Tag Archives: trust in God

13 May, Monday – Trust in God

13 May – Feast of Our Lady of Fatima

This feast commemorates the visions of Our Lady seen near Fátima in Portugal in 1917 by three shepherd children, Lúcia dos Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto. The visions occurred on the 13th day of each month from May to October, and by October huge crowds were gathering at the site of the visions and reporting visions and miraculous occurrences themselves.

Pope John Paul II was devoted to Our Lady of Fátima and attributed his survival of an assassin’s bullet on 13 May 1981 to her intervention. Jacinta and Francisco Marto, who died in the great Spanish Flu pandemic of 1919-20, were beatified on 13 May 2000.
– Universalis
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Acts 11:1-18

The apostles and the brothers in Judaea heard that the pagans too had accepted the word of God, and when Peter came up to Jerusalem the Jews criticised him and said, ‘So you have been visiting the uncircumcised and eating with them, have you?’ Peter in reply gave them the details point by point: ‘One day, when I was in the town of Jaffa,’ he began ‘I fell into a trance as I was praying and had a vision of something like a big sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners. This sheet reached the ground quite close to me. I watched it intently and saw all sorts of animals and wild beasts – everything possible that could walk, crawl or fly. Then I heard a voice that said to me, “Now, Peter; kill and eat!” But I answered: Certainly not, Lord; nothing profane or unclean has ever crossed my lips. And a second time the voice spoke from heaven, “What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane.” This was repeated three times, before the whole of it was drawn up to heaven again.

‘Just at that moment, three men stopped outside the house where we were staying; they had been sent from Caesarea to fetch me, and the Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going back with them. The six brothers here came with me as well, and we entered the man’s house. He told us he had seen an angel standing in his house who said, “Send to Jaffa and fetch Simon known as Peter; he has a message for you that will save you and your entire household.”

‘I had scarcely begun to speak when the Holy Spirit came down on them in the same way as it came on us at the beginning, and I remembered that the Lord had said, “John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” I realised then that God was giving them the identical thing he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ; and who was I to stand in God’s way?’

This account satisfied them, and they gave glory to God. ‘God’ they said ‘can evidently grant even the pagans the repentance that leads to life.’

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John 10:1-10

Jesus said:
‘I tell you most solemnly, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but gets in some other way is a thief and a brigand. The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice. They never follow a stranger but run away from him: they do not recognise the voice of strangers.’

Jesus told them this parable but they failed to understand what he meant by telling it to them.

So Jesus spoke to them again:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
I am the gate of the sheepfold.
All others who have come
are thieves and brigands;
but the sheep took no notice of them.
I am the gate.
Anyone who enters through me will be safe:
he will go freely in and out
and be sure of finding pasture.
The thief comes
only to steal and kill and destroy.
I have come
so that they may have life and have it to the full.’

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I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full

I have seen how pet owners take good care of their pets. This is especially so when they are very young and the owner has seen the pet grow up. The pet trusts in the owner’s decisions and willingly obeys whatever the pet asks. In the same way, God our creator, calls us to a plan which we are unaware of in our lives. This plan requires us to trust in God in faith and love.

The sheep of the Good Shepherd will listen to the voice of the Lord. This is sometimes difficult for us to do especially since we do not know what is the plan which God has for us. The world we live in demands that we live in certainty. This comes in the form of endless confirmations, reducing risk and uncertainty and sometimes even doubt of what God has called us to do.

The mystery of the Christian Faith asks that we trust in God’s plan for us and that we allow Him to act in our lives. We may not know what to expect but we can trust in God that He has the best plans for us. In the world we live in, it is difficult for us to surrender our will to the Father because what He wants from us is different from what we want. Let us take it to the Lord in prayer today to see what God calls us to do and then let us be courageous to accept this call.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the strength to accept your will.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who continue to show us how to live our life as Christian

7 May, Tuesday – Fountains

7 May 2019

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John 6:22-29

After Jesus had fed the five thousand, his disciples saw him walking on the water. Next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side saw that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that the disciples had set off by themselves. Other boats, however, had put in from Tiberias, near the place where the bread had been eaten. When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into those boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’
Jesus answered:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs
but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.
Do not work for food that cannot last,
but work for food that endures to eternal life,
the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you,
for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.’

