Tag Archives: trust in God

24 March, Tuesday – What a dumb question!

24 March 2020

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Ezekiel 47:1-9,12

The angel brought me to the entrance of the Temple, where a stream came out from under the Temple threshold and flowed eastwards, since the Temple faced east. The water flowed from under the right side of the Temple, south of the altar. He took me out by the north gate and led me right round outside as far as the outer east gate where the water flowed out on the right-hand side. The man went to the east holding his measuring line and measured off a thousand cubits; he then made me wade across the stream; the water reached my ankles. He measured off another thousand and made me wade across the stream again; the water reached my knees. He measured off another thousand and made me wade across again; the water reached my waist. He measured off another thousand; it was now a river which I could not cross; the stream had swollen and was now deep water, a river impossible to cross.

He then said, ‘Do you see, son of man?’ He took me further, then brought me back to the bank of the river. When I got back, there were many trees on each bank of the river.

He said, ‘This water flows east down to the Arabah and to the sea; and flowing into the sea it makes its waters wholesome. Wherever the river flows, all living creatures teeming in it will live. Fish will be very plentiful, for wherever the water goes it brings health, and life teems wherever the river flows. Along the river, on either bank, will grow every kind of fruit tree with leaves that never wither and fruit that never fails; they will bear new fruit every month, because this water comes from the sanctuary. And their fruit will be good to eat and the leaves medicinal.’

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John 5:1-3,5-16

There was a Jewish festival, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now at the Sheep Pool in Jerusalem there is a building, called Bethzatha in Hebrew, consisting of five porticos; and under these were crowds of sick people – blind, lame, paralysed – waiting for the water to move. One man there had an illness which had lasted thirty-eight years, and when Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had been in this condition for a long time, he said, ‘Do you want to be well again?’ ‘Sir,’ replied the sick man ‘I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is disturbed; and while I am still on the way, someone else gets there before me.’ Jesus said, ‘Get up, pick up your sleeping-mat and walk.’ The man was cured at once, and he picked up his mat and walked away.

Now that day happened to be the sabbath, so the Jews said to the man who had been cured, ‘It is the sabbath; you are not allowed to carry your sleeping-mat.’ He replied, ‘But the man who cured me told me, “Pick up your mat and walk.”’ They asked, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Pick up your mat and walk”?’ The man had no idea who it was, since Jesus had disappeared into the crowd that filled the place. After a while Jesus met him in the Temple and said, ‘Now you are well again, be sure not to sin any more, or something worse may happen to you.’ The man went back and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had cured him. It was because he did things like this on the sabbath that the Jews began to persecute Jesus.

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“Do you want to be well?”

I was in a pensive and reflective mood as I sat quietly by myself in front of Our Blessed Mother’s statue at the Cathedral one morning. For those of you familiar with the place, the statue stands amidst a shallow pool of water surrounding it. A disturbance in the water catches my eye. A beetle (a rather large one actually), had fallen in and was struggling for its life. As I stepped towards it to try to rescue it, something happens, the beetle despite its size, suddenly started walking on the water. It was able to move about with its feet on the surface of the water and eventually got itself to safety. Hmm… it seems that God is not the only one able to walk on water.

Jesus asked the blind man in the Gospel, “Do you want to be well?” Kind of a dumb question, right? (No offence, Lord), given that Jesus knew that he had been ill for a long time – 38 years. That’s a long time. Yet, the crippled man was never able to make it into the pool of Bethesda whenever it was stirred. The crippled man is a representation of humanity – our brokenness, our helplessness, our longing to be whole again. And yet, the crippled also embodied the brokenness of humanity in many other ways —  our ineptitude to save ourselves (38 years and he was not able to find a way to reach the pool), our infidelity (by betraying Jesus to the Pharisees in performing the miracle on a Sabbath), our ingratitude (there was no mention of him thanking Jesus for healing him), unrepentant(he was seemingly unresponsive to Jesus’ rebuke to turn away from his sinful ways). Yes – the cripple was in a really sorry state. Much like humanity. Much like us.

I did a bit of background reading on this passage and it seems that back in the day, the stirring of the water in the pool was done by none other than the Holy Spirit himself. Hence, the point is made that it is only God himself, through His Holy Spirit, that can bring about our healing, restoration and renewal. Not man’s piety nor his dutiful performance of religious rituals nor his wealth, nor his ‘connections’ nor his ‘science’.

You see, God needed to ask the question, “Do you want to be well?”, of all of us. Why? Because He has promised us freedom of our wills. God is faithful to all his promises. He promised we could have our free will and that He would respect that (I do wonder if He ever regretted this). The second reason for asking is because He knows a “yes” from us needs to come with a conscious commitment to allow God to do His work of healing and restoration in us. Often, such healing will come with a willingness on our part to let go, to surrender our will, to trust in Him no matter how demanding, painful and senseless that path can often appear to be, to change from our sinful ways and to die to self, to pride, to unforgiveness, to self-righteousness. Hence, maybe the question Jesus asked was not really that dumb after all? As the saying goes — be careful what you ask for – you might just get it.

