Tag Archives: paul wee

30 Jun, Saturday – Being With God

Jun 30 – First Martyrs of the Church of Rome

These holy men and women are also called the “Protomartyrs of Rome”. They were accused of burning Rome by Nero, who burned Rome to cover his own crimes. Some martyrs were burned as living torches at evening banquets, some crucified, and others were fed to wild animals. These martyrs died before Sts. Peter and Paul, and are called “disciples of the Apostles. . . whom the Holy Roman church sent to their Lord before the Apostles’ death”.

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=3385

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Lamentations 2:2.10-14.18-19

Beth
The Lord has pitilessly destroyed
all the homes of Jacob;
in his displeasure he has shattered
the strongholds of the daughter of Judah;
he has thrown to the ground,
he has left accursed the kingdom and its rulers.

Yod
Mutely they sit on the ground,
the elders of the daughter of Zion;
they have put dust on their heads,
and wrapped themselves in sackcloth.
The virgins of Jerusalem hang their heads
down to the ground.

Kaph
My eyes wasted away with weeping,
my entrails shuddered,
my liver spilled on the ground
at the ruin of the daughters of my people,
as children, mere infants, fainted
in the squares of the Citadel.

Lamed
They kept saying to their mothers,
‘Where is the bread?’
as they fainted like wounded men
in the squares of the City,
as they poured out their souls
on their mothers’ breasts.

Mem
How can I describe you, to what compare you,
daughter of Jerusalem?
Who can rescue and comfort you,
virgin daughter of Zion?
For huge as the sea is your affliction;
who can possibly cure you?

Nun
The visions your prophets had on your behalf
were delusive, tinsel things,
they never pointed out your sin,
to ward off your exile.
The visions they proffered you were false,
fallacious, misleading.

Sade
Cry aloud, then, to the Lord,
groan, daughter of Zion;
let your tears flow like a torrent,
day and night;
give yourself no relief,
grant your eyes no rest.

Qoph
Up, cry out in the night-time,
in the early hours of darkness;
pour your heart out like water
before the Lord.
Stretch out your hands to him
for the lives of your children
who faint with hunger at the entrance to every street.
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Matthew 8:5-17

When Jesus went into Capernaum a centurion came up and pleaded with him. ‘Sir,’ he said ‘my servant is lying at home paralysed, and in great pain.’ ‘I will come myself and cure him’ said Jesus. The centurion replied, ‘Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; just give the word and my servant will be cured. For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.’ When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those following him, ‘I tell you solemnly, nowhere in Israel have I found faith like this. And I tell you that many will come from east and west to take their places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven; but the subjects of the kingdom will be turned out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.’ And to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go back, then; you have believed, so let this be done for you.’ And the servant was cured at that moment.

And going into Peter’s house Jesus found Peter’s mother-in-law in bed with fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

That evening they brought him many who were possessed by devils. He cast out the spirits with a word and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah:

He took our sicknesses away and carried our diseases for us.
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“I will come myself and cure him”

My wife and I recently went through a course where I validated my suspicion that I am kinesthetic, which means I experience the world through my feelings and emotions. I look at the world and basically ask myself how I feel about it, unconsciously of course. If it does not sit well with me, then I never quite get comfortable.

It is that way with my faith too. I started going to church (a Protestant one) when I was about 12, but for many years, I never actually felt God’s presence. In my mind, I prayed and prayed but never really experienced HIS presence. Years later, I spoke with a priest, who advised me that we do face periods of dryness and that all I needed to do was to work through the period. Over time, I came to believe it was natural for one to feel no one was listening when one was praying.

My experience of God changed dramatically when I attended the Conversion Experience Retreat. While not giving away the contents of the retreat, I came out experiencing God differently. Every time I pray now, I feel God is there with me, listening to and being with me.

In the Gospel of today, we see how our Lord Jesus interacted with the centurion, Peter and his mother-in-law as well as the other people. We see how people interacted with Jesus in His daily life as a person.

The people of Jesus’ time got to learn from and experience Him because they actually got to meet with Him. Perhaps, if we could also do the same, we would be able to experience our faith to a fuller extent. Many times, we forget that our God is there simply because we are unable to see Him. If we imagined Him physically with us in the same room with us, it would be a whole new experience.

Our faith was never meant to be a mental exercise. Instead, it should be fully experienced physically, intellectually, spiritually and emotionally; in all aspects of our lives. It is only then we can fully learn what it means to be a Christian.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we will be able to experience God in all aspects of our lives. We pray for a deeper and more complete understanding of our faith.

