Tag Archives: paul wee

2 May, Wednesday – My Heavenly Vinedresser

May 2 – Memorial for St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor

Athanasius (c. 295) studied the classics and theology in Alexandria, Egypt. He was a deacon, secretary, and student of Bishop Alexander of Alexandria. He attended the Council of Nicaea in 325 where he fought for the defeat of Arianism and the acceptance of the divinity of Jesus. He formulated the doctrine of homo-ousianism which says that Christ is the same substance as the Father; Arianism taught that Christ was different and a creation of the Father, a creature and not part of God.

He became Bishop of Alexandria c. 328; he served for 46 years. When the dispute over Arianism spilled over from theology to politics, Athanasius got exiled five times, spending more than a third of his episcopate in exile.

He was the biographer of St. Anthony the Abbot. Confessor of the faith and Doctor of the Church, he fought for the acceptance of the Nicene Creed.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 15:1-6

Some men came down from Judaea and taught the brothers, ‘Unless you have yourselves circumcised in the tradition of Moses you cannot be saved.’ This led to disagreement, and after Paul and Barnabas had had a long argument with these men it was arranged that Paul and Barnabas and others of the church should go up to Jerusalem and discuss the problem with the apostles and elders.

All the members of the church saw them off, and as they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria they told how the pagans had been converted, and this news was received with the greatest satisfaction by the brothers. When they arrived in Jerusalem they were welcomed by the church and by the apostles and elders, and gave an account of all that God had done with them.

But certain members of the Pharisees’ party who had become believers objected, insisting that the pagans should be circumcised and instructed to keep the Law of Moses. The apostles and elders met to look into the matter.

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John 15:1-8

Jesus said:

‘I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in me that bears no fruit
he cuts away,
and every branch that does bear fruit
he prunes to make it bear even more.
You are pruned already,
by means of the word that I have spoken to you.
Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.
As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself,
but must remain part of the vine,
neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me, with me in him,
bears fruit in plenty;
for cut off from me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers;
these branches are collected and thrown on the fire,
and they are burnt.
If you remain in me
and my words remain in you,
you may ask what you will
and you shall get it.
It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit,
and then you will be my disciples.’
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“Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away”

It is strange how an experience can totally change how one perceives and understands the world around him.

In today’s Gospel, our Lord Jesus talks about how His Father, the vinedresser, cuts away every branch in us that bears no fruit, and that how anyone who does not remain in Him is like a branch that is thrown away. Over the years, I have somehow read the passage in John as God “cutting us off” if we failed to be faithful or productive in our faith and lives.

I mentioned in yesterday’s reflection about how my wife and I have just recently attended an Inner Healing Retreat. I experienced amazing healing and insights during this retreat. After this amazing encounter with God, I read the gospel passage differently.

Now, “every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away” tells me that He is active in me, cutting and pruning the ‘withered’ branches. These are the branches that wound and hurt me; that do not allow me to be the best for God that I can be.

God also promises that if we are to remain in Him, He would remain in us and we would bear fruit in plenty! What a beautiful promise!

This passage has taken new life for me. I am excited by God’s assurance of how He would take care of me. I am excited by His promises of how much fruit I can bear for Him.

What wonderful lives God has promised us!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, help us to always be mindful about how we can serve and love You more. We pray that Your Spirit may continue to guide us.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for Your blessed assurances to us Father. We look forward to loving You and serving You more each day!

1 May, Tuesday – In The Father’s Bosom

1 May – Feast of St. Joseph the Worker

Joseph (d. 1st century) was a descendant of the House of David. He was a layman, a builder by trade; traditionally a carpenter, but may have been a stone worker. He was the earthly spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the foster and adoptive father of Jesus Christ. He was a visionary who was visited by angels. He was noted for his willingness to immediately get up and do what God had told him to do. He died of natural causes, prior to the Passion of Christ.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 14:19-28

Some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium, and turned the people against the apostles. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the town, thinking he was dead. The disciples came crowding round him but, as they did so, he stood up and went back to the town. The next day he and Barnabas went off to Derbe.

Having preached the Good News in that town and made a considerable number of disciples, they went back through Lystra and Iconium to Antioch. They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith. ‘We all have to experience many hardships’ they said ‘before we enter the kingdom of God.’ In each of these churches they appointed elders, and with prayer and fasting they commended them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.
They passed through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. Then after proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia and from there sailed for Antioch, where they had originally been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.
On their arrival they assembled the church and gave an account of all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the pagans. They stayed there with the disciples for some time.
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John 14:27-31

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you,
a peace the world cannot give,
this is my gift to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me say: I am going away, and shall return.
If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father,
for the Father is greater than I.
I have told you this now before it happens,
so that when it does happen you may believe.
I shall not talk with you any longer,
because the prince of this world is on his way.
He has no power over me,
but the world must be brought to know
that I love the Father
and that I am doing exactly what the Father told me.’
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“Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you…”

I have seen a lot of suffering in the 50-odd years that I have been on this earth. Living with my grandaunt, I remember her words to me; about how difficult things were. I remember her visiting older relatives, and another uncle (her younger brother), who was a drug addict. She was a kind woman, treating those worse-off with love and compassion.