In closing, let me get back to the saga of the beetle. You see, a few things needed to happen for it to be saved. Firstly, it needed to stop struggling, which would then allow the water molecules to re-form themselves and to create sufficient surface-tension to hold the weight of the beetle and allow it to ‘walk’. Just as we do. Secondly, it needed to be at the right place at the right time – in this instance, falling not into just any old pool of water but the pool that surrounds Our Blessed Mother’s statue – I can almost hear our dearest Mother, with her infinite love for all of God’s creatures, beetles included, saying “no beetle is ever going to drown – and no child of mine that clings to me and my Son, will ever be lost — not in my pool, not on my watch.”.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father, help us. The pools of our poor lives are stagnant and fester with sin, hurt, regrets, sorrows. We are all wounded and broken. We have been waiting by the cesspool of our souls for your grace to cleanse and heal and restore us once again to the wholeness that you created us to be. Not because you have abandoned us, but because we have turned away from you.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you. For never abandoning us, for never forsaking us despite the countless times we have chosen foolishness, arrogance, pride and sin instead of your loving will for us.

20 March, Friday – Love with all our heart

20 March

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Hosea 14:2-10

The Lord says this:

Israel, come back to the Lord your God;
your iniquity was the cause of your downfall.
Provide yourself with words
and come back to the Lord.
Say to him, ‘Take all iniquity away
so that we may have happiness again
and offer you our words of praise.
Assyria cannot save us,
we will not ride horses any more,
or say, “Our God!” to what our own hands have made,
for you are the one in whom orphans find compassion.’
– I will heal their disloyalty,
I will love them with all my heart,
for my anger has turned from them.
I will fall like dew on Israel.
He shall bloom like the lily,
and thrust out roots like the poplar,
his shoots will spread far;
he will have the beauty of the olive
and the fragrance of Lebanon.
They will come back to live in my shade;
they will grow corn that flourishes,
they will cultivate vines
as renowned as the wine of Helbon.
What has Ephraim to do with idols any more
when it is I who hear his prayer and care for him?
I am like a cypress ever green,
all your fruitfulness comes from me.

Let the wise man understand these words.
Let the intelligent man grasp their meaning.
For the ways of the Lord are straight,
and virtuous men walk in them,
but sinners stumble.

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Mark 12:28-34

One of the scribes came up to Jesus and put a question to him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to him, ‘Well spoken, Master; what you have said is true: that he is one and there is no other. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.’ Jesus, seeing how wisely he had spoken, said, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And after that no one dared to question him any more.

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To love him with all your heart

Since the middle of last year, I have been experiencing bad anxiety over my various responsibilities. The new challenges that came with PhD research somehow brought about a great deal of worry and an unprecedented sense of desperation. I found myself sinking into despair often, believing that I would not pull through, and was completely unable to place things in God’s hands.

Today’s gospel passage is a well-known one. It sounds straightforward, what Jesus said. But what does it really mean to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength? It means that we abide by all the commandments, even if we are tempted to do otherwise. It means that we prioritise God in the use of our time and when making decisions. It means that we spend a lot of our time in prayer, just to be in regular communion with God. It means that we recognise that everything that we are, that we have, comes from God. Without Him, we are literally nothing.

I think that I have not come to truly see God as the Lord and ruler of my life. There are still many things that I want to hang on to, and my habit is to rely on myself and my own abilities rather than on God. Even though I have pulled through several seemingly insurmountable challenges during the past year, I am still not completely convinced of God’s ability to make the impossible possible. There are moments when I do feel that He is real and has given me so many graces, but there are many more when I cannot see anything except a thick opaque wall of gloom. In such times, I try to fall back on the teachings of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, particularly his advice on what to do during times of desolation. One of his exhortations is to maintain spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation. I see this act as being an example of living out the first commandment, because we would be making great effort to resist the desolation. May the Lord help us find the strength to love Him even when we do not feel like it.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we will learn to love our Lord even in the most trying circumstances, and truly appreciate that we are nothing without Him. 

Thanksgiving: We thank our loving Father for the abundance of His generosity and mercy.

15 March, Sunday – God is always with us

15 March 2020

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Exodus 17:3-7

Tormented by thirst, the people complained against Moses. ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt?’ they said. ‘Was it so that I should die of thirst, my children too, and my cattle?’

Moses appealed to the Lord. ‘How am I to deal with this people?” he said. ‘A little more and they will stone me!’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take with you some of the elders of Israel and move on to the forefront of the people; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the river, and go. I shall be standing before you there on the rock, at Horeb. You must strike the rock, and water will flow from it for the people to drink.’ This is what Moses did, in the sight of the elders of Israel. The place was named Massah and Meribah because of the grumbling of the sons of Israel and because they put the Lord to the test by saying, ‘Is the Lord with us, or not?’

