Tag Archives: paul wee

21 July, Friday – Going Beyond the Superficial

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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Exodus 11:10-12:14

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

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

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

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Matthew 12:1-8

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

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“What I want is mercy, not sacrifice.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

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

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

20 July, Thursday – Daily Unburdening to God

Jul 20 – Memorial for St. Apollinaris, Bishop & Martyr

According to tradition, Apollinaris was a native of Antioch in the Roman Province of Syria. He was made the first Bishop of Ravenna by St. Peter, during the persecutions of Emperor Vespasian (or Nero, depending on the source).

On his way out of the city, he was identified and arrested as being the leader, tortured and martyred by being run through with a sword. Centuries after his death, he appeared in a vision to St. Romuald. He was a noted miracle worker, and is considered especially effective against gout and epilepsy.

– Wikipedia

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Exodus 3:13-20

Moses, hearing the voice of God coming from the middle of the bush, said to him, ‘I am to go, then, to the sons of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you.” But if they ask me what his name is, what am I to tell them?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I Am who I Am. This’ he added ‘is what you must say to the sons of Israel: “I Am has sent me to you.”’ And God also said to Moses, ‘You are to say to the sons of Israel: “The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.” This is my name for all time; by this name I shall be invoked for all generations to come.

‘Go and gather the elders of Israel together and tell them, “The Lord, the God of your fathers, has appeared to me, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; and he has said to me: I have visited you and seen all that the Egyptians are doing to you. And so I have resolved to bring you up out of Egypt where you are oppressed, into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, to a land where milk and honey flow.” They will listen to your words, and with the elders of Israel you are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, “The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has come to meet us. Give us leave, then, to make a three days’ journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifice to the Lord our God.” For myself, knowing that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless he is forced by a mighty hand, I shall show my power and strike Egypt with all the wonders I am going to work there. After this he will let you go.’

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Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus exclaimed, ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

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“My yoke is easy and my burden light”

This year, my wife and I celebrate 20 years of marriage and 23 years of togetherness. She is the person who best understands and loves me. 23 years IS a long time!

We were speaking recently and I was distracted, thinking about the work tasks that I had to do. She took one look at me and commented that I had a tendency to “go inside”. I knew exactly what she meant… I do indeed have a tendency to run things over and over in my head. Unknowingly, I tend to carry these thoughts in my head. If I catch myself doing that (and I seldom do), I would lift my concerns up to the Lord.

Similarly, our Lord exhorts us to cast our burdens on Him. Very often though, I find it most challenging, especially if I have not been closely connected to God. We see this in the first reading of today, where Moses has a close relationship with God. He listens to God, who guides Moses through the exact things that he has to do and say. Yes, the prerequisite for casting our cares onto our Lord is that we have an ongoing relationship with Him. Otherwise, such ‘surrender’ would be rendered meaningless.

This is where the daily practices come into play — a daily quiet time, prayer, meditation, the daily examen and so forth. All these create a conversation between us and our Lord, and helps us to deepen our relationship with Him. I find these daily practices tough, but have also found that when I am able to perservere, it becomes easier for me to ‘place my burdens’ on Him.

Let us all continue on this journey together and endeavour to be in constant touch with God!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Lord Jesus, give us strength to walk with You every day. Help us to be closer with You as we travel on our journey of life.

Thanksgiving We thank You Jesus, for sharing our lives and our burdens with us. We are grateful for Your love!

19 July, Wednesday – Learning to be God’s children

19 July

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Exodus 3:1-6, 9-12

Moses was looking after the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, priest of Midian. He led his flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in the shape of a flame of fire, coming from the middle of a bush. Moses looked; there was the bush blazing but it was not being burnt up. ‘I must go and look at this strange sight,’ Moses said, ‘and see why the bush is not burnt.’

Now the Lord saw him go forward to look, and God called to him from the middle of the bush. ‘Moses, Moses!’ he said. ‘Here I am,’ Moses answered. ‘Come no nearer,’ he said. ‘Take off your shoes, for the place on which you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your fathers,’ he said, ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ At this Moses covered his face, afraid to look at God.

And the Lord said, ‘The cry of the sons of Israel has come to me, and I have witnessed the way in which the Egyptians oppress them, so come, I send you to Pharaoh to bring the sons of Israel, my people, out of Egypt.’

