Tag Archives: paul wee

25 June, Tuesday – Selfless Living

25 June 2019

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Genesis 13:2, 5-18

Abram was a very rich man, with livestock, silver and gold. Lot, who was travelling with Abram, had flocks and cattle of his own, and tents too. The land was not sufficient to accommodate them both at once, for they had too many possessions to be able to live together. Dispute broke out between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and those of Lot’s. (The Canaanites and the Perizzites were then living in the land.) Accordingly Abram said to Lot, ‘Let there be no dispute between me and you, nor between my herdsmen and yours, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land open before you? Part company with me: if you take the left, I will go right; if you take the right, I will go left.’

Looking round, Lot saw all the Jordan plain, irrigated everywhere – this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah – like the garden of the Lord or the land of Egypt, as far as Zoar. So Lot chose all the Jordan plain for himself and moved off eastwards. Thus they parted company: Abram settled in the land of Canaan; Lot settled among the towns of the plain, pitching his tents on the outskirts of Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were vicious men, great sinners against the Lord.

The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted company with him, ‘Look all round from where you are towards the north and the south, towards the east and the west. All the land within sight I will give to you and your descendants for ever. I will make your descendants like the dust on the ground: when men succeed in counting the specks of dust on the ground, then they will be able to count your descendants! Come, travel through the length and breadth of the land, for I mean to give it to you.’

So Abram went with his tents to settle at the Oak of Mamre, at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.

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Matthew 7:6, 12-14

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

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

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

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So always treat others as you would like them to treat you

I remember some time ago, seeing a video on YouTube showing someone teaching teenagers how to deal with bullying. In the first part, the instructor squared off against his bully, choosing to respond to each of his insults with an equally forceful retaliation. Needless to say, the exchange escalated quickly.

In the second part, the instructor again stood up against his bully. This time, however, instead of reacting angrily to his taunts, the instructor simply smiled and agreed with the comments. Despite the bully’s best efforts to sustain his attacks, he did not know how to keep up the aggression.

This is the type of relationship and interaction I imagine when I read the Gospel of today. If we were to treat each other as we want to be treated, the world within our control would be a substantially better world. We see this clearly in the first reading, in the interactions between Lot and Abram. By choosing not to quibble over who is entitled to what, Abram soothed over what could have been a potentially explosive encounter.

As a Christian, I pray that I may always be able to keep this in mind and learn to put my self-interest and ego aside. May we always be filled with love and compassion for one another!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, help us keep in mind that everything we have comes from You and that everything we do, should always be to serve only You.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful, Father, for everything that You have gifted us.

24 June, Monday – Our Role Model

24 June 2019 – The Birth of John the Baptist

You celebrate the birthday of John the Baptist, the main specially chosen by God to be the herald of the Saviour and to prepare the people for his coming.

  • Sunday MIssal

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Isaiah 49:1-6

Islands, listen to me,
pay attention, remotest peoples.
The Lord called me before I was born,
from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name.
He made my mouth a sharp sword,
and hid me in the shadow of his hand.
He made me into a sharpened arrow,
and concealed me in his quiver.
He said to me, ‘You are my servant (Israel)
in whom I shall be glorified’;
while I was thinking, ‘I have toiled in vain,
I have exhausted myself for nothing’;
and all the while my cause was with the Lord,
my reward with my God.
I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord,
my God was my strength.
And now the Lord has spoken,
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
to gather Israel to him:
‘It is not enough for you to be my servant,
to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel;
I will make you the light of the nations
so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’

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Acts 13:22-26

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

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

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Luke 1:57-66,80

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

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

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

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And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him

I recently read about Mr Thio Gim Hock, an 81-year-old evangelist, who is also the chief executive officer of a listed company. Mr Thio is a very successful businessman and heads multiple businesses. Yet, despite his wealth and material success, he travels to faraway places like Pakistan, Siberia and India to speak at evangelistic rallies. In many of these areas, he risks his personal safety while preaching and spreading God’s work.

To me, he’s kind of like a modern-day, Singaporean, John the Baptist.