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Romans 5:1-2,5-8

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, by faith we are judged righteous and at peace with God, since it is by faith and through Jesus that we have entered this state of grace in which we can boast about looking forward to God’s glory. And this hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us. We were still helpless when at his appointed moment Christ died for sinful men. It is not easy to die even for a good man – though of course for someone really worthy, a man might be prepared to die – but what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.

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John 4:5-42

Jesus came to the Samaritan town called Sychar, near the land that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well is there and Jesus, tired by the journey, sat straight down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘What? You are a Jew and you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?’ – Jews, in fact, do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus replied:

‘If you only knew what God is offering
and who it is that is saying to you:
Give me a drink, you would have been the one to ask,
and he would have given you living water.’

‘You have no bucket, sir,’ she answered ‘and the well is deep: how could you get this living water? Are you a greater man than our father Jacob who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his sons and his cattle?’ Jesus replied:

‘Whoever drinks this water
will get thirsty again;
but anyone who drinks the water that I shall give
will never be thirsty again:
the water that I shall give
will turn into a spring inside him,
welling up to eternal life.’

‘Sir,’ said the woman ‘give me some of that water, so that I may never get thirsty and never have to come here again to draw water.’ ‘Go and call your husband’ said Jesus to her ‘and come back here.’ The woman answered, ‘I have no husband.’ He said to her, ‘You are right to say, “I have no husband”; for although you have had five, the one you have now is not your husband. You spoke the truth there.’ ‘I see you are a prophet, sir’ said the woman. ‘Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, while you say that Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’ Jesus said:

‘Believe me, woman,
the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You worship what you do not know;
we worship what we do know:
for salvation comes from the Jews.
But the hour will come
– in fact it is here already –
when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth:
that is the kind of worshipper the Father wants.
God is spirit,
and those who worship
must worship in spirit and truth.’

The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah – that is, Christ – is coming; and when he comes he will tell us everything.’ ‘I who am speaking to you,’ said Jesus ‘I am he.’

At this point his disciples returned, and were surprised to find him speaking to a woman, though none of them asked, ‘What do you want from her?’ or, ‘Why are you talking to her?’ The woman put down her water jar and hurried back to the town to tell the people. ‘Come and see a man who has told me everything I ever did; I wonder if he is the Christ?’ This brought people out of the town and they started walking towards him.

Meanwhile, the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, do have something to eat; but he said, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples asked one another, ‘Has someone been bringing him food?’ But Jesus said:

‘My food is to do the will of the one who sent me,
and to complete his work.
Have you not got a saying:
Four months and then the harvest?
Well, I tell you:
Look around you, look at the fields;
already they are white, ready for harvest!
Already the reaper is being paid his wages,
already he is bringing in the grain for eternal life,
and thus sower and reaper rejoice together.
For here the proverb holds good:
one sows, another reaps;
I sent you to reap a harvest you had not worked for.
Others worked for it;
and you have come into the rewards of their trouble.’

Many Samaritans of that town had believed in him on the strength of the woman’s testimony when she said, ‘He told me all I have ever done’, so, when the Samaritans came up to him, they begged him to stay with them. He stayed for two days, and when he spoke to them many more came to believe; and they said to the woman, ‘Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is the saviour of the world.’

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“Is the Lord with us, or not?”

The number of cases keep rising. The death toll is increasing. Racist attacks are proliferating.

In view of this trying time of the COVID-19 situation, it seems that God isn’t listening to us. Or maybe He isn’t even with us. We’ve been praying every day for a cure, but the situation isn’t abating anytime soon. Some of us may have known patients who have passed away from this virus.

But we should never put Him to test. Instead, we should pray that God is with us amidst this affliction, and we should count our blessings during these difficult circumstances. Many of us are spending more time at home, so we can use this opportunity to catch up with our loved ones and spend some bonding time together. For instance, my family and I had some quality time last week playing card games together. We had never done so for a long time, and for a moment, we were back in our younger days, living life, carefree.

Moreover, we can continue showing care and love to people around us, like the couple who distributed free masks outside the Punggol MRT station. We should stop being racist because it is certainly not how God wants us to behave during such tough times.

For those of us who know of patients who passed away due to the virus, we can support and grieve with those who are in similar circumstances and remind ourselves that God is grieving together with us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Lord, please help us to see the good in others and love everyone around us despite the coronavirus situation. We trust that You will help us out of this challenging circumstance soon enough. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for helping us to love others and to spend more time with family during these trying times. Amen.

17 February, Monday – Trusting in God’s little miracles

17 Feb – Memorial for Seven Holy Founders of the Order of Servites

The Order of the Servants of Mary (Servites) was named the fifth mendicant order by Pope Martin V. It was founded in 1233 by Sts. Alexis Falconieri, Bartholomew degli Amidei, Benedict dell’Antella, Buonfiglio Monaldi, Gherardino Sostegni, Hugh dei Lippi-Uguccioni, and John Buonagiunta Monetti.