Moses said to God, ‘Who am I to go to Pharaoh and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?’ ‘I shall be with you,’ was the answer ‘and this is the sign by which you shall know that it is I who have sent you… After you have led the people out of Egypt, you are to offer worship to God on this mountain.’

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Matthew 11:25-27

Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

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“You shall know that it is I who have sent you…”

I have been blessed to have been able to teach and mentor children at home catechism for the last seven years. I am also blessed with two beautiful children; one a teen, and the other a pre-teen.

One of the reasons I enjoy teaching cathecism is to see the confidence of the children increase over time as they grow into the knowledge of their competence. While they may initially possess feelings of inadequacy, they are open to listening to advice and guidance.

In the first reading today, God led Moses to liberate the Israelites from the control of the Egyptians. This was despite Moses’ background, having been brought up in the Egyptian royal family, then subsequently disgraced and exiled from the land of Egypt. Under such circumstances, we certainly understand why he would feel as such.

Moses was about forty years old when exiled, and spent forty years in the desert being a shepherd, which means that he was about eighty years of age when God first spoke to him. At eighty, far removed from his childhood years, Moses allowed himself to be led by God.

In my own experience, growing up in an environment without my parents, I have not had the benefit of a mentor-mentee relationship in my growing years. Instead, I have had to depend on myself, being an only child. Much of what I had done as a child, I have had to figure out on my own. However, as I grew into adulthood, I began to value my own opinions more than the opinions of those around me. This approach led me to many a wrong decision.

Like Moses, and others like Abraham, we need to learn to set aside our ‘adult-ness’ and be like children again. It is only when we surrender our will that our God can guide us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father, teach us to be able to surrender ourselves to Your will. Help us, Father God, to walk in Your path.

Thanksgiving Thank You for Your presence in our lives, and thank You for sending us signposts to guide us.

18 July, Tuesday – Focussing our eyes on God

18 July

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Exodus 2:1-15

There was a man of the tribe of Levi who had taken a woman of Levi as his wife. She conceived and gave birth to a son and, seeing what a fine child he was, she kept him hidden for three months. When she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him; coating it with bitumen and pitch, she put the child inside and laid it among the reeds at the river’s edge. His sister stood some distance away to see what would happen to him.

Now Pharaoh’s daughter went down to bathe in the river, and the girls attending her were walking along by the riverside. Among the reeds she noticed the basket, and she sent her maid to fetch it. She opened it and looked, and saw a baby boy, crying; and she was sorry for him. ‘This is a child of one of the Hebrews’ she said. Then the child’s sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and find you a nurse among the Hebrew women to suckle the child for you?’ ‘Yes, go’ Pharaoh’s daughter said to her; and the girl went off to find the baby’s own mother. To her the daughter of Pharaoh said, ‘Take this child away and suckle it for me. I will see you are paid.’ So the woman took the child and suckled it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter who treated him like a son; she named him Moses because, she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.’

Moses, a man by now, set out at this time to visit his countrymen, and he saw what a hard life they were having; and he saw an Egyptian strike a Hebrew, one of his countrymen. Looking round he could see no one in sight, so he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. On the following day he came back, and there were two Hebrews, fighting. He said to the man who was in the wrong, ‘What do you mean by hitting your fellow countryman?’ ‘And who appointed you’ the man retorted, ‘to be prince over us, and judge? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’ Moses was frightened. ‘Clearly that business has come to light’ he thought. When Pharaoh heard of the matter he would have killed Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and made for the land of Midian.

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Matthew 11:20-24

Jesus began to reproach the towns in which most of his miracles had been worked, because they refused to repent.

‘Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard on Judgement day with Tyre and Sidon as with you. And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted as high as heaven? You shall be thrown down to hell. For if the miracles done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have been standing yet. And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard with the land of Sodom on Judgement day as with you.’

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“For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago.”

I love watching movies and one of the most common themes is the love between a man and a woman. One of my favourite movies is ‘50 First Dates’, which starred Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.

(Warning : Spoilers Ahead)

Because the female protagonist is an amnesiac, the male protagonist finds that he has got to start over every day, getting the girl to reacquaint herself with him. More importantly, he has got to demonstrate his love for her on a daily basis, and to get her to fall in love with him all over again. Amazingly, he never gets tired of doing this. If anything, his love for her seems to grow stronger over time.

