Tag Archives: paul wee

17 December, Tuesday – God’s Perfection

17 Dec 2019

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Genesis 49:2,8-10

Jacob called his sons and said:
‘Gather round, sons of Jacob, and listen;
listen to Israel your father.
Judah, your brothers shall praise you:
you grip your enemies by the neck,
your father’s sons shall do you homage,
Judah is a lion cub,
you climb back, my son, from your kill;
like a lion he crouches and lies down,
or a lioness: who dare rouse him?
The sceptre shall not pass from Judah,
nor the mace from between his feet,
until he come to whom it belongs,
to whom the peoples shall render obedience.’

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Matthew 1:1-17

A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, Tamar being their mother,
Perez was the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram was the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon was the father of Boaz, Rahab being his mother,
Boaz was the father of Obed, Ruth being his mother,
Obed was the father of Jesse;
and Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Azariah,
Azariah was the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah;
and Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers.
Then the deportation to Babylon took place.
After the deportation to Babylon:
Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor was the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud was the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob;
and Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary;
of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.
The sum of generations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ.

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Of her was born Jesus who is called Christ

The genealogy of Jesus shows forty-two (42) generations; fourteen (14) from Abraham to David, fourteen (14) to the Babylonian deportation and fourteen (14) from the Babylonian deportation to Christ.

When I first looked at Jesus’ lineage, I saw the faith of Abraham at work. This faithfulness can be seen in his leaving Ur for Canaan, and when he almost sacrificed his only son Isaac, in obedience to God.

This lineage looked perfect to me, until I read that there were interesting characters within the line. For example, Perez, the son of Judah and Tamar. This doesn’t sound extraordinary until we learn that Perez was conceived when Judah slept with Tamar believing that she was a prostitute. In fact, Judah was Tamar’s father-in-law! Tamar was the widow of Judah’s eldest son, Er, who subsequently married his second son Onan (according to tradition). Onan, too, died prematurely.

Two other examples I can see is that of Ruth, who came from the tribe of Moab, this tribe came about when Lot’s daughters slept with him! Finally, Solomon, who was a product of King David and Bathsheba, whom David married after arranging for Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, death in battle.

Knowing these three stories gave me a new perspective.

While I had originally thought that Jesus had been born into a “pure” and “perfect” bloodline, I realised that this lineage had been less than perfect. To me, God had perfected the imperfect! This was a powerful lesson; that no matter He, too, perfects us when we do His work and live according to His will.

Actually, in preparing for this reflection, I learned something else.

Because of the virgin birth, Jesus actually did not come Joseph’s lineage. Instead, He came from Mary’s! As much as it is that Joseph had adopted into his lineage, God had adopted Abraham’s lineage as His.

How powerful it is when we walk in the path has God has chosen for us!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, teach us to be open to Your will. Help us to always trust in You!

Thanksgiving: Thank You for guiding and protecting us, and for making us perfect despite our imperfection.

16 December, Monday – Desiring To Know God

16 Dec 2019

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Numbers 24:2-7,15-17

Raising his eyes Balaam saw Israel, encamped by tribes; the spirit of God came on him and he declaimed his poem. He said:
 
‘The oracle of Balaam son of Beor,
the oracle of the man with far-seeing eyes,
the oracle of one who hears the word of God.
He sees what Shaddai makes him see,
receives the divine answer, and his eyes are opened.
How fair are your tents, O Jacob!
How fair your dwellings, Israel!
Like valleys that stretch afar,
like gardens by the banks of a river,
like aloes planted by the Lord,
like cedars beside the waters!
A hero arises from their stock,
he reigns over countless peoples.
His king is greater than Agag,
his majesty is exalted.’
 
Then Balaam declaimed his poem again. He said:
 
‘The oracle of Balaam son of Beor,
the oracle of the man with far-seeing eyes,
the oracle of one who hears the word of God,
of one who knows the knowledge of the Most High.
He sees what Shaddai makes him see,
receives the divine answer, and his eyes are opened.
I see him – but not in the present,
I behold him – but not close at hand:
a star from Jacob takes the leadership,
a sceptre arises from Israel.’