Today, we celebrate the birth of St John the Baptist. He was born to the high priest Zechariah and Elizabeth, when they were both in their old age. And it was during Elizabeth’s pregnancy that our Mother Mary goes to stay and help. St John was born and, in time, grew to be the prophet who prepares the way for, and announces the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

I have always found St John to be an intriguing character. Given his successes, he could have chosen to bask in the glory and devotion of his followers. Instead, St John chose to redirect all this attention to Jesus.

Many of us enjoy successes, in our church, at our jobs and in life, often receiving platitudes and accolades. As Christians, we know that these successes ultimately come from God. Yet, our tendency is to claim these successes as our own, thinking that we deserve them on the basis that they are a result of our hard work. Let us learn from St John the Baptist and keep our eyes on our God and give credit where credit is truly due.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Help us Lord to always give credit where credit is due, to know that the reason behind all of our successes in our lives come from You.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for sending St John the Baptist to us, as an example of a true servant of God and of someone who understands the real reason behind his strength.

23 June, Sunday – God, Our Provider

23 June 2019 – The Body and Blood of Christ

The Priesthood of Melchizedek

Like Melchizedek of old we bring bread and wine to the altar and Christ transforms it into his own body and blood for the life of the multitude of the redeemed.

  • Sunday Missal

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Genesis 14:18-20

Melchizedek king of Salem brought bread and wine; he was a priest of God Most High. He pronounced this blessing:

‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, creator of heaven and earth,
and blessed be God Most High for handing over your enemies to you.’
And Abram gave him a tithe of everything.

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1 Corinthians 11:23-26

This is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me.’ In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.’ Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death.

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Luke 9:11-17

Jesus made the crowds welcome and talked to them about the kingdom of God; and he cured those who were in need of healing.

It was late afternoon when the Twelve came to him and said, ‘Send the people away, and they can go to the villages and farms round about to find lodging and food; for we are in a lonely place here.’ He replied, ‘Give them something to eat yourselves.’ But they said, ‘We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we are to go ourselves and buy food for all these people.’ For there were about five thousand men. But he said to his disciples, ‘Get them to sit down in parties of about fifty.’ They did so and made them all sit down. Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven, and said the blessing over them; then he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute among the crowd. They all ate as much as they wanted, and when the scraps remaining were collected they filled twelve baskets.
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They all ate as much as they wanted

Growing up in Queenstown with my grandaunt, who was my guardian, she often stressed over what food to buy, and how we could afford it. She constantly looked at our finances, at when her daughter was going to pass her the monthly allowance. I remember our conversations about what to buy during her trips to the wet market, and how she could go about feeding us, at as low a cost as possible.

One of the earliest lessons I learnt in psychology class was about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The most basic of these needs are the Physiological Needs — including the need for food, clothing, air and shelter. These are the first needs that all humans will strive towards before they can even think of anything else.

With that perspective and the experience in my own life, I have always been intrigued by the feeding of the five thousand. I imagine being there in the crowd; hungry, thirsty and tired. Then I imagine being passed food that I can eat to my fill; without having to toil for it. God indeed does provide for me!

In the second reading of today, Jesus offers His life for us, in the form of bread and wine. Once again, God caters to our most basic of needs, and through this, our Lord Jesus Himself becomes a part of us. Over time, we literally become more and more like Him.

Brothers and sisters, let us always hunger for the food that our Heavenly Father provides — food that nourishes and feeds our souls so that we grow strong in faith. Let us all learn to be contented with what we are given by God. Only then can we avoid being greedy for all things material and keep us focused on the real prize – eternal life in paradise.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray that we remember that You are always there for us. We pray that no matter what happens, You are there for us.

Thanksgiving: We thank You Father, for sending Your only Son to bear the burdens of our sin. We thank You Jesus for being there to feed us.

24 April, Wednesday – Putting on Jesus

24 April 2019

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Acts 3:1-10

Once, when Peter and John were going up to the Temple for the prayers at the ninth hour, it happened that there was a man being carried past. He was a cripple from birth; and they used to put him down every day near the Temple entrance called the Beautiful Gate so that he could beg from the people going in. When this man saw Peter and John on their way into the Temple he begged from them. Both Peter and John looked straight at him and said, ‘Look at us.’ He turned to them expectantly, hoping to get something from them, but Peter said, ‘I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!’ Peter then took him by the hand and helped him to stand up. Instantly his feet and ankles became firm, he jumped up, stood, and began to walk, and he went with them into the Temple, walking and jumping and praising God. Everyone could see him walking and praising God, and they recognised him as the man who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. They were all astonished and unable to explain what had happened to him.

