Tag Archives: paul wee

26 February, Wednesday – Authentic Conversion

26 February – Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and occurs forty days before Easter (excluding Sundays). It falls on a different date each year, because it is dependent on the date of Easter; it can occur as early as Feb 4 or as late as Mar 10.

Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful as a sign of repentance. The ashes used are gathered after the palm branches from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are burned. In the liturgical practice of some churches, the ashes are mixed with the Oil of the Catechumens, though some churches use ordinary oil. This paste is used by the clergyman who presides at the service to make the sign of the cross, first upon his own forehead and then on each of those present. As he does so, he recites the words: “Remember (O man) that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Ash Wednesday is a day of repentance and it marks the beginning of Lent. Ashes were used in ancient times, according to the Bible, to express mourning. Dusting oneself with ashes was the penitent’s way of expressing sorrow for sins and faults.

  • Wikipedia

Penitence is an essential part of the Christian life, for none of us can measure up to the tremendous vocation that is ours as Christians. We are in constant need of the mercy and forgiveness of God. Today we express this by taking part in an impressive corporate act of penitence and reconciliation, beseeching God for the grace to use with profit the ‘favourable time’ of preparation for the celebration of Christ’s Passover feast.

the Sunday Missal

_____________

Joel 2:12-18

‘Now, now – it is the Lord who speaks –
come back to me with all your heart,
fasting, weeping, mourning.’
Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn,
turn to the Lord your God again,
for he is all tenderness and compassion,
slow to anger, rich in graciousness,
and ready to relent.
Who knows if he will not turn again, will not relent,
will not leave a blessing as he passes,
oblation and libation
for the Lord your God?

Sound the trumpet in Zion!
Order a fast,
proclaim a solemn assembly,
call the people together,
summon the community,
assemble the elders,
gather the children,
even the infants at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his bedroom
and the bride her alcove.
Between vestibule and altar let the priests,
the ministers of the Lord, lament.
Let them say,
‘Spare your people, Lord!
Do not make your heritage a thing of shame,
a byword for the nations.
Why should it be said among the nations,
“Where is their God?”’

Then the Lord, jealous on behalf of his land,
took pity on his people.

__________________

2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2

We are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God. For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God. As his fellow workers, we beg you once again not to neglect the grace of God that you have received. For he says: At the favourable time, I have listened to you; on the day of salvation I came to your help. Well, now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation.

____________________

Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you; this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win men’s admiration. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

‘And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them; I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

‘When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.’

_____________________

“Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn”

As a parent of two children, I have seen my fair share of sibling disagreements. Invariably, someone would be asked to apologise, and a quick “Sorry” would be uttered. As would happen often, the one doing the ‘apologising’ would not be repentant, and I would find myself asking the child to “say it like you mean it”. Thankfully, true contrition follows and hugs are exchanged.

I find myself observing the same behaviour in the work environment too. Apologies are given to soothe over rough interactions, or for political expediency. Same attitudes and behaviours tend to continue, and the same interactions follow.

In preparing for this reflection, I was wondering why it was important to “say it like you mean it” and the answer that came to me was this — we cannot fix what we cannot name or identify.

Many examples came to me as I prayed and reflected — In confession, we name our sins in order to be absolved; when we see a doctor, illness needs to be diagnosed before treatment; a taxi journey needs to begin with a destination.

Simply put, God cannot work to effect real change in our lives if we are not truly sorry.

It is challenging for the Catholic community at this time that the Singapore Church has suspended all public masses and activities; however, this is also a wonderful opportunity for all of us to quieten and examine our inner lives. We get time to go inside ourselves and truly open our broken hearts to our God.

Have a fruitful Lenten season everyone.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, we pray that we may be unafraid to examine and name our failings and sins and to offer them up to you for healing.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful, Father, that no matter how broken or sinful we are, You continue to love and be there for us.

25 February, Tuesday – Daddy! Daddy!

25 February

____________

James 4:1-10

Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves? You want something and you haven’t got it; so you are prepared to kill. You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force. Why you don’t have what you want is because you don’t pray for it; when you do pray and don’t get it, it is because you have not prayed properly, you have prayed for something to indulge your own desires.
You are as unfaithful as adulterous wives; don’t you realise that making the world your friend is making God your enemy?