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Matthew 21:23-27

Jesus had gone into the Temple and was teaching, when the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him and said, ‘What authority have you for acting like this? And who gave you this authority?’ ‘And I’ replied Jesus ‘will ask you a question, only one; if you tell me the answer to it, I will then tell you my authority for acting like this. John’s baptism: where did it come from: heaven or man?’ And they argued it out this way among themselves, ‘If we say from heaven, he will retort, “Then why did you refuse to believe him?”; but if we say from man, we have the people to fear, for they all hold that John was a prophet.’ So their reply to Jesus was, ‘We do not know.’ And he retorted, ‘Nor will I tell you my authority for acting like this.’

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“And I… will ask you a question, only one.”

I have always desired to experience God in a similar way Moses did. I have a whole list of questions about life, about heaven, and how eternal life would look like. I would ask about what He desired me to do with my life, and about the choices, He would like me to make. All to know and to learn.

I wonder, however, how God would interact with me if my desire for “perfect knowledge” was not so much for His glory, but for my own. What if I wanted to have some winning numbers for the lottery so that I could enjoy life as a rich man? Or to use this knowledge so I could gain an advantage over others?

In today’s Gospel reading, we read about some chief priests and elders coming to Jesus to ask Him as to the source of His authority. Jesus was aware of the intention behind this; which was the hope to use His words to trap Him.

Jesus knew their intention and instead of answering their question, returns with another question. The elders and the chief priests run through their minds the possible responses Jesus could have to their answers, chose to give a totally different answer.

I can see parallels to how I speak with God. While I have no intention of trying to trick God, I (unknowingly, of course), “force” God to choose His answers from the list of choices I have. I remember how, years ago, I had been praying hard for God to give me a job I wanted. In my heart and mind, I was trying to twist God’s arm into making it happen to me.  However, what finally happened was totally unexpected. It was not apparent to me then, but God did answer my question.

Let us learn to approach our God with pure hearts and with pure intentions. Only then will we be able to hear His answer.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Teach us, Lord Jesus, to be open to You. Help us learn to approach You with pure and clean hearts.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful, Father, that You alone can know our hearts. Thank You for loving and guiding us despite our iniquities.

15 December, Sunday – Love for God As the Basis for Everything

15 Dec 2019 – 3rd Sunday of Advent

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Isaiah 35:1-6,10

Let the wilderness and the dry-lands exult,
let the wasteland rejoice and bloom,
let it bring forth flowers like the jonquil,
let it rejoice and sing for joy.
The glory of Lebanon is bestowed on it,
the splendour of Carmel and Sharon;
they shall see the glory of the Lord,
the splendour of our God.
Strengthen all weary hands,
steady all trembling knees
and say to all faint hearts,
‘Courage! Do not be afraid.
‘Look, your God is coming,
vengeance is coming,
the retribution of God;
he is coming to save you.’
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
the ears of the deaf unsealed,
then the lame shall leap like a deer
and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy
for those the Lord has ransomed shall return.
They will come to Zion shouting for joy,
everlasting joy on their faces;
joy and gladness will go with them
and sorrow and lament be ended.

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James 5:7-10

Be patient, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. Think of a farmer: how patiently he waits for the precious fruit of the ground until it has had the autumn rains and the spring rains! You too have to be patient; do not lose heart, because the Lord’s coming will be soon. Do not make complaints against one another, brothers, so as not to be brought to judgement yourselves; the Judge is already to be seen waiting at the gates. For your example, brothers, in submitting with patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

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Matthew 11:2-11

John in his prison had heard what Christ was doing and he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else?’ Jesus answered, ‘Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor; and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.’
  As the messengers were leaving, Jesus began to talk to the people about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the breeze? No? Then what did you go out to see? A man wearing fine clothes? Oh no, those who wear fine clothes are to be found in palaces. Then what did you go out for? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet: he is the one of whom scripture says:
‘Look, I am going to send my messenger before you;
he will prepare your way before you.
‘I tell you solemnly, of all the children born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is.’

