Tag Archives: paul wee

29 August, Wednesday – Work as Our Gifts to God

29 August – Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

To endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather is was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward. Since death was ever at hand, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: “You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake.” He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that His chosen ones should suffer for Him: “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.”

– from a homily by Saint Bede the Venerable on the death of John the Baptist

________________

2 Thessalonians 3:6-10,16-18

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we urge you, brothers, to keep away from any of the brothers who refuses to work or to live according to the tradition we passed on to you.

You know how you are supposed to imitate us: now we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we ever have our meals at anyone’s table without paying for them; no, we worked night and day, slaving and straining, so as not to be a burden on any of you. This was not because we had no right to be, but in order to make ourselves an example for you to follow.

We gave you a rule when we were with you: do not let anyone have any food if he refuses to do any work. May the Lord of peace himself give you peace all the time and in every way. The Lord be with you all.

From me, PAUL, these greetings in my own handwriting, which is the mark of genuineness in every letter; this is my own writing. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

________________ 

Mark 6:17-29

Herod sent to have John arrested, and had him chained up in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife whom he had married. For John had told Herod, ‘It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife.’ As for Herodias, she was furious with him and wanted to kill him; but she was not able to, because Herod was afraid of John, knowing him to be a good and holy man, and gave him his protection. When he had heard him speak he was greatly perplexed, and yet he liked to listen to him.

An opportunity came on Herod’s birthday when he gave a banquet for the nobles of his court, for his army officers and for the leading figures in Galilee. When the daughter of this same Herodias came in and danced, she delighted Herod and his guests; so the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me anything you like and I will give it you.’ And he swore her an oath, ‘I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.’ She went out and said to her mother, ‘What shall I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the Baptist’ The girl hurried straight back to the king and made her request, ‘I want you to give me John the Baptist’s head, here and now, on a dish.’ The king was deeply distressed but, thinking of the oaths he had sworn and of his guests, he was reluctant to break his word to her. So the king at once sent one of the bodyguard with orders to bring John’s head. The man went off and beheaded him in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard about this, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

________________

“We worked night and day… so as not to be a burden on any of you…”

After I left my corporate job some 4 years ago, I explored doing various businesses. One that was particularly alluring promised lots of fun, travel, money and a complete life of leisure. I was taken with the idea and for a while, dabbled in this.

My wife and I soon went for a couple of holidays, but soon realised that there was only so much time one could spend in leisure. I missed spending time working. With work, I enjoyed interacting with other people. I enjoyed putting in a hard day’s work to earn my living. What I found, also, was that by doing my work and doing it well, I was glorifying God.

The Apostle Paul was teaching this to the Thessalonians — that there is value in work. Only by working together, can everyone contribute to and grow with the community. The specific instructions given by the disciples were to avoid associating with those who choose to leech off others and not working for their keep.

Another point that struck me from the First Reading of today was the fact that the Apostle Paul and the leaders of the early Church not only gave guidance to the followers, but strove hard to be good examples as leaders. Instead of mere lip service, these men demonstrated, like Jesus, what it means to be servant leaders.

Brothers and sisters, let us all be thankful for the work that God gives us in our daily lives so that in achieving our goals, we can glorify Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer:  We pray we may always do our best at our work, and to lift our work as our gifts to God.

Thanksgiving:  We thank You Father, for giving us work, so that we may find ways of continuing to glorify You.

28 August, Tuesday – True Repentence

28 August – Memorial for St. Augustine, Bishop, Doctor

After investigating and experimenting with several philosophies, Augustine (354-430) became a Manichaean for several years; it taught of a great struggle between good and evil, and featured a lax moral code. A summation of his thinking at the time comes from his Confessions: “God, give me chastity and continence – but not just now.”

Augustine finally broke with the Manichaeans and was converted by the prayers of his mother and the help of St. Ambrose of Milan, who baptised him. Upon the death of his mother he returned to Africa, sold his property, gave the proceeds to the poor, and founded a monastery. He founded religious communities and fought heresies. His later thinking can also be summed up in a line from his writings: Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.

________________

2 Thessalonians 2:1-3,14-17

To turn, brothers, to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we shall all be gathered round him: please do not get excited too soon or alarmed by any prediction or rumour or any letter claiming to come from us, implying that the Day of the Lord has already arrived. Never let anyone deceive you in this way.

It cannot happen until the Great Revolt has taken place and the Rebel, the Lost One, has appeared. Through the Good News that we brought he called you to this so that you should share the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Stand firm, then, brothers, and keep the traditions that we taught you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father who has given us his love and, through his grace, such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope, comfort you and strengthen you in everything good that you do or say.