They were beatified on 1 December 1717, and canonized on 1887 as The Seven Holy Founders. On the Feast of the Assumption in 1240, the Founders received a vision of Our Lady. She held in her hand a black habit, and a nearby angel bore a scroll reading “Servants of Mary”. Mary told them:

“You will found a new order, and you will be my witnesses throughout the world. This is your name: Servants of Mary. This is your rule: that of St. Augustine. And here is your distinctive sign: the black scapular, in memory of my sufferings.”

From their first establishment at La Camarzia, near Florence, they moved to the more secluded Monte Senario where the Blessed Virgin herself conferred on them their habit, instructing them to follow the Rule of St. Augustine and to admit associates. The official approval for the order was obtained in 1249, confirmed in 1256, suppressed in 1276, definitely approved in 1304, and again by Brief in 1928. The order was so rapidly diffused that by 1285, there were 10,000 members with houses in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, and early in the 14th century, it numbered 100 convents, besides missions in Crete and India.

The Reformation reduced the order in Germany, but it flourished elsewhere. Again meeting with political reverses in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it nevertheless prospered, being established in England in 1867, and in America in 1870.

The Servites take solemn vows and venerate in a special manner the “Seven Dolours of Our Lady”. They cultivate both the interior and the active life, giving missions and teaching. An affiliation, professing exclusively the contemplative life is that of the “Hermits of Monte Senario”. It was reinstated in France in 1922.

Cloistered nuns, forming a Second Order, have been affiliated with the Servites since 1619 when Blessed Benedicta di Rossi called the nuns of her community “Servite Hermitesses”. They have been established in England, Spain, Italy, the Tyrol, and Germany.

A Third Order, the Mantellate, founded by St. Juliana Falconieri under St. Philip Benizi (c. 1284) has houses in Italy, France, Spain, England, Canada, and the United States. Secular tertiaries and a confraternity of the Seven Dolours are other branches.

  • Patron Saint Index

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James 1:1-11

From James, servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Greetings to the twelve tribes of the Dispersion.

My brothers, you will always have your trials but, when they come, try to treat them as a happy privilege; you understand that your faith is only put to the test to make you patient, but patience too is to have its practical results so that you will become fully-developed, complete, with nothing missing.

If there is any one of you who needs wisdom, he must ask God, who gives to all freely and ungrudgingly; it will be given to him. But he must ask with faith, and no trace of doubt, because a person who has doubts is like the waves thrown up in the sea when the wind drives. That sort of person, in two minds, wavering between going different ways, must not expect that the Lord will give him anything.

It is right for the poor brother to be proud of his high rank, and the rich one to be thankful that he has been humbled, because riches last no longer than the flowers in the grass; the scorching sun comes up, and the grass withers, the flower falls; what looked so beautiful now disappears. It is the same with the rich man: his business goes on; he himself perishes.

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Mark 8:11-13

The Pharisees came up and started a discussion with Jesus; they demanded of him a sign from heaven, to test him. And with a sigh that came straight from the heart he said, ‘Why does this generation demand a sign? I tell you solemnly, no sign shall be given to this generation.’ And leaving them again and re-embarking, he went away to the opposite shore.

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Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation”

How often have we been like the Pharisees, asking Jesus (or even God Himself!) for some sign of His love or faithfulness? Perhaps even more so than the Pharisees, we in this modern age seek ever greater signs and symbols of the divine, having been raised on a media diet of computer generated imagery (CGI) and movies. In this media saturated world of superheroes and Hollywood magic, it is easy to forget that God continues to weave His presence and work within the humdrum of our daily lives.

I did my RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) at a Jesuit parish, and the spiritual director of the RCIA taught us Ignatian spirituality. I remember how each time before we ‘enter the scene’ of our Ignatian contemplation, the priest would ask us to sit in silence and feel the presence of God in the air around us, and in the air that we are breathing in. That in itself is the miracle. God does not need to give us any signs, because the very air that we breathe is a gift from Him.

Perhaps this is why Jesus said that ‘no sign will be given to this generation’. Because God has already given us ample signs of His love and providence. It is also striking that James in the first reading says “consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”.

Indeed, that very perseverance and faith in God is itself a grace and sign from our Father in heaven. This also means that we need to play our part, in order to see these signs and receives these graces that are freely given to us. And what exactly is this part that we need to do? We simply need to trust Him and to persevere in times of hardship, suffering and persecution.

(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for Your love and grace, and above all, for the wisdom to see how You have always given these to us.

Thanksgiving: We are thankful, O Lord, for the daily gifts and graces that You have bestowed upon us. We are grateful for Your gift of life, and the chance that You have given us to continue loving, serving and praising You through our lives.  