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And happy is the man who does not lose faith in me

The book of Revelation in the bible talks about heaven. It details how, in heaven, everyone stands and gives glory and honour to God.

I must confess that I was not impressed.

I did not find it appealing that what I would get out of eternal life was to stand around praising God; I felt that we were mere subjects of a King, and our role was purely to serve. What was in it for me?

This, however, changed for me only recently.

I was speaking with some people in the office and I was remarking how blessed I was to have met and married my wife. I was sharing about how despite being together for over twenty years, I enjoy spending time with her. In fact, I had hoped to be able to deepen my relationship with her.

This realisation was really very important to me. Our role is NOT just to stand and sing praises to God. If we walk closely with God, we cannot but help praising Him. It is not the chore we imagine it to be. Instead, we are invited to build this deeply personal relationship with Him. God knows us intimately and as we grow in love for Him, we desire to praise and honour Him.

When I first read Revelations, I had failed to understand this important element and looked at the songs of praises and honour by themselves. Without this love and relationship, all the praising and honouring will just be an empty show.

We do not even need to wait for heaven. I remember years ago, before I developed any real relationship with our Lord, I used to look at my watch while attending mass. In fact, I used to excuse myself to go to the washroom, in order to make the time go faster!

It is clear, in today’s Gospel, of Jesus’ relationship with St John the Baptist. The latter had been preparing the way for Jesus and John was the “servant”. Despite this disparity is statuses, Jesus talks about John in glowing terms, and calls him the greatest of all children born of women. Far from being a one-sided relationship, we see a mutually loving and respectful relationship.

Similarly, let us use our time here on earth to try and strengthen love for our Lord; to the level He loves us. Instead of it being a chore, I look forward to an eternity of desiring more time with our God!

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray that we may always have the desire to know You better and to love You more each day.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father for being faithful to us, even before we are faithful to You. We are grateful for Your love!

12 October, Saturday – Being God’s signpost

12 Oct 2019

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Joel 4:12-21

The Lord says this:

‘Let the nations rouse themselves, let them march to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for I am going to sit in judgement there on all the nations round.

Put the sickle in: the harvest is ripe; come and tread: the winepress is full, the vats are overflowing, so great is their wickedness!’

Host on host in the Valley of Decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the Valley of Decision! Sun and moon grow dark, the stars lose their brilliance.

The Lord roars from Zion, makes his voice heard from Jerusalem; heaven and earth tremble.

But the Lord will be a shelter for his people, a stronghold for the sons of Israel.

‘You will learn then that I am the Lord your God, dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain. Jerusalem will be a holy place, no alien will ever pass through it again.’

When that day comes, the mountains will run with new wine and the hills flow with milk, and all the river beds of Judah will run with water.

A fountain will spring from the house of the Lord to water the wadi of Acacias. Egypt will become a desolation, Edom a desert waste on account of the violence done to the sons of Judah whose innocent blood they shed in their country.

But Judah will be inhabited for ever, Jerusalem from age to age. ‘I will avenge their blood and let none go unpunished’, and the Lord shall make his home in Zion.

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Luke 11:27-28

As Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, ‘Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!’ But he replied, ‘Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it!’

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Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it

I have been so hooked on this TV series in the US titled ‘God Friended Me’. Without giving too much away, this series is about how an atheist (Miles) receives a Facebook request from someone calling himself ‘God’. Despite his non-belief, the main protagonist finds himself drawn in and over time, finds he has helped many people, and made many new friends.

Throughout the episodes, Miles draws a lot of gratitude from the people he has helped, but he always makes it a point to say that it is the ‘God’ account that sends him to them.

I love the premise of this show, and how beautiful it is when one surrenders to God, or fails to give God the credit for everything good that happens.

Growing up without my parents, I have often struggled to show, to myself or to those around me, that I was someone of value. As such, whenever I receive praise for anything I do well, I tended to revel in it. I forget that whatever good that I do, or that I receive, it all comes from God.

Brothers and sisters, just like Miles, let us always proclaim to others the fact that it is God that points us in the right direction, prompting us to do the right things.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, help us to be Your signposts. Help us remember that we are not the final destination, but that all ways point to You.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for showing us the joy of doing Your will!