Anyone who chooses the world for his friend turns himself into God’s enemy. Surely you don’t think scripture is wrong when it says: the spirit which he sent to live in us wants us for himself alone? But he has been even more generous to us, as scripture says: God opposes the proud but he gives generously to the humble. Give in to God, then; resist the devil, and he will run away from you. The nearer you go to God, the nearer he will come to you. Clean your hands, you sinners, and clear your minds, you waverers. Look at your wretched condition, and weep for it in misery; be miserable instead of laughing, gloomy instead of happy. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.

___________________

Mark 9:30-37

Jesus and his disciples made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know, because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, ‘The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him.

They came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.’ He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms round him, and said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’

___________________

“Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me”

 A friend of mine from junior college once asked me if I would continue to be a Christian if my life was really difficult. It was his view that I was happy and prayed only because my life was smooth-sailing.

I took some time to think about it; then confidently, I said “Yes”.

That took place about ten years ago. Since that question was asked me, I had left a job which I had stopped enjoying. Overnight, I experienced such a major change to my self-image. I struggled with sadness, and ultimately, depression.

The best thing for me, though, was that this time gave me an  opportunity to spend time both by myself, with my family, but also to spend time with God. Despite all the challenges I was facing, I found comfort in spending time with Him. I had never previously had a personal ‘God’ experience, and this was the first time that I really did.

I am familiar with the Gospel of today, but until then, had never really understood it; it was only when “we let go, and let God” that we begin to grow. When we let go of the adult in us, we are free to become little children. It is when we let go, that our hands are free to know God.

Let us continue to reach out to God like the children that we are.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We ask You Father, to teach us to remain as little children in Your eyes. Help us to always reach out to You.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for Your teachings. We are grateful for Your eternal and unconditional love for us.

24 February, Monday – Running on empty

24 February

______________

James 3:13-18

If there are any wise or learned men among you, let them show it by their good lives, with humility and wisdom in their actions. But if at heart you have the bitterness of jealousy, or a self-seeking ambition, never make any claims for yourself or cover up the truth with lies – principles of this kind are not the wisdom that comes down from above: they are only earthly, animal and devilish. Wherever you find jealousy and ambition, you find disharmony, and wicked things of every kind being done; whereas the wisdom that comes down from above is essentially something pure; it also makes for peace, and is kindly and considerate; it is full of compassion and shows itself by doing good; nor is there any trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it. Peacemakers, when they work for peace, sow the seeds which will bear fruit in holiness.

_________________

Mark 9:14-29

When Jesus, with Peter, James and John came down from the mountain and rejoined the disciples, they saw a large crowd round them and some scribes arguing with them. The moment they saw him the whole crowd were struck with amazement and ran to greet him. ‘What are you arguing about with them?’ he asked. A man answered him from the crowd, ‘Master, I have brought my son to you; there is a spirit of dumbness in him, and when it takes hold of him it throws him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and goes rigid. And I asked your disciples to cast it out and they were unable to.’ ‘You faithless generation’ he said to them in reply. ‘How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.’ They brought the boy to him, and as soon as the spirit saw Jesus it threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell to the ground and lay writhing there, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ ‘From childhood,’ he replied ‘and it has often thrown him into the fire and into the water, in order to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.’ ‘If you can?’ retorted Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for anyone who has faith.’

Immediately the father of the boy cried out, ‘I do have faith. Help the little faith I have!’ And when Jesus saw how many people were pressing round him, he rebuked the unclean spirit. ‘Deaf and dumb spirit,’ he said ‘I command you: come out of him and never enter him again.’ Then throwing the boy into violent convulsions it came out shouting, and the boy lay there so like a corpse that most of them said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him up, and he was able to stand. When he had gone indoors his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why were we unable to cast it out?’ ‘This is the kind’ he answered ‘that can only be driven out by prayer.’

______________

“This is the kind… that can only be driven out by prayer”

My wife has been sending me messages and articles to read via WhatsApp, encouraging me to take better care of myself; to detach from work, to eat better, to rest more. As you can probably guess by now, I do not do this well; I sleep something like 4-6 hours nightly, typically start work at about 4 in the morning and do not have a regular exercise programme.

This has begun to take a toll on me recently.  I have become tired more easily, am short-tempered and generally not so nice to be around.

I have a wise spouse. Indeed, after the times I have taken better care of myself, I find that I am happier, more productive and a more loving husband and father.