As I got older, I saw friends going through tough times in their finances, marriages and other life struggles. While troubles were aplenty, what was clear to me was that friends and family members tend to go through their personal challenges alone.

A friend once shared with me that he really struggled when he went through a long period of depression some 12 years ago. He would sleep many hours, wake up feeling depressed and then medicate himself. He had no desire to do anything or go anywhere and the biggest feeling was that of overwhelming depression.

My wife and I recently attended an Inner Healing Retreat and I had the most deep and exciting insight, one that will change how I see life’s challenges and my relationship with my God. In one of my reflections, I was feeling extremely lonely and afraid. I was praying during this particularly difficult experience when I felt comforted. While I could not see His face, I became aware that our Lord Jesus was next to me.

It occurred to me then that we never have to go through our challenges by ourselves. Never.

In my subsequent reflections, I went back to the difficult times when I felt most lonely and afraid, only this time, I had the Lord with me. The difference was amazing. All of a sudden, I no longer felt as much pain. I felt that God was there with me, holding me through the tough times.

I know I will never be alone again.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we may always turn to You, Father God, in our daily lives. Help us Father to always be sensitive to the presence of Your Spirit around us. Be with us Father and guard and protect us.

Thanksgiving: We praise You and thank You for being with us constantly. Thank You for covering with Your protection.

30 April, Monday – The True Reason For Success

30 Apr – Memorial for St. Pius V, pope

Antonio Ghislieri (1504-1572) was born to impoverished Italian nobility, the son of Paolo Ghislieri and Domenica Augeria. He worked as a shepherd as a boy, and received an excellent education in piety and holiness, including a scholastic education from a Dominican friar. He joined the Order in 1518, taking the name Michele. He studied in Bologna, Italy, and was ordained in 1528 in Genoa.

He was appointed teacher of philosophy and divinity in Genoa, and was a professor of theology in Pavia for 16 years. He was the Master of novices and prior of several Dominican houses, and he worked for stricter adherence to the Order’s rule.

He was an inquisitor in Como and Bergamo, and the commissary general of the Roman Inquisition in 1551. On Sep 4, 1556, he was ordained Bishop of Nepi and Sutri against his will. He was Inquisitor in Milan and Lombary in the same year, and created cardinal on Mar 15 the following year, made Grand Inquisitor on Dec 14, 1558, and was part of the conclave of 1559. He was appointed Bishop of Mondovi, Italy on Mar 17, 1560. As bishop, he worked to lead his flock with words and examples, and served as a continual messenger encouraging personal piety and devotion to God.

He became the 225th pope in 1566, and immediately faced the task of enacting the reforms of the Council of Trent. New seminaries were opened, a new breviary, new missal, and new catechism were published. Foundations were established to spread the faith and preserve the doctrine of the Church. He spent much time personally working with the needy. He built hospitals and used the papal treasury to care for the poor. He faced many difficulties in the public forum, both in the implementation of the Tridentine reforms and interaction with other heads of state. He created 21 cardinals. At the time of his death he was working on a Christian European alliance to break the power of the Islamic states.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 14:5-18

Eventually with the connivance of the authorities a move was made by pagans as well as Jews to make attacks on the apostles and to stone them. When the apostles came to hear of this, they went off for safety to Lycaonia where, in the towns of Lystra and Derbe and in the surrounding country, they preached the Good News.

A man sat there who had never walked in his life, because his feet were crippled from birth; and as he listened to Paul preaching, he managed to catch his eye. Seeing that the man had the faith to be cured, Paul said in a loud voice, ‘Get to your feet – stand up’, and the cripple jumped up and began to walk.

When the crowd saw what Paul had done they shouted in the language of Lycaonia, ‘These people are gods who have come down to us disguised as men.’ They addressed Barnabas as Zeus, and since Paul was the principal speaker they called him Hermes. The priests of Zeus-outside-the-Gate, proposing that all the people should offer sacrifice with them, brought garlanded oxen to the gates. When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening they tore their clothes, and rushed into the crowd, shouting, ‘Friends, what do you think you are doing? We are only human beings like you. We have come with good news to make you turn from these empty idols to the living God who made heaven and earth and the sea and all that these hold. In the past he allowed each nation to go its own way; but even then he did not leave you without evidence of himself in the good things he does for you: he sends you rain from heaven, he makes your crops grow when they should, he gives you food and makes you happy.’ Even this speech, however, was scarcely enough to stop the crowd offering them sacrifice.