11 October, Friday – Battling Lukewarmness

11 Oct 2019

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Joel 1:13-15, 2:1-2

Priests, put on sackcloth and lament. Ministers of the altar, wail.

Come, pass the night in sackcloth, you ministers of my God. For the house of our God has been deprived of oblation and libation.

Order a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly; elders, call together all the inhabitants of the country to the house of the Lord your God.

Cry out to the Lord, ‘Oh, what a day! For the day of the Lord is near, it comes as a devastation from Shaddai.’

Sound the trumpet in Zion, give the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the country tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, yes, it is near.

Day of darkness and gloom, day of cloud and blackness. Like the dawn there spreads across the mountains a vast and mighty host, such as has never been before, such as will never be again to the remotest ages.

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Luke 11:15-26

When Jesus had cast out a devil, some of the people said, ‘It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils.’ Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven; but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses. So too with Satan: if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? – Since you assert that it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils. Now if it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out? Let them be your judges then. But if it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you. So long as a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he is attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.

‘He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.

‘When an unclean spirit goes out of a man it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest, and not finding one it says, “I will go back to the home I came from.” But on arrival, finding it swept and tidied, it then goes off and brings seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and set up house there, so that the man ends up by being worse than he was before.’

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He who is not with me is against me

I grew up with my grandaunt, who taught me always to be kind to people around me. She was a wonderful role model for me. I learned from her how to take care of others. I remember how she used to go out of her way to take care of a relative who was addicted to opium. She would cook for him and take a bus down to make sure he had food to eat, and to also clean his place.

I have always taken the position that in addition to being kind, the additional thing we need to do is to not do evil. As a Christian, this had been my practice for many years.

I began to be aware that such an approach is insufficient in the life of being a Christian. In particular, I heard a sermon by our Archbishop William Goh. He was talking about the danger of being lukewarm; about not being ‘hot’ nor ‘cold’ in our faith. Rather than taking a stand, Bishop was emphasizing the need for us to be strong in our faith and to demonstrate it.

I must have read this Gospel of Luke countless times. Yet, it was only when I was preparing for this reflection that the latter parts (verses 21 and 24) spoke to me. All of a sudden, I see the close link between the dangers of lukewarm-ness and the lack of one’s conviction in faith.

What can I do in order to be stronger in my faith? For one, I recognise the need to guard against the ‘little things’. Sin tends to overcome us in small movements and I realised how important it was to be on guard at all times. An amazing song I recently heard is one by Casting Crowns — “Slow Fade” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QASREBVDsLk)

Let us stand guard and be strong. Let us be convicted in our faith. Let us take our side with the Lord, and do so convincingly.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we will always be unafraid to stand up for our faith. That we will allow others to see it in full glory.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful for the freedom that being with You brings, Father God. Thank You for showing us that we need to be courageous in our faith!

10 October, Thursday – Receiving Better Gifts

10 October 2019

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Malachi 3:13-20

You say harsh things about me, says the Lord. You ask, ‘What have we said against you?’ You say, ‘It is useless to serve God; what is the good of keeping his commands or of walking mournfully before the Lord of Hosts? Now we have reached the point when we call the arrogant blessed; yes, they prosper, these evil-doers; they try God’s patience and yet go free.’ This is what those who fear the Lord used to say to one another. But the Lord took note and heard them: a book of remembrance was written in his presence recording those who fear him and take refuge in his name. On the day which I am preparing, says the Lord of Hosts, they are going to be my own special possession. I will make allowances for them as a man makes allowances for the son who obeys him. Then once again you will see the difference between an upright man and a wicked one, between the one who serves God and the one who does not serve him. For the day is coming now, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and the evil-doers will be like stubble. The day that is coming is going to burn them up, says the Lord of Hosts, leaving them neither root nor stalk. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays.

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Luke 11:5-13

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him in the middle of the night to say, “My friend, lend me three loaves, because a friend of mine on his travels has just arrived at my house and I have nothing to offer him”; and the man answers from inside the house, “Do not bother me. The door is bolted now, and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up to give it you.” I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it him for friendship’s sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants.