________________ 

Matthew 23:23-26

Jesus said, ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who pay your tithe of mint and dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law – justice, mercy, good faith! These you should have practised, without neglecting the others. You blind guides! Straining out gnats and swallowing camels!

‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who clean the outside of cup and dish and leave the inside full of extortion and intemperance. Blind Pharisee! Clean the inside of cup and dish first so that the outside may become clean as well.’

________________

“… so that you should share the glory…”

Funny as it sounds, one of my favourite movies is ‘Shallow Hal’, a comedy starring Jack Black as Hal. Because of a childhood trauma, he sought the company of women who were very beautiful in terms of physical beauty.

So spoilers ahead for those of you planning to watch this particular movie.

Hal chances upon a hypnotist (the ever affable Tony Robbins) who then helps him see the real beauty in the ladies he meets. From then on, he meets with many beautiful women, who also find him attractive. He also meets with a few who not only are less attractive, but also turn out to extremely nasty individuals.

Fast forward to the end of the movie and Hal begins to see the world normally again. It turns out that the beautiful women were not the ravishing beauties he initially saw, and the nasty ladies were actually physically beautiful. Understandably, he was confused, as he could no longer see just the superficial, physical aspects.

Our Lord Jesus speaks in the Gospel today about how, like Hal, many of us focus on the unimportant aspects of our faith. I remember a priest once sharing about how people are concerned about whether they ate meat on a Friday, but were making wrong choices in terms of their faith, lifestyle or moral decisions.

In my spiritual life, I find it tempting to focus on my ‘less serious’ sins in order to cover up the sins that I am truly ashamed of. And yet, when I rely on God’s grace and face my sins head on, I find that I experience the full experience of His Mercy.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer:  We pray that we may be able to trust in the Holy Spirit to guide us and to help us discern what is truly important to our faith.

Thanksgiving:  Thank You Lord Jesus, for teaching us. Thank You for always showing us what we need to focus on as God’s children.

27 August, Monday – Understanding True Worth

27 August – Memorial for St. Monica, Married Woman

Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted a heresy and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted.

When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan, where she became a leader of the devout women there.

– Patron Saint Index

________________

2 Thessalonians 1:1-5,11-12

From Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, to the Church in Thessalonika which is in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; wishing you grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We feel we must be continually thanking God for you, brothers; quite rightly, because your faith is growing so wonderfully and the love that you have for one another never stops increasing; and among the churches of God we can take special pride in you for your constancy and faith under all the persecutions and troubles you have to bear. It all shows that God’s judgement is just, and the purpose of it is that you may be found worthy of the kingdom of God; it is for the sake of this that you are suffering now.

Knowing this, we pray continually that our God will make you worthy of his call, and by his power fulfil all your desires for goodness and complete all that you have been doing through faith; because in this way the name of our Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified in you and you in him, by the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

________________ 

Matthew 23:13-22

Jesus said, ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who shut up the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to.

‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who travel over sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when you have him you make him twice as fit for hell as you are.

‘Alas for you, blind guides! You who say, “If a man swears by the Temple, it has no force; but if a man swears by the gold of the Temple, he is bound.” Fools and blind! For which is of greater worth, the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? Or else, “If a man swears by the altar it has no force; but if a man swears by the offering that is on the altar, he is bound.” You blind men! For which is of greater worth, the offering or the altar that makes the offering sacred? Therefore, when a man swears by the altar he is swearing by that and by everything on it. And when a man swears by the Temple he is swearing by that and by the One who dwells in it. And when a man swears by heaven he is swearing by the throne of God and by the One who is seated there.’

________________

“You make him twice as fit for hell as you are”

When my children were very young, I used to be quite the authoritarian with them. I remember barking orders about what they could or could not do. This went on without much incident until the day my son asked me: ”But Dad, you asked me to do it, why do you not do it?”

Indeed, this was precisely the thing that my wife had been telling me; that my children were watching me all the time. That, in their minds, they would be matching what they see against what I was saying.

Our Lord Jesus in the Gospel talked about this, chastising the scribes and Pharisees, for such a thing, requiring the converts to follow faith standards higher than even what these teachers were required to do. Many times, I have found myself doing the same thing. On many occasions, I find myself unconsciously judging others for their actions. Yet, upon further reflection, I often find that I am unable to behave better than those I am critical of.

I have long mulled over the deeper meaning behind the second part of today’s Gospel. For the longest time, I figured that we should not be so taken with the superficial aspects our lives, and should instead focus on the deeper, more spiritual aspects. However, it was when I was preparing for today’s reflection when another meaning struck me.