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John 14:21-26

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Anybody who receives my commandments and keeps them
will be one who loves me;
and anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I shall love him and show myself to him.’
Judas – this was not Judas Iscariot – said to him, ‘Lord, what is all this about? Do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’ Jesus replied:
‘If anyone loves me he will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we shall come to him and make our home with him.
Those who do not love me do not keep my words.
And my word is not my own:
it is the word of the one who sent me.
I have said these things to you while still with you;
but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything,
and remind you of all I have said to you.’

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“We are only human beings like you”

My 13-year-old son joined a secondary school this year, leaving behind his primary school life. One of the changes he experienced was that they were required to work on more projects, often having to work in teams.

Recently, we were talking about the ‘right’ things to do when he used an analogy about what not to do, “Oh… you mean like those people who work in your project team, do nothing and then claim credit for all the work done?”.

Despite his youth, my son has become a keen observer of the human condition and is often spot on with his insights!

In the first reading today, Paul and Barnabas were ministering to the people of Lycaonia. There, they cured a crippled man. Excited, the crowds attributed the healing to the both of them and proceeded to call them gods. Both men were horrified and attempted to explain that they were normal human beings, and were sent there as God’s messengers.

In our lives, we would do well to learn from the example set by Paul and Barnabas. Because in my corporate career, I have often found myself praying hard for God’s guidance and protection, especially during challenging times. These situations would resolve themselves and I often found myself being the ‘lazy team player’ that my son talks about!

This temptation to claim personal credit is always present regardless of who we are. When we experience ‘success’, we tend to believe that this success is a result of our own abilities. Yet, when we take the time to analyse these successes, we realise that there are many reasons behind why one does well. It would be folly for us to forget the biggest part that our God plays in our lives.

Brothers and sisters, let us continue to always remember that we are here to serve our God, and that everything we achieve, we can only achieve through Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray that we may always remain humble in Your love and protection. Help us to remember to always cast our eyes to You.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for blessing us with the Holy Trinity and for always blessing us. Thank You Father for loving us!

29 April, Sunday – Forgiving Others, Because We Are Forgiven

29 April – 5th Sunday of Easter

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Acts 9:26-31

When Saul got to Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him: they could not believe he was really a disciple. Barnabas, however, took charge of him, introduced him to the apostles, and explained how the Lord had appeared to Saul and spoken to him on his journey, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. Saul now started to go round with them in Jerusalem, preaching fearlessly in the name of the Lord. But after he had spoken to the Hellenists, and argued with them, they became determined to kill him. When the brothers knew, they took him to Caesarea, and sent him off from there to Tarsus.

The churches throughout Judaea, Galilee and Samaria were now left in peace, building themselves up, living in the fear of the Lord, and filled with the consolation of the Holy Spirit.

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1 John 3:18-24

My children,

our love is not to be just words or mere talk,
but something real and active;
only by this can we be certain
that we are children of the truth
and be able to quieten our conscience in his presence,
whatever accusations it may raise against us,
because God is greater than our conscience and he knows everything.
My dear people,
if we cannot be condemned by our own conscience,
we need not be afraid in God’s presence,
and whatever we ask him,
we shall receive,
because we keep his commandments
and live the kind of life that he wants.
His commandments are these:
that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ
and that we love one another
as he told us to.
Whoever keeps his commandments
lives in God and God lives in him.
We know that he lives in us
by the Spirit that he has given us.

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John 15:1-8

Jesus said:
‘I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in me that bears no fruit
he cuts away,
and every branch that does bear fruit
he prunes to make it bear even more.
You are pruned already,
by means of the word that I have spoken to you.
Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.
As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself,
but must remain part of the vine,
neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me, with me in him,
bears fruit in plenty;
for cut off from me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers;
these branches are collected and thrown on the fire,
and they are burnt.
If you remain in me
and my words remain in you,
you may ask what you will
and you shall get it.
It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit,
and then you will be my disciples.’

____________________________

“Our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active”

I just love ‘The Hobbit’ by J.R.R. Tolkien. The book talks about how a Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins is thrown into an adventure against his nature. If he could choose, he would prefer to potter around the house, have his multiple breakfasts (as Hobbits are known to do!), drink his mead and do whatever Hobbits like to do.

While he begins his journey reluctantly, there comes a point when he makes a conscientious decision to continue with it, despite being given an option for him to return home; the home he so desires.