Indeed, this is the same with our faith and our service.

My wife and I were once cell group leaders for a few couples. Being new to this, we were anxious but at the same time, enthusiastic. We threw ourselves into our roles and worked hard. Yet, we felt that we were ‘fake’ and not worthy of being cell group leaders. After a couple of years, we left the group.

Some time later, we realised that while we did pray during the period of service, we did not spend real time with our Lord. We mouthed our prayers superficially but did not build on our relationship with Him; we were trying to do everything on our own, depending on our own abilities.

Indeed, in order to be able to work in His name, we must truly have a close relationship with God. We need to continually tap into His fireplace; to draw warmth and strength. We cannot, and must not, ever try to do it on our own, if we are to do great things in His name.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we may remember to always build a relationship with You, Father. Help us to grow in faith and in love for You.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful for our Lord Jesus, who shows us how to spend time with You, Father. Thank You for helping us realise that we never have to do it on our own, that we can always tap into You.

23 February, Sunday – Pride, our stumbling block

23 February

_________________

Leviticus 19:1-2,17-18

The Lord spoke to Moses; he said: ‘Speak to the whole community of the sons of Israel and say to them:
‘“Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.

‘“You must not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. You must openly tell him, your neighbour, of his offence; this way you will not take a sin upon yourself. You must not exact vengeance, nor must you bear a grudge against the children of your people. You must love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”’

______________

1 Corinthians 3:16-23

Didn’t you realise that you were God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.

Make no mistake about it: if any one of you thinks of himself as wise, in the ordinary sense of the word, then he must learn to be a fool before he really can be wise. Why? Because the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.

As scripture says: The Lord knows wise men’s thoughts: he knows how useless they are; or again: God is not convinced by the arguments of the wise. So there is nothing to boast about in anything human: Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life and death, the present and the future, are all your servants; but you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.

________________

Matthew 5:38-48

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away.

‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

_____________

“… he must learn to be a fool before he really can be wise…”

I have been recently troubled by some issues at work, and in the course of these ‘troubles’, I got into a spat with one of my colleagues. Suffice to say that the interactions have gotten rather heated of late, and we ended up having a face-to-face confrontation.

I was feeling frustrated as I believed I was doing my best to help others, and felt the other person was being self-centred and protective over her ‘territory’.

In preparing for today’s reflection, I felt God addressing me directly.

Firstly, the Gospel today spoke about “turning the other cheek”. I felt these verses speaking to me and I sat with this for a few days. I was puzzled. There were other situations in the Bible when Jesus got angry (such as the time Jesus chased the merchants out of the Temple as detailed in Matthew 21:12-17), where He certainly didn’t turn His cheek.

Then it struck me. That to me, it was not about the act of turning one’s cheek at all. Instead, it was a question of one’s pride preventing one from doing so.

In the work scenario I mentioned above, I realised that it was never about my colleague being selfish. What triggered me was the perception that she was arrogant and that she did not give me due respect.

The second reading of today talks about wisdom, and how worldly wisdom is seen as foolishness by God. In my effort to help others, I did not realise that I was, in fact, acting on my own accord. I failed to consider the feelings of others, or even to seek out their opinions! Instead of being wise, I was demonstrating my foolishness!

I am constantly amazed by how our God speaks to me. In today’s readings, God guides and rebukes me at the same time. I feel His love and am confident that no matter how challenging the journey, and how many mistakes I make, He will watch out for me.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, we pray that we may be able to slow down to listen to Your promptings. Help us to always be open to You.

Thanksgiving: We thank You, Father God, for always sending Your Spirit to be there with us. Thank you for blessing us always with Your love, constant guidance and protection.

17 December, Tuesday – God’s Perfection

17 Dec 2019

________________

Genesis 49:2,8-10

Jacob called his sons and said:
‘Gather round, sons of Jacob, and listen;
listen to Israel your father.
Judah, your brothers shall praise you:
you grip your enemies by the neck,
your father’s sons shall do you homage,
Judah is a lion cub,
you climb back, my son, from your kill;
like a lion he crouches and lies down,
or a lioness: who dare rouse him?
The sceptre shall not pass from Judah,
nor the mace from between his feet,
until he come to whom it belongs,
to whom the peoples shall render obedience.’

