Tag Archives: paul wee

27 October, Saturday – The Time is Now

27 October

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Ephesians 4:7-16

Each one of us has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it. It was said that he would:

When he ascended to the height, he captured prisoners,
he gave gifts to men.

When it says, ‘he ascended’, what can it mean if not that he descended right down to the lower regions of the earth? The one who rose higher than all the heavens to fill all things is none other than the one who descended. And to some, his gift was that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; so that the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ. In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.

Then we shall not be children any longer, or tossed one way and another and carried along by every wind of doctrine, at the mercy of all the tricks men play and their cleverness in practising deceit. If we live by the truth and in love, we shall grow in all ways into Christ, who is the head by whom the whole body is fitted and joined together, every joint adding its own strength, for each separate part to work according to its function. So the body grows until it has built itself up, in love.

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Luke 13:1-9

Some people arrived and told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices. At this he said to them, ‘Do you suppose these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell and killed them? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’

He told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to the man who looked after the vineyard, “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?” “Sir,” the man replied “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.”’

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“…. it may bear next year; if not, then you can cut it down.”

The earliest part of my life was really challenging. I was born out of wedlock, brought up by my grand aunt, and had a childhood when I felt everything to be a struggle.  I started going to church at the age of 12, and sometime after that, I remembered asking God, “Why me?”.

Since then, I have had many similar conversationswith others. In fact, an acquaintance saw that I had been putting some faith-related posts on social media and touched base with me. His first question to me was something like this: “Would you still have faith iflife was difficult for you?”. His point to me was that if God was all loving, why does He allow bad things to happen, and why does He allow it to happen to good people?

In the Gospel today, Jesus teaches us that those who were killed by Pilate, or who were killed in Siloan were no more guilty that those who were not. This is an important lesson as the Israelites believed that God punished only those who were more sinful than others. This is something relevant for our understanding as well.

Rather than going into a discussion about why bad things happened to people, Jesus stressed the importance that everyone prepare for the time for us to leave this earthly world. He gives the parable about a fruitless fig tree. While the vinyard owner had intended to have the tree cut down, the gardener convinces the owner to keep it for an additional year to fruit, failing which it would be be cut down.

While it continues to live, the fig tree does not know that it has just an additional year. Like the fig tree, we do not know how long more we have.  By talking about “perishing”, our Lord does not talk about our physical deaths. Rather, He is talking about our eternal lives.

Let us focus on doing the right things, now. We simply do not know when our time on earth is up.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Help us to have a sense of urgency Father, to make our faith in You red-hot. Help us to believe and act in line with Your plans.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful to You for Your teaching Lord Jesus. For Your reminder that our time here on earth is limited. Thank You for blessing us with each day to do Your work.

26 October, Friday – Doing the Needful

26 October

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Ephesians 4:1-6

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

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Luke 12:54-59

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud looming up in the west you say at once that rain is coming, and so it does. And when the wind is from the south you say it will be hot, and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the face of the earth and the sky. How is it you do not know how to interpret these times?

‘Why not judge for yourselves what is right? For example: when you go to court with your opponent, try to settle with him on the way, or he may drag you before the judge and the judge hand you over to the bailiff and the bailiff have you thrown into prison. I tell you, you will not get out till you have paid the very last penny.’

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“How is it you do not know how to interpret these times?”

I have struggled with my weight all through my life. Ever since I can remember (even from primary school), I have been told to not eat so much, choose the right foods, exercise regularly and get sufficient rest.  When I hit my late twenties, I started drinking alcohol as well and made bad choices when it came to my health.  I knew what would happen if Icontinued to make bad choices, and yet chose not todo what I knew to be good for myself.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus talked about such behaviour. The three examples He talks about seems logical. In the first, reading the signs that anticipate that rain was coming, and indeed having it come. In the second, judging that hot weather was arriving simply by reading the direction of the wind, and having the hot weather arrive. In the last, our Lord talks about someone in a dispute with another person. Instead of trying to settle the matter before going to court, this person chooses to risk it by fighting it out in court, only to lose and having to pay the full price for his folly.

I have often wondered about this reading. It just makes perfect sense to anticipate and to take steps to prevent “bad” things from happening. Yet, like how I chose to ignore good advice, people also tend to ignore what is obvious (at least to others around them).

Sometime ago, I was reflecting on the book of Exodus in the Old Testament (when God liberated the Israelites from slavery, demonstrating many miracles in the process). Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt and while he was on Mount Sinai, the Isaralites wasted no time in smelting all their gold to create a golden calf to worship! All this despite the fact that all the miracles proved that the God of the Israelites is the obvious One True God!