‘So I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. What father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or hand him a snake instead of a fish? Or hand him a scorpion if he asked for an egg? If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

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Persistence will be enough to make him get up

I have been reflecting on the same message in recent months.

I have been self-employed for about the last five years, and a few months ago, I had started thinking about returning to corporate life. This passage in Luke came to mind and I began praying in earnest. I was pleasantly surprised when soon after, a friend told me about a job her company was looking for. She told me I was the perfect fit!

The job did not happen. While there was a fit, there were other factors that blocked the interview from happening. I was disappointed; I thought the Lord would answer my prayer on that new job. I had prayed and fervently. I was saddened but decided to put it behind me.

I came to terms with what happened one day when I was out with my family. I had asked my son what he wanted to have for lunch and he asked to have some chocolates and chips. I found myself frowning at this and suggested to him instead of junk food, he should have a proper, healthy lunch.

That was when it hit me. Many times, we look at God and treat Him like he is our personal ‘fairy godmother’ or ATM. We think that, under the parable of the persistent friend in Luke, that God would give us whatever we wanted. Instead, what if what we asked for was not the best for us? I am confident that whatever God does, He does what is best for us, including protecting ourselves from our own bad decisions.

Let us learn to trust in God and let Him take control.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Help us, Father, to have complete trust in You. Help us to allow You to take full control of our lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for Your love and for wanting to give us what is best for us. We are grateful Father, for Your love for us.

9 October, Wednesday – Bantering with God

Oct 9 – Memorial for Sts. Denis, Bishop, and Companions, Martyrs; Memorial for St. John Leonardi, Priest

Denis (d. 258) was a missionary to Paris, and its first bishop. His success roused the ire of local pagans, and he was imprisoned by the Roman governor. He was martyred in the persecutions of Valerius with Sts. Eleutherius and Rusticus. Legends have grown up around his torture and death including one that has his body carrying his severed head some distance from his execution site. St. Genevieve built a basilica over his grave. His feast was added to the Roman calendar in 1568 by Pope St. Pius V, though it has been celebrated since 800.

  • Patron Saint Index

John Leonardi (1541–1609) was the founder of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of Lucca. He was born in Lucca, Tuscany in 1541 and ordained a priest in 1572. He first dedicated himself to the Christian formation of young people in his parish of Lucca. Then he founded the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.

In 1574, he founded a community charged to deepen faith and devotion; this foundation occurred as part of the movement known as the Counter-Reformation. He worked with this community to spread the devotion to the Virgin Mary, to the Forty Hours and to frequent Communion.

This foundation received approval from Pope Paul V in 1614. He took his work to Rome where he became friends with St. Philip Neri who held him in high regard for his qualities of firmness and judgement and entrusted him to delicate works such as the reform of the Benedictan congregation of Montevergine.

He then founded with J. Vives the seminary of the Propagation of the Faith. He died in 1609, dedicated himself to his brothers suffering from the influenza epidemic that was raging in Rome at that time.

The final Rule of his community was published in 1851. Two houses of the Clerks of the Mother of God were opened when he died; three others were opened during the 17th century. He was beatified in 1861 and canonised in 1938.

  • Patron Saint Index, Wikipedia

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Jonah 4:1-11

Jonah was very indignant; he fell into a rage. He prayed to the Lord and said, ‘Ah, Lord, is not this just as I said would happen when I was still at home? That was why I went and fled to Tarshish: I knew that you were a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, relenting from evil. So now, Lord, please take away my life, for I might as well be dead as go on living.’ The Lord replied, ‘Are you right to be angry?’

Jonah then went out of the city and sat down to the east of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God arranged that a castor-oil plant should grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head and soothe his ill-humour; Jonah was delighted with the castor-oil plant. But at dawn the next day, God arranged that a worm should attack the castor-oil plant – and it withered.