Then they said to him, ‘What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?’ Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.’

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John 6:22-29

After Jesus had fed the five thousand, his disciples saw him walking on the water. Next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side saw that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that the disciples had set off by themselves. Other boats, however, had put in from Tiberias, near the place where the bread had been eaten. When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into those boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’
Jesus answered:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs
but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.
Do not work for food that cannot last,
but work for food that endures to eternal life,
the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you,
for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.’

Then they said to him, ‘What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?’ Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.’

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…he who believes in me will never thirst.

Mankind’s continual thirst for knowledge and power has led us down a path which many feel will lead to our own destruction. From the world wars to financial crises which have led to the demise of many, we seem to have this in-built ‘shoot yourself in the foot’ button that keeps being pressed once every few decades. And while technology continues to advance by leaps and bounds, we seem to be sorely lacking in understanding the consequences of the many decisions that continue to harm nature and our earth.

I used to be ambitious in my early working years but lately, I have adopted a more modest approach to work, preferring to focus some energy on my pursuits outside of work. Some might say that I am not truly fulfilling my potential or contributing 100% to my organisation, but I prefer to look at it as not putting all my eggs in the same basket; that I will be able to draw inspiration and strength, not just from what I accomplish at work, but also from my efforts in ministry.

Those of you who serve in ministry may already be shaking your head or ‘tsk tsk-ing’ away. However, I continue to draw from that well and do what I can during my spare time to contribute as much as I can, in spite of the challenges and very different mindsets involved. In other words, I continue to believe that He has put me in this ministry for a reason and that I am not supposed to shortchange Him, as long as there is something I can do that adds value to others, I should not shun it.

So in this season of my life, I am not thirsting. On the contrary, I have become a well for others to tap on occasionally. How long this is going to last, I do not know. What I do know is that on my own, I will eventually dry up. I have seen others around me shrivel and wither away for varying reasons, and I am mindful of the many hurdles ahead in my journey. But there is no other way except to obey him and to believe that in the end, it is God who provides for me; and for all of us. He will ensure that we are sufficiently nourished for the road ahead, as long as we know how to draw from Him – through daily prayer, celebration of the Eucharist and, most importantly, the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Brothers and sisters, all of us are meant to inspire and nourish someone else, or even many others. We have not been created for nothing. How are we then to go about our mission while we are walking this journey on earth? We must first seek knowledge and wisdom from our heavenly Father and from Jesus Christ, who himself uttered the words “I thirst” just before he gave up his life.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, we ask for your constant protection and guidance as we minister to our loved ones. We ask that you always nourish us with your living Word.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for giving us all that we need to be faithful servants in your vineyard.

4 April, Thursday – Know where the source comes from

4 Apr – Memorial for St. Isidore, bishop & doctor

Isidore (560-636) was the son of Severianus and Theodora, people known for their piety. He was the brother of Sts. Fulgentius, Florentina, and Leander of Seville, who raised him after their father’s death. Initially, he was a poor student, but after giving the problem over to God, he became one of the most learned men of his time. After he was ordained a priest, he helped his brother Leander, Archbishop of Seville, in the conversion of the Visigoth Arians. He was a hermit.

He became Archbishop of Seville in 601, succeeding his brother to the position. He was a teacher and was called ‘Schoolmaster of the Middle Ages’. He was a founder and a reformer. He required seminaries in every diocese, and wrote a rule for religious orders. He was a prolific writer whose works include a dictionary, an encyclopedia, a history of Goths, and a history of the world beginning with creation. He completed the Mozarabic liturgy which is still in use in Toledo, Spain. He presided at the Second Council of Seville, and the Fourth Council of Toledo. He introduced the works of Aristotle to Spain.

He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XIV in 1722, and became the leading candidate for patron of computer users and the Internet in 1999.

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Exodus 32:7-14

The Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down now, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostatised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice. “Here is your God, Israel,” they have cried “who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘I can see how headstrong these people are! Leave me, now, my wrath shall blaze out against them and devour them; of you, however, I will make a great nation.’