________________ 

Matthew 1:1-17

A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, Tamar being their mother,
Perez was the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram was the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon was the father of Boaz, Rahab being his mother,
Boaz was the father of Obed, Ruth being his mother,
Obed was the father of Jesse;
and Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Azariah,
Azariah was the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah;
and Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers.
Then the deportation to Babylon took place.
After the deportation to Babylon:
Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor was the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud was the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob;
and Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary;
of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.
The sum of generations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ.

________________

Of her was born Jesus who is called Christ

The genealogy of Jesus shows forty-two (42) generations; fourteen (14) from Abraham to David, fourteen (14) to the Babylonian deportation and fourteen (14) from the Babylonian deportation to Christ.

When I first looked at Jesus’ lineage, I saw the faith of Abraham at work. This faithfulness can be seen in his leaving Ur for Canaan, and when he almost sacrificed his only son Isaac, in obedience to God.

This lineage looked perfect to me, until I read that there were interesting characters within the line. For example, Perez, the son of Judah and Tamar. This doesn’t sound extraordinary until we learn that Perez was conceived when Judah slept with Tamar believing that she was a prostitute. In fact, Judah was Tamar’s father-in-law! Tamar was the widow of Judah’s eldest son, Er, who subsequently married his second son Onan (according to tradition). Onan, too, died prematurely.

Two other examples I can see is that of Ruth, who came from the tribe of Moab, this tribe came about when Lot’s daughters slept with him! Finally, Solomon, who was a product of King David and Bathsheba, whom David married after arranging for Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, death in battle.

Knowing these three stories gave me a new perspective.

While I had originally thought that Jesus had been born into a “pure” and “perfect” bloodline, I realised that this lineage had been less than perfect. To me, God had perfected the imperfect! This was a powerful lesson; that no matter He, too, perfects us when we do His work and live according to His will.

Actually, in preparing for this reflection, I learned something else.

Because of the virgin birth, Jesus actually did not come Joseph’s lineage. Instead, He came from Mary’s! As much as it is that Joseph had adopted into his lineage, God had adopted Abraham’s lineage as His.

How powerful it is when we walk in the path has God has chosen for us!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, teach us to be open to Your will. Help us to always trust in You!

Thanksgiving: Thank You for guiding and protecting us, and for making us perfect despite our imperfection.

16 December, Monday – Desiring To Know God

16 Dec 2019

_________________

Numbers 24:2-7,15-17

Raising his eyes Balaam saw Israel, encamped by tribes; the spirit of God came on him and he declaimed his poem. He said:
 
‘The oracle of Balaam son of Beor,
the oracle of the man with far-seeing eyes,
the oracle of one who hears the word of God.
He sees what Shaddai makes him see,
receives the divine answer, and his eyes are opened.
How fair are your tents, O Jacob!
How fair your dwellings, Israel!
Like valleys that stretch afar,
like gardens by the banks of a river,
like aloes planted by the Lord,
like cedars beside the waters!
A hero arises from their stock,
he reigns over countless peoples.
His king is greater than Agag,
his majesty is exalted.’
 
Then Balaam declaimed his poem again. He said:
 
‘The oracle of Balaam son of Beor,
the oracle of the man with far-seeing eyes,
the oracle of one who hears the word of God,
of one who knows the knowledge of the Most High.
He sees what Shaddai makes him see,
receives the divine answer, and his eyes are opened.
I see him – but not in the present,
I behold him – but not close at hand:
a star from Jacob takes the leadership,
a sceptre arises from Israel.’

________________ 

Matthew 21:23-27

Jesus had gone into the Temple and was teaching, when the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him and said, ‘What authority have you for acting like this? And who gave you this authority?’ ‘And I’ replied Jesus ‘will ask you a question, only one; if you tell me the answer to it, I will then tell you my authority for acting like this. John’s baptism: where did it come from: heaven or man?’ And they argued it out this way among themselves, ‘If we say from heaven, he will retort, “Then why did you refuse to believe him?”; but if we say from man, we have the people to fear, for they all hold that John was a prophet.’ So their reply to Jesus was, ‘We do not know.’ And he retorted, ‘Nor will I tell you my authority for acting like this.’

________________

“And I… will ask you a question, only one.”

I have always desired to experience God in a similar way Moses did. I have a whole list of questions about life, about heaven, and how eternal life would look like. I would ask about what He desired me to do with my life, and about the choices, He would like me to make. All to know and to learn.