12 February, Wednesday – Trusting in God

12 Feb

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1 Kings 10:1-10

The fame of Solomon having reached the queen of Sheba, she came to test him with difficult questions. She brought immense riches to Jerusalem with her, camels laden with spices, great quantities of gold, and precious stones. On coming to Solomon, she opened her mind freely to him; and Solomon had an answer for all her questions, not one of them was too obscure for the king to expound. When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon, the palace he had built, the food at his table, the accommodation for his officials, the organisation of his staff and the way they were dressed, his cup-bearers, and the holocausts he offered in the Temple of the Lord, it left her breathless, and she said to the king, ‘What I heard in my own country about you and your wisdom was true, then! Until I came and saw it with my own eyes I could not believe what they told me, but clearly they told me less than half: for wisdom and prosperity you surpass the report I heard. How happy your wives are! How happy are these servants of yours who wait on you always and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God who has granted you his favour, setting you on the throne of Israel! Because of the Lord’s everlasting love for Israel, he has made you king to deal out law and justice.’ And she presented the king with a hundred and twenty talents of gold and great quantities of spices and precious stones; no such wealth of spices ever came again as those given to King Solomon by the queen of Sheba.

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Mark 7:14-23

Jesus called the people to him and said, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to this.’

When he had gone back into the house, away from the crowd, his disciples questioned him about the parable. He said to them, ‘Do you not understand either? Can you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot make him unclean, because it does not go into his heart but through his stomach and passes out into the sewer?’ (Thus he pronounced all foods clean.) And he went on, ‘It is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.’

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And I did not believe them that told me, till I came myself, and saw with my own eyes…

The Queen of Saba (Sheba) speaks those words about King Solomon, and they are similar to the words of St. Thomas the Doubter about Jesus’ resurrection. Words that simply say, I DON’T TRUST until I can see it, hear it and touch it. These thoughts are similar to how I often live… not fully trusting. Apparently needing to SEE for myself, especially when I don’t see or hear God ‘doing something’…answering my righteous prayer…I am living without trusting in the Almighty. It is absence of faith

Just this morning, I was listening to a homily by Fr. Mike Schmitz, and he said, “We cannot underestimate what God is doing when it seems like God is doing nothing. Silence isn’t absence.”

The longer I live, the more I look back and see how OFTEN our Father was ‘there’ for me (and so many others), how He was indeed working towards my good in the moments when I didn’t see Him, didn’t hear Him and didn’t feel Him. It is so easy for my thoughts to wander into a mindset of believing that I must act, since He apparently isn’t doing something…anything. I must take this situation into my own hands and handle it. I must move things forward. I, I, I. I must be in control, in other words, I must take over since I can’t trust in His timing, in Him.

When I don’t rest in Him, rest in prayer, rest in WAITING on Him, and instead make a move and walk through a door that not only has He not opened, but He hasn’t led me to, I sin. I recently heard that NOT trusting in God always leads to sin. That not trusting in God leads to self-medicating. Always. As I contemplated this, I could see how this has always played out in my life. My prayer wasn’t being answered in the time frame and way I wanted it answered, I wasn’t getting the results I wanted. God wasn’t ‘moving’ quickly enough for me, or in the direction I wanted. Time after time, I mistook His silence for abandonment. And I know better. I know that He has never, and will never leave me, yet I sometimes jump in (not near as much now as in my 20s, 30s 40s and even 50s – thank you, Lord, that I am learning to trust You more completely) thinking I have to do this, or do that. I want to believe that I am ‘waiting on Him’, but I am actually busying myself so that I feel productive. Doing the ‘right’ thing in front of others and not just waiting. I can even sometimes pretend I am being a ‘better’ Catholic by not bothering Him and actually helping Him out by taking control…which makes me laugh as I even write this!

Trusting in God without seeing, without hearing, without believing, that is peace. Fr. Richard Rohr wrote, “Faith and trust are choices, we do not simply ‘fall’ into them.”  It would be so much easier if we just fell into trust, into faith, but God has given us free will.  He has a better plan, and when we trust fully in Him, we have His peace.

(Today’s Oxygen by Gina Ulicny)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we are so in need of your constant love, mercy, grace and forgiveness. We desire to trust in you for all things, and yet we fail on a daily basis.  Lord, help us to remember that You are trustworthy every second of our lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for your reminder that you are with us always.  And that even when we don’t see, feel or hear you, we do see and hear and feel the works of your hands.

7 February, Friday – Source of Success

7 February

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Ecc 47:2-13

As the fat is set apart from the communion sacrifice,
so David was chosen out of all the sons of Israel.
He played with lions as though with kids,
and with bears as though with lambs of the flock.
While still a boy, did he not slay the giant,
and relieve the people of their shame,
by putting out a hand to sling a stone
 which brought down the arrogance of Goliath?
For he called on the Lord Most High,
who gave strength to his right arm
to put a mighty warrior to death,
and lift up the horn of his people.
Hence they gave him credit for ten thousand,
and praised him while they blessed the Lord,
by offering him a crown of glory;
 for he massacred enemies on every side,
he annihilated his foes the Philistines,
and crushed their horn to this very day.
In all his activities he gave thanks
to the Holy One, the Most High, in words of glory;
he put all his heart into his songs
out of love for his Maker.
He placed harps before the altar
to make the singing sweeter with their music;
he gave the feasts their splendour,
the festivals their solemn pomp,
causing the Lord’s holy name to be praised
and the sanctuary to resound from dawn.
The Lord took away his sins,
 and exalted his horn for ever;
he gave him a royal covenant,
 and a glorious throne in Israel.
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Mark 6:14-29
King Herod had heard about Jesus, since by now his name was well known. Some were saying, ‘John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.’ Others said, ‘He is Elijah’; others again, ‘He is a prophet, like the prophets we used to have.’ But when Herod heard this he said, ‘It is John whose head I cut off; he has risen from the dead.’
Now it was this same Herod who had 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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For he called on the Lord Most High, who gave strength to his right arm to put a mighty warrior to death.