In the Old Testament, we read about how God repeatedly shows His protection for the Israelites. In fact, immediately after leaving Egypt in Exodus 14 (through the parted Red Sea), God cared for and provided for His people. He fed them with manna and quail. All these signs were clear and evident to the Jews.

Despite this constant demonstration by God of His love for them, the Israelites, by Exodus 32, had smelted their gold and built a gold calf for worship!

The reason for this was because the Israelites only cared for themselves. In Egypt, they complained about their cruel Egyptian overloads. When crossing the desert, they complained about being hungry and expressed regrets about leaving Egypt in the first place. Such ingratitude!

In the Gospel of today, the Lord reminds us to always be grateful. In order to recognise the wonders that God does for us, we need to look without instead of within. Such a strong reminder to keep our eyes on God!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father God, let us never be blind to the miracles that You perform in our lives on a daily basis. Help us never to be so blasé that we dwell in the blessings of Your love.

Thanksgiving We are grateful for the Holy Trinity. Thank You for Your presence in our lives and for the Your involvement in our lives.

17 July, Monday – God as Number One

17 July

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Exodus 1:8-14, 22

There came to power in Egypt a new king who knew nothing of Joseph. ‘Look,’ he said to his subjects ‘these people, the sons of Israel, have become so numerous and strong that they are a threat to us. We must be prudent and take steps against their increasing any further, or if war should break out, they might add to the number of our enemies. They might take arms against us and so escape out of the country.’ Accordingly they put slave-drivers over the Israelites to wear them down under heavy loads. In this way they built the store-cities of Pithom and Rameses for Pharaoh. But the more they were crushed, the more they increased and spread, and men came to dread the sons of Israel. The Egyptians forced the sons of Israel into slavery, and made their lives unbearable with hard labour, work with clay and with brick, all kinds of work in the fields; they forced on them every kind of labour.

Pharaoh then gave his subjects this command: ‘Throw all the boys born to the Hebrews into the river, but let all the girls live.’

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Matthew 10:34-11:1

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be those of his own household.

‘Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.

‘Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me.

‘Anyone who welcomes a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes a holy man will have a holy man’s reward.

‘If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.’

When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples he moved on from there to teach and preach in their towns.

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“Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.”

One of the stories I heard growing up was of three old men sitting outside a house. When invited into the house by the owner, the men introduced themselves as ‘Success, Wealth and Love’, and said that only one of them could enter the house. In short, the owner had to choose.

The gospel passage today had troubled me when I first read it. Was I really to put everyone else as a lower priority to God? Wasn’t my responsibility to my family, my grandaunty and those whom I loved dearly?

As I matured as a Christian, however, I began to understand from the stories in the Bible. I read about how Daniel chose to worship God rather than bow down before the king. I read about how God was faithful to Abraham, and stopped him from sacrificing his son Isaac, providing instead, a white ram for the sacrifice.

Since then, I have seen many examples of God’s love and faithfulness to me, and to those around me. I have found that in times when I have chosen the (much more difficult) path that God desires us to follow, things have often turned out much better than if I had taken the alternative routes. Very often, these final outcomes were unexpected!

Still, despite our faith in our God, it remains extremely difficult to put Him as Number One in our lives. It is this that Jesus reminds us to do constantly. May we continue to turn to Him to bless us with wisdom to continue to do so.

Oh, returning to the original story, the owner chose ‘Love’, and with that choice, all three men entered the house. ANY other choice would have resulted in only one man entering the house.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Lord Jesus, may we learn from you how to place Father God above all else in our lives; above other people, possessions, desires and thoughts.

Thanksgiving We thank You, Father God, for Your faithfulness and for always providing all that we need. We are grateful for Your love.

16 July, Sunday – Pruned for greatness

16 July 2017

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Isaiah 55:10-11

Thus says the Lord: ‘As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.’