Thanksgiving: We praise You and thank You, Lord, for showing the way to live as Christians. Thank You for being the best example for us.

29 June, Friday – Quiet Faith

Jun 29 – Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, apostles

Peter (c.1–64) was a professional fisherman. He was the brother of St. Andrew the Apostle, the man who led him to Christ. Given the name Simon, he was renamed “Peter” (rock) by Jesus to indicate that Peter would be the rock-like foundation on which the Church would be built. He later became a bishop and was the first pope. He was also a miracle worker.

Paul (c.3–c.65) was a Jewish Talmudic student and a Pharisee. He was a tent-maker by trade. Saul the Jew hated and persecuted the Christians as heretical, even assisting at the stoning of St. Stephen the Martyr. On his way to Damascus, Syria, to arrest another group of faithful, he was knocked to the ground, struck blind by a heavenly light, and given the message that in persecuting him, causing his conversion to Christianity.

He was baptized, changed his name to Paul to reflect his new persona, and began travelling, preaching, and teaching. His letters to the churches he help found form a large percentage of the New Testament. He knew and worked with many of the earliest saints and Fathers of the Church. He died a martyr for the faith.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 12:1-11

King Herod started persecuting certain members of the Church. He beheaded James the brother of John, and when he saw that this pleased the Jews he decided to arrest Peter as well. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread, and he put Peter in prison, assigning four squads of four soldiers each to guard him in turns. Herod meant to try Peter in public after the end of Passover week. All the time Peter was under guard the Church prayed to God for him unremittingly.

On the night before Herod was to try him, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, fastened with double chains, while guards kept watch at the main entrance to the prison. Then suddenly the angel of the Lord stood there, and the cell was filled with light. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him. ‘Get up!’ he said ‘Hurry!’ – and the chains fell from his hands. The angel then said, ‘Put on your belt and sandals.’ After he had done this, the angel next said, ‘Wrap your cloak round you and follow me.’ Peter followed him, but had no idea that what the angel did was all happening in reality; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed through two guard posts one after the other, and reached the iron gate leading to the city. This opened of its own accord; they went through it and had walked the whole length of one street when suddenly the angel left him. It was only then that Peter came to himself. ‘Now I know it is all true’ he said. ‘The Lord really did send his angel and has saved me from Herod and from all that the Jewish people were so certain would happen to me.’

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2 Timothy 4:6-8,17-18

My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.

The Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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Matthew 16:13-19

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’

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“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven…”

I started out my career after graduating from polytechnic with a Diploma in Accounting, working as an audit assistant in one of the bigger local firms. I did well at the firm and got on well with the partners and colleagues at the firm.

While I did enjoy the time working there, I did notice certain things about myself that troubled me.

Because my temperament was quite outgoing, I realised that I could influence my colleagues and bosses with my energy. Pretty soon however, without realizing it, I had begun to crave the attention and the validation from getting my ideas accepted. Soon, I was unconsciously thinking about what else I could do to get my ‘regular dose of attention’.

In today’s first reading, we read about how King Herod had been motivated to have Peter arrested after he realised how popular his decision was to execute James, the brother of John. His motivation was positive public opinion, rather than any other internal values.

Beyond all the scheming and planning by Herod, this was no challenge for God’s plans! We read how an angel of the Lord came and freed Peter, all without him having to plan anything. This, in my mind, does not mean that God would get us out of any challenging situation. What it does mean, however, is that I am confident that whatever happens, He is looking out for us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Let us, Father, always have faith in You; that You are there taking care of us. Help us to always experience the full extent of the love You have for us.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for being there for us, Father, no matter if we realise it or not. We are grateful for all the blessings in our lives!

27 June, Wednesday – Possessing A Teachable Spirit

Jun 27 – Memorial for St. Cyril of Alexandria, bishop and Doctor of the Church

Cyril (376–444) was the nephew of Theophilus the Patriarch. He was a monk and a priest who became Bishop of Alexandria, Egypt in 412, and later the Patriarch of Alexandria. He suppressed the Novatians. He worked at the Council of Ephesus. He fought against Nestorius who taught the heresy that there were two persons in Christ.