How aware are we of God’s contribution to the successes we have achieved in our lives?

I must admit that at times, I forget. Or I don’t think about it often enough, that it equals not even acknowledging that every thing I have achieved in my life was only possible because God made it so. Of course, I have put in all the work, but it still amazes me how it slips out of my awareness that I was only successful ultimately because of God. In the end, there is really not a lot I can control.

I think that’s why God made it sure that in pivotal moments of my life I knew it was Him. I had to literally pray my way to success. This makes it easier for me to be aware that His hand was orchestrating everything. Yet, even with these, I still forget sometimes. So what more for all those ‘little’ success miracles that God is making in our lives? It just flies by the radar.

So more than reading about something, perhaps we should take this time to spend ten minutes to talk to God about the successes He has orchestrated in our lives. Let’s list down all we can think of. Let’s list down the big, and the small ones. Let’s look back and ask the Holy Spirit to surprise us and point to us where God was in those moments of our lives.

I would like to share with you a quote which has helped me a lot in becoming aware of God’s hand in my success (dual meaning intended) — “Those who leave everything in God’s hand will eventually see God’s hand in everything.”

Everything, from our tiniest successes to our milestone moments happens because of God.

I would like to invite you to reflect on how much faith do we really put in our prayers for the success of our endeavors? Or maybe even before that, for us to reflect on what it means to have faith in this area? Or even be clear about what constitutes success because many times (and I am very much guilty of this as well), we define success as if we got what we prayed for. So when we say we have faith that things will be successful when we pray, are we really saying that the success will be when we get what we prayed for?

Maybe if we rethink success as that which God wanted to happen, then maybe our faith will take on a different dimension.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, without you, there is nothing I can do. Without you, I am completely helpless. Please help me be aware of my need for you and that whatever I do, I need to have faith that it will succeed.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for being so generous to me. 

21 October, Monday – Faith in God’s Promise

21 Oct 2019

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Romans 4:20-25

Since God had made him a promise, Abraham refused either to deny it or even to doubt it, but drew strength from faith and gave glory to God, convinced that God had power to do what he had promised. This is the faith that was ‘considered as justifying him.’ Scripture however does not refer only to him but to us as well when it says that his faith was thus ‘considered’; our faith too will be ‘considered’ if we believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, Jesus who was put to death for our sins and raised to life to justify us.

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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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Since God had made him a promise, Abraham refused either to deny it or even to doubt it, but drew strength from faith and gave glory to God, convinced that God had power to do what he had promised

Trusting in God’s promise has been one of my struggles ever since I became more serious in my journey of faith. Today, I’ll share with you three of my struggles: maybe they would resonate with you, maybe you have other struggles, too. I hope that in sharing, it will help you see that trusting God can be both easy and difficult at the same time; and just because it is difficult, it doesn’t mean we are not trying to trust God. Perhaps, one of the lessons we need to learn in trusting God is not to be too hard on ourselves.

  • My desire for control of everything – Trusting God means surrendering our control over our lives. This is definitely not that easy. Quoting from the poem Invictus, ‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.’ We have this desire to be in control of all the aspects of our lives.

If we are to trust God, that means there will be times when we don’t do anything, or when we don’t know what to do. If we are to trust God, that we need to believe that the seed that was planted is growing, and taking root, even if we don’t see it. And during these times, we can’t control anything. And this is scary.

  • My fear of not doing what I ought to do – This is the flipside of my desire for control. Even in fulfilling His promise, God desires our participation. We participate in things God allows us to participate in. However, once I surrender the control to God, I tend to go ‘all or nothing’. It’s almost like telling God, ‘You do everything.’ But I know deep down in my heart that this is not what God wants. This is the balance we need to have, and this is the balance I am learning. I need to do my part, and I need to surrender to God His part.
  • My self-doubt if I really heard God correctly – This is related to the first two. I tend to always ask God if I heard Him correctly. Did He really say what I thought He said? Was it just me or my desire? Did I really discern well? Which part is God’s part and which part is mine? Was I in a state of grace to hear God clearly? Am I missing anything?

It’s not always easy trusting in God’s promise, especially if you have been promised something you desire so much. I would always ask myself if it’s God speaking or my desire dictating. I don’t have any answers nor any suggestions now.

The reason why I shared those three points is to invite you all to have a look at your own circumstances and your own struggles with trusting in God. To understand where you are is the first step to being able to do something about it and to allow God to do something about it.

Let’s continue to work on our faith in God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Father, help us know how to have faith in you.    

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Father, for being patient with our struggles in faith.