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Luke 24:13-35

Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.

Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth’ they answered ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened; and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.’

Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.

When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’

They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.

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In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!

Years ago, my wife and I attended a programme where we experienced a renewal in our Christian faith. Soon after, we were asked to help facilitate another run of the sessions at the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We journeyed with a few couples over a few months and were asked to continue as cell group leaders.

While we agreed to take on the role, we found the path extremely challenging. We felt wholly inadequate for this task and experienced doubt. I remember constantly questioning myself; thinking that we were not ‘holy’ enough to guide others.

After about a year, the constant stress wore us down before we finally decided to step down as leaders. We felt drained, uninspired and defeated.

Quite a few years later, both of us went for the Conversion Experience Retreat (CER).  I began to feel God’s hand in my life in ways I had never experienced. I no longer felt alone. While my retreat was some three years ago, I continue to experience Him every day.

When the first parish-level CER was planned for the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour (OLPS), my wife and I were asked to serve in the Praise and Worship Team. The preparation for this took a total of eight months and the retreat was an amazing success; we saw renewals in many of the participants and the music played an important part in the whole experience.

What was different about the CER? We relied constantly on God; praying and lifting all our efforts and concerns to Him. While we continued to work hard, we knew that with God in the picture, all was going to be well.

In the first reading of today, Peter and John also did just that. It was interesting to see how Peter, a man wracked with constant doubt, step up and become a different man, “…in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene”.

Like him, let us all do everything in Jesus’ name. We do everything with His strength, not ours.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray for the strength and faith to turn to You, Lord Jesus. Let us not rely on our own strength, but Yours!

Thanksgiving: Thank You Jesus, for being with us in all we are and all we do!

23 April, Tuesday – Recognising Jesus

23 April 2019

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Acts 2:36-41 

On the day of Pentecost, Peter spoke to the Jews: ‘The whole House of Israel can be certain that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.’

Hearing this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, ‘What must we do, brothers?’ ‘You must repent,’ Peter answered ‘and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise that was made is for you and your children, and for all those who are far away, for all those whom the Lord our God will call to himself.’ He spoke to them for a long time using many arguments, and he urged them, ‘Save yourselves from this perverse generation.’ They were convinced by his arguments, and they accepted what he said and were baptised. That very day about three thousand were added to their number.

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John 20:11-18

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

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She knew him

The number 10,000 has popped into prominence in the self-development industry of late. It has been said that in order to achieve complete mastery in any subject, one has to be doing that activity for a minimum of 10,000 hours.

My children have always loved eating pizza for as long as I can remember. As a very young child, my daughter enjoyed pizza so much that the cost became almost prohibitive. To save money, I started learning how to make pizza at home. The earliest efforts were often stodgy and floppy, although I followed the recipes I had either gotten off cookbooks or from friends (the Internet was not quite the powerhouse it is today). Having said that, the family often (although not always!) enjoyed the final products.

Fast forward to today — I no longer need to work on recipes, and I can tell the consistency of the dough just by looking or touching it. Instinctively, I know if I need to add any other ingredients to balance out the flavours or textures. I recognise the raw ingredients by their smell and can tell if they are good, or off.

All this comes about simply because I have done one thing — I have spent a lot of time making pizza.

In today’s Gospel, we see Mary Magdalene recognise Jesus the moment He chose to reveal Himself to her. I have wondered if I have missed seeing Jesus in my life because I have not spent enough time on my relationship with Him in prayer, reading the bible, or in reflection. Even if I did recognise Him, is my relationship with Him deep? When I read the Gospel, I see Mary as someone so filled with love for our Lord, and someone so filled with sadness when she thought that the body of Jesus had been taken away.

Let us build our figurative 10,000 hours with God. Let us spend more time with Him, learning His thoughts and ways. Let us spend more time reading the bible, praying, reflecting and in service for others.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray for the faith to continue to want to spend time knowing You and loving You.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful for Your love for us. Thank You for always reaching out to us; for showing us the way to become more intimate with You!