But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘why should your wrath blaze out against this people of yours whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with arm outstretched and mighty hand? Why let the Egyptians say, “Ah, it was in treachery that he brought them out, to do them to death in the mountains and wipe them off the face of the earth”? Leave your burning wrath; relent and do not bring this disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your servants to whom by your own self you swore and made this promise: I will make your offspring as many as the stars of heaven, and all this land which I promised I will give to your descendants, and it shall be their heritage for ever.’

So the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

 

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John 5:31-47

Jesus said to the Jews:

‘Were I to testify on my own behalf,
my testimony would not be valid;
but there is another witness who can speak on my behalf,
and I know that his testimony is valid.
You sent messengers to John,
and he gave his testimony to the truth:
not that I depend on human testimony;
no, it is for your salvation that I speak of this.
John was a lamp alight and shining
and for a time you were content to enjoy the light that he gave.
But my testimony is greater than John’s:
the works my Father has given me to carry out,
these same works of mine testify
that the Father has sent me.
Besides, the Father who sent me
bears witness to me himself.
You have never heard his voice,
you have never seen his shape,
and his word finds no home in you
because you do not believe in the one he has sent.

‘You study the scriptures,
believing that in them you have eternal life;
now these same scriptures testify to me,
and yet you refuse to come to me for life!
As for human approval, this means nothing to me.
Besides, I know you too well: you have no love of God in you.
I have come in the name of my Father
and you refuse to accept me;
if someone else comes in his own name
you will accept him.
How can you believe,
since you look to one another for approval
and are not concerned
with the approval that comes from the one God?
Do not imagine that I am going to accuse you before the Father:
you place your hopes on Moses,
and Moses will be your accuser.
If you really believed him
you would believe me too,
since it was I that he was writing about;
but if you refuse to believe what he wrote,
how can you believe what I say?’

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Yet you refuse to come to me to have life

I read ‘news’ with a degree of scepticism nowadays with the proliferation of fake news. Recently, I forwarded a WhatsApp message from a friend, who got it from her friend. This message was seeking kind-hearted people who would adopt 2 dogs as she was no longer able to keep them because she was moving to a flat.

The dogs looked so cute. I shared the message on a chat group and one of my friends called the number listed to find out more about the adoption. Turns out that this was all a hoax played on this poor lady, purportedly the person giving up the dogs. She doesn’t even have dogs.

It’s important to know where the source of your news comes from.

In today’s gospel reading, we read about Jesus’ credentials. It pains me to put myself in Jesus’ situation. Why is it that he has to ‘sell’ himself, and convince people of his credentials? After all he is the Son of God. All he wanted was to carry out the will of his Father, to do good, to save us, all in the name of love. And all that at his own expense of pain, persecution and death. Although Jesus clearly comes in the name of his Father, he is not accepted nor believed. People stood in amazement, shock and some were indignant. It must have been so exasperating for Jesus – when individuals come in his own name and people accept him. And people will keep looking at their own traditions and ways, rather than look to one who comes from God.

It’s like parents who deal with their teenagers. They try to advice and navigate their tweens and teens amidst the minefields of growing up, having experienced it themselves. We want the very best for our kids and some of us try to even prevent them from experiencing the pitfalls of growing up. But kids will be kids, they never take advice from their parents. However, if the advice comes from outsiders, friends and peers – they sit up and take notice.

And how much of this applies to us? Where do we put our faith? How often do we fall into despair when things we pray for don’t go our way — when the perfect job we have in mind goes to someone else, when that promotion doesn’t happen, when we don’t have the car or house we dream about. Or when betrayal happens, broken relationships, and when someone we love dies.

We cry out in anguish, “Jesus where are you? Why have you not heard my prayer? Why have you allowed this to happen?” I cry out all the time in frustration, believe me. But all I need to do is silence my heart and mind, look towards scripture and reflect on my own life. How often when things seem to hit the brick wall and I am convinced that that’s the end – Jesus has been there all the time and turned the situation around. The situation may not have turned out the way I wanted it to be, but I am alive and well. ‘Do not be afraid’ appears 365 times in the bible. I know it’s there and it gives me great comfort when I read it. Yet looking back, knowing in my head but not in my heart have I continued to be overcome by fear over many things. And now years later, when I reflect on those situations, were those days and sleepless nights of worry helpful? Did Jesus not prevail in the end?