Similarly, in the Gospel and in our lives, we see that Jesus is our one true saviour. Let us take the necessary steps to act on our belief in God, the Holy Trinity, in eternal life and the communion of saints!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we will have the strength, fortitude and urgency to act on our faith in You Lord. Help us Father to be guided by the Spirit and to grow in love for You!

Thanksgiving: Thank You for showering us with Your love. Thank You for your patience with us, in spite of us being open. Thank You Father!

25 October, Thursday – Our Faith Journey

25 October

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Ephesians 3:14-21

This is what I pray, kneeling before the Father, from whom every family, whether spiritual or natural, takes its name:

Out of his infinite glory, may he give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; until, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God.

Glory be to him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine; glory be to him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen.

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Luke 12:49-53

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!

‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’

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“… you will with all the saints have strength to grasp…. you are filled with the utter fullness of God”

At the end of January this year, a group of volunteers in my parish at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour (OLPS) came together to prepare for a retreat that was to be held in September. The group consisted of musicians and singers.

When we started, most of us were strangers to each other. Over the course of the 7 months it took to prepare for this retreat, we prayed together, prayed for each other, worshipped together, ate together and spent time together. We have grown together, both in faith, in closeness and even in weight!

After this period of spending time together weekly, we have grown into a community, bound together in faith and in love. I have never felt more supported or loved. Even though the retreat has since ended, we continue to grow as a community and are working together to support the praise and worship in OLPS.

In today’s First reading, the apostle Paul talks about “all the saints”.

These saints do not justrefer to a special group of people who are somehow more spiritual, or closer to God than the rest of the people and whose souls are perfected in heaven (known as the Church Triumphant). Instead, the group of saints that Paul refers to also includes all of us who are still on earth “fighting the good fight” (the Church Militant) and finally, those who have gone before us and whose souls are in purgatory (the Church Penitant).

I never understood the significance of such a community until my close involvement with the community at OLPS. Even with such a small faith community, there was so much prayer, love and support. Imagine what would happen with the whole community when the whole faith community in heaven, on earth and in purgatory were to pray with each of us!

Let us remember that we are never alone in our journey of faith. Instead, we continue to grow with and support each other!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray that we may be aware of the whole communion of saints who are journeying with us always. Help us Father, to continue to pray for each other.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for blessing us with each other. We are grateful for Your everlasting love and mercy!

24 October, Wednesday – Being Good Stewards

24 October – Memorial for St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop

Anthony Mary Claret (1807–1870) was a weaver and a seminary student with Blessed Francis Coll. He was ordained on 13 June 1835, and became a missionary in Catalonia and the Canary Islands. He directed retreats and founded the Congregation of Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Claretians). He became Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba on 20 May 1850, and founded the Teaching Sisters of Mary Immaculate.

Following his work in the Caribbean, Blessed Pope Pius IX ordered him back to Spain where he became confessor to Queen Isabella II and was exiled with her. He had the gift of prophecy and miracles, and was reported to have preached 10,000 sermons, published 200 works. He spread devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 3:2-12

You have probably heard how I have been entrusted by God with the grace he meant for you, and that it was by a revelation that I was given the knowledge of the mystery, as I have just described it very shortly. If you read my word you will have some idea of the depths that I see in the mystery of Christ. This that has now been revealed through the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets was unknown to any men in past generations; it means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them, in Jesus Christ, through the gospel. I have been made the servant of that gospel by a gift of grace from God who gave it to me by his own power. I, who am less than the least of all the saints have been entrusted with this special grace, not only of proclaiming to the pagans the infinite treasure of Christ but also of explaining how the mystery is to be dispensed. Through all the ages, this has been kept hidden in God, the creator of everything. Why? So that the Sovereignties and Powers should learn only now, through the Church, how comprehensive God’s wisdom really is, exactly according to the plan which he had had from all eternity in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is why we are bold enough to approach God in complete confidence, through our faith in him.

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Luke 12:39-48

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house. You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’

Peter said, ‘Lord, do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone?’ The Lord replied, ‘What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you truly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time coming,” and sets about beating the menservants and the maids, and eating and drinking and getting drunk, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.

The servant who knows what his master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash. The one who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes. When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.’