10 October, Thursday – Receiving Better Gifts

10 October 2019

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Malachi 3:13-20

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

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Luke 11:5-13

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

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

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Persistence will be enough to make him get up

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

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

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

19 Aug, Monday – Trusting In Him is the Treasure

19 Aug 2019

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Judges 2:11-19

The sons of Israel did what displeases the Lord, and served the Baals. They deserted the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from the gods of the peoples round them. They bowed down to these; they provoked the Lord; they deserted the Lord to serve Baal and Astarte. Then the Lord’s anger flamed out against Israel. He handed them over to pillagers who plundered them; he delivered them to the enemies surrounding them, and they were not able to resist them. In every warlike venture, the hand of the Lord was there to foil them, as the Lord had warned, as the Lord had sworn to them. Thus he reduced them to dire distress.

Then the Lord appointed judges for them, and rescued the men of Israel from the hands of their plunderers. But they would not listen to their judges. They prostituted themselves to other gods, and bowed down before these. Very quickly they left the path their ancestors had trodden in obedience to the orders of the Lord; they did not follow their example. When the Lord appointed judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and rescued them from the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived, for the Lord felt pity for them as they groaned under the iron grip of their oppressors. But once the judge was dead, they relapsed and behaved even worse than their ancestors. They followed other gods; they served them and bowed before them, and would not give up the practices and stubborn ways of their ancestors at all.

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Matthew 19:16-22

There was a man who came to Jesus and asked, ‘Master, what good deed must I do to possess eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is one alone who is good. But if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said, ‘Which?’ ‘These:’ Jesus replied ‘You must not kill. You must not commit adultery. You must not bring false witness. Honour your father and mother, and: you must love your neighbour as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘I have kept all these. What more do I need to do?’ Jesus said, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But when the young man heard these words he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

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And you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.

Today’s readings are on the common theme of trust. They remind us that the trust is in the WHO, not the what. We see how the Israelites turn from God, again, and we are dumbfounded at their choice. God used Moses to free them, and with their own eyes they saw His miracles for them, the plagues, the Passover, the parting of the Sea. And then they did the unthinkable — they put their trust in something else. And we do the same.

In today’s gospel, we meet the young, rich man who is ‘good’ and follows all the commandments — he wants to follow Christ. Jesus invites him, but first he must sell all his possessions. The young man walks away, grieving. He chose not to trust God, instead he put his trust in the treasures of this world.

We trust God…mostly. We trust God…most of the time. We trust God…when we don’t have a choice. We trust God with this issue, but not so much with THIS issue. After all, it is the 21st century. We trust God with direction for this relationship, but not with this one.  After all, everyone is doing it. We trust God with our future, but not with the size of our family. After all, I don’t make enough money to put X number of kids through college. And the trusting and the ‘after alls’ go on and on and on.

Our treasure is in the WHO we put our full trust in. And in the winds and tides of life on this earth. What solace, peace, contentment, tranquility, joy and eternal hope we have when we are in full knowing of the assuredness that our trust is secure; our trust will not be in vain; our trust will withstand even the gates of hell, because our trust is in THE God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things seen and unseen. That is a treasure.  Correction, that isn’t a treasure that is, THE treasure. Trusting without fear, no matter the darkness of the skies, the depth and volatility of the oceans and the enemy who is prowling the earth is the treasure.  And we would do well to remind ourselves of that every day, sometimes multiple times a day.

On Facebook last week, while I was reading the following, I assumed I knew how this little anecdote would go, ‘I have money because I value money…’ and I almost didn’t finish reading it. You see, I thought this little story was about the treasure of financial wealth. I am so glad I read it till the end.

Arlene and her husband were invited to dinner with her husband’s very wealthy boss. She was thrilled with the exclusive restaurant choice, one she and her husband would never frequent. As they were approaching the restaurant, the boss suddenly, looking down on the pavement for a long silent moment, reached down and picked up a penny. He smiled and put it in his pocket as if he had found a great treasure. HOW ABSURD!  What need did this man have a single penny? A dirty penny? Why would a man of his wealth and stature even take the time to stop and pick it up?

Throughout dinner the scene nagged at her. Finally she could stand it no longer and casually mentioned that her daughter once had a coin collection, and asked if the penny he had found had been of some value.

A smile crept across the man’s face as he reached in his pocket for the penny and held it out for her to see.  She had seen many pennies before…what was the point of this?

‘Look at it.” He said, ‘Read what it says.’ 

She read the words – ‘United States of America’.

‘No, not that; read further.’

‘One cent….?’

‘No, keep reading.’

‘In God We Trust…?’ ‘YES!’

‘And…?’

‘And if I trust in God, the name of God is holy, even on a coin. Whenever I find a coin, I see that inscription. It is written on every single United States coin, but we never seem to notice it? God drops a message right in front of me telling me, trust Him! Who am I to pass it by? When I see a coin, I pray, I stop to see if my trust IS in God at that moment. I pick the coin up as a response to God; that I DO trust in Him. For a short time, at least, I cherish it as if it were gold. I think it is God’s way of starting a conversation with me. Lucky for me, God is patient and pennies are plentiful!’