At the end of his exploits, Bilbo returns home, only to realise that he has returned a different Hobbit from when he first began; he can no longer go back to his ‘old self’ after having gone through his experiences.

In the first reading of today, we read about how the converted Paul (formerly known as Saul) tries to join the disciples. They are afraid of him, the great persecutor of the Christians. How can it be that such a hater of the Christians can experience such a conversion and decide to join them? How is it even possible?

In the Gospel today, our Lord Jesus tells us that it is possible. He alone is the true vine and if we are truly plugged in to this true vine, we would bear much fruit. We need to have faith in this truth.

I have been guilty of being a skeptic. I once shared with my wife about how I did not like someone (from my past). I related my past experiences about how I had been wronged by that person. Quietly, she would remind me that it is possible that the person may have changed and that I should give them another chance. How right she was. If God continues to give us opportunities to change and become better people, who are we to judge them? If God has forgiven our debt of 10,000 talents, who are we go about demanding our 100 denarii?

Let us learn never to be judgemental. Like Barnabas in the first reading, let us learn to be forgiving.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Lord, we pray that we may learn to forgive those who have wronged us. Let us learn, instead, to be beacons of our faith in You, and draw others to You.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for loving and forgiving us first. Thank You for sending our Lord Jesus to us to show us how to forgive, and love others.

10 March, Saturday – Being Authentic

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We give thanks to God for your steadfast following of Oxygen.

As we enter into the Paschal Mystery of the Church, we invite our readers who want to help contribute a reflection to come forward.

The following readings are available for reflection:

Holy Saturday

 

6th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

7th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

Epistle + Responsorial Psalm

Gospel

This is a good time for you to share with our readers the joys you have had in reading Oxygen. Do drop an email to descksoon@yahoo.com who will be in touch with you on how to proceed.

God bless

Oxygen Core Team

 

10 March

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Hosea 5:15-6:6

The Lord says this:

They will search for me in their misery. ‘Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces, but he will heal us; he has struck us down, but he will bandage our wounds; after a day or two he will bring us back to life, on the third day he will raise us and we shall live in his presence.

Let us set ourselves to know the Lord; that he will come is as certain as the dawn his judgement will rise like the light, he will come to us as showers come, like spring rains watering the earth.’

What am I to do with you, Ephraim?What am I to do with you, Judah? This love of yours is like a morning cloud, like the dew that quickly disappears.

This is why I have torn them to pieces by the prophets, why I slaughtered them with the words from my mouth, since what I want is love, not sacrifice; knowledge of God, not holocausts.

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Luke 18:9-14

Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else: ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.” The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

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“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted”

I recently decided to play a game and began counting the number of people who were looking at their smartphones one day. I knew that we, as a people, were into our technology, but was surprised when I counted at least 80%. Imagine that — at least 8 out of 10 people were staring into their phones!

What tickled me most was what happened one Christmas season. My wife and I had met with a good friend for dinner along Orchard Road. We thought it would be a great experience to take a walk after that to take in the sights.

What happened after that was surprising, funny and, if I am to be honest, sad.

We saw many people walking with their phones on video mode, smiling and laughing into their devices. Yet others were posing in front of the bright lights, choosing their best sides to be shown in their selfies or wefies.

What happened consistently was how after their photographs and videos were taken, the smiles and enthusiasm disappeared, as if all the previous gaiety was brought up specially for the world to see. In fact, when we scrutinise our social media accounts, we realise that we have a tendency of only wanting to show the world our best sides. We want to show the world how good we are, or what good we have done. We want the world to respect us, to love us.

In fact, when I was working in the corporate world, I was told, repeatedly, that I had to work harder to impress senior management with my abilities and that I had to ensure that I had projects that would bring my talents under the spotlight.

In the Gospel today, Jesus warns us that we should guard against such a tendency. The only difference is that instead of the ‘world’, we want to showcase our good sides to God. We want God to love us for the good that we do and we try to earn our ways to heaven. There simply is no reason to do this; our place in heaven has been given to us, by Grace. We cannot, and need not, ‘earn’ this.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, we pray that we will learn what it means to love God by loving our neighbours. Help us to resist the temptation to keep our faith in our minds, and to live it everyday.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for showing us how to manifest our faith and love in You. Thank You for helping us know the way to heaven.

9 March, Friday – Walking The Talk

9 Mar – Memorial for St. Frances of Rome, religious

St. Frances (1384-1440) was an aristocrat by birth. She married at the age of 12, and her marriage lasted 40 years. She was a mother of three before becoming a widow. She joined the Benedictines, and was the foundress of the ‘Oblates of the Tor de’ Specchi’ (Collatines). She is said to have been guided by an archangel only she could see. She spent her life and fortune, both as a laywoman and a religious, in the service of the sick and the poor, including the founding of the first home in Rome for abandoned children. She dictated 97 ‘Visions’, in which she saw many of the pains of Hell.