22 April, Monday – Our Faith

22 April 2019

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Acts 2:14,22-33

On the day of Pentecost Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed the crowd in a loud voice: ‘Men of Israel, listen to what I am going to say: Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God by the miracles and portents and signs that God worked through him when he was among you, as you all know. This man, who was put into your power by the deliberate intention and foreknowledge of God, you took and had crucified by men outside the Law. You killed him, but God raised him to life, freeing him from the pangs of Hades; for it was impossible for him to be held in its power since, as David says of him:

I saw the Lord before me always,
for with him at my right hand nothing can shake me.
So my heart was glad
and my tongue cried out with joy;
my body, too, will rest in the hope
that you will not abandon my soul to Hades
nor allow your holy one to experience corruption.
You have made known the way of life to me,
you will fill me with gladness through your presence.

‘Brothers, no one can deny that the patriarch David himself is dead and buried: his tomb is still with us. But since he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn him an oath to make one of his descendants succeed him on the throne, what he foresaw and spoke about was the resurrection of the Christ: he is the one who was not abandoned to Hades, and whose body did not experience corruption. God raised this man Jesus to life, and all of us are witnesses to that. Now raised to the heights by God’s right hand, he has received from the Father the Holy Spirit, who was promised, and what you see and hear is the outpouring of that Spirit.’

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Matthew 28:8-15

Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.

And there, coming to meet them, was Jesus. ‘Greetings’ he said. And the women came up to him and, falling down before him, clasped his feet. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee; they will see me there.’

While they were on their way, some of the guard went off into the city to tell the chief priests all that had happened. These held a meeting with the elders and, after some discussion, handed a considerable sum of money to the soldiers with these instructions, ‘This is what you must say, “His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.” And should the governor come to hear of this, we undertake to put things right with him ourselves and to see that you do not get into trouble.’ The soldiers took the money and carried out their instructions, and to this day that is the story among the Jews.

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They will see me there

It is interesting how people can interpret the same event very differently.

In today’s Gospel, we see the women running to tell the disciples, joyfully, of how they have seen our Lord, and His instructions to go to Galilee to meet with Him. On the other hand, we also see the guards, who, on witnessing the same, not only did not experience conversion, but also allowed themselves to be bribed by the high priests into lying about the happenings.

The Israelites, as the chosen people, have been on the receiving end of God’s graces. I am struck by how, despite being led by Moses out of Egypt, or seeing the parting of the Red Sea, or even by being protected by God from the various plagues (including the killing of the firstborn), were so quick to begin grumbling about God. What was worse was their brazen disregard for our God, choosing to instead casting and worshipping the graven image of Ba’al once Moses stepped away to Mount Sinai.

This only tells me the importance of developing our personal relationship with our God, and of spending time with Him. Without this relationship, I am convinced that no amount of miracles we witness will bring us closer to God.

In this period of Easter, we see how God has sent His only Son to suffer and to die for us. What bigger act of love is there that God can show us? Let us take this time to reflect and continue to develop our relationship with, and to grow closer to our God.

Have a blessed Easter season my bothers and sisters!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray that we will be blessed with a closer walk with You always. That we may continue to see Your hand in all that we see and experience.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful to You, oh Father, for our eternal love for us. Thank You for always being there for us.

21 April, Easter Sunday – Our Stronghold

21 Apr – Easter Sunday

Alleluia!

This mass is our Alleluia; our song of praise to the risen Christ who is our life and whose triumph over death we proclaim to all the world.

– Sunday Missal
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Acts 10:34.37-43

Peter addressed Cornelius and his household: ‘The truth I have now come to realise’ he said ‘is that God does not have favourites, You must have heard about the recent happenings in Judaea; about Jesus of Nazareth and how he began in Galilee, after John had been preaching baptism. God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil. Now I, and those with me, can witness to everything he did throughout the countryside of Judaea and in Jerusalem itself: and also to the fact that they killed him by hanging him on a tree, yet three days afterwards God raised him to life and allowed him to be seen, not by the whole people but only by certain witnesses God had chosen beforehand. Now we are those witnesses – we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead – and he has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and to tell them that God has appointed him to judge everyone, alive or dead. It is to him that all the prophets bear this witness: that all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name.’
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Colossians 3:1-4

Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed – and he is your life – you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.
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John 20:1-9

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

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
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He saw and he believed

I was introduced to rugby when I was in school. Since then, I have always had a fascination for the ‘gentlemen’s game’.