Next, when the sun rose, God arranged that there should be a scorching east wind; the sun beat down so hard on Jonah’s head that he was overcome and begged for death, saying, ‘I might as well be dead as go on living.’ God said to Jonah, ‘Are you right to be angry about the castor-oil plant?’ He replied, ‘I have every right to be angry, to the point of death.’ The Lord replied, ‘You are only upset about a castor-oil plant which cost you no labour, which you did not make grow, which sprouted in a night and has perished in a night. And am I not to feel sorry for Nineveh, the great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, to say nothing of all the animals?’

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Luke 11:1-4

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘Say this when you pray:

“Father, may your name be held holy, your kingdom come; give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us. And do not put us to the test.”’

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The Lord replied

I love how Jonah goes back and forth with God in the first reading of today. After reluctantly going to Nineveh to preach repentance to the Ninevites, Jonah is settling down to watch what happens to the city. What is amazing is that he even argues with God and is unafraid to express this anger to Him.

When I first learned to pray as a child, one of the things that bothered me the most was the silence that greeted me when I tried to pray. I remember being in church and praying one day but was distracted by people walking past me. Despite how hard I tried, the silence where God’s voice should be was overwhelming.

This followed me for many years. As part of my search for a solution to this dilemma, I remember what a priest told me; that spiritual dryness was normal and the best strategy would be to pray through it; to tell God how we feel, despite our doubts and fears.

I learned, over time, for me that while God may not speak with most of us aurally, He does converse with us very richly. I experienced this rich conversation when I attended the Conversion Experience Retreat. I learned to listen with more than just my ears. Instead, I tuned into my feelings, to what I read, my thoughts or what someone else shared with me.

May we learn to be like Jonah and be unafraid to speak and connect with our God. What a rich life we would have!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, help us to learn to listen to You and be connected with You. Help us to listen with more than our ears.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful Father, for Your everlasting love for us, and allowing us to connect with You. We thank You for your generosity!

8 October, Tuesday – Being Mary, being Martha

8 October 2019

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Jonah 3:1-10

The word of the Lord was addressed a second time to Jonah: ‘Up!’ he said ‘Go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach to them as I told you to.’ Jonah set out and went to Nineveh in obedience to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was a city great beyond compare: it took three days to cross it. Jonah went on into the city, making a day’s journey. He preached in these words, ‘Only forty days more and Nineveh is going to be destroyed.’ And the people of Nineveh believed in God; they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least. The news reached the king of Nineveh, who rose from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth and sat down in ashes. A proclamation was then promulgated throughout Nineveh, by decree of the king and his ministers, as follows: ‘Men and beasts, herds and flocks, are to taste nothing; they must not eat, they must not drink water. All are to put on sackcloth and call on God with all their might; and let everyone renounce his evil behaviour and the wicked things he has done. Who knows if God will not change his mind and relent, if he will not renounce his burning wrath, so that we do not perish?’ God saw their efforts to renounce their evil behaviour, and God relented: he did not inflict on them the disaster which he had threatened.

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Luke 10:38-42

Jesus came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking. Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered: ‘Martha, Martha,’ he said ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’

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It is Mary who has chosen the better path

Since I was a young child, I must say I have a propensity to surround myself by ‘busy-ness’. I would just keep doing and before I knew it time would pass. There were many times when I would go on ‘autopilot’ and I would end up in a place, often not remembering the steps I got there. For that reason, I would not be able to remember if I had locked the car, or remember where I left my keys, or other items.

This was the reason why the story of Mary appeals to me; the way with she took time to sit at Jesus’ feet and just ‘be’. I am more like Martha, and I struggle when I am asked to be like Mary.

Over the years however, I have learned that it does not have to be one or the other. Instead, I have learned to take strength from being Martha by becoming more like Mary. During my day, I take time to sit at the feet of Jesus for short periods of time. I imagine myself looking at Him and asking Him for direction, daily. Over time, I have become a lot less distracted, and more ‘in tune’.

Along with this, was my realization that Mary and Martha represent more than just choosing between working mindlessly and sitting at His feet. Instead, the two sisters represent all interactions between my faith and the world.

For one, is the ‘faith and works’ discussion we often see in the book of James.

I see Martha as our works in the world, when we try to do our best for others. Yet, without being Mary, all these actions are not plugged into our faith; into Jesus. Rather than being one or the other, I embrace being the both of them.