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Romans 8:18-23

I think that what we suffer in this life can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us. The whole creation is eagerly waiting for God to reveal his sons. It was not for any fault on the part of creation that it was made unable to attain its purpose, it was made so by God; but creation still retains the hope of being freed, like us, from its slavery to decadence, to enjoy the same freedom and glory as the children of God. From the beginning till now the entire creation, as we know, has been groaning in one great act of giving birth; and not only creation, but all of us who possess the first-fruits of the Spirit, we too groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free.

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Matthew 13:1-23

Jesus left the house and sat by the lakeside, but such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat there. The people all stood on the beach, and he told them many things in parables.

He said, ‘Imagine a sower going out to sow. As he sowed, some seeds fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on patches of rock where they found little soil and sprang up straight away, because there was no depth of earth; but as soon as the sun came up they were scorched and, not having any roots, they withered away. Others fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Others fell on rich soil and produced their crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Listen, anyone who has ears!’

Then the disciples went up to him and asked, ‘Why do you talk to them in parables?’ ‘Because’ he replied, ‘the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them. For anyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. So in their case this prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled:

You will listen and listen again, but not understand,

see and see again, but not perceive.

For the heart of this nation has grown coarse,

their ears are dull of hearing, and they have shut their eyes,

for fear they should see with their eyes,

hear with their ears,

understand with their heart,

and be converted

and be healed by me.

‘But happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear! I tell you solemnly, many prophets and holy men longed to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.

‘You, therefore, are to hear the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom without understanding, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart: this is the man who received the seed on the edge of the path. The one who received it on patches of rock is the man who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy. But he has no root in him, he does not last; let some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, and he falls away at once. The one who received the seed in thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this world and the lure of riches choke the word and so he produces nothing. And the one who received the seed in rich soil is the man who hears the word and understands it; he is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.’

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“The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them.”

The parable of the sower has always intrigued me from the time when I was young. The sower scatters the seeds onto various types of soil, with varying degrees of success. I have often wondered what kind of soil I was; was I the ‘rich soil’? Or did I possess a ‘thorny disposition’, resulting in the initial enthusiam for our God, only for it to slowly choke and die off?

When I started doing some research, I found that the gardener — in this case, the sower — would have taken steps to prep the ground onto which he sows the seeds. He would have first tilled the soil, taking care to remove the weeds and pebbles and rocks which would ultimately choke the sprouting seedlings. He would have done everything he could to ensure the success of his crop.

When I first started on my journey as a Christian, I felt close to God, and often felt His presence. I was the ‘good soil’! However, over time, I began to skip my daily quiet time and gradually began to drift and backslide. Over time, I felt more disengaged and no longer sensed the love and presence of our Father, Lord and the Holy Spirit. At that point, I felt that I was the ‘rocky soil’.

In the same gospel passage, Jesus talks about those who try to see and listen and yet fail to do so, regardless of how much effort they put into it. My experience was exactly that. While I called myself a Christian, I felt isolated from God.

When I attended the Conversion Experience Retreat, I rediscovered my intimacy with God and, with that, also realised that the state of being ‘good soil’ is not final. Instead, like the gardener, we need to continuously do weeding and work on our spiritual lives. We need to continually connect with God, spending time before Him. It is this consistency that helps us to remain in the right state to be so. We are always a ‘work in progress’.

We pray that we may always be on the lookout for the weeds in our lives, continually working on ourselves to connect with our God. May we not be arrogant and decide that we have already ‘made it’.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father God, may we always be open to Your pruning and preparation in order to grow closer to You every day.

Thanksgiving Thank You, Father, for always loving us and for never giving up on us. We are grateful for Your love and Grace.

20 May, Saturday – Strength to walk the talk

May 20 – Memorial for St. Bernadine of Siena, Priest

Bernadine (1381-1444) was a Friar Minor, a priest, an itinerant preacher, and a theological writer. His preaching skills were so great, and the conversions so numerous, that he has become associated with all areas of speaking, advertising, public relations, etc.

Bernadine’s charismatic preaching filled the piazze of Italian cities. Thousands of listeners flocked to hear him and to participate in dramatic rituals, which included collective weeping, bonfires of vanities, and exorcisms. He was a renowned peacemaker, in the Franciscan tradition, who tried to calm feuding clans and factions in the turbulent political world of the Renaissance. His preaching visits would often culminate in mass reconciliations, as listeners were persuaded to exchange the bacio di pace, or kiss of peace.