He was a catechetical writer, and wrote a book opposing Julian the Apostate. He is a Greek Father of the Church, and is a Doctor of the Church.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Kings 22:8-13,23:1-3

The high priest Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the Temple of the Lord.’’’ And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, who read it. Shaphan the secretary went to the king and reported to him as follows, ‘Your servants’ he said ‘have melted down the silver which was in the Temple and have handed it over to the masters of works attached to the Temple of the Lord.’ Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book’; and Shaphan read it aloud in the king’s presence.

On hearing the contents of the Book of the Law, the king tore his garments, and gave the following order to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s minister: ‘Go and consult the Lord, on behalf of me and the people, about the contents of this book that has been found. Great indeed must be the anger of the Lord blazing out against us because our ancestors did not obey what this book says by practising everything written in it.’

The king then had all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem summoned to him, and the king went up to the Temple of the Lord with all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, priests, prophets and all the people, of high or low degree. In their hearing he read out everything that was said in the book of the covenant found in the Temple of the Lord. The king stood beside the pillar, and in the presence of the Lord he made a covenant to follow the Lord and keep his commandments and decrees and laws with all his heart and soul, in order to enforce the terms of the covenant as written in that book. All the people gave their allegiance to the covenant.

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Matthew 7:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Beware of false prophets who come to you disguised as sheep but underneath are ravenous wolves. You will be able to tell them by their fruits. Can people pick grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, a sound tree produces good fruit but a rotten tree bad fruit. A sound tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor a rotten tree bear good fruit. Any tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown on the fire. I repeat, you will be able to tell them by their fruits.’

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“Go and consult the Lord…”

Being a parent, I have watched my kids grow from babies to the teenagers they are today.

I have been accused by my children of being a nag and candidly, I find it difficult to stop. Many times, my mind can almost see things happening before they actually do and my speaking out is my (normally futile) attempt to avoid these outcomes. Very often, I find that these warnings go unheeded! Over time, I have learned to keep quiet and allow the situations to play themselves out and allow my children to make the wrong choices.

Yet, there are other situations when children are tuned in. I remember occasions when they come to us and apologise for making wrong choices. When that happens, I am extremely happy. What makes me even more glad is when they are able to share why and where they did wrong, and what better choices they can make in the future.

We read in today’s first reading about how the king was told the contents of The Book of the Law, and had torn his garments in horror. He immediately reached out to the priest, asking him to pray to the Lord. The king gathered his people to recommit themselves to the Lord. What an amazing spirit!

With our fallen nature, we WILL fail and fail consistently. What is important, however, is that we remain teachable and constantly return to our God.

Let us learn from the king.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that for a teachable spirit O God. Help us to be always able to return to You and to hear Your voice.

Thanksgiving: We praise and thank You for always being ready to teach us Father. For being there for us when we realise our sins and return to You. Thank You for loving us!

26 June, Tuesday – Unfailing Faith

26 June

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2 Kings 19:9-11,14-21,31-36

Sennacherib, King of the Assyrians, sent messengers to Hezekiah saying, ‘Tell this to Hezekiah king of Judah, “Do not let your God on whom you are relying deceive you, when he says: Jerusalem shall not fall into the power of the king of Assyria. You have learnt by now what the kings of Assyria have done to every country, putting them all under the ban. Are you likely to be spared?’

Hezekiah took the letter from the hands of the messenger and read it; he then went up to the Temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. Hezekiah said this prayer in the presence of the Lord, ‘O Lord of Hosts, God of Israel, enthroned on the cherubs, you alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth, you have made heaven and earth.

‘Give ear, Lord, and listen.
Open your eyes, Lord, and see.
Hear the words of Sennacherib
who has sent to insult the living God.

‘It is true, O Lord, that the kings of Assyria have exterminated all the nations, they have thrown their gods on the fire, for these were not gods but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, and hence they have destroyed them. But now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, I pray you, and let all the kingdoms of the earth know that you alone are God, the Lord.’

Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah. ‘The Lord, the God of Israel,’ he said, ‘says this, “I have heard the prayer you have addressed to me about Sennacherib king of Assyria.” Here is the oracle that the Lord has pronounced against him:

“She despises you, she scorns you,
the virgin, daughter of Zion;
she tosses her head behind you,
the daughter of Jerusalem.”
‘This, then, is what the Lord says about the king of Assyria:
“He will not enter this city,
he will let fly no arrow against it,
confront it with no shield                                                                                                                      throw up no earthwork against it.
By the road that he came on he will return;
he shall not enter this city. It is the Lord who speaks.
I will protect this city and save it
for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”‘
“He will not enter this city,
he will let fly no arrow against it,
confront it with no shield

That same night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. Sennacherib struck camp and left; he returned home and stayed in Nineveh.

