, we will not follow them: we will not swerve from our own religion either to right or to left.’ As he finished speaking, a Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice on the altar in Modein as the royal edict required. When Mattathias saw this, he was fired with zeal; stirred to the depth of his being, he gave vent to his legitimate anger, threw himself on the man and slaughtered him on the altar. At the same time he killed the king’s commissioner who was there to enforce the sacrifice, and tore down the altar. In his zeal for the Law he acted as Phinehas did against Zimri son of Salu. Then Mattathias went through the town, shouting at the top of his voice, ‘Let everyone who has a fervour for the Law and takes his stand on the covenant come out and follow me.’ Then he fled with his sons into the hills, leaving all their possessions behind in the town.

At this, many who were concerned for virtue and justice went down to the desert and stayed there.

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Luke 19:41-44

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem and came in sight of the city he shed tears over it and said, ‘If you in your turn had only understood on this day the message of peace! But, alas, it is hidden from your eyes! Yes, a time is coming when your enemies will raise fortifications all round you, when they will encircle you and hem you in on every side; they will dash you and the children inside your walls to the ground; they will leave not one stone standing on another within you – and all because you did not recognise your opportunity when God offered it!’

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“He shed tears over it”

Growing up, my relationship with my parents was distant. They divorced when I was about 5 and my mother left the home and remarried a few years later. My father left me behind in Singapore and moved to Taiwan when I was 10.

Suffice to say, my grandaunt played the role of both father and mother to me; and much of what I learned about the world, I learned from her. Being uneducated, her only means of earning an income was to look after children when their parents were at work. She was often afraid when dealing with others, seemingly accepting, but privately upset.

I came to view my world in the same way. And when I became a Christian, I felt that God, like my parents, was aloof… despite being part of a Catholic community, I felt… alone.

In the bible, Jesus only ever wept twice. The first occurred when Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, and the second, in today’s Gospel, when He wept for Israel for their non-belief. This took me by surprise. In my eyes, I had seen God as the all-mighty, watching us from somewhere beyond.

And yet, I learnt more about God the Father than I ever have by learning about His Son, Jesus, our brother. No God who is aloof and unloving would ever shed tears for His people, whether it was just for one person in the form of Lazarus or a whole nation in Israel.

May we always remember that no matter what happens to us, our God loves us, and that alone is enough to sustain us till we meet Him at Perousia.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, please show us the way. May the Holy Spirit always remind us that of Your everlasting love for us.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for showing us that You continue to forgive and root for us, despite all the times we turn away from You and make the wrong choices. Thank You Father for never giving up on us.