The recent finals of the Singapore National School’s B Division was exciting. The game was between two long-time rivals and the game had been heavily skewed in favour of one of the teams and the result seemed inevitable; the leader was going to win, and win by a wide margin. By sheer dogged determination, the trailing team managed to tie the score! The game went into overtime. During the overtime, and against all odds, the trailing team scored two tries. They had won!

When I read the story, I had wondered how both the boys and parents must have felt watching their team go behind and then to have to work hard to claw back the points, and then to finally snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

It occurred to me that our faith is much like the experience of this team. Regardless of how much preparation Jesus had had for his disciples, they were distraught at having their Lord taken away, tortured and crucified. At the point of Jesus’ death, it must have seemed an end to everything they believed in and the life they had lived for three years.

Yet, victory was won by God, and this victory was shown on the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion.

This is a powerful and beautiful metaphor for our faith. When we keep our eyes on our Father, he makes all things possible. It does not mean, of course, that we will always get what we desire. What it means though, is that our God would be there for us, regardless.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray, Father, that we always remember that You are our rock and our stronghold; that You will always be there for us no matter what.

Thanksgiving: We thank You Father, for sending Your only Son to bear the burdens of our sin. We thank You Jesus, for showing us the way to live our lives in the face of challenges and difficulties; with integrity and love.

6 March, Wednesday – A Time for Atonement and Prayer

6 March 2019 – Ash Wednesday

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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.

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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.

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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.’

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Now is the favourable time.

My wife and I will have been married 22 years come November this year. The questions we often get asked are how we managed to stay married for so long, and also, how we can get along so well without conflict.

The reality is that we do fight and have disagreements, and we have hurt each other with our inconsiderate words and behaviour. We have been unkind and said things we don’t mean. What matters is that we reconcile. We spend time talking, explaining, hugging and crying. Ultimately, we may have been angry, but in the end, forgiveness will always happen.

I regret the painful fights and the pain they bring. I regret hurting my wife, but I think those times allow us to understand each other better, to grow as a couple and as a family.

Our fallen nature causes us to sin against God, despite our privileged position as children of God. We make poor choices, fail to tame our tongue; we think wrong thoughts, we judge others, amongst the multitude of sins we can commit.

What an excellent opportunity Lent presents us to come back to our God! When we fast from our favourite foods or activities we usually enjoy doing, we give ourselves a chance to sit down and have a conversation with our Lord.

Have a wonderful Lent, my brothers and sisters.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray, Father, that we may be able to recognise everything within us that have sinned against You. Help us to face them and surrender them to You, oh Lord!

Thanksgiving: We thank You for this period of prayer and reconciliation. We are grateful that You continue to love and to never give up on us.

5 March, Tuesday – Going Beyond 40%

5 March 2019

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Ecclesiasticus 35:2-15

A man multiplies offerings by keeping the Law;
he offers communion sacrifices by following the commandments.
By showing gratitude he makes an offering of fine flour,
by giving alms he offers a sacrifice of praise.
Withdraw from wickedness and the Lord will be pleased,
withdraw from injustice and you make atonement.
Do not appear empty-handed in the Lord’s presence;
for all these things are due under the commandment.
A virtuous man’s offering graces the altar,
and its savour rises before the Most High.
A virtuous man’s sacrifice is acceptable,
its memorial will not be forgotten.
Honour the Lord with generosity,
do not stint the first-fruits you bring.
Add a smiling face to all your gifts,
and be cheerful as you dedicate your tithes.
Give to the Most High as he has given to you,
generously as your means can afford;
for the Lord is a good rewarder,
he will reward you seven times over.
Offer him no bribe, he will not accept it,
do not put your faith in an unvirtuous sacrifice;
since the Lord is a judge
who is no respecter of personages.