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, help us to be able to differentiate the truth vs lies. Help us to know that your love prevails and to stand strong in our faith and belief that you are Jesus Christ – our God and Saviour.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for the love you have for your people.

12 March, Tuesday – Beautiful Beginnings

12 March 2019

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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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Matthew 6:7-15

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So you should pray like this:

‘Our Father in heaven,
may your name be held holy,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us.
And do not put us to the test,
but save us from the evil one.

‘Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.’

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Your Father knows what you need before you ask him

Earlier this year, I made the difficult decision to leave a job I enjoy and a team I love. It was a decision I came to after considerable discernment – I knew that I was called to leave my workplace, but it was not clear to me where I was called to next. Submitting my resignation brought immediate relief to the inner dissonance I had experienced for a while; yet I was overcome with a tidal wave of emotions. I had taken pride in building up a good-quality service for our clients and a cohesive team of mission-driven and capable professionals, people whom I had come to see as family. Did I make the right decision to leave all this behind after two years?

I did my best to ‘finish well’ to distract myself from my impending departure. Even though I took pains to prepare a comprehensive handover, I fretted about not finishing all my work before my last day. The thought of extending my notice period crossed my mind even though it would only prolong the inevitable.

In a bid to hasten my discernment process, I also spoke to several people about my journey, and these conversations opened up many new possibilities. Some of these presented as exciting opportunities, and I was eager to get started on this new chapter of my life. The only problem was that whenever I prayed, I was met with deafening silence from God – He who supposedly called me out to the wilderness. Upon reflecting on the readings, God’s non-response was, in reality, an invitation to embark on an inner journey to encounter Him more intimately, particularly in this season of Lent.

I had been too preoccupied with ‘doing’ when I needed the sustenance of the Holy Spirit to lay bare my inadequacies. While I would like the incoming manager to do well in taking over the team, I had not made space for myself to grieve the loss of my team. By God’s grace, I managed to finish whatever I could, trusting that others would handle any outstanding matters. It also struck me that my relationship with my team members had evolved from a working relationship to one of friendship. I am thankful for what I have gained in terms of perspective — instead of rushing headlong into the next thing on my agenda, God is holding space for me to lie fallow and wait. In this journey of faith, I trust that He will provide a beautiful beginning.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, You meet us where we are at and know exactly what we need. Teach us to come to you with a patient and trusting heart, knowing that You will give us what is best for us in Your own time and way.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for knowing us more than we know ourselves. Guide us in this Lenten journey, and send us your Graces such that we may continue to walk in faith, especially through uncertainty and uncharted waters.

22 February, Friday – Unqualified yet Called

22 February 2019

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the Apostle

The feast of the Chair of St. Peter at Rome, Italy has been celebrated from the early days of the Christian era on Jan 18, in commemoration of the day when St. Peter held his first service in Rome. The feast of the Chair of St. Peter at Antioch commemorating his foundation of the See of Antioch, has also been long celebrated at Rome, on Feb 22. At each place, a chair (cathedra) which the Apostle had used while presiding at Mass was venerated.

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This feast has been kept in Rome since the fourth century, as a symbol of the unity of the Church.

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1 Peter 5: 1-4

Now I have something to tell you elders: I am an elder myself, and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, and with you I have a share in the glory that is to be revealed. Be the shepherds of the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, because God wants it; not for sordid money, but because you are eager to do it. Never be a dictator over any group that is put in your charge, but be an example that the whole flock can follow. When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the crown of unfading glory.

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Matthew 16:13-19

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’

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Be the shepherds of the flock of God that is entrusted to you… not simply as a duty but gladly

As we celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St Peter today, we remember how St Peter was chosen to be the shepherd of Jesus’ flock. Hailing from humble beginnings, Simon Peter was a simple fisherman when he was called to follow Jesus in His ministry. Peter certainly had his strengths – he loved Jesus and was loyal, enthusiastic and outspoken. At the same time, the gospels also relate many episodes of Peter’s failings and faithlessness.