I wonder, however, how God would interact with me if my desire for “perfect knowledge” was not so much for His glory, but for my own. What if I wanted to have some winning numbers for the lottery so that I could enjoy life as a rich man? Or to use this knowledge so I could gain an advantage over others?

In today’s Gospel reading, we read about some chief priests and elders coming to Jesus to ask Him as to the source of His authority. Jesus was aware of the intention behind this; which was the hope to use His words to trap Him.

Jesus knew their intention and instead of answering their question, returns with another question. The elders and the chief priests run through their minds the possible responses Jesus could have to their answers, chose to give a totally different answer.

I can see parallels to how I speak with God. While I have no intention of trying to trick God, I (unknowingly, of course), “force” God to choose His answers from the list of choices I have. I remember how, years ago, I had been praying hard for God to give me a job I wanted. In my heart and mind, I was trying to twist God’s arm into making it happen to me.  However, what finally happened was totally unexpected. It was not apparent to me then, but God did answer my question.

Let us learn to approach our God with pure hearts and with pure intentions. Only then will we be able to hear His answer.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Teach us, Lord Jesus, to be open to You. Help us learn to approach You with pure and clean hearts.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful, Father, that You alone can know our hearts. Thank You for loving and guiding us despite our iniquities.

15 December, Sunday – Love for God As the Basis for Everything

15 Dec 2019 – 3rd Sunday of Advent

______________

Isaiah 35:1-6,10

Let the wilderness and the dry-lands exult,
let the wasteland rejoice and bloom,
let it bring forth flowers like the jonquil,
let it rejoice and sing for joy.
The glory of Lebanon is bestowed on it,
the splendour of Carmel and Sharon;
they shall see the glory of the Lord,
the splendour of our God.
Strengthen all weary hands,
steady all trembling knees
and say to all faint hearts,
‘Courage! Do not be afraid.
‘Look, your God is coming,
vengeance is coming,
the retribution of God;
he is coming to save you.’
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
the ears of the deaf unsealed,
then the lame shall leap like a deer
and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy
for those the Lord has ransomed shall return.
They will come to Zion shouting for joy,
everlasting joy on their faces;
joy and gladness will go with them
and sorrow and lament be ended.

________________

James 5:7-10

Be patient, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. Think of a farmer: how patiently he waits for the precious fruit of the ground until it has had the autumn rains and the spring rains! You too have to be patient; do not lose heart, because the Lord’s coming will be soon. Do not make complaints against one another, brothers, so as not to be brought to judgement yourselves; the Judge is already to be seen waiting at the gates. For your example, brothers, in submitting with patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

___________________

Matthew 11:2-11

John in his prison had heard what Christ was doing and he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else?’ Jesus answered, ‘Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor; and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.’
  As the messengers were leaving, Jesus began to talk to the people about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the breeze? No? Then what did you go out to see? A man wearing fine clothes? Oh no, those who wear fine clothes are to be found in palaces. Then what did you go out for? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet: he is the one of whom scripture says:
‘Look, I am going to send my messenger before you;
he will prepare your way before you.
‘I tell you solemnly, of all the children born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is.’

________________

And happy is the man who does not lose faith in me

The book of Revelation in the bible talks about heaven. It details how, in heaven, everyone stands and gives glory and honour to God.

I must confess that I was not impressed.

I did not find it appealing that what I would get out of eternal life was to stand around praising God; I felt that we were mere subjects of a King, and our role was purely to serve. What was in it for me?

This, however, changed for me only recently.

I was speaking with some people in the office and I was remarking how blessed I was to have met and married my wife. I was sharing about how despite being together for over twenty years, I enjoy spending time with her. In fact, I had hoped to be able to deepen my relationship with her.

This realisation was really very important to me. Our role is NOT just to stand and sing praises to God. If we walk closely with God, we cannot but help praising Him. It is not the chore we imagine it to be. Instead, we are invited to build this deeply personal relationship with Him. God knows us intimately and as we grow in love for Him, we desire to praise and honour Him.

When I first read Revelations, I had failed to understand this important element and looked at the songs of praises and honour by themselves. Without this love and relationship, all the praising and honouring will just be an empty show.