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Mark 10:28-31

At that time Peter began to tell Jesus, ‘What about us? We have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.

‘Many who are first will be last, and the last first.’

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Many who are first will be last, and the last first

I was reading this story about how this guy (Jessie) was running in a 100-mile (160 kilometres) race when he noticed an even bigger 120 kg man running the same race. The ‘big’ man did not have a typical build for ultramarathon running. Yet, complete it he did, despite breaking all the small bones in his feet.

Jessie subsequently hired this man to teach him the secret of his mental toughness. It was simple; when his mind told him it was time to quit, “he is only 40% done”.

While the anecdote above seems more suitable for a seminar on success, it does relate very much to our faith.

In the Gospel, Peter tells Jesus that the disciples have already given up everything to follow Him. While promising that all their sacrifices would be rewarded a hundredfold, our Lord Jesus also talked about persecutions when serving Him. This brings to mine Matthew 18:21-22, where Jesus told Peter that he needed to forgive those who sin against him. Not once, nor seven times, but seventy-seven times.

This passage tells me that as Christians, we WILL face challenges and persecutions and despite us thinking that we have given my all, it is our calling and our duty to continue serving our Lord and those around us.

Because in the end, once our days on earth are done, we are promised an eternal reward.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that we may will be able to go beyond our own comfort zone and to serve You.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Jesus for giving us Your all, even dying on the cross for us.

4 March, Monday – God and People above Things

4 Mar – Memorial for St. Casimir

Casimir (1458-1484) was a 15th century Polish prince who became Grand Duke of Lithuania in 1471. He was third in line for the throne.

Hungarian nobles had prevailed upon Casimir’s father to send his 15-year-old son to be their king. Casimir obeyed, taking the crown, but refusing to exercise power. His army was outnumbered, and his troops deserted because they were not paid. Casimir returned home, and was a conscientious objector from that time on.

He returned to prayer and study, maintaining his decision to remain celibate even under pressure to marry the emperor’s daughter. He reigned briefly as king during his father’s absence.

He lived a highly disciplined, even severe life, sleeping on the ground, spending a great part of the night in prayer, and dedicating himself to lifelong celibacy. He had a great devotion to Mary, supported the poor, and lived a virtuous life amid the dissolute court.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Ecclesiasticus 17:20-28

To those who repent, God permits return,
and he encourages those who were losing hope.
Return to the Lord and leave sin behind,
plead before his face and lessen your offence.
Come back to the Most High and turn away from iniquity,
and hold in abhorrence all that is foul.
Who will praise the Most High in Sheol,
if the living do not do so by giving glory to him?
To the dead, as to those who do not exist, praise is unknown,
only those with life and health can praise the Lord.
How great is the mercy of the Lord,
his pardon on all those who turn towards him!

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Mark 10:17-27

Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’

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Who can be saved?

I recently came across two very different stories.

In the first, a man was working on his car when his three-year-old son took a screwdriver and scratched the car. Enraged, the man spanked his son’s hand, not realising that he was holding onto a spanner. The boy was hospitalised, and his hand had to be amputated. The man was distraught. Subsequently, he looked at his car and saw that his son was scratching out the words ‘I love my daddy’ across the paintwork.

In the next story, a man was driving his nephew in his newly-purchased car. The nephew was drinking a soft drink and inadvertently spilt it onto the car seat. The child was upset, but the man coolly took the rest of the can and nonchalantly poured it over the back seat.

Growing up, I had puzzled over today’s Gospel reading. I wondered what God had against riches and was even more confused when I realised a lot of Christians were extremely wealthy. I wondered how these people could go to heaven and why they were not doing anything about it.

It was only later that I realized what Jesus was talking about was the attachment that people have to their wealth. Rather than looking at these riches as gifts from God to be used for blessing others, these gifts become an end in itself, and people end up clinging to these earthly ‘treasures’. It is this attachment that makes it difficult to ‘enter the kingdom of God’.

Brothers and sisters, like the man in the second story, let us strive to place people above things, not things above people.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray, Father, that we may always place You first in our lives. Help us to focus our eyes on You, Lord.

Thanksgiving: Father, we praise and thank you for showing us the importance of detachment from our earthly wealth in our journey back to Your kingdom.