Bernadine was sensitive to the demands of secular life, and tried to negotiate between Christian ethics and a conflicting code of honour that stressed retaining face in a public world. He argued that the catalyst of civil discord in the urban setting was malicious gossip, which led to insults, and, too often, vendetta by aggressive males. His surprising allies in his peacekeeping mission were the women who comprised the majority of his audience.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 16:1-10

From Cilicia Paul went to Derbe, and then on to Lystra. Here there was a disciple called Timothy, whose mother was a Jewess who had become a believer; but his father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of Timothy, and Paul, who wanted to have him as a travelling companion, had him circumcised. This was on account of the Jews in the locality where everyone knew his father was a Greek.

As they visited one town after another, they passed on the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, with instructions to respect them.

So the churches grew strong in the faith, as well as growing daily in numbers.

They travelled through Phrygia and the Galatian country, having been told by the Holy Spirit not to preach the word in Asia. When they reached the frontier of Mysia they thought to cross it into Bithynia, but as the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them, they went through Mysia and came down to Troas.

One night Paul had a vision: a Macedonian appeared and appealed to him in these words, ‘Come across to Macedonia and help us.’ Once he had seen this vision we lost no time in arranging a passage to Macedonia, convinced that God had called us to bring them the Good News.

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John 15:18-21

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘If the world hates you,
remember that it hated me before you.
If you belonged to the world,
the world would love you as its own;
but because you do not belong to the world,
because my choice withdrew you from the world,
therefore the world hates you.
Remember the words I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master.
If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too;
if they kept my word, they will keep yours as well.
But it will be on my account that they will do all this,
because they do not know the one who sent me.’

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“If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own.”

I have always found it fascinating that from the time of Jesus to current times, there is a very consistent reference to ‘belonging to the world’ as opposed to not belonging to it.

This applies whether it is in a Middle-Eastern or Western culture. There is no escaping this. Such is the strength of our selfish human nature. ‘Belonging to the world’ somehow means being self-centred and unloving.

It is clear to me, when we look at it this way, that there is simply NO middle ground. One simply ‘belongs’ to this world, or one does not; we cannot be a good Christian and still be a part of this world; the Bible is clear on that.

I have struggled with this my whole life. For many years, I had lived a compartmentalised life –having a ‘worldly’ compartment for work and other pragmatic situations, and a ‘Christian’ compartment for other areas such a ‘faith’ and parts of family and other Christian interactions. This situation causes constant conflict and much effort and energy is spent on deciding which compartment to place our interactions in.

Over time, I realised that such a situation resulted in me not being able to lead an authentic Christian life and faith coming out of such a compartmentalised life was at most lukewarm. Lukewarm!

This troubles me because we are warned against having lukewarm faith in Revelations 3:15-16, where possessing lukewarm faith, where we are neither ‘hot’ nor ‘cold’, will cause us to be ‘spit out’ from God’s mouth.  Such lukewarm faith will lead us to live under the illusion that we are doing well when in reality we are not.

May we be able to draw upon the Lord’s strength to decide to lead a life full of ‘hot’ faith.  May we have the courage to do so, and recognise that our time on earth is short and that we ultimately belong to God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Help us Father to always keep our eyes on You. Help us to have eyes of faith to discern the right path to take. Be with us Lord Jesus, as we seek to do the right thing.

ThanksgivingJesus Lord, thank You for showing what it means to walk in Your path. Thank You for helping us realise that we are not alone in our daily journey.

19 May, Friday – Christian Respect and Love

19 May 2017

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Acts 15:22-31

The apostles and elders decided to choose delegates to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; the whole church concurred with this. They chose Judas known as Barsabbas and Silas, both leading men in the brotherhood, and gave them this letter to take with them:

‘The apostles and elders, your brothers, send greetings to the brothers of pagan birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We hear that some of our members have disturbed you with their demands and have unsettled your minds. They acted without any authority from us; and so we have decided unanimously to elect delegates and to send them to you with Barnabas and Paul, men we highly respect who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accordingly we are sending you Judas and Silas, who will confirm by word of mouth what we have written in this letter. It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials: you are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols; from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from fornication. Avoid these, and you will do what is right. Farewell.’