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“… when a man has had a great deal given him on trust; even more will be expected of him”

When I first became a banker specialising in selling mortgages (housing loans) to clients, I found myself thrown into the world of running sales numbers on a daily basis. I was tracking these numbers; how many customers I called, how many I met, how many cases I “closed” and how and why I lost cases.

In all honesty, my first few months was spent being troubled; I had moved from being a priority banking manager to handling loans (a first for me!) and was really hungry to bring in business.Soon, I found myself trying to manage my sales numbers; if I had more sales for the month, should I manage these numbers and carry some forward to the next month?

Over time, I realised that I was accountable not to myself, but to my employer, and the clients themselves. It was not right for me to manage these numbers (and being dishonest too!). Only that this is not just about my employer; it was about my faith too. How could I call myself a Christian if I could be so deceptive in the area of my work?Once this was in my consciousness, the only thing for me to do was to stop it.

Like the steward in today’s Gospel, our attention should always be on our master, in this case, our Lord. We cannot wait until we are in a position whereby we are due to be “audited” before we start making changes to the way we behave or live. If we are to be good stewards, we need to behave righteously even if no one was looking at us.

Let us be mindful of this: we cannot simply compartmentalise our lives and live as unbelievers in certain areas and “put on Christian aspects” when we are in church. We need to function, and live as, fully integrated Christians.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we may always be open to the Spirit to be as good stewards always. That we may have the strength and wisdom to always do the right things. Help us Father to learn to walk in Your ways.

Thanksgiving: We praise and thank You Jesus for showing us what we should be focusing on. Thank You for showing us the right choices we should be making.

23 October, Tuesday – God our everything

23 October – Memorial for St. John Capistrano, Priest

John (1386–1456) was the son of a former German knight. His father died when John was still young. He studied law at the University of Perugia, and became a lawyer in Naples, Italy. He was the reforming governor of Perugia under King Landislas of Naples. When war broke out between Perugia and Malatesta in 1416, John tried to broker a peace, but instead his opponents ignored the truce, and John became a prisoner of war.

During his imprisonment, he came to the decision to change vocations. He had married just before the war, but his marriage was never consummated and, with his bride’s permission, it was annulled. He became a Franciscan at Perugia on 4 October 1416 and was a fellow student with St. James of the Marshes, and a disciple of St. Bernadine of Siena. He was a noted preacher while still a deacon, beginning his work in 1420.

He was an itinerant priest throughout Italy, Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Russia, preaching to tens of thousands. He established communities of Franciscan renewal, and was reported to heal by making the Sign of the Cross over a sick person. He wrote extensively, mainly against the heresies of the day.

After the fall of Constantinople, he preached Crusade against the Muslim Turks. At the age of 70, he was commissioned by Pope Callistus II to lead it, and marched off at the head of 70,000 Christian soldiers. He won the great battle of Belgrade in the summer of 1456. He died in the field a few months later, but his army delivered Europe from the Muslims.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 2:12-22

Do not forget that you had no Christ and were excluded from membership of Israel, aliens with no part in the covenants with their Promise; you were immersed in this world, without hope and without God. But now in Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ. For he is the peace between us, and has made the two into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart, actually destroying in his own person the hostility caused by the rules and decrees of the Law. This was to create one single New Man in himself out of the two of them and by restoring peace through the cross, to unite them both in a single Body and reconcile them with God: in his own person he killed the hostility. Later he came to bring the good news of peace, peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near at hand. Through him, both of us have in the one Spirit our way to come to the Father.

So you are no longer aliens or foreign visitors: you are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household. You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit.

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Luke 12:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. It may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready.’

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“… you are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household”

I just love watching movies!

One of my favourites is “The Tuxedo”, starring Jackie Chan and Jennifer Love-Hewitt.

(Warning: Spoilers ahead!)

In it, Jackie is Jimmy, a cabbie turned driver of a rich man, Clark Devlin. Unbeknownst to Jimmy, his boss is actually a spy. Devlin subsequently goes into a coma, having narrowly survived an attempt on his life, while Jimmy chances upon an unusual tuxedo belonging to his boss.

Jimmy dons the tuxedo and finds he can suddenly do special things, including martial arts and even dance!

The first reading today talks about us becoming part of God’s covenant with the family of Israel through Christ, our Lord, Saviour and brother. It is purely through this relationship that we are saved.

Yet it is not just this “participation” in the kingdom of God that benefits us. In Philippians 4:13, the apostle Paul famously says “There is nothing I cannot do in the One who strengthens me”.