We don’t have to choose to be either Martha or Mary. Instead, we can draw strength from each of them together!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Jesus Lord, help us to learn how to be with You at all times. Help us to always listen to You.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Jesus, for teaching us to always focus on You as we go about our days here on earth.

7 October, Monday – Going Beyond the Law

Oct 7 – Memorial for Our Lady of the Rosary

This day was originally observed as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory. Its date was chosen to commemorate the European victory at the third naval Battle of Lepanto in 1571. This battle marked the high point of Turkish (Muslim) advance on European soil with the Balkans and the regions west and north of the Black Sea returning to Western (Christian) hands in the succeeding centuries. This victory, after two earlier defeats at the same location, was attributed to Our Lady of the Rosary as special processions were made on that same day in Rome for the sake of this crucial victory.

Pope Pius V ordered that a commemoration of the rosary should be made upon that day, and at the request of the Dominican Pope Gregory XIII in 1573 allowed this feast to be kept in all churches which possessed an altar dedicated to the rosary. In 1671, the observance of this festival was extended by Pope Clement X to the whole of Spain, and somewhat later Pope Clement XI, after the important victory over the Turks gained by Prince Eugene on 6 August 1716 at Peterwardein in Hungary, commanded the feast of the rosary to be celebrated by the universal Church.

Wikipedia

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Jonah 1:1-2:1, 11

The word of the Lord was addressed to Jonah son of Amittai:

‘Up!’ he said ‘Go to Nineveh, the great city, and inform them that their wickedness has become known to me.’ Jonah decided to run away from the Lord, and to go to Tarshish. He went down to Joppa and found a ship bound for Tarshish; he paid his fare and went aboard, to go with them to Tarshish, to get away from the Lord. But the Lord unleashed a violent wind on the sea, and there was such a great storm at sea that the ship threatened to break up. The sailors took fright, and each of them called on his own god, and to lighten the ship they threw the cargo overboard. Jonah, however, had gone below and lain down in the hold and fallen fast asleep. The boatswain came upon him and said, ‘What do you mean by sleeping? Get up! Call on your god! Perhaps he will spare us a thought, and not leave us to die.’ Then they said to each other, ‘Come on, let us draw lots to find out who is responsible for bringing this evil on us.’ So they cast lots, and the lot fell to Jonah. Then they said to him, ‘Tell us, what is your business? Where do you come from? What is your country? What is your nationality?’ He replied, ‘I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.’ The sailors were seized with terror at this and said, ‘What have you done?’ They knew that he was trying to escape from the Lord, because he had told them so. They then said, ‘What are we to do with you, to make the sea grow calm for us?’ For the sea was growing rougher and rougher. He replied, ‘Take me and throw me into the sea, and then it will grow calm for you. For I can see it is my fault this violent storm has happened to you.’ The sailors rowed hard in an effort to reach the shore, but in vain, since the sea grew still rougher for them. They then called on the Lord and said, ‘O the Lord, do not let us perish for taking this man’s life; do not hold us guilty of innocent blood; for you, the Lord, have acted as you have thought right.’ And taking hold of Jonah they threw him into the sea; and the sea grew calm again. At this the men were seized with dread of the Lord; they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.

The Lord had arranged that a great fish should be there to swallow Jonah; and Jonah remained in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. The Lord spoke to the fish, which then vomited Jonah on to the shore.

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Luke 10:25-37

There was a lawyer who, to disconcert Jesus, stood up and said to him, ‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? What do you read there?’ He replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ ‘You have answered right,’ said Jesus ‘do this and life is yours.’

But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead. Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion when he saw him. He went up and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. He then lifted him on to his own mount, carried him to the inn and looked after him. Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said “and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.” Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands‘ hands?’ ‘The one who took pity on him’ he replied. Jesus said to him, ‘Go, and do the same yourself.’

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“And who is my neighbour?”

Every time I read or listen to the Parable of the Good Samaritan, I have always focused on the Good Samaritan, who goes all out to help the traveller, whom the others strove hard to avoid. What struck me, however, was that the injured traveller was actually a priest, or a Levite.