We do not even need to wait for heaven. I remember years ago, before I developed any real relationship with our Lord, I used to look at my watch while attending mass. In fact, I used to excuse myself to go to the washroom, in order to make the time go faster!

It is clear, in today’s Gospel, of Jesus’ relationship with St John the Baptist. The latter had been preparing the way for Jesus and John was the “servant”. Despite this disparity is statuses, Jesus talks about John in glowing terms, and calls him the greatest of all children born of women. Far from being a one-sided relationship, we see a mutually loving and respectful relationship.

Similarly, let us use our time here on earth to try and strengthen love for our Lord; to the level He loves us. Instead of it being a chore, I look forward to an eternity of desiring more time with our God!

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray that we may always have the desire to know You better and to love You more each day.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father for being faithful to us, even before we are faithful to You. We are grateful for Your love!

12 October, Saturday – Being God’s signpost

12 Oct 2019

____________________

Joel 4:12-21

The Lord says this:

‘Let the nations rouse themselves, let them march to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for I am going to sit in judgement there on all the nations round.

Put the sickle in: the harvest is ripe; come and tread: the winepress is full, the vats are overflowing, so great is their wickedness!’

Host on host in the Valley of Decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the Valley of Decision! Sun and moon grow dark, the stars lose their brilliance.

The Lord roars from Zion, makes his voice heard from Jerusalem; heaven and earth tremble.

But the Lord will be a shelter for his people, a stronghold for the sons of Israel.

‘You will learn then that I am the Lord your God, dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain. Jerusalem will be a holy place, no alien will ever pass through it again.’

When that day comes, the mountains will run with new wine and the hills flow with milk, and all the river beds of Judah will run with water.

A fountain will spring from the house of the Lord to water the wadi of Acacias. Egypt will become a desolation, Edom a desert waste on account of the violence done to the sons of Judah whose innocent blood they shed in their country.

But Judah will be inhabited for ever, Jerusalem from age to age. ‘I will avenge their blood and let none go unpunished’, and the Lord shall make his home in Zion.

___________________

Luke 11:27-28

As Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, ‘Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!’ But he replied, ‘Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it!’

____________________

Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it

I have been so hooked on this TV series in the US titled ‘God Friended Me’. Without giving too much away, this series is about how an atheist (Miles) receives a Facebook request from someone calling himself ‘God’. Despite his non-belief, the main protagonist finds himself drawn in and over time, finds he has helped many people, and made many new friends.

Throughout the episodes, Miles draws a lot of gratitude from the people he has helped, but he always makes it a point to say that it is the ‘God’ account that sends him to them.

I love the premise of this show, and how beautiful it is when one surrenders to God, or fails to give God the credit for everything good that happens.

Growing up without my parents, I have often struggled to show, to myself or to those around me, that I was someone of value. As such, whenever I receive praise for anything I do well, I tended to revel in it. I forget that whatever good that I do, or that I receive, it all comes from God.

Brothers and sisters, just like Miles, let us always proclaim to others the fact that it is God that points us in the right direction, prompting us to do the right things.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, help us to be Your signposts. Help us remember that we are not the final destination, but that all ways point to You.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for showing us the joy of doing Your will!

11 October, Friday – Battling Lukewarmness

11 Oct 2019

____________________

Joel 1:13-15, 2:1-2

Priests, put on sackcloth and lament. Ministers of the altar, wail.

Come, pass the night in sackcloth, you ministers of my God. For the house of our God has been deprived of oblation and libation.

Order a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly; elders, call together all the inhabitants of the country to the house of the Lord your God.

Cry out to the Lord, ‘Oh, what a day! For the day of the Lord is near, it comes as a devastation from Shaddai.’

Sound the trumpet in Zion, give the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the country tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, yes, it is near.

Day of darkness and gloom, day of cloud and blackness. Like the dawn there spreads across the mountains a vast and mighty host, such as has never been before, such as will never be again to the remotest ages.

___________________

Luke 11:15-26

When Jesus had cast out a devil, some of the people said, ‘It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils.’ Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven; but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses. So too with Satan: if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? – Since you assert that it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils. Now if it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out? Let them be your judges then. But if it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you. So long as a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he is attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.

‘He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.

‘When an unclean spirit goes out of a man it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest, and not finding one it says, “I will go back to the home I came from.” But on arrival, finding it swept and tidied, it then goes off and brings seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and set up house there, so that the man ends up by being worse than he was before.’