When I was out yesterday I found a penny on the sidewalk. I stopped and picked it up, and realized that I had been worrying and fretting in my mind about things I cannot change. I read the words, ‘in God We Trust’, and I had to laugh to myself. Yes God, I get the message.

It seems that I have been finding an inordinate number of pennies in the last few months, but then, pennies are plentiful? And, God is patient…

(Today’s Oxygen by Gina Ulicny)

Prayer:  Father God how we praise your name, the name that we trust, the only name that we can trust in any and all circumstances.  We lift our voices and sing praises to Your name and we trust in You, our treasure, for all things.

Thanksgiving:  Thank you Father, for the ‘pennies’ that you put in our path daily.   Thank you for revealing to us that You are he only treasure we will ever need. We pray that we will always look to You as we journey on this earth, and we thank you for your patience for us every day.

21 July, Sunday – Trust, and don’t worry!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we welcome to the team Brenda Khoo, who is currently studying at a local university.

Born a Catholic, she has always loved writing since young, and can write across a diverse range of different genres. She came to Oxygen recently, after wondering how she could contribute her writing talents to the church. She had been inspired by many contributors in the daily gospel reflections series compiled by the Daughters of St Paul, as well as in numerous church bulletins, notably by the Church of Christ the King and Novena Church.

Her decision to join the team of contributors at OXYGEN is her first step to serving God and His church. Brenda hopes to inspire many readers, especially from her age group (she is in her early 20s), to take up their cross and grow in their journey of faith to Christ in life.

21 July 2019

Jesus Our Friend

The mystery of today’s celebration is Christ among us as our friend. We welcome him as Abraham welcomed the Lord at Mamre, and Martha and Mary welcomed Christ at Bethany. 

– The Sunday Missal

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Genesis 18:1-10

The Lord appeared to Abraham at the Oak of Mamre while he was sitting by the entrance of the tent during the hottest part of the day. He looked up, and there he saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them, and bowed to the ground. ‘My lord,’ he said ‘I beg you, if I find favour with you, kindly do not pass your servant by. A little water shall be brought; you shall wash your feet and lie down under the tree. Let me fetch a little bread and you shall refresh yourselves before going further. That is why you have come in your servant’s direction.’ They replied, ‘Do as you say.’

Abraham hastened to the tent to find Sarah.’ ‘Hurry,’ he said ‘knead three bushels of flour and make loaves.’ Then running to the cattle Abraham took a fine and tender calf and gave it to the servant, who hurried to prepare it. Then taking cream, milk and the calf he had prepared, he laid all before them, and they ate while he remained standing near them under the tree.
‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ they asked him. ‘She is in the tent’ he replied. Then his guest said, ‘I shall visit you again next year without fail, and your wife will then have a son.’

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Colossians 1:24-28

It makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church. I became the servant of the Church when God made me responsible for delivering God’s message to you, the message which was a mystery hidden for generations and centuries and has now been revealed to his saints. It was God’s purpose to reveal it to them and to show all the rich glory of this mystery to pagans. The mystery is Christ among you, your hope of glory: this is the Christ we proclaim, this is the wisdom in which we thoroughly train everyone and instruct everyone, to make them all perfect in Christ.

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Luke 10:38-42

Jesus came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking. Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered: ‘Martha, Martha,’ he said ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’

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It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her

Finding a job right after getting an undergraduate degree is a daunting task for many, including me. Being disabled makes it even more challenging. Needless to say, I have spent countless hours losing sleep and worrying about whether I will be able to get a career which matches my education skills. Amidst the uncertainties that lie in the future, I realise that setting aside a part of my day to pray the rosary helps a lot. I enjoy praying the rosary and gazing at the lovely icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Just as a frightened and anxious Jesus runs to His Mother’s open hands for protection, Mary is our Mother too and opens her hands to us. I always get a sense of peace when I simply gaze at Mary, knowing that I can trust in her that she will intercede to Jesus for anything that I pray for. Jesus may not tell me during prayer which job I should apply to, but listening to what He says in my heart about what I need to do in my life to make myself a better person is certainly more important. And I have also learnt to put my trust in Him, that He’ll eventually guide me to the correct employment.

Brothers and sisters, there are many challenges that we face in life: finances, health, relationships, employment, school, even wars and disasters… the list goes on and on. However, Jesus is always calling us to spend some time to listen to Him. Just simply spending a few minutes of our precious time with Him. Whether it be through prayer, mass and various forms of worship, Jesus will always give us His guidance and protection to lead us to where He wants us to serve Him and bring glory to God. And Mary is always by our side, interceding for us to Jesus no matter how much difficulties and worries we are facing in life.

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Please help us to listen to You, even when we are worried by so many things in our life. Help us to place our trust in You that You will guide and protect us in life. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for always being by our side, and for Your Mother to be with us too. Thank you for spending time with us to help us with all the challenges and worries that we face in life. Amen.