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Matthew 7:6,12-14

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls in front of pigs, or they may trample them and then turn on you and tear you to pieces.

‘So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.

‘Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’

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“Give ear, Lord, and listen. Open Your eyes, Lord, and see.”

One of the toughest periods in my life took place in 2006, after I had been working in my company for about 2 years. Soon after I joined the bank, a misunderstanding took place and the environment became hostile between some colleagues and myself. Things came to a head when I was due to be promoted, ironically to manage the same team which I was having the misunderstanding with.

At the point when the difficulties at work arose, I had been very active in church, my cell group as well as a church ministry. I was frustrated, and felt that God had abandoned me. I wondered why God had allowed me to go through these difficulties.

The main way I handled this was to pray even harder, reflecting on the possible reasons behind the whole dismal chain of events. Finally, unable to come up with an answer, I ended up just lifting it all to Him, and praying for understanding and deliverance.

Ultimately, it turned out that the whole series of events, while painful to go through, was important for me. The whole experience, ultimately, turned out positive for me.

In the first reading of today, Hezekiah, king of Judah, experienced doubt, fear and confrontation with the Assyrian king Sennacherib. The latter derided and attempted to cast doubt on God. Rather than lamenting and worrying, Hezakiah instead brought this difficulty up to God, praying and asking for deliverance, and asking for victory. The Assyrians were ultimately defeated when the Lord struck down one hundred and eighty five thousand men from the Assyrian camp in one night.

Let us learn to be like Hezekiah, to lift all our challenges to our Lord, no matter how daunting and difficult these challenges are.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, please give us strength to meet all our challenges in our lives and to have unfailing faith in You.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for always knowing what is best for us and for loving us.

25 June, Monday – A Truly Christian Attitude

25 June

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2 Kings 17:5-8,13-15,18

The king of Assyria invaded the whole country and, coming to Samaria, laid siege to it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah on the Habor, a river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

This happened because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the grip of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshipped other gods, they followed the practices of the nations that the Lord had dispossessed for them.

And yet through all the prophets and all the seers, the Lord had given Israel and Judah this warning, ‘Turn from your wicked ways and keep my commandments and my laws in accordance with the entire Law I laid down for your fathers and delivered to them through my servants the prophets.’ But they would not listen, they were more stubborn than their ancestors had been who had no faith in the Lord their God. They despised his laws and the covenant he had made with their ancestors, and the warnings he had given them. They pursued emptiness, and themselves became empty through copying the nations round them although the Lord had ordered them not to act as they did. For this, the Lord was enraged with Israel and thrust them away from him. There was none left but the tribe of Judah only.

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Matthew 7:1-5

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; because the judgements you give are the judgements you will get, and the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given. Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? How dare you say to your brother, “Let me take the splinter out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.’

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“The judgements you give are the judgements you will get…”

Today’s Gospel shows our Lord Jesus warning His disciples against judging others, about how one would be similarly judged as a consequence.

This has always been my struggle; I tend to have (fleeting) judgmental thoughts as I go about my day. Very often, I catch myself judging people and I have to spend some time rationalising myself out of such thoughts. I realise, over years of reflecting on this Gospel passage, that the essence of this teaching is not that we hold back from voicing our thoughts, but that we not have them in the first place.

In recent months, I have been travelling to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam very regularly, and I have now realised that my Father God may have sent me there to learn an important lesson.

Those of us who are familiar with Vietnam will share about the traffic situation there. The vehicles there follow a lax traffic code; anything goes as long as you make sure that others can see you doing it. I remember a particular day when I took a ride on a motorcycle as a pillion rider. That fateful day, I remember riding against traffic, mounting curbs along the way and travelling against the direction of one-way streets. It was terrifying. Interestingly though, while there was gentle chiding by passersby, no one got really upset nor angry, despite the less-than-responsible actions of my rider.

Over my time in Vietnam, I have never seen a traffic situation where people get angry. When speaking with a Vietnamese friend, he explained that people don’t get angry because they are always expecting the others to do the unexpected, often riding slowly so as to be prepared to take defensive measures. Their attitude is that they can always take actions to avoid any potential accident. Even if such incidents were to take place, the people just move on unaffected.