____________________

He who is not with me is against me

I grew up with my grandaunt, who taught me always to be kind to people around me. She was a wonderful role model for me. I learned from her how to take care of others. I remember how she used to go out of her way to take care of a relative who was addicted to opium. She would cook for him and take a bus down to make sure he had food to eat, and to also clean his place.

I have always taken the position that in addition to being kind, the additional thing we need to do is to not do evil. As a Christian, this had been my practice for many years.

I began to be aware that such an approach is insufficient in the life of being a Christian. In particular, I heard a sermon by our Archbishop William Goh. He was talking about the danger of being lukewarm; about not being ‘hot’ nor ‘cold’ in our faith. Rather than taking a stand, Bishop was emphasizing the need for us to be strong in our faith and to demonstrate it.

I must have read this Gospel of Luke countless times. Yet, it was only when I was preparing for this reflection that the latter parts (verses 21 and 24) spoke to me. All of a sudden, I see the close link between the dangers of lukewarm-ness and the lack of one’s conviction in faith.

What can I do in order to be stronger in my faith? For one, I recognise the need to guard against the ‘little things’. Sin tends to overcome us in small movements and I realised how important it was to be on guard at all times. An amazing song I recently heard is one by Casting Crowns — “Slow Fade” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QASREBVDsLk)

Let us stand guard and be strong. Let us be convicted in our faith. Let us take our side with the Lord, and do so convincingly.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we will always be unafraid to stand up for our faith. That we will allow others to see it in full glory.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful for the freedom that being with You brings, Father God. Thank You for showing us that we need to be courageous in our faith!

10 October, Thursday – Receiving Better Gifts

10 October 2019

____________________

Malachi 3:13-20

You say harsh things about me, says the Lord. You ask, ‘What have we said against you?’ You say, ‘It is useless to serve God; what is the good of keeping his commands or of walking mournfully before the Lord of Hosts? Now we have reached the point when we call the arrogant blessed; yes, they prosper, these evil-doers; they try God’s patience and yet go free.’ This is what those who fear the Lord used to say to one another. But the Lord took note and heard them: a book of remembrance was written in his presence recording those who fear him and take refuge in his name. On the day which I am preparing, says the Lord of Hosts, they are going to be my own special possession. I will make allowances for them as a man makes allowances for the son who obeys him. Then once again you will see the difference between an upright man and a wicked one, between the one who serves God and the one who does not serve him. For the day is coming now, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and the evil-doers will be like stubble. The day that is coming is going to burn them up, says the Lord of Hosts, leaving them neither root nor stalk. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays.

___________________

Luke 11:5-13

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him in the middle of the night to say, “My friend, lend me three loaves, because a friend of mine on his travels has just arrived at my house and I have nothing to offer him”; and the man answers from inside the house, “Do not bother me. The door is bolted now, and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up to give it you.” I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it him for friendship’s sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants.

‘So I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. What father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or hand him a snake instead of a fish? Or hand him a scorpion if he asked for an egg? If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

____________________

Persistence will be enough to make him get up

I have been reflecting on the same message in recent months.

I have been self-employed for about the last five years, and a few months ago, I had started thinking about returning to corporate life. This passage in Luke came to mind and I began praying in earnest. I was pleasantly surprised when soon after, a friend told me about a job her company was looking for. She told me I was the perfect fit!

The job did not happen. While there was a fit, there were other factors that blocked the interview from happening. I was disappointed; I thought the Lord would answer my prayer on that new job. I had prayed and fervently. I was saddened but decided to put it behind me.

I came to terms with what happened one day when I was out with my family. I had asked my son what he wanted to have for lunch and he asked to have some chocolates and chips. I found myself frowning at this and suggested to him instead of junk food, he should have a proper, healthy lunch.

That was when it hit me. Many times, we look at God and treat Him like he is our personal ‘fairy godmother’ or ATM. We think that, under the parable of the persistent friend in Luke, that God would give us whatever we wanted. Instead, what if what we asked for was not the best for us? I am confident that whatever God does, He does what is best for us, including protecting ourselves from our own bad decisions.

Let us learn to trust in God and let Him take control.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Help us, Father, to have complete trust in You. Help us to allow You to take full control of our lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for Your love and for wanting to give us what is best for us. We are grateful Father, for Your love for us.