Tag Archives: paul wee

20 November, Monday – No Need To Be Afraid

20 November 2017

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1 Maccabees 1:10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-64

There grew a sinful offshoot, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of King Antiochus; once a hostage in Rome, he became king in the one hundred and thirty-seventh year of the kingdom of the Greeks. It was then that there emerged from Israel a set of renegades who led many people astray. ‘Come,’ they said ‘let us reach an understanding with the pagans surrounding us, for since we separated ourselves from them many misfortunes have overtaken us.’ This proposal proved acceptable, and a number of the people eagerly approached the king, who authorised them to practise the pagan observances. So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, such as the pagans have, disguised their circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant, submitting to the heathen rule as willing slaves of impiety.

Then the king issued a proclamation to his whole kingdom that all were to become a single people, each renouncing his particular customs. All the pagans conformed to the king’s decree, and many Israelites chose to accept his religion, sacrificing to idols and profaning the sabbath. The king erected the abomination of desolation above the altar; and altars were built in the surrounding towns of Judah and incense offered at the doors of houses and in the streets. Any books of the Law that came to light were torn up and burned. Whenever anyone was discovered possessing a copy of the covenant or practising the Law, the king’s decree sentenced him to death.

Yet there were many in Israel who stood firm and found the courage to refuse unclean food. They chose death rather than contamination by such fare or profanation of the holy covenant, and they were executed. It was a dreadful wrath that visited Israel.

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Luke 18:35-43

As Jesus drew near to Jericho there was a blind man sitting at the side of the road begging. When he heard the crowd going past he asked what it was all about, and they told him that Jesus the Nazarene was passing by. So he called out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.’ The people in front scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he shouted all the louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ Jesus stopped and ordered them to bring the man to him, and when he came up, asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Sir,’ he replied ‘let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight. Your faith has saved you.’ And instantly his sight returned and he followed him praising God, and all the people who saw it gave praise to God for what had happened.

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“They chose death rather than contamination”

I grew up being afraid.

As a young baby, my grandaunt accepted me into her home and brought me up as her own. She loved me, and I loved her. But children model what they see, and I modelled fear.

My grandaunt was someone who felt afraid all the time. She believed that her life was tough (and it was) and that came across as a fear of her circumstances. Whenever something bad happened, she accepted it, but quietly grumbled. Without realising it, I took this fear into myself, even into my early adulthood. All too often, like my grandaunt, I choose to avoid speaking up, even in circumstances where I felt a wrong had been committed.

One day, I was reflecting on my life and what I could do better when I became aware of the ‘fear’. I soon found myself looking at the mirror; here I was, a grown man, capable of defending myself, and yet afraid. The realisation hit that I was loved and saved by my God, and for that reason, I had nothing to be afraid of. While this is an ongoing process, that was the precise point when most of my fear left me.

In today’s first reading, we are shown how the Israelites are willing to give up their lives in order to stand up for their faith. They refuse, in the face of death, to stop practising the Law and to consume unclean foods. My faith has not been tested to that extent, and yet they have far shown me how I should also stand up for what the Bible and the Catholic Church has taught me.

Standing up for our faith does not apply only to standing up against oppression. Like the blind man in the gospel, we should also not allow how others see us to stop us from continuing to reach out to our God. Despite people telling him to stop, the man continued (and even took it a notch louder!) to reach out to our Lord.

Let us take the Israelites and the blind man as our role models; to learn to stand up for our faith.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, help us to stand up for our faith and to never allow fear to stop us from doing what is right.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for sending us the Bible, the Catholic Church and the community to guide us in our daily lives.

19 November, Sunday – You Entrusted Me

19 November 2017

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Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31

A perfect wife – who can find her? She is far beyond the price of pearls.

Her husband’s heart has confidence in her, from her he will derive no little profit.

Advantage and not hurt she brings him all the days of her life.

She is always busy with wool and with flax, she does her work with eager hands.

She sets her hands to the distaff, her fingers grasp the spindle.

She holds out her hand to the poor, she opens her arms to the needy.

Charm is deceitful, and beauty empty; the woman who is wise is the one to praise.

Give her a share in what her hands have worked for, and let her works tell her praises at the city gates.