I realised that it goes beyond the difference between superficiality and deepness. Instead, it was that all the good and everything in our lives comes from God. We spend too much time attributing this success to ourselves; what schools we went to, who we know or whether we are at the right place at the right time. What should happen instead, however, is that we should look at the “gold behind the temple”; that whatever we have comes from our God.

When we do good, it comes from God. When we have an idea for a way to do good in the world, it comes from God. When we invent something, it comes from God.

Simply put, ALL good comes from God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer:  We pray that no matter what, we will continue to recognize the true value of everything in our lives. Help us Father, to have wisdom.

Thanksgiving:  We thank You Father, for giving us the gift of discernment. Thank You for reminding us not to be arrogant but to always rely on Him.

26 August, Sunday – True Love

26 August 2018

___________

Joshua 24:1-2,15-18

Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel together at Shechem; then he called the elders, leaders, judges and scribes of Israel, and they presented themselves before God. Then Joshua said to all the people, ‘If you will not serve the Lord, choose today whom you wish to serve, whether the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are now living. As for me and my House, we will serve the Lord.’
The

people answered, ‘We have no intention of deserting the Lord and serving other gods! Was it not the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors out of the land of Egypt, the house of slavery, who worked those great wonders before our eyes and preserved us all along the way we travelled and among all the peoples through whom we journeyed? What is more, the Lord drove all those peoples out before us, as well as the Amorites who used to live in this country. We too will serve the Lord, for he is our God.’

_____________

Ephesians 5:21-32

Give way to one another in obedience to Christ. Wives should regard their husbands as they regard the Lord, since as Christ is head of the Church and saves the whole body, so is a husband the head of his wife; and as the Church submits to Christ, so should wives to their husbands, in everything. Husbands should love their wives just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her to make her holy. He made her clean by washing her in water with a form of words, so that when he took her to himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless. In the same way, husbands must love their wives as they love their own bodies; for a man to love his wife is for him to love himself. A man never hates his own body, but he feeds it and looks after it; and that is the way Christ treats the Church, because it is his body – and we are its living parts. For this reason, a man must leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one body. This mystery has many implications; but I am saying it applies to Christ and the Church.

____________

John 6:60-69

After hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’ Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, ‘Does this upset you? What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?

‘It is the spirit that gives life,
the flesh has nothing to offer.
The words I have spoken to you are spirit
and they are life.

‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the outset those who did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. He went on, ‘This is why I told you that no one could come to me unless the Father allows him.’ After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.
Then Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.’

____________

“… Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her…”

I remember speaking with a colleague years ago about marriage and we were discussing about the challenges that married couples go through. I cannot remember much of this conversation, but I do remember how it ended.  “If it doesn’t work out”, she said, “can always divorce. I mean, if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.”

I have heard similar views being shared by many others and, in many cases, these marriages ended up in divorce. Friends caught up in such a situation have often shared the extreme difficulties they faced while being still married. They speak of disagreements and arguments, about rifts in relationships, about how their spouse no longer understood nor loved them and how both in the relationship finally decided it was no longer worth fighting for.

However, the irony is that when we speak to those marriages who have stood the test of time, we too hear about the same difficulties. They too, go through extremely challenging circumstances which had placed stresses on the marriage. Yet, these marriages survive.

Very often, the difference between the two is this — commitment to the marriage, and commitment to continue working on the relationship, no matter what both parties go through.

In today’s second reading, we read about perfect, giving love. About how Jesus gave of Himself, totally, to His Church and for His Church. The focus is not on Himself, but on us, His spouse. Instead of being concerned about Himself and His own needs, Our Lord ministered to the people, and did everything He could for them. It was this selfless love that attracted many to the early community.

Brothers and sisters, imagine if we learned to be just like Jesus in our relationships with our spouses. Imagine what would happen if we gave of ourselves selflessly, never thinking of what was in it for ourselves? What a way to build relationships of true love!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer:  Father God, we pray that You help us to always focus on those around You and on those around us. Help us to continue to grow in love for others.

Thanksgiving:  Thank You, Father, for showing what it truly means to love others.

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

_____________________

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.
_____________________

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.
_____________________

“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

_______________

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.’

__________________________

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.

__________________________

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.’

__________________________

“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

_______________

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.

__________________________

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.’

__________________________

“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

_______________

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.

__________________________

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.’

__________________________

“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

_______________

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.

__________________________

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.’

__________________________

“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

________________

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.’

________________ 

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.’

________________ 

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.

________________

“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.