The party left and went down to Antioch, where they summoned the whole community and delivered the letter. The community read it and were delighted with the encouragement it gave them.

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John 15:12-17

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘This is my commandment:
love one another,
as I have loved you.
A man can have no greater love
than to lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends,
if you do what I command you.
I shall not call you servants any more,
because a servant does not know
his master’s business;
I call you friends,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learnt from my Father.
You did not choose me:
no, I chose you;
and I commissioned you
to go out and to bear fruit,
fruit that will last;
and then the Father will give you
anything you ask him in my name.
What I command you is to love one another.’

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“A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends”

In 2006, I received a call from my father. He had been living in Taiwan for about 30 years and had not been a frequent participant in my life. He had asked me to visit him in Taiwan.

I saw my father some time later when I visited him and he finally told me the purpose for his wanting to see me; he was dying and asked if I could take care of my half sister when he finally passed on.

Unbeknownst to him, my father’s friend had spoken to me much earlier, and had asked me the same question before that. Because of this particular call, I could not sleep for a few weeks as my wife and I pondered the question.

Ultimately, it was difficult for me to turn down his request. You see, when I was a month old, my grandaunt had been asked the same question. Only thing is, I was the one whom she had been tasked to take care of. Despite the fact that our biological relationship was so distant, she did not hesitate when asked, and I ended up living with her for over 30 years. In fact, she did so much more for me; becoming both father and mother to me in my growing years.

In the same vein, by dying for us, Jesus paid the ultimate price and made the ultimate sacrifice, and paid it forward for us to do the same. How can we not do that? If we choose not to do the right thing, do we not become somewhat like the unmerciful servant found in Matthew 18:24-25?

Because of the precious gift of salvation and love from our Lord, our lives are no longer our own. The challenge is in recognizing and fulfilling this in our daily walk. We pray that our Lord may give us the eyes and spirit to recognize the opportunities for us to do so.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer In choosing to die for us dear Jesus, You have shown us the way we should live and treat each other. Help us to be open to the opportunities to share this same spirit with others.

ThanksgivingThank You for being our model, Lord Jesus. No matter what kind of personal history we each possess, thank You for the infinite love that You have for us

18 May, Thursday – Being Truly Loving

May 18 – Memorial for St. John I, Pope and Martyr

John (d. 526) was a priest in Rome, and became the 53rd pope in 523. Italy’s ruler then, Theodoric the Goth, was an Arian. For a while, he left the Catholics alone, but in later life he became suspicious of everyone, imagining conspiracies and attempts to seize his throne. He tried to involve Pope John in his political machinations. John led a delegation to Constantinople to negotiate with Emperor Justin I; he was the first pope to travel to Constantinople, and while there, crowned Justin. The mission was successful, but Theodoric, thought John and Justin I, had plotted against him. While returning to Rome, John was kidnapped and imprisoned by Theodoric’s soldiers. He died of thirst and starvation while in custody in Ravenna, Italy.

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Acts 15:7-21

After the discussion had gone on a long time, Peter stood up and addressed the apostles and the elders.
‘My brothers,’ he said ‘you know perfectly well that in the early days God made his choice among you: the pagans were to learn the Good News from me and so become believers. In fact God, who can read everyone’s heart, showed his approval of them by giving the Holy Spirit to them just as he had to us. God made no distinction between them and us, since he purified their hearts by faith. It would only provoke God’s anger now, surely, if you imposed on the disciples the very burden that neither we nor our ancestors were strong enough to support? Remember, we believe that we are saved in the same way as they are: through the grace of the Lord Jesus.’

This silenced the entire assembly, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul describing the signs and wonders God had worked through them among the pagans.

When they had finished it was James who spoke. ‘My brothers,’ he said ‘listen to me. Simeon has described how God first arranged to enlist a people for his name out of the pagans. This is entirely in harmony with the words of the prophets, since the scriptures say:

After that I shall return
and rebuild the fallen House of David;
I shall rebuild it from its ruins
and restore it.
Then the rest of mankind,
all the pagans who are consecrated to my name,
will look for the Lord,
says the Lord who made this known so long ago.

‘I rule, then, that instead of making things more difficult for pagans who turn to God, we send them a letter telling them merely to abstain from anything polluted by idols, from fornication, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has always had his preachers in every town, and is read aloud in the synagogues every sabbath.’