On her feast day, priests bless cars due to her patronage of cars and drivers. Frances certainly never drove, but legend says that when she went abroad at night, her guardian angel went before her, lighting the road with a headlight-live lantern, keeping her safe in her travels.

Prayer to St. Frances

Dear Frances, you were an exemplary wife, ever faithful to your husband. After his death, you founded and governed the Congregation of Mount Olivet, revealing your great devotion to our Lord’s Passion. Your faith in Angels was rewarded by frequent visions of them. Please pray for Catholics in our day that they may be as dedicated to God as you were. Amen.

– Patron Saint Index

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Hosea 14:2-10
The Lord says this:
Israel, come back to the Lord your God;
your iniquity was the cause of your downfall.
Provide yourself with words
and come back to the Lord.
Say to him, ‘Take all iniquity away
so that we may have happiness again
and offer you our words of praise.
Assyria cannot save us,
we will not ride horses any more,
or say, “Our God!” to what our own hands have made,
for you are the one in whom orphans find compassion.’
– I will heal their disloyalty,
I will love them with all my heart,
for my anger has turned from them.
I will fall like dew on Israel.
He shall bloom like the lily,
and thrust out roots like the poplar,
his shoots will spread far;
he will have the beauty of the olive
and the fragrance of Lebanon.
They will come back to live in my shade;
they will grow corn that flourishes,
they will cultivate vines
as renowned as the wine of Helbon.
What has Ephraim to do with idols any more
when it is I who hear his prayer and care for him?
I am like a cypress ever green,
all your fruitfulness comes from me.
Let the wise man understand these words.
Let the intelligent man grasp their meaning.
For the ways of the Lord are straight,
and virtuous men walk in them,
but sinners stumble.
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Mark 12:28-34
One of the scribes came up to Jesus and put a question to him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to him, ‘Well spoken, Master; what you have said is true: that he is one and there is no other. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.’ Jesus, seeing how wisely he had spoken, said, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And after that no one dared to question him any more.
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“You must love your neighbour as yourself”

I grew up in a 3-room HDB flat, living with my grandaunt and her son, my uncle. We had no real consistent means of income and my grandaunt made her money by being a babysitter, looking after about five children at any one time.

Despite the fact that we were rather poor, we had wonderfully generous neighbours. I remember them bringing food over to share with us on an almost daily basis. Another laundered and ironed our clothes daily. Yet another came over to spend time with my grandaunt, spending time with her and listening to her share her daily woes.

During the 30-plus years I spent there, I felt the love that our neighbours had for us and knew that whatever the circumstances we had to face, we had their support. In fact, whenever we had any financial difficulty, the neighbours readily loaned us money.

In today’s Gospel, our Lord Jesus talks about the two greatest commandments; to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.

The bible has many examples about how we should be interacting and helping our neighbours. These passages all talk about how our behaviour should reflect our faith, and that this faith should not be theoretical.

Such an example were my former neighbours. They never needed to tell us they cared, or even what they thought about us. All they did was to show us, every day. Even though they were all not Christians, they demonstrated what it was like to show Christian love.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, we pray that we will learn what it means to love God; by loving our neighbours. Help us to resist the temptation to keep our faith in our minds, and to live it everyday.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for showing us how to manifest our faith and love in You. Thank You for helping us know the way to heaven.

8 March, Thursday – Shedding Our Hardness

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We give thanks to God for your steadfast following of Oxygen.

As we enter into the Paschal Mystery of the Church, we invite our readers who want to help contribute a reflection to come forward.

The following readings are available for reflection:

Holy Saturday

1st Reading + Responsorial Psalm

2nd Reading + Responsorial Psalm

3rd Reading + Responsorial Psalm

4th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

5th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

6th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

7th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

Epistle + Responsorial Psalm

Gospel

This is a good time for you to share with our readers the joys you have had in reading Oxygen. Do drop an email to descksoon@yahoo.com who will be in touch with you on how to proceed.

God bless

Oxygen Core Team

 

8 March

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Jeremiah 7:23-28

These were my orders: Listen to my voice, then I will be your God and you shall be my people. Follow right to the end the way that I mark out for you, and you will prosper. But they did not listen, they did not pay attention; they followed the dictates of their own evil hearts, refused to face me, and turned their backs on me. From the day your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until today, day after day I have persistently sent you all my servants the prophets.

But they have not listened to me, have not paid attention; they have grown stubborn and behaved worse than their ancestors. You may say all these words to them: they will not listen to you; you may call them: they will not answer. So tell them this, “Here is the nation that will not listen to the voice of the Lord its God nor take correction. Sincerity is no more, it has vanished from their mouths.”