Indeed, I am guilty of not turning to Jesus in my daily life, whether I am doing my work, serving in Church, or in my personal life. I detach, and am often running on my own power. I do not realise that like Jackie Chan, I need to don the Holy Spirit like the movie’s, in order to do the things that I am normally not sufficiently equipped to do. I need to always plug into God’s strength and His wisdom at all times.

Let us continue to pray for this awareness to turn to God for everything in our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray that we may never fall into the trap of thinking that we can go it alone and that we do not need You. Help us to always be aware of You, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We pray that the Spirit may inhabit us in our daily lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for strengthening and making us strong Lord Jesus. We are grateful for this opportunity to participate in heaven and for Your love for us.

22 October, Monday – True Service

22 October – Memorial for St. John Paul II, Pope

Karol Wojtyla (1920 – 2005) was born on 18 May 1920 at Wadowice, Poland.  For many years Karol believed God was calling him to the priesthood, and after surviving two nearly fatal accidents, he responded to the call. He studied secretly during the German occupation of Poland, and was ordained on 1 November 1946. In these years he came to know and practice the teachings of Saint Louis Marie Montfort and Saint John of the Cross. He earned his Doctorate in theology in 1948 at the Angelicum in Rome, Italy.

He was the parish priest in Krakow diocese from 1948 to 1951. He studied philosophy at the Jagiellonian University at Krakow. He taught social ethics at the Krakow Seminary from 1952 to 1958. In 1956 he became a professor at the University of Lublin. Venerable Pope Pius XII appointed Wojtyla an auxiliary bishop in Krakow on 4 July 1958. Servant of God, Pope Paul VI appointed him Archbishop of Krakow on 30 December 1963.

Wojtyla proved himself a noble and trustworthy pastor in the face of Communist persecution. A member of the prepatory commission, he attended all four sessions of Vatican II.  He is said to have written Gaudium et spes, the document on the Church in the Modern World. He also played a prominent role in the formulation of the Declaration on Religious Freedom. Following the Council, Pope Paul VI, appointed Karol Wojtyla cardinal on 26 June 1967.

In 1960 he published Love and Responsibility. Pope Paul VI, delighted with its apologetical defense of the traditional Catholic teaching of marriage, relied extensively on Archbishop Wojytla’s counsel in writing Humanae Vitae. In 1976 he was invited by Pope Paul VI to preach the lenten sermons to the members of the Papal Household.

In 1978, Archbishop Wojtyla became the first non-Italian pope since Adrian VI. He took the name of his predecessors (John, Paul, John Paul) to emphasize his desire to continue the reforms of Vatican II.

John Paul II is the most traveled pope in history, having visited nearly every country in the world which would receive him. As the Vicar of Christ he has consecrated each place that he has visited to the Blessed Virgin Mary. On 13 May 1983 he went to Fatima to consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He later repeated the consecration of the world to Mary in union with all the Bishops of the Catholic Church, in fulfillment of Our Lady‘s promises at Fatima.

In 1995, Pope John Paul II began a lengthy catechisis on the Blessed Virgin Mary during his weekly Angelus addresses, culminating with his instruction on Our Lady’s active participation in the Sacrifice of Calvary. This active participation of Our Lady at Calvary is called the co-redemption. Already in 1982 and 1985 he had used the term “corredemptrix” in reference to Our Lady in public addresses. This is significant, for he is the first Pope to do so since Pope Benedict XV at whose prayer Our Lady came to Fatima to reveal Her Immaculate Heart. Since the time of Pope Benedict XV, this terminology was under review by the Holy See. The present Pope’s usage is a confirmation of this traditional view of Mary’s role in salvation history.

In Rome on 2 April 2005, the eve of the Second Sunday of Easter (or of Divine Mercy), he departed peacefully in the Lord. He was canonized by Pope Francis on 27 April, the Second Sunday of Easter 2014.

– Patron Saint Index, Universalis

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Ephesians 2:1-10

You were dead through the crimes and the sins in which you used to live when you were following the way of this world, obeying the ruler who governs the air, the spirit who is at work in the rebellious. We all were among them too in the past, living sensual lives, ruled entirely by our own physical desires and our own ideas; so that by nature we were as much under God’s anger as the rest of the world. But God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ – it is through grace that you have been saved – and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus.

This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how infinitely rich he is in grace. Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.

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Luke 12:13-21

A man in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.’ ‘My friend,’ he replied, ‘who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘There was once a rich man who, having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, “What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.” But God said to him, “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?.” So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.’