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1 Thessalonians 5:1-6

You will not be expecting us to write anything to you, brothers, about ‘times and seasons’, since you know very well that the Day of the Lord is going to come like a thief in the night. It is when people are saying, ‘How quiet and peaceful it is’ that the worst suddenly happens, as suddenly as labour pains come on a pregnant woman; and there will be no way for anybody to evade it.

But it is not as if you live in the dark, my brothers, for that Day to overtake you like a thief. No, you are all sons of light and sons of the day: we do not belong to the night or to darkness, so we should not go on sleeping, as everyone else does, but stay wide awake and sober.

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Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.

‘The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.”

‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”’

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“Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Although I was baptised only in my late teens, I am well acquainted with the Parable of the Talents, having being educated in Catholic institutions for almost all my life.

For many years, I have equated the ‘talents’ with the gifts of ability that God has given us, and it was only much later that I realised that the ‘talents’ was also a measure of currency. As such, I have always believed that we should make full use of the abilities that God has gifted us; that we should not bury these abilities.

However, reading the same passage also helped me realised something from among the 3 servants, through the words that they use. The first two, as faithful stewards, focused on the master and went about their tasks, working hard to make the best of what is given to them. We can see that in the words that they use, both talking about the talents that “you (the master) entrusted…”. However, when we listen to what the 3rd servant had to say, his focus was on himself, about how he was afraid of what could happen to him because his master was a “hard master”.

Similarly, when we look at the gifts that our God has given us, we should always look at Him and use our abilities to please Him. We should never be motivated by fear, by what would happen to us if we fail to use these abilities.

The parable does not say what would happen if any of the servants had worked hard to invest the talents, but lost part or all of these in the process. What would happen if we failed when we try to use our own talents?

I believe our God is an eternally faithful and just God. I believe He looks into our hearts and understands what drives us; whether it’s self preservation or love. I believe our Master loves us, and regardless of the outcome, would call us “good and faithful servants” if we do everything with love and with our eyes cast on Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, help us to always cast our eyes upon You and to be motivated. Let us never be driven by fear.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for being our ‘faithful Master’. Thank You for trusting us and entrusting the many talents for us to manage.

23 September, Saturday – Our Models of Faith

Sep 23 – Memorial for St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio), Priest

Pio (1887-1968) was ordained when he was 22. He founded the House for the Relief of Suffering in 1956, a hospital that serves 60,000 a year. In the 1920s he started a series of prayer groups that continue today with over 400,000 members worldwide.

His canonisation miracle involved the cure of Matteo Pio Colella, age 7, the son of a doctor who works in the House for Relief of Suffering, the hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo founded by Padre Pio. On the night of 20 June 2000, Matteo was admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital with meningitis. By morning doctors had lost hope for him as nine of the boy’s internal organs had ceased to give signs of life.

That night, during a prayer vigil attended by Matteo’s mother and some Capuchin friars of Padre Pio’s monastery, the child’s condition improved suddenly. When he awoke from the coma, Matteo said that he had seen an elderly man with a white beard and a long, brown habit, who said to him: “Don’t worry, you will soon be cured.”

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1 Timothy 6:13-16

Before God the source of all life and before Christ, who spoke up as a witness for the truth in front of Pontius Pilate, I put to you the duty of doing all that you have been told, with no faults or failures, until the Appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,

who at the due time will be revealed
by God, the blessed and only Ruler of all,
the King of kings and the Lord of lords,
who alone is immortal,
whose home is in inaccessible light,
whom no man has seen and no man is able to see:
to him be honour and everlasting power. Amen.

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Luke 8:4-15

With a large crowd gathering and people from every town finding their way to him, Jesus used this parable:

‘A sower went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some fell on the edge of the path and was trampled on; and the birds of the air ate it up. Some seed fell on rock, and when it came up it withered away, having no moisture. Some seed fell amongst thorns and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some seed fell into rich soil and grew and produced its crop a hundredfold.’ Saying this he cried, ‘Listen, anyone who has ears to hear!’

His disciples asked him what this parable might mean, and he said, ‘The mysteries of the kingdom of God are revealed to you; for the rest there are only parables, so that

they may see but not perceive,
listen but not understand.