While most apostles remained largely silent in the gospels, Peter was always ready to jump in to make a statement, regardless of whether the occasion called for it. Peter was the first to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. He also tried to stop Jesus from talking about his upcoming death, earning a rebuke from Jesus. Peter asked Jesus to command him to walk on water, but Peter’s fear and lack of faith led him to sink and cry for help. Peter proclaimed that he would not desert Jesus even if the others did, only to deny Jesus publicly three times out of fear for his own life. By these accounts, Peter’s behaviour was far from rock-like, not at all dependable as a Christian leader should be. Yet, St Peter is regarded as the model of Christian behaviour. What gives?

I find the contradictions in St Peter’s life highly relatable as I reflect on my faith journey – the many times I resolved to follow Christ more closely after a God encounter, only to relapse shortly after. Leaning on our own abilities, we are limited by our human weaknesses. The process of spiritual conversion is not complete after our baptism but rather, an ongoing journey of growth. In spite of the missteps in St Peter’s journey, he stayed true to his calling and eventually grew into a steadfast servant leader, the first Pope of the Catholic Church. As we celebrate the feast of the Chair of St Peter, let us also remember our calling.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Dear Father, you have called us in spite of our flaws, fears and fallen moments. Grant us the grace to be open to Your calling, and put our gifts to serve You.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you for calling us into a personal relationship with You. May we grow closer to You, trusting that You will shape us to be more like You.

28 January, Monday – The War Within

28 Jan – Memorial for St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was the son of the Count of Aquino. He was born in the family castle in Lombardy near Naples, Italy. He was educated by Benedictine monks at Monte Cassino, and at the University of Naples. He secretly joined the mendicant Dominican friars in 1244. His family kidnapped and imprisoned him for a year to keep him out of sight and deprogram him, but they failed to sway him, and he rejoined his order in 1245.

He studied in Paris, France, from 1245-1248 under St. Albert the Great, then accompanied Albertus to Cologne, Germany. He was ordained in 1250, then returned to Paris to teach. He taught theology at the University of Paris. He wrote defenses of the mendicant orders, commentaries on Aristotle and Lombard’s Sentences, and some bible-related works, usually by dictating to secretaries. He won his doctorate, and taught at several Italian cities. He was recalled by the king and the University of Paris in 1269, then recalled to Naples in 1272 where he was appointed regent of studies while working on the Summa Theologica.

On 6 December 1273, he experienced a divine revelation which so enraptured him that he abandoned the Summa, saying that it and his other writing were so much straw in the wind compared to the reality of the divine glory. He died four months later while en route to the Council of Lyons, overweight and with his health broken by overwork.

His works have been seminal to the thinking of the Church ever since. They systematized her great thoughts and teaching, and combined Greek wisdom and scholarship methods with the truth of Christianity. Pope Leo VIII commanded that his teachings be studied by all theology students. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1567.

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Hebrews 9:15,24-28

Christ brings a new covenant, as the mediator, only so that the people who were called to an eternal inheritance may actually receive what was promised: his death took place to cancel the sins that infringed the earlier covenant. It is not as though Christ had entered a man-made sanctuary which was only modelled on the real one; but it was heaven itself, so that he could appear in the actual presence of God on our behalf. And he does not have to offer himself again and again, like the high priest going into the sanctuary year after year with the blood that is not his own, or else he would have had to suffer over and over again since the world began. Instead of that, he has made his appearance once and for all, now at the end of the last age, to do away with sin by sacrificing himself. Since men only die once, and after that comes judgement, so Christ, too, offers himself only once to take the faults of many on himself, and when he appears a second time, it will not be to deal with sin but to reward with salvation those who are waiting for him.

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Mark 3:22-30

The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem were saying, ‘Beelzebul is in him’ and, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts devils out.’ So he called them to him and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot last. And if a household is divided against itself, that household can never stand. Now if Satan has rebelled against himself and is divided, he cannot stand either – it is the end of him. But no one can make his way into a strong man’s house and burgle his property unless he has tied up the strong man first. Only then can he burgle his house.

‘I tell you solemnly, all men’s sins will be forgiven, and all their blasphemies; but let anyone blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and he will never have forgiveness: he is guilty of an eternal sin.’ This was because they were saying, ‘An unclean spirit is in him.’