In other passages of the New Testament, it is shown clearly that the Samaritans know of the Israelites’ aversion to them (take for example, the Samaritan woman by the well, whom Jesus encounters). In this case, the differences between the Good Samaritan are even more pronounced given that the fallen traveller was a Levite. Despite knowing the possible negative implications (that the Levite is likely to dislike, or hate him), the Samaritan still goes out of his way to aid him.

What a powerful message!

Something else that is interesting in this passage is not just how the lawyer asks Jesus about how to inherit eternal life, but rather what is written in the law.

For many years, I had wondered how to accumulate enough brownie points to enable myself to enter heaven. I had imagined that on the day I die, I would meet St Peter at the Pearly Gates and he would have a checklist against which he would measure my performance here on earth.

Apparently, this lawyer had a similar mindset! What I have learned, and realised is that no matter what I do here, it would never earn me a place in heaven; it is a gift from God! Because of this gift of Grace from God, I cannot help but love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind and all our soul, and I must love my neighbours as I love myself.

I simply must.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray Father, that we may always see everyone around us as our neighbours, and that we may never see anyone as undeserving of our love.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful, Father, for Your love and mercy for us, no matter how sinful we are! Thank You for Your gift of grace!

6 October, Sunday – God-centredness

6 October 2019

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Habakkuk 1:2-3,2:2-4

How long, O Lord, am I to cry for help
while you will not listen;
to cry ‘Oppression!’ in your ear
and you will not save?
Why do you set injustice before me,
why do you look on where there is tyranny?
Outrage and violence, this is all I see,
all is contention, and discord flourishes.
Then the Lord answered and said,
‘Write the vision down,
inscribe it on tablets
to be easily read,
since this vision is for its own time only:
eager for its own fulfilment, it does not deceive;
if it comes slowly, wait,
for come it will, without fail.
See how he flags, he whose soul is not at rights,
but the upright man will live by his faithfulness.’

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2 Timothy 1:6-8,13-14

I am reminding you to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God.
Keep as your pattern the sound teaching you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. You have been trusted to look after something precious; guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

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Luke 17:5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ The Lord replied, ‘Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you.
‘Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal immediately”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper laid; make yourself tidy and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink yourself afterwards”? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”’

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“We are merely servants; we have done no more than our duty”

I was having a chat with some friends, talking about our work. One of them had shared how he had been working extremely late hours on an important project in order to meet a deadline.  When I stressed that it was important for him to get enough rest, he told me he would, after he did what he needed to do.

This conversation came on the back on another one I had with a different person. I had found out, to my chagrin and deep sadness, that a business associate turned friend had recently passed. My mind turned to my last coffee session with him a few months ago. He had shared with me how tired he was, and was working really hard. He was looking forward to doing the things he really enjoyed doing.

This got me thinking. I am the same. I will stay up all night in order to complete a piece of work. In my spiritual life, however, it’s usually a matter of making God wait. I think of something I need to do, and all of a sudden, I remember how many things I have to do, and I find myself putting it off. Very often, these never take off.

Yet, ironically, our lives on earth are short, and our tenure with our employers, shorter. It hit home that with God, I have been acting as the master, when we should remember our place as servants. While reflecting and writing this reflection, I had been asked to play guitar for two days for a parish retreat. Immediately, my mind went to how much I would have to give up during that weekend when the topic of reflection came to mind. Again, the servant thinks he’s the master.

The same goes for our prayers and petitions. Again, I find myself stretching my hand out, asking God for gifts and things, or for things to go my way. Translating this to the work environment, I cannot imagine an employee going into his Chief Executive’s office and demanding privileges and benefits; he’d probably get fired on the spot!

Our Father God loves us, and loves us to the ends of the earth. Let us not take this love for granted, and remember that we should live our lives with servant hearts.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray that we always maintain our servant hearts. Help us to always keep our eyes on You!

Thanksgiving: We thank You for loving us and giving us all that we need. Thank you Lord Jesus, for teaching us what is really important in our lives and not let the trivial things take over our attention.