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John 15:9-11

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘As the Father has loved me,
so I have loved you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this
so that my own joy may be in you
and your joy be complete.’

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“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.”

I was at Mass a few days ago and there was this family of 3 seated some pews in front of me. The son was not quite tall enough to see the altar. The boy struggled to do so, and after some time, the father put down the (brand new) kneeler and the boy stood on it.

I found myself getting irritated. I looked at the newly-wrapped kneeler and all I could think about was it could get torn or damaged.

And then I took a look at the family. I saw how excited the boy was at being able to look at the priest and altar boys carrying out the rites. I saw the pride in the eyes of the parents as they looked at their son belting out the hymns.

I reflected on this as the mass was going on and realised that I was having a ‘Pharisee’ moment; I had placed what I thought was right above the love for a neighbour. While this does not mean that we do not correct our brother or sister, it also means that we need to look at all situations through the lens of brotherly love.

In the first reading today, the first Christian community was deciding the rules that the pagans needed to follow. Rather than putting them under the same rules the original Jewish community were under (who also found the same rules difficult to follow), the community decided that the new members would follow a set of simpler rules. The lesson for us is that the early Christian community came to that decision through eyes of love and without judgement.

Let us always remember that we too, should be guided to do the same in all our dealings with others. And to look at every one we encounter through the eyes of love.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father God, may we always be guided in our thoughts and actions by love. May we always be open to Your Spirit.

ThanksgivingLord Jesus, thank You for showing us what it really means to love and to not be judgmental of others. Thank You for being our role model of how to treat and be with others.

17 May, Wednesday – The Importance of Being Connected to God

17 May 2017

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Acts 15:1-6

Some men came down from Judaea and taught the brothers, ‘Unless you have yourselves circumcised in the tradition of Moses you cannot be saved.’ This led to disagreement, and after Paul and Barnabas had had a long argument with these men it was arranged that Paul and Barnabas and others of the church should go up to Jerusalem and discuss the problem with the apostles and elders.

All the members of the church saw them off, and as they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria they told how the pagans had been converted, and this news was received with the greatest satisfaction by the brothers. When they arrived in Jerusalem they were welcomed by the church and by the apostles and elders, and gave an account of all that God had done with them.

But certain members of the Pharisees’ party who had become believers objected, insisting that the pagans should be circumcised and instructed to keep the Law of Moses. The apostles and elders met to look into the matter.

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John 15:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in me that bears no fruit
he cuts away,
and every branch that does bear fruit
he prunes to make it bear even more.
You are pruned already,
by means of the word that I have spoken to you.
Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.
As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself,
but must remain part of the vine,
neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me, with me in him,
bears fruit in plenty;
for cut off from me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers;
these branches are collected and thrown on the fire,
and they are burnt.
If you remain in me
and my words remain in you,
you may ask what you will
and you shall get it.
It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit,
and then you will be my disciples.’

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“You are pruned already, by means of the word that I have spoken to you.”

There was a period of about 2 years when I stayed away from church. I was going through some personal issues and had wanted to be left alone. Till then, I belonged to a church choir, playing the guitar, and I also occasionally stood in as a conductor.

During the period away from the church, I found myself being slowly isolated. My prayers moved from daily, to occasional, then almost never. I felt increasingly distanced from God. To me, He became someone who did not care, and was almost never on my mind.

After a period of time, a few good friends started calling me and gently cajoled me to go back to the Church. While I did not feel any motivation to do so, my friends ultimately convinced me to go back.

It was a slow start, but once I did, I felt God’s hand in my life again. Like the son in the parable of the prodigal son, I felt God’s embracing love.

In addition to a closer intimacy with God, I also felt the re-entry of God’s counsel in my life. While it is likely that it never left in the first place, I sense the guidance of the Holy Spirit and sense the soft promptings. The experience of being ‘plugged in’ allowed me to understand where He wants to bring me.

Let us always be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and always strive to be connected with God.  It is only through this connection that we would continue to learn His will.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father, help us to be open to Your pruning and Your guidance. Help us to be willing to shed what is not helpful or good for us and help us to remain in You.

ThanksgivingThank You for loving us as Your children, and for never giving up on us.