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“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand”

Following on from the theme of new year and new beginnings, we know that a new year brings new resolutions, usually for the improvement of ourselves and our lives. And it comes to no surprise that before the year is up, most of these resolutions have fizzled out faster than a fuse in rainfall. Why is that?

I believe that the clue lies, to some extent, in today’s reading. We are all creatures of habit, both good and bad. Bad habits are the most obvious ones that we want to break or change come the new year. But bad habits are also the hardest ones to break. According to studies, it takes approximately 66 days to turn a habit into automated practice, i.e. if we want to get fit by say, exercise, it would take us 66 days of constantly integrating exercise into our daily routine before our brains accept it as part of our habitual practice. What does this mean? It means that all those early mornings where we fight our alarm clocks and inner longings to snuggle back under the covers, it becomes easier if we keep at it persistently and consistently. After a while, it becomes second nature for us to jump out of bed and into our exercise gear.

But even that might sound like a long time. It takes a lot of discipline and mental strength. It is so very easy to cave in and slip back into the old (and probably bad) routine that we are familiar with; but, guess what, familiarity breeds contempt. In a cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy, we go back to the old habit, feel bad about ourselves, then feed that sorry self of ours, and feel worse than we did before! We tell ourselves, “Nah, no point doing it”, or “I tried! But it didn’t work”, or “all those diets/books are a whole lot of quack!” We believe what others say about us, that we were crazy to begin with, that we would never stick to it, or that we are destined to remain in a certain way because we are lazy, our genes say so, or because “that’s just life”. The tragedy then is that we will never become the person that God has made us out to be, never live nor reach that potential that He has blessed us with.

God gives each of us a gift, and He gives us life. It is up to us to use that gift in this duration of our life to the best of our ability – that is our responsibility. So how is all this connected to today’s reading? We are divided within ourselves whenever we want to make a change. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41). Change is never easy, but it gets wonderful at the end. The Devil will never want us to change for the better, it wants to thwart our dreams and efforts. But God always wants us to progress, to be happy, to live a happy and fulfilled life. God wants what is good for us. And so our respective selves are at war with each other, internally. We are torn between doing what is right for us, and easing back into the ‘comfort’ of our lives, no matter how rotten that may be. I guess that explains why some people never leave jobs that they hate, or stay in relationships that aren’t healthy, or remain in a social media frenzy. The addiction to what we know as safe is too great to venture out into the unknown, the difficult. All our lives, we have been telling ourselves certain things, that after a while, that self-talk translates into beliefs, regardless how bad they are for us. But my friend, there really IS a better life and career out there, there really is someone out there who will love and respect you for who you are, there are real friendships out there to be made, real experiences to be truly lived, and not via Instagram or the number of ‘likes’ our posts generate. Let the willing spirit guide us there, and our belief that God truly made us special for a reason, and gave us a life to be lived fully, not just to exist. If we are at war within ourselves, we cannot win, we cannot stand, and we most definitely cannot live.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, in my quest to be a better person, to live a better life, I know that I will be faced with my greatest challenge — myself. Help me to quieten that part of me, and help me to listen instead to the love, the guidance, and the wisdom that You have set forth for me.

Thanksgiving: I give you thanks Lord, for the gift of life, a life to be truly lived. I pray that with Your help, I can truly live a fulfilled life, one filled with love and service to others.

24 January, Thursday – Asking and Taking

25 January 2019

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Hebrews 7:25-8:6

The power of Jesus to save is utterly certain, since he is living for ever to intercede for all who come to God through him.

To suit us, the ideal high priest would have to be holy, innocent and uncontaminated, beyond the influence of sinners, and raised up above the heavens; one who would not need to offer sacrifices every day, as the other high priests do for their own sins and then for those of the people, because he has done this once and for all by offering himself. The Law appoints high priests who are men subject to weakness; but the promise on oath, which came after the Law, appointed the Son who is made perfect for ever.

The great point of all that we have said is that we have a high priest of exactly this kind. He has his place at the right of the throne of divine Majesty in the heavens, and he is the minister of the sanctuary and of the true Tent of Meeting which the Lord, and not any man, set up. It is the duty of every high priest to offer gifts and sacrifices, and so this one too must have something to offer. In fact, if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are others who make the offerings laid down by the Law and these only maintain the service of a model or a reflection of the heavenly realities. For Moses, when he had the Tent to build, was warned by God who said: See that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.

