Tag Archives: paul wee

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.

16 Aug, Friday – Unbreakable Love

16 Aug 2019

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Joshua 24:1-13

Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel together at Shechem; then he called the elders, leaders, judges and scribes of Israel, and they presented themselves before God. Then Joshua said to all the people:

‘The Lord, the God of Israel says this, “In ancient days your ancestors lived beyond the River – such was Terah the father of Abraham and of Nahor – and they served other gods. Then I brought your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan. I increased his descendants and gave him Isaac. To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. To Esau I gave the mountain country of Seir as his possession. Jacob and his sons went down into Egypt. Then I sent Moses and Aaron and plagued Egypt with the wonders that I worked there. So I brought you out of it. I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, and you came to the Sea; the Egyptians pursued your ancestors with chariots and horsemen as far as the Sea of Reeds. There they called to the Lord, and he spread a thick fog between you and the Egyptians, and made the sea go back on them and cover them. You saw with your own eyes the things I did in Egypt. Then for a long time you lived in the wilderness, until I brought you into the land of the Amorites who lived beyond the Jordan; they made war on you and I gave them into your hands; you took possession of their country because I destroyed them before you. Next, Balak son of Zippor the king of Moab arose to make war on Israel, and sent for Balaam son of Beor to come and curse you. But I would not listen to Balaam; instead, he had to bless you, and I saved you from his hand.

‘“When you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho, those who held Jericho fought against you, as did the Amorites and Perizzites, the Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, but I put them all into your power. I sent out hornets in front of you, which drove the two Amorite kings before you; this was not the work of your sword or your bow. I gave you a land where you never toiled, you live in towns you never built; you eat now from vineyards and olive-groves you never planted.”’

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Matthew 19:3-12

Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and to test him they said, ‘Is it against the Law for a man to divorce his wife on any pretext whatever?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that the creator from the beginning made them male and female and that he said: This is why a man must leave father and mother, and cling to his wife, and the two become one body? They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’

They said to him, ‘Then why did Moses command that a writ of dismissal should be given in cases of divorce?’ ‘It was because you were so unteachable’ he said ‘that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but it was not like this from the beginning. Now I say this to you: the man who divorces his wife – I am not speaking of fornication – and marries another, is guilty of adultery.’

The disciples said to him, ‘If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is not advisable to marry.’ But he replied, ‘It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted. There are eunuchs born that way from their mother’s womb, there are eunuchs made so by men and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’

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What God has united, man must not divide

I remember a conversation once with a colleague about her upcoming marriage. She had met her husband-to-be and after a short courtship, had decided to take the ‘big step’. Our chat soon turned to how we would know if our spouses were ‘the one’ for us. With a shrug, she told me, “Well, if it doesn’t work out, we can just break”.

I remember being surprised by her reply.

I come from a broken family, and never really had my very own ‘complete family’ to learn from. However, I was blessed to have read a lot growing up, and having started attending the Catholic Church from about the age of about 19, had many Catholic couples to model after.

One of the things I realised was that relationships evolve. An old couple (I can’t remember specifically who!) advised me that love goes through many phases. The first is one of romantic love, when the couple goes through the initial stages of courtship and intense feelings of love. This deepens into marriage and will continue to evolve with time, when the children come, when they grow, when they leave the home, when they get married and have children.

I realised that the romantic novels and movies place unrealistic ideals and expectations in our minds. In one recent conversation, a young lady confessed that she was no longer feeling quite so passionate about her partner. “I love him deeply”, she said, “but it’s not so intense anymore”. She felt troubled by that.

Our Lord instructs us that our love for each other needs to be a committed kind of love. We need to make a decision to continue to love each other, even after the initial pangs of intense, romantic love wears off. He teaches us to stand by each other regardless of the challenges and chides us never to be tempted to ‘break’ our relationships in the face of difficulty. Truly, we are never meant to break up what God has united.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we will have the courage and tenacity to grow in our marriages. We ask for Your blessings and fortitude to grow in love everyday.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for showing the full extent of what a true loving relationship is. We are grateful for this important lesson for us, Lord.

14 Aug, Wednesday – Courageous Reconciliation

Aug 14 – St. Maximillian Mary Kolbe, priest, martyr

Maximillian Mary Kolbe (1894-1941) was known as a mischievous child, sometimes considered wild, and a trial to his parents. However around the time of his first Communion, he received a vision of the Virgin Mary that changed his life. While still in seminary, he and six friends founded the Immaculata Movement (Militia Immaculatae, Crusade of Mary Immaculate) devoted to the conversion of sinners, opposition to freemasonry (which was extremely anti-Catholic at the time), spread of the Miraculous Medal (which they wore as their habit), and devotion to Our Lady and the path to Christ. Stricken with tuberculosis which nearly killed him, it left him frail in health the rest of his life. His insights into Marian theology echo today through their influence on Vatican II.

He founded monastries and published a magazine to fight religious apathy in Poland and Japan. By 1939 the Polish monastery housed a religious community of nearly 800 men, the largest in the world in its day, and was completely self-sufficient including medical facilities and a fire brigade staffed by the religious brothers. During his arrest by the Nazis, he volunteered to die in place of a married man with young children. He died as he had always wished – in service.

– Patron Saint Index

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Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Leaving the plains of Moab, Moses went up Mount Nebo, the peak of Pisgah opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land; Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the stretch of the Valley of Jericho, city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. The Lord said to him, ‘This is the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying: I will give it to your descendants. I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not cross into it.’ There in the land of Moab, Moses the servant of the Lord died as the Lord decreed; he buried him in the valley, in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but to this day no one has ever found his grave. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye undimmed, his vigour unimpaired. The sons of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab for thirty days. The days of weeping for the mourning rites of Moses came to an end. Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. It was he that the sons of Israel obeyed, carrying out the order that the Lord had given to Moses.
Since then, never has there been such a prophet in Israel as Moses, the man the Lord knew face to face. What signs and wonders the Lord caused him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh and all his servants and his whole land! How mighty the hand and great the fear that Moses wielded in the sight of all Israel!
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Matthew 18:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain any charge. But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.