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“…a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns…”

I entered banking close to 20 years ago and one of the things I remembered was how many of those around me were focused on the brands of clothes, bags or shoes they were using. I noticed my colleagues with new branded items every month. Someone I knew even changed to newer models of luxury cars every six months. I was not immune to this either; mine was new phones. Many of us were so caught up with making money and how best to spend it.

In today’s Gospel,Jesus warns us against precisely this; that we would be so focused on the unimportant that we forget on what really is. Actually, it is not just about branded items.  For example, there are companies out there which make a big deal about how they are “unbranded”. The irony is that it is this “unbranded-ness” that give these companies their “branded-ness”.

In working to serve God, many start out in full commited service. Over time, however, the success of their service, and perhaps due to our fallen nature, these successes become the main reason why they continue to serve, displacing God in the process. This is perhaps what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 6:1-4; the acknowledgement and satisfaction we get from service becomes the reward in itself.

The best way we can ensure that Godis the one whom we continue to serve and the reason why we do anything, is to continue to connect with Him. This could be in the form of prayer, going for mass, and being in close touch with our faith community.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we may always keep our eyes on our Father and our God.

Thanksgiving: Jesus, we are grateful to You for teaching and reminding us that it is easy to be caught up with the ways and things of this world. Thank You for showing us what is the right way.

21 October, Sunday – Being models of Christ

21 October 2018 – Mission Sunday

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Isaiah 53:10-11

The Lord has been pleased to crush his servant with suffering.
If he offers his life in atonement,
he shall see his heirs, he shall have a long life
and through him what the Lord wishes will be done.

His soul’s anguish over,
he shall see the light and be content.
By his sufferings shall my servant justify many,
taking their faults on himself.

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Hebrews 4:14-16

Since in Jesus, the Son of God, we have the supreme high priest who has gone through to the highest heaven, we must never let go of the faith that we have professed. For it is not as if we had a high priest who was incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us; but we have one who has been tempted in every way that we are, though he is without sin. Let us be confident, then, in approaching the throne of grace, that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help.

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Mark 10:35-45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached Jesus. ‘Master,’ they said to him ‘we want you to do us a favour.’ He said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ They said to him, ‘Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I must drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I must be baptised you shall be baptised, but as for seats at my right hand or my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted.’

When the other ten heard this they began to feel indignant with James and John, so Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all. For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

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“The cup I must drink you shall drink”

I started my Christian life when I was 12 by attending a protestant church near my home. I was there at the invitation of my then-neighbour David. I remember that fateful day, when there was a call to approach the front of the church to be prayed over. I looked around and saw people, many emotional, deep in prayer.

For many years after that, I never felt a complete connection with our Lord. Despite the many prayers I prayed, and the songs I had sung, I yearned for the closeness that I saw other people had with Him. For me, Jesus was disconnected; someone far away, just observing me.

I only realised that Jesus was much closer to me than I had known much later. During the Conversion Experience Retreat (CER) that I attended, we prayed the Stations of the Cross. Then, and only then, did it hit me that not only did my Lord know what it meant to be human, but that He suffered more for me than I ever would. He was there all along.

In Matthew 28, our Lord Jesus sent us on a great mission, to make disciples of all nations and to baptise them.

How are we to go about this? In our encounters with our fellow humans, do we take on a position of pointing out the weaknesses of other people, highlighting areas of their lives where they think they could and should change?

Jesus, in Matthew 22:37-39, tells us that the greatest commandment is to love “the Lord our God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” and that the second greatest is to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. Surely, in the way He lived, our Lord Jesus showed us, as an example, of how we should live.

Let us be a reflection of the same, as we go about working to fulfill the Great Commission given to us by our Lord.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray Father that we may put on the eyes of love as we continue to do what our Lord has commissioned us to do.

Thanksgiving: Father, we thank You for showing us how to live our lives as Your children. Thank You for continuing to strengthen us and being with us as we journey.

29 August, Wednesday – Work as Our Gifts to God

29 August – Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

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

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

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2 Thessalonians 3:6-10,16-18

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

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

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

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

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Mark 6:17-29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

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

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

28 August, Tuesday – True Repentence

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

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

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

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2 Thessalonians 2:1-3,14-17

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

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

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Matthew 23:23-26

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

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

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“… so that you should share the glory…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

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

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

27 August, Monday – Understanding True Worth

27 August – Memorial for St. Monica, Married Woman

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Thessalonians 1:1-5,11-12

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

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

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

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Matthew 23:13-22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simply put, ALL good comes from God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

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

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