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Luke 11:14-23

Jesus was casting out a devil and it was dumb; but when the devil had gone out the dumb man spoke, and the people were amazed. But some of them 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.’

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“I will be your God, and you shall be my people”

I have often wondered what it would have been like living as a Jew at the time of the great Exodus. In my mind’s eye, I imagine the great plagues in Egypt, seeing the waters of the River Nile turn into blood, or personally witnessing the plague of locusts as they swarmed the land. Even more powerfully, seeing the blood of the sacrificial lambs painted above the front doors of the Jews, and consequently, the deaths of the first-born among the Egyptians. I see myself scrambling to leave Egypt and walking in between the walls of sea water as they are parted.

It would have been amazing and would have cemented my belief and trust in God for His deliverance.

It is difficult for me, therefore, to understand how the early Jews chose to turn their backs on our Father God and trust, instead, on other ‘gods’ such as Baal. How does one even do that after witnessing these miraculous events where God repeatedly shows His faithfulness and His might?

I guess a big part of it is how open we are to witnessing God’s works. No matter how much He does around us and for us, we will continue to fail to recognise the impact God has on us and our lives if we choose to be closed to Him. Because of our closed, hardened hearts and minds, we would continue to question and discount Him.

In fact, the Gospel and readings today show God our Father, and our Lord Jesus, admonishing the people for having hardened hearts. Without removing this ‘hardness’, we would never be able to develop a true relationship with our God.

Lent is a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with God. Through fasting, penance and the giving of alms, we gradually strip ourselves of our hardness and indifference. Coupled with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we gradually become one with God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Lord, we pray that we may be able to cast aside our indifference and learn to always turn to You. Teach us to trust in You totally and to depend on You.

Thanksgiving: Father God, thank You for correcting us, for teaching and guiding us.

7 March, Wednesday – The Truth In Scripture

7 Mar – Memorial for Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, martyrs

Perpetua (d. 203) was a lay woman born to a noble pagan family. She was a convert, a wife and a mother. She was martyred with her maid, friend, and fellow convert Felicitas. In centuries past, their story was so popular that St. Augustine of Hippo warned against giving it the weight of scripture.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Deuteronomy 4:1,5-9

Moses said to the people:

‘Now, Israel, take notice of the laws and customs that I teach you today, and observe them, that you may have life and may enter and take possession of the land that the Lord the God of your fathers is giving you.

‘See, as the Lord my God has commanded me, I teach you the laws and customs that you are to observe in the land you are to enter and make your own. Keep them, observe them, and they will demonstrate to the peoples your wisdom and understanding. When they come to know of all these laws they will exclaim, “No other people is as wise and prudent as this great nation.” And indeed, what great nation is there that has its gods so near as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call to him? And what great nation is there that has laws and customs to match this whole Law that I put before you today?

‘But take care what you do and be on your guard. Do not forget the things your eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your heart all the days of your life; rather, tell them to your children and to your children’s children.’

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Matthew 5:17-19

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

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“…the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven”

I was not born into the Catholic faith. One of the things I learned when I started attending the Church was the concept of abstinence on Fridays. At first, I was troubled to learn that I could not eat meat, but was totally elated that I could eat fish! I began to seek out tasty recipes to cook fish so I could ‘abstain’ enjoyably!

It was later that I learned that the rationale behind eating fish was that it was seen as a poor quality meat in the West, unlike the fresh fish we have here in Singapore. Over time, I understood that abstinence is an important part of repentance and helps us in our efforts to turn away from sin and to reconnect with God.

As Christians, we need to understand what God’s laws for us mean and have to be careful that we do not undermine the essence of what these laws mean. I began to understand what this meant when I trained as an accountant.

One of the tenets I learned was the importance of ‘substance over form’.

In interpreting any accountancy principle, one had to look at the substance of what that principle was meant to cover, rather than just the wording. I have seen many instances where many fail to understand the underlying meaning and still end up violating the principle in its essence.

In my journey of faith, I learned many ‘do’s and don’ts’ in the Old Testament. Often, I found these challenging (and numerous!). As a new Christian previously attending a Protestant church, I spent much time mulling and debating over what I was supposed, and not supposed, to do.

In the New Testament, however, I found my answer. It is the ‘substance’ of my faith and drives my understanding of the Old Testament. The two greatest commandments our Lord Jesus taught us completes my grasp of my faith.

Now, when I look at the circumstances I face in my life, I ask myself if I am loving my God with all my heart, with all my soul and with all my mind. Next, I ask myself if I have loved my neighbour as myself.

Let us pray that we may continue to always turn to these 2 basic principles in trying to grow in our faith.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, we pray that we may always be ‘plugged in’ to Your promptings. Help us to always head towards You.