‘This, then, is what the parable means: the seed is the word of God. Those on the edge of the path are people who have heard it, and then the devil comes and carries away the word from their hearts in case they should believe and be saved. Those on the rock are people who, when they first hear it, welcome the word with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of trial they give up. As for the part that fell into thorns, this is people who have heard, but as they go on their way they are choked by the worries and riches and pleasures of life and do not reach maturity. As for the part in the rich soil, this is people with a noble and generous heart who have heard the word and take it to themselves and yield a harvest through their perseverance.’

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“I put to you the duty all that you have been told… until the Appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ”

I went to all boys schools at both the primary and secondary levels. Being educated in English as a first language, the boys did not hold the learning of Mandarin as a priority. In fact, we relished in speaking English during our Mandarin classes and often got “rewarded” with extended standing sessions outside the classrooms!

In my late twenties, I became interested in learning more about my Chinese heritage. Unfortunately, I realised English was not exactly the best language of instruction (especially in the pre-internet era). As a result, I began working hard on improving my Mandarin competency.

A story I learned during my “studies” still intrigues me till today. This took place during the same era as the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”. A general was marching his troops over a particularly mountainous stretch and the going was tough. The sun was brutally hot and the soldiers were extremely dehydrated. With no water source available, the mission was in danger of failing, when the general told his troops that there was a forest full of plum trees just beyond the mountain. When the troops heard that, they quickened their pace, ultimately ending in a successful campaign.

In the first reading of today, much like the Chinese general, the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy to do his best for the Lord, and to perform his duties faultlessly, until the time our Lord Jesus returns. What really impressed me was the intensity of devotion of both Paul and Timothy. Similarly, the disciples continued to display loyalty to our Lord Jesus, even to the point of giving up their lives for Him (except for John, who died of natural causes).

Let us learn from Paul, Timothy and the disciples. May we look forward to tasting the juicy plums after we pass this mountain. We need to keep our eyes on our Lord!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father, please help us to always keep our eyes on You.  Help us to be as faithful as those before us.

ThanksgivingThank You for sending models of faith for us to follow.  Thank You for always showing us how to be faithful.

22 September, Friday – The True North

22 September 2017

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1 Timothy 6:2-12

This is what you are to teach the brothers to believe and persuade them to do. Anyone who teaches anything different, and does not keep to the sound teaching which is that of our Lord Jesus Christ, the doctrine which is in accordance with true religion, is simply ignorant and must be full of self-conceit – with a craze for questioning everything and arguing about words. All that can come of this is jealousy, contention, abuse and wicked mistrust of one another; and unending disputes by people who are neither rational nor informed and imagine that religion is a way of making a profit. Religion, of course, does bring large profits, but only to those who are content with what they have. We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it; but as long as we have food and clothing, let us be content with that. People who long to be rich are a prey to temptation; they get trapped into all sorts of foolish and dangerous ambitions which eventually plunge them into ruin and destruction. ‘The love of money is the root of all evils’ and there are some who, pursuing it, have wandered away from the faith, and so given their souls any number of fatal wounds.

But, as a man dedicated to God, you must avoid all that. You must aim to be saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle. Fight the good fight of the faith and win for yourself the eternal life to which you were called when you made your profession and spoke up for the truth in front of many witnesses.

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Luke 8:1-3

Jesus made his way through towns and villages preaching, and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God. With him went the Twelve, as well as certain women who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments: Mary surnamed the Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and several others who provided for them out of their own resources.

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“This is what you are to teach the brothers to believe…”

When I was 11, a neighbour brought me to a Presbyterian church. I continued attending that particular church for a few years and during that time, I heard many sermons explaining Bible readings and did learn quite a bit about Christian living. I must admit, though, that the messages that came through the sermons did clash at times. As someone exposed to the Bible the first time, I was confused. In fact, I was not able to differentiate what was correct and what was not.

Thanks to a good friend, I started going to the Catholic Church and got baptised. Because of my experience in the earlier church, I realised that the homilies and sermons in the Catholic Church were quite different; the style was obviously different, but it was clear that interpretation of the Bible passages were consistent.