We have seen that he has been given a ministry of a far higher order, and to the same degree it is a better covenant of which he is the mediator, founded on better promises.

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Mark 3:7-12

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lakeside, and great crowds from Galilee followed him. From Judaea, Jerusalem, Idumaea, Transjordania and the region of Tyre and Sidon, great numbers who had heard of all he was doing came to him. And he asked his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, to keep him from being crushed. For he had cured so many that all who were afflicted in any way were crowding forward to touch him. And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw him, would fall down before him and shout, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he warned them strongly not to make him known.

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He cured many and as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him

The scene of our gospel reading today is markedly different from yesterday. Today, we see Jesus mobbed by the crowd, pressed in from all sides, by people eager to meet the new miracle worker in town. In Jesus’ time, access to healthcare was a luxury available only to the powerful and the wealthy. Most people did the best they could within their limited means. This included consulting local medicine men, witch doctors and false healers, all who were more than eager to exploit the poor, the weak and the vulnerable. They saw in Jesus, a new kind of hope. No one was really interested in the healing he could bring their soul; everyone was just in it in order to be healed physically, so they could get on with their lives. In a way, the mob was exploiting Jesus too for their means, and he knew it – “he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him”.

Many of us treat our prayer time as an opportunity to rattle off a litany of requests to God. I have often wondered what it must be like to be on the receiving end of this. I know I get annoyed when friends and family just take and take and take, without even thinking of how they might give back. It makes me feel used and taken advantage of. I feel exploited. I get angry and resentful. Wouldn’t God feel the same? Though He is above these negative human impulses that doesn’t mean He won’t recognize our selfishness in the long ‘lists’ we call ‘prayers’. If when we approach God, we just focus on asking and taking instead of giving and serving, why would God listen to us?

Jesus doesn’t want believers who are just interested in taking. He wants to have a relationship with us, and a relationship is a two way street. He called us because he saw in us, a quality that he wanted in a friend. Perhaps we should re-examine our intentions then, rethink our prayers to see if we are in this for what He wants, or whether we are simply here for the asking and the taking.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for the self-awareness to examine our prayers and our petitions. When we ask, do we ask with the right intentions?

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the grace of God that allows us to become better versions of ourselves.

19 January, Saturday – Let us be confident in approaching the throne of grace

19 January 2019

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Hebrews 4:12-16

The word of God is something alive and active: it cuts like any double-edged sword but more finely: it can slip through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit, or joints from the marrow; it can judge the secret emotions and thoughts. No created thing can hide from him; everything is uncovered and open to the eyes of the one to whom we must give account of ourselves.

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

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Mark 2:13-17

Jesus went out to the shore of the lake; and all the people came to him, and he taught them. As he was walking on he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus, sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

When Jesus was at dinner in his house, a number of tax collectors and sinners were also sitting at the table with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many of them among his followers. When the scribes of the Pharisee party saw him eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard this he said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’

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“I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners”

In writing today’s reflection, it brought up an insecurity that continues to plague me. It is a sense of unworthiness. Then I ask myself, “in who’s eyes do I feel unworthy”? Not in God’s eyes surely! Then why a sense of shame that I am never good enough?

In today’s gospel passage, Mark gave us a beautiful image of Jesus who gathered the sinners, those deemed unworthy in society, the wounded, the castaways and surrounded himself with all this imperfect humanness. It is beautiful to me, as I imagine Jesus shining bright in his glory sitting among man. And I picture myself, unworthy as I may be, sitting at that table basking in His glory!

It gives me great comfort to know that no matter what state I am in, I will always be embraced by God. In our imperfections and shame, we can do no wrong in our Father’s eyes and He loves us in spite of our brokenness.

In the first reading, we are told that the word of God penetrates our every being; like light that fills up the whole room, even filters through every dark corner. There is no hiding from our Creator, everything is revealed and “open to the eyes of the one to whom we must give account of ourselves.”

There is simply no way to hide from our Father, how foolish of us to think we can keep secrets from him, like a little child who thinks he can get away from being caught. Hiding only brings more shame and creates a vicious cycle of darkness. Knowing that