As Christians, we should take the same attitude; rather than looking for and being critical about any infringements by others, we should instead work on ourselves and prepare ourselves for any potential challenges in our Christian journey.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that in our faith journey, we will learn to be inward-looking when it comes to our failings. May we learn not to be on the lookout for weaknesses in others, choosing to understand that everyone has their own backstory in every situation.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for Your teaching us to not judge others, Lord Jesus. We praise and thank You for also showing us how to do this in our lives.

24 June, Sunday – A Living Faith

Jun 24 – Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

John the Baptist (d.30) was the cousin of Jesus Christ. His father, Zachary, was a priest of the order of Abia whose job in the Temple was to burn incense; and of Elizabeth, a descendant of Aaron. As Zachary was ministering in the Temple, an angel brought him news that Elizabeth would bear a child filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment of his birth. Zachary doubted and was struck dumb until John’s birth.

John began his ministry as prophet around age 27, wearing a leather belt and a tunic of camel hair, living off locusts and wild honey, and preaching a message of repentance to the people of Jerusalem. He converted many, and prepared the way for the coming of Jesus. After baptizing Christ, he told his disciples to follow Jesus.

Imprisoned by King Herod, John the Baptist died a victim of the vengeance of a jealous woman; he was beheaded, and his head brought to her on a platter. St. Jerome says Herodias kept the head for a long time after, occasionally stabbing the tongue with her dagger because of what John had said in life.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 49:1-6

Islands, listen to me,
pay attention, remotest peoples.
The Lord called me before I was born,
from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name.

He made my mouth a sharp sword,
and hid me in the shadow of his hand.
He made me into a sharpened arrow,
and concealed me in his quiver.

He said to me, ‘You are my servant (Israel)
in whom I shall be glorified’;
while I was thinking, ‘I have toiled in vain,
I have exhausted myself for nothing’;

and all the while my cause was with the Lord,
my reward with my God.
I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord,
my God was my strength.

And now the Lord has spoken,
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
to gather Israel to him:

‘It is not enough for you to be my servant,
to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel;
I will make you the light of the nations
so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’

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Acts 13:22-26

Paul said: ‘God deposed Saul and made David their king, of whom he approved in these words, “I have selected David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will carry out my whole purpose.” To keep his promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour, whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel. Before John ended his career he said, “I am not the one you imagine me to be; that one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo his sandal.”

‘My brothers, sons of Abraham’s race, and all you who fear God, this message of salvation is meant for you.’

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Luke 1:57-66,80

The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son; and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her joy.

Now on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother spoke up. ‘No,’ she said ‘he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘But no one in your family has that name’, and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called. The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they were all astonished. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea. All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.

Meanwhile the child grew up and his spirit matured. And he lived out in the wilderness until the day he appeared openly to Israel.

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“He spoke and praised God”

We have 2 children in their teenage years. When they were little, we did everything for them — feeding, cleaning and changing their clothes. Their needs were fully met by us, and if we missed their ‘cues’, they would have to go without.

As they grew up, we allowed them to do simple things, such as ordering their own food at the hawker centre, or running other simple errands. I remember the first times they did that; we started out by bringing them together, showing them how to place the orders. They soon progressed to doing it on their own, with us casting sereptitious glances to make sure they were ok.

So it is, with the early prophets, that our God chose to deliver His message to His people. While some of these prophets started out unsure, they soon came to the knowledge and confidence that their God was watching over them, that they would be shown what, and when to do.

Today, we celebrate the birthday of St John the Baptist, whose parents were Zechariah and Elizabeth, the latter whom our Mother Mary rushed to help upon hearing of her pregnancy. St John is literally the prophet that links the Old and New Testaments.

St John was one of the most fiery and fervent evangelists and we get a hint of where this faithfulness came from. In today’s Gospel, we get an idea about what kind of family environment Zechariah and Elizabeth allowed St John to grow in.

For one, we read about how Zechariah was quietly supportive of Elizabeth’s decision to name the baby “John”, in spite of the objections displayed by the others. Another important factor we see is how Zechariah praised and worshipped God, a trait and practice I am sure St John continued, and which deeply influenched him.

Let us pray that we may learn from the faith and examples of St John, Zechariah and Elizabeth.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, we pray that we will learn from the faith and examples of those who have walked the way, especially Your prophets.

Thanksgiving: We praise You and thank You Father, for always watching over us; for always being there for us.

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.