Thanksgiving: We praise and thank You, Father, for teaching us what is it You want us to be and to learn.

6 March, Tuesday – Forgiveness, Ad Infinitum

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We give thanks to God for your steadfast following of Oxygen.

As we enter into the Paschal Mystery of the Church, we invite our readers who want to help contribute a reflection to come forward.

The following readings are available for reflection:

Holy Saturday

1st Reading + Responsorial Psalm

2nd Reading + Responsorial Psalm

3rd Reading + Responsorial Psalm

4th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

5th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

6th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

7th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

Epistle + Responsorial Psalm

Gospel

This is a good time for you to share with our readers the joys you have had in reading Oxygen. Do drop an email to descksoon@yahoo.com who will be in touch with you on how to proceed.

God bless

Oxygen Core Team

 

6 March

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Daniel 3:25,34-43

Azariah stood in the heart of the fire, and he began to pray:

Oh! Do not abandon us for ever,
for the sake of your name;
do not repudiate your covenant,
do not withdraw your favour from us,
for the sake of Abraham, your friend,
of Isaac your servant,
and of Israel your holy one,
to whom you promised descendants as countless as the stars of heaven
and as the grains of sand on the seashore.
Lord, now we are the least of all the nations,
now we are despised throughout the world, today, because of our sins.
We have at this time no leader, no prophet, no prince,
no holocaust, no sacrifice, no oblation, no incense,
no place where we can offer you the first-fruits
and win your favour.

But may the contrite soul, the humbled spirit be as acceptable to you
as holocausts of rams and bullocks,
as thousands of fattened lambs:
such let our sacrifice be to you today,
and may it be your will that we follow you wholeheartedly,
since those who put their trust in you will not be disappointed.
And now we put our whole heart into following you,
into fearing you and seeking your face once more.

Do not disappoint us;
treat us gently, as you yourself are gentle
and very merciful.
Grant us deliverance worthy of your wonderful deeds,
let your name win glory, Lord.

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Matthew 18:21-35

Peter went up to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.

‘And so the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants. When the reckoning began, they brought him a man who owed ten thousand talents; but he had no means of paying, so his master gave orders that he should be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, to meet the debt. At this, the servant threw himself down at his master’s feet. “Give me time” he said “and I will pay the whole sum.” And the servant’s master felt so sorry for him that he let him go and cancelled the debt. Now as this servant went out, he happened to meet a fellow servant who owed him one hundred denarii; and he seized him by the throat and began to throttle him. “Pay what you owe me” he said. His fellow servant fell at his feet and implored him, saying, “Give me time and I will pay you.” But the other would not agree; on the contrary, he had him thrown into prison till he should pay the debt. His fellow servants were deeply distressed when they saw what had happened, and they went to their master and reported the whole affair to him. Then the master sent for him. “You wicked servant,” he said “I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?” And in his anger the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt. And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.’

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“Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times”

 I have a lovely wife to whom I have been married 21 years, and we have 2 beautiful teenage children.

The first lesson I learnt after we got married is how to forgive. In fact, we spent every weekend arguing during the first six months of our marriage! Over the last 21 years, we have learnt over and over how to forgive each other; we NEVER stop learning how to forgive.

In the Gospel today, Peter asks our Lord what the limit is to forgiving others. Was it seven times? The answer was, in fact, seventy times seven times. In Judaism, the number ‘7’ signifies completion. Thus, ‘seventy-seven’ raises this even further, perhaps to infinity. Our Lord Jesus tells us that we should treat our brothers (and sisters) like our own families — to never give up on them. In effect, we have to be able to ‘outlast’ our brothers and sisters. Upset us a hundred times? We need to be able to forgive a hundred and one times.

In our relationship with God, we ourselves are the recipients of this recurrent forgiveness. Like the servant who owes his master the 10,000 talents (based on the income of the day, it would take 16 years to accumulate 1 talent!), we are beneficiaries of this ‘debt forgiveness’.

And yet, we need to remember that we cannot take this forgiveness for granted. As people who enjoy this immense gift, we need to be able to pass it on. The ‘100 denarii’ in the parable of today represents only a day’s wage for the average worker! Imagine what a great deal we have; we get to trade 160,000 hours worth of wages for a day’s wage! Amazing!

May we learn to treat other just like how we treat our own blood family and forgive unconditionally. Our God has given us the greatest prize — eternal life. Let us pass it on…. All for a wonderful price!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we will forgive others like You have forgiven us. Help us Jesus to always learn from and be like You!

Thanksgiving Thank You Father, for loving us and for forgiving us regardless of how many times we continue to sin against You.