‘I tell you solemnly, whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.

‘I tell you solemnly once again, if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.’

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“Have it out with him alone, between your two selves…”

I was queuing up for ice cream at a road-side vendor one day when a couple came up and waited behind me. A few minutes later, a lady also came by. However, rather than join the queue, she stood by my side and ‘joined’ the line, cutting behind me and in front of the couple.

Soon, I could hear the couple grumbling to each other, about how this lady had wrongly cut in front of them. I waited for both of them to tell the lady to queue behind (which never happened). In the end, I asked the vendor to serve the couple first, as they were rightly next. I turned to the couple, who looked relieved.

So it is the same for many of our relationships. In our interactions with each other, there is bound to be unhappiness in how we all handle our opinions or how we do things. For many of these situations, rather than speak with the other party, we choose to lament and complain to others. We play the victim, and the more we talk about what has happened, we end up becoming angrier. Our relationships become estranged and far less authentic.

In the Gospel of today, our Lord Jesus instructs us not to fall into this trap. Instead of holding it in our hearts, we are to go to our brothers and sisters and address the issues head-on. Reconciliation is the goal, but Jesus does talk about what to do in the case where one cannot find a resolution to the problems.

What surprised me in this passage is not the face-to-face discussion, but the fact that our faith is not only a vertical one (i.e., between an individual and God) but also a horizontal one (i.e., between an individual and his community). I used to think that my faith was just a private one between myself and God. This passage clearly shows my previous understanding to be limited and short-sighted!

Brothers and sisters, may we always have the courage to speak truthfully and candidly with each other. Let us interact with each other as a stable and cohesive Christian community.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we will be able to shed the trappings of our secular world. Help us Father, to be encouraging and loving with each other and without malice. Help us to grow in love for our community.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Jesus, for teaching us that we need to be with each other authentically and lovingly.

13 Aug, Tuesday – Like Empty Vessels

Aug 13 – Memorial for St. Pontian, pope, martyr, and St. Hippolytus, priest, martyr

Pontian was among the first victims of an anti-Christian new emperor. Rounded up with the antipope Hippolytus, Pontian was deported to the labour mines. While imprisoned, Hippolytus reconciled his differences with Pontian and even ordered his followers to bring themselves back to the Church. Before he succumbed to the harsh treatment of the mines, Hippolytus became a true confessor of Christ. Pontian, in the mines only two months, was brutally beaten to death by his jailers.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Deuteronomy 31:1-8

Moses proceeded to address these words to the whole of Israel, ‘I am one hundred and twenty years old now, and can no longer come and go as I will. The Lord has said to me, “You shall not cross this Jordan.” It is the Lord your God who will cross it at your head to destroy these nations facing you and dispossess them; and Joshua too shall cross at your head, as the Lord has said. The Lord will treat them as he treated Sihon and Og the Amorite kings and their land, destroying them. The Lord will hand them over to you, and you will deal with them in exact accordance with the commandments I have enjoined on you. Be strong, stand firm, have no fear of them, no terror, for the Lord your God is going with you; he will not fail you or desert you.’
Then Moses summoned Joshua and in the presence of all Israel said to him, ‘Be strong, stand firm; you are going with this people into the land the Lord swore to their fathers he would give them; you are to give it into their possession. The Lord himself will lead you; he will be with you; he will not fail you or desert you. Have no fear, do not be disheartened by anything.’

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Matthew 18:1-5,10,12-14

The disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ So he called a little child to him and set the child in front of them. Then he said, ‘I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

‘Anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.

‘See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven.

‘Tell me. Suppose a man has a hundred sheep and one of them strays; will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go in search of the stray? I tell you solemnly, if he finds it, it gives him more joy than do the ninety-nine that did not stray at all. Similarly, it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.’

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the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven

When I was in my late teens, about 18 or 19, I had a group of friends who enjoyed debating and thinking about the faith, especially the ‘debating’ part. We would talk about faith issues, and extend these arguments about how they would apply to social justice. We talked about the things that should be done. In my mind, these were the ways we should take in order to change the world.

One day, I was reading the Gospel of today and it hit me that perhaps my approach had been wrong.

As I was reading, I put myself in the shoes of a little child before our Lord… and waited. I looked within myself, at what I would do then. How would I behave? What would I think?

What came out surprised me. Firstly, I was curious. I sat there, expectantly looking at our Lord; waiting for Him to show me so I would know what to do. Secondly, I could hear… silence. Rather than opinions coming from me, I was waiting for instructions. Thirdly, I could sense no ego coming from myself. I was just me. There was nothing to prove, nothing to show off, nothing to impress anyone with.

This realisation changed the way I looked at my faith. Rather than bringing a full glass, I now (do my best) to empty this glass, and empty it continually. I sit at the foot of my Lord, and simply wait.

Another thing I realised is that children change their world by directly influencing what is within their immediate sphere of control. When they play and engage their peers, they are immediately able to change their world. Rather than holding lofty ideals and “doing big things”, children change their immediate environments. How I want to be like one again.

Let us pray that we may always remind ourselves to be like little children at the feet of our God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we will always be able to surrender our ego and be like little children again. Help us Father to just ‘be’, and not be focused on the ‘doing’.

Thanksgiving: We bless You and thank You for reminding us, Lord Jesus. Thank You for showing how we should be living our lives and for showing how to be like You.