A few years later, I became a Catechist when my daughter joined the Home Catechism group. In preparing for the lessons, I struggled to find out what was the ‘right’ message, and discovered the ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)’.  The CCC is a treasure trove of what we as Catholics believe; it not only contains the interpretations of the Bible but also the oral traditions of the Church. The CCC was obviously there all along of course, it was just that I was not aware of it.

Over time, I discovered that the Catholic Church was universal in others ways as well. I have attended Masses in other countries and I was able to join in the Eucharist, just like I was at home. More importantly, I know that whatever I am, the teachings and interpretations are that of the Catholic Church; consistent and dependent.

The Apostle Paul, in today’s 1st reading, cautions us to ensure that all teachings are to keep to the doctrines of our Lord Jesus.  The Catholic Church gives us this confidence and trust.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer We pray that we may always be guided by our Holy Father and the Holy Catholic Church.

Thanksgiving – Father God, we praise and thank You for sending Your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank You for teaching us how to live through giving us the Church and the CCC.

21 September, Thursday – Forgiveness, for us and for others

Sep 21 – Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Matthew was the son of Alphaeus, and he lived at Capernaum on Lake Genesareth. He was a Roman tax collector, a position equated with collaboration with the enemy by those from whom he collected taxes. Jesus’ contemporaries were surprised to see the Christ with a traitor, but Jesus explained that he had come “not to call the just, but sinners”.

Matthew’s Gospel is given pride of place in the canon of the New Testament, and was written to convince Jewish readers that their anticipated Messiah had come in the person of Jesus. He preached among the Jews for 15 years; his audiences may have included the Jewish enclave in Ethiopia, and places in the East.

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Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13

I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.

Each one of us, however, has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it. To some, his gift was that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; so that the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ. In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.

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Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus was walking on, he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

While he was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’

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“What I want is mercy, not sacrifice”

Through my years of education in Catholic schools, there was a running joke about ‘catholic guilt’. Essentially, one cannot be a good Catholic without having a healthy dose of guilt! Because I wasn’t Catholic then, I did not realise how true (or funny!) that saying was!

Ironically, the years in a well-established school for boys gave all of us loads of self-confidence.  I was so well entrenched in this environment that I took it all for granted. We looked at other schools and thought we were much better than them in every aspect.

All that changed when I went to junior college. At that time, students were posted to an interim junior college for the first 3 months. I was not posted to the college of my choice. While I did not realise it then, it was a blessing from God. During the short 3 months, I met many who were much smarter, sportier and funnier. The difference was that these same students were much humbler than my friends, or indeed, myself. I can truly say this experience changed my view of the world.

As humans, we tend to go to extremes; we either think too highly or too lowly of ourselves.  Getting caught up in our situations, we become overly critical of ourselves or others.

The words in today’s gospel “What I want is mercy, not sacrifice” really stuck in my mind when I first reflected on them about a year ago. When I first thought about this, the message I got was that rather than being judgemental towards others, we should choose to exercise mercy.

Following a very emotional confession I had at the Conversion Experience Experience (CER), I remember the priest sharing with me that had Jesus not had the scars from the crucifixion, our redemption would have been different… that there was beauty in His scars; His imperfections.

It was then that I realised that this mercy is not just to be extended to others, but also to ourselves. It is only with this mercy that we can experience true redemption, which allows us to truly love others.

We are a work of progress. We will be guided by the Holy Spirit, but because of our human nature, we will fall.  Our God, however, will not fail us, and all we need to do is to turn back to Him through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We need to learn to be merciful to ourselves.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father, we pray that You may give us the strength and grace to be kind to ourselves.

ThanksgivingThank You Father for loving us first. Thank You for showing us that with Your love and mercy, we can walk through our lives in confidence.

20 September, Wednesday – Staying Properly Connected

Sep 20 – Memorial for St. Andrew Kim Taegon and Companions, Korean Martyrs; Memorial for Sts. Laurent Imbert, Bishop Jacques Chastan, Priest (martyrs of College General, Penang, Malaysia)

There are 103 martyrs in this group, consisting of priests, missionaries and lay people who died in the early days of the Church in Korea. Most were murdered during waves of persecutions in 1839, 1846 and 1867.