5 March, Monday – Trusting God

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We give thanks to God for your steadfast following of Oxygen.

As we enter into the Paschal Mystery of the Church, we invite our readers who want to help contribute a reflection to come forward.

The following readings are available for reflection:

Holy Saturday

1st Reading + Responsorial Psalm

2nd Reading + Responsorial Psalm

3rd Reading + Responsorial Psalm

4th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

5th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

6th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

7th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

Epistle + Responsorial Psalm

Gospel

This is a good time for you to share with our readers the joys you have had in reading Oxygen. Do drop an email to descksoon@yahoo.com who will be in touch with you on how to proceed.

God bless

Oxygen Core Team

 

5 March

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2 Kings 5:1-15

Naaman, army commander to the king of Aram, was a man who enjoyed his master’s respect and favour, since through him the Lord had granted victory to the Aramaeans. But the man was a leper. Now on one of their raids, the Aramaeans had carried off from the land of Israel a little girl who had become a servant of Naaman’s wife. ‘She said to her mistress, ‘If only my master would approach the prophet of Samaria. He would cure him of his leprosy.’ Naaman went and told his master. ‘This and this’ he reported ‘is what the girl from the land of Israel said.’ ‘Go by all means,’ said the king of Aram ‘I will send a letter to the king of Israel.’ So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten festal robes. He presented the letter to the king of Israel. It read: ‘With this letter, I am sending my servant Naaman to you for you to cure him of his leprosy.’ When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his garments. ‘Am I a god to give death and life,’ he said ‘that he sends a man to me and asks me to cure him of his leprosy? Listen to this, and take note of it and see how he intends to pick a quarrel with me.’

When Elisha heard that the king of Israel had torn his garments, he sent word to the king, ‘Why did you tear your garments? Let him come to me, and he will find there is a prophet in Israel.’ So Naaman came with his team and chariot and drew up at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent him a messenger to say, ‘Go and bathe seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will become clean once more.’ But Naaman was indignant and went off, saying, ‘Here was I thinking he would be sure to come out to me, and stand there, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the spot and cure the leprous part. Surely Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, are better than any water in Israel? Could I not bathe in them and become clean?’ And he turned round and went off in a rage. But his servants approached him and said, ‘My father, if the prophet had asked you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? All the more reason, then, when he says to you, “Bathe, and you will become clean.”’ So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, as Elisha had told him to do. And his flesh became clean once more like the flesh of a little child.

Returning to Elisha with his whole escort, he went in and stood before him. ‘Now I know’ he said ‘that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel.’

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Luke 4:24-30

Jesus came to Nazara and spoke to the people in the synagogue: ‘I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.’

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

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“Bathe, and you will become clean”

When I was still employed in a bank some 10 years ago, I went on a retreat and received a message during one of my meditations that I was about to see some changes in my work life. Up till that point, I had been in sales, and had enjoyed the work I was engaged in.

Refreshed by the retreat, I came back to Singapore, not really expecting anything to pan out. On my first day back to work, a colleague came to me and congratulated me for having received a promotion. I was taken aback; surprised at how the Lord had spoken to me in such a powerful way.

Strangely, things started falling apart then — my promotion almost got reversed as work politics came into play. However, a very supportive manager came out with an alternative solution; something I felt was not ideal, but felt I was forced to take.

Six months later, it turned out that this alternative was even better, and I was promoted to take over my manager who had moved to another, more senior role within the bank.

My experience was a very powerful lesson in trusting God. Very often, we have our own ideas about how and what He should provide for us, and anything not matching our expectations would be deemed as failure.

In today’s first reading, Naaman, the army commander to the king of Aram, had approached Elisha for a cure for his leprosy. He was upset at Elisha’s suggested cure of bathing in the River Jordan seven times. In his mind, two other rivers in Damascus were ‘superior’ to Jordan. Because Elisha’s instructions ran contrary to his expectations, Naaman refused to accept his instructions and almost deprived himself of the cure that he was seeking.

Just like Naaman, we have our own thoughts about what God ‘should’ do for us. We become upset when things don’t come our way. I once heard Archbishop William God saying that God always answers our petitions — perhaps His answer is simply a “No”, or a “Not Yet”.

Let us learn to set aside our pride and our expectations and come to the realisation that our God is not there to be our ‘order-taker’. He is not there to simply be our ATM (automated teller machine) to dispense what we need. Our God is simply our God, and we need to learn to be humble and to walk in His ways as He guides us gently along.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, we pray that we may set aside our expectations and trust in You. Teach us to be willing to do Your bidding, faithfully and willingly.

Thanksgiving: Father, we are grateful for you holding our hands as we journey towards eternal life. Thank You for always being there for us, although we may not always be able to see You.