Andrew Kim Taegon’s father was a martyr. Andrew was baptised at age 15, then travelled 1,300 miles to the nearest seminary in Macao. He was Korea’s first native priest, and the first priest to die for the faith in Korea.

Laurent Imbert was a missionary to China. He taught at the College General, Penang from 1821 to 1822. He was named Vicar Apostolic of Korea on 26 April 1836. He and St. Jacques (or Jacob) were arrested for the crime of evangelisation, and then tortured and martyred.

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1 Timothy 3:14-16

At the moment of writing to you, I am hoping that I may be with you soon; but in case I should be delayed, I wanted you to know how people ought to behave in God’s family – that is, in the Church of the living God, which upholds the truth and keeps it safe. Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is very deep indeed:

He was made visible in the flesh,
attested by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed to the pagans,
believed in by the world,
taken up in glory.

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Luke 7:31-35

Jesus said to the people:

‘What description can I find for the men of this generation? What are they like? They are like children shouting to one another while they sit in the market-place:

‘“We played the pipes for you,
and you wouldn’t dance;
we sang dirges,
and you wouldn’t cry.”

‘For John the Baptist comes, not eating bread, not drinking wine, and you say, “He is possessed.” The Son of Man comes, eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Yet Wisdom has been proved right by all her children.’

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“Wisdom has been proved right by all her children”

When I read today’s Gospel, I am astounded by our Lord’s words that are relevant even today.

Much like the people mentioned by Jesus, I am guilty of being very self-absorbed.  A major struggle I am faced with constantly is the many forms of distractions available in the form of technology; the Internet, streaming music, movies and videos available for binge watching. Interestingly, although the technology allowed for ‘anytime-access’, what this meant for me was more like a consistent, and regular, access. My wife has often complained that I can be in the same room, but still be in a different place. My children have made the same observations.

On a trip to Australia, I found myself suddenly cut off from all these forms of entertainment. I would have to admit that for the first couple of days, I felt edgy. After that passed, I was able to set aside my Blackberry and focus on those around me — my family, friends, what was going around me and most importantly, God. I was surprised by how well I survived the trip!

Over the years, as a result of experiences such as the one I just mentioned, I have learned and applied strategies for refocusing.  This is why I find an annual retreat to be particularly effective to help me listen to God. It helps me tune out the ‘busyness’ of everyday life, and once I complete the retreat, I feel spiritually recharged, and find that God’s voice to be much louder in my life.

Even more ideally, we should model our Lord’s ways. In the Gospels, we will often find Jesus going away from the crowds and spending time praying alone. In fact, we find Him starting His ministry with 40 days and nights plugged in to God at the start of His ministry and spending time in the Garden of Gethsemane just before facing His persecution on earth.

I have realised that in order to be connected to God, we WILL need to disconnect. May we take the Lord’s words and example to heart and be attuned to what is truly important.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer We pray that we may have the power to discern what is important. We pray, Father, that we will not be distracted by the frivolous things in our lives.

ThanksgivingWe thank You Jesus, for showing us all that could potentially take our attention away from You. Thank You for showing us what it means to be connected to You and Our Father.

19 September, Tuesday – Keeping our slate clean

Sep 19 – Memorial for St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr

Januarius (d. 305) was arrested on account of his profession of the Christian religion during persecution of Christians. He was cast into the fiery furnace, through which he passed wholly unharmed. On the following day, along with a number of fellow martyrs, he was exposed to the fury of wild beasts, which laid themselves down in tame submission at his feet.

Timotheus, the governor who pronounced the sentence of death upon Januarius, was struck with blindness but was immediately healed by the powerful intercession of the saint, a miracle which converted nearly five thousand men on the spot. The ungrateful judge, only roused to further fury by these occurrences, caused the execution of Januarius by the sword to be forthwith carried out. The body was ultimately removed by the inhabitants of Naples to that city, where the relic became very famous for its miracles.

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1 Timothy 3:1-13

Here is a saying that you can rely on: To want to be a presiding elder is to want to do a noble wok. That is why the president must have an impeccable character. He must not have been married more than once, and he must be temperate, discreet and courteous, hospitable and a good teacher; not a heavy drinker, nor hot-tempered, but kind and peaceable. He must not be a lover of money. He must be a man who manages his own family well and brings his children up to obey him and be well-behaved: how can any man who does not understand how to manage his own family have responsibility for the church of God? He should not be a new convert, in case pride might turn his head and then he might be condemned as the devil was condemned. It is also necessary that people outside the Church should speak well of him, so that he never gets a bad reputation and falls into the devil’s trap.

In the same way, deacons must be respectable men whose word can be trusted, moderate in the amount of wine they drink and with no squalid greed for money. They must be conscientious believers in the mystery of the faith. They are to be examined first, and only admitted to serve as deacons if there is nothing against them. In the same way, the women must be respectable, not gossips but sober and quite reliable. Deacons must not have been married more than once, and must be men who manage their children and families well. Those of them who carry out their duties well as deacons will earn a high standing for themselves and be rewarded with great assurance in their work for the faith in Christ Jesus.

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Luke 7:11-17

Jesus went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people. When he was near the gate of the town it happened that a dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a considerable number of the townspeople were with her. When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her. ‘Do not cry’ he said. Then he went up and put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you to get up.’ And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Everyone was filled with awe and praised God saying, ‘A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.’ And this opinion of him spread throughout Judaea and all over the countryside.

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“The president must have an impeccable character”

Growing up without my parents, I met my father’s stepsister when I was about 12.  After that, we spent a lot of time together.  We went for meals together and she taught all there was to know about etiquette and how to stand up for myself.  She thought I was funny and interesting and I totally adored her.

To impress her, I soon started making up stories. In these stories, I was always funny, smart, witty and fun. They were lovely stories, except they were not true.

Despite her obvious pride in me, I began experiencing a sense of shame. In company, she would always praise me, saying that she was proud to have a nephew like me. Externally, I was always cheerful, but inside me, I grimaced whenever she started telling others about my ‘exploits’.

After what felt like a long period of time, I confessed to her and instead of chiding me, she lovingly accepted my explanation and commended me for having the courage to come clean. More importantly, I no longer felt trapped by my pretense.

The first reading of today addresses the importance of maintaining a scrupulous life.  Unless this private life is able to stand up to scrutiny, our service to God and to others would stand in doubt. Like the stories that I fabricated as a child, the work could appear to be shambolic, and be of less value. More importantly, such a situation would show the faith to be unauthentic.

Let us pray to the Father for strength to walk the difficult path of purity and the wisdom to recognise and address the daily temptations that we face in doing so. When we fail, help us always to realise our failure and to have the humility to return to God through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father, we pray that You will help us recognise and face up to our lives’ challenges as we keep our eyes on You.

ThanksgivingThank You for sending us the Holy Spirit to guide us. Thank You for Your many blessings.

17 September, Sunday – Forgive, and forgive again

17 September 2017

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Ecclesiasticus 27:33-28:9

Resentment and anger, these are foul things,
and both are found with the sinner.
He who exacts vengeance will experience the vengeance of the Lord,
who keeps strict account of sin.
Forgive your neighbour the hurt he does you,
and when you pray, your sins will be forgiven.
If a man nurses anger against another,
can he then demand compassion from the Lord?
Showing no pity for a man like himself,
can he then plead for his own sins?
Mere creature of flesh, he cherishes resentment;
who will forgive him his sins?
Remember the last things, and stop hating,
remember dissolution and death, and live by the commandments.
Remember the commandments, and do not bear your neighbour ill-will;
remember the covenant of the Most High, and overlook the offence.

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Romans 14:7-9

The life and death of each of us has its influence on others; if we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord, so that alive or dead we belong to the Lord. This explains why Christ both died and came to life: it was so that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

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Matthew 18:21-35

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

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

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“Forgive your neighbour the hurt he does you, and when you pray, your sins will be forgiven”

Ever since I was a child, I have always been interested in food, both in eating and in cooking (if you met me in person, you will understand why!). My first dish was a simple fried egg, progressing to “special recipe” instant noodles and other more “exotic” dishes. I once caused a mixing bowl to explode when I tried to warm up the ingredients by putting it directly on an open flame!

The love for cooking, however, really took off when I got married 20 years ago. From Chinese to Italian to Fusion, I have tried it all.

One dish I have found particularly challenging is the souffle. The nightmare of anyone attempting such a dish is to have the souffle start collapsing the moment it is taken out of the oven.. and yes, it has happened to me before. I sought to find out the reason why this happened,

Imagine my surprise to learn that the kryptonite to this dish is oil, even if it means a little oily residue left behind on your utensils. Remove the oil, and the souffle rises to perfection!

I draw this analogy of preparing souffle to our lives as Christians. Jesus, in Gospel of today, talks about the importance of being able to forgive each other unconditionally in our dealings with each other.

Like oil and the souffle, we will be unable to live a truly authentic Christian life if we are unable to forgive, especially as all of us are beneficiaries of God’s forgiveness, a forgiveness we do not deserve and yet receive. The forgiveness that we are asked to give each other, no matter how dire the offence committed against us, are but a smidge when compared to what happened to our God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Father God, may we always have our hearts open to Your love and Grace. We ask for the strength and wisdom to do what is right.

Thanksgiving – Thank You, Father, for loving us first. Thank You for teaching us what it means to love, and with that love, how to forgive.

22 July, Saturday – Seeking God Passionately

Jul 22 – Memorial for St. Mary Magdalene

There is actually very little solid information about her, and both scholars and traditions differ on the interpretation of what we do know.

She was a friend and follower of Jesus. Filled with sorrow over her sin, she anointed Christ and washed his feet with her hair. He exorcised seven demons from her. She was the first to have been visited by the Risen Christ. While there are several arguments about her life after the Crucifixion, the Greek Church maintains that she retired to Ephesus with the Blessed Virgin Mary and lived there the rest of her life.

Some things we do know for certain – Mary wasn’t Jesus’ wife nor mistress, she wasn’t the mother of His child, and she didn’t found a royal dynasty or separate branch of Christianity.

http://www.carr.org/~meripper/saints/saints-m.htm

– Patron Saint Index

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Song of Songs 3:1-4

All night long on my bed
I looked for the one my heart loves;
I looked for him but did not find him.

 I will get up now and go about the city,
through its streets and squares;
I will search for the one my heart loves.
So I looked for him but did not find him.

The watchmen found me
as they made their rounds in the city.
“Have you seen the one my heart loves?”

Scarcely had I passed them
when I found the one my heart loves.
I held him and would not let him go
till I had brought him to my mother’s house,
to the room of the one who conceived me.

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John 20:1-2, 11-18

It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

Meanwhile Mary stayed outside near the tomb, weeping. Then, still weeping, she stooped to look inside, and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet. They said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away’ she replied ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ As she said this she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not recognise him. Jesus said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’ Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master. Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ So Mary of Magdala went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had said these things to her.

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“Who are you looking for?”

The first reading of today from the Song of Songs speaks of the longing of a bride for her beloved; she seeks him and looks for him all over the city. She asks the watchmen if they have seen him on their rounds, to no avail.

A few years ago, my wife went on a work assignment to New York for a few months. Because of the time difference, we could only speak twice a day — once in the morning and once at night. In spite of the daily conversations, I found myself longing for her return. Having been married for about 16 years then, I found myself missing her dearly. While we do not spend our time together talking all the time, I find comfort and strength being with her.

Similarly, Jesus’ disciples (the women too) felt a loss after His death. While Jesus had just died on the cross, the disciples and the women were distraught when they could not find His body. One could sense their desperation in the Gospel passage of today, and their joy when Mary of Magdala recognised Jesus.

For many years since I had been baptised as a teen, I felt that God was somewhat detached. I had prayed on a more-or-less regular basis, as was taught to me, but I was not sure that my prayers and conversations with God were even heard.

Since then, I have had numerous experiences of God, but it was during the Conversion Experience Retreat that came to the biggest realisation of how God loved me. Over the week at the retreat, I felt the love of God for the first time, and, just like my relationship with my wife, I experienced a longing for His presence in my life.

As we travel along our faith journey, it is important that we develop a strong desire for Jesus, like the bride for her groom and like the disciples for their Teacher. Without this, our faith can only be lukewarm. Let us pray for, and desire for, red-hot faith!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father, let us desire to know You more and more each day. Help us always to seek You in our lives.

Thanksgiving Jesus Lord, thank You for teaching us what is truly important; to love You more each day. Thank You for being there no matter what the circumstances in our lives.

21 July, Friday – Going Beyond the Superficial

Jul 21 – Memorial for St. Lawrence of Brindisi, priest, religious, doctor

St. Lawrence (1559-1619) joined the Capuchin Friars in 1575. He studied theology, the Bible, French, German, Greek, Spanish, Syriac, and Hebrew. He was an effective and forceful preacher in any of his several languages, founded convents and wrote catechisms.

As the chaplain of the army of the Holy Roman Empire in 1601, he led the army into battle against the Turks carrying only a crucifix and defeated them. Later, he carried out important and successful diplomatic peace missions. He was the spiritual director of the Bavarian army. St Lawrence was proclaimed Apostolic Doctor of the Church by Pope John XXIII in 1959.

– Patron Saint Index

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Exodus 11:10-12:14

Moses and Aaron worked many wonders in the presence of Pharaoh. But the Lord made Pharaoh’s heart stubborn, and he did not let the sons of Israel leave his country.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:

‘This month is to be the first of all the others for you, the first month of your year. Speak to the whole community of Israel and say, “On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock, one for each family: one animal for each household. If the household is too small to eat the animal, a man must join with his neighbour, the nearest to his house, as the number of persons requires. You must take into account what each can eat in deciding the number for the animal. It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may take it from either sheep or goats. You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel shall slaughter it between the two evenings. Some of the blood must then be taken and put on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where it is eaten. That night, the flesh is to be eaten, roasted over the fire; it must be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled, but roasted over the fire, head, feet and entrails. You must not leave any over till the morning: whatever is left till morning you are to burn. You shall eat it like this: with a girdle round your waist, sandals on your feet, a staff in your hand. You shall eat it hastily: it is a passover in honour of the Lord. That night, I will go through the land of Egypt and strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, man and beast alike, and I shall deal out punishment to all the gods of Egypt, I am the Lord! The blood shall serve to mark the houses that you live in. When I see the blood I will pass over you and you shall escape the destroying plague when I strike the land of Egypt. This day is to be a day of remembrance for you, and you must celebrate it as a feast in the Lord’s honour. For all generations you are to declare it a day of festival, for ever.”

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Matthew 12:1-8

Jesus took a walk one sabbath day through the cornfields. His disciples were hungry and began to pick ears of corn and eat them. The Pharisees noticed it and said to him, ‘Look, your disciples are doing something that is forbidden on the sabbath.’ But he said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he and his followers were hungry – how he went into the house of God and how they ate the loaves of offering which neither he nor his followers were allowed to eat, but which were for the priests alone? Or again, have you not read in the Law that on the sabbath day the Temple priests break the sabbath without being blamed for it? Now here, I tell you, is something greater than the Temple. And if you had understood the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless. For the Son of Man is master of the sabbath.’

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“What I want is mercy, not sacrifice.”

‘Substance over form’ was a mantra I first learned about in my basic law course in the polytechnic. Interestingly, this saying came up repeatedly over the 30 odd years of my working life, beginning in audit, investment research and finally, in banking.

In my first job as an auditor, I focused on both financial and internal audits. Many times, I would find transactions in companies structured one way or another to meet the requirements of some law or to avoid some legal constraints. In essence, however, these transactions still achieved the same goals although appearing to be different on the surface.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus said: “What I want is mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless.” Too often we look at following the ‘rules’, without thinking about the implications or equity if we were to follow this rules.

As Christians, we must always prioritise people above the rules; to be merciful as asked by our Lord. Rather than purely administering the regulations, we need to look at the issues through lenses of love.

I recently read about how a retail store worker in the United States was fired because he had worked with the police to prevent a kidnapping. The reason? All because in doing so, he had gone against company policy. It may sound incredible, but true!

We need to always look at people and situations through lenses of love and mercy, for it is only through this that we can be true Christians and followers of God’s Word.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father, thank You for showing us what it means to be a true Christian. Help us to go beyond what is on the surface and go into the ‘substance’ and give us the courage to do so.

Thanksgiving Lord Jesus, thank You for giving us a compass in our lives. We thank You also for providing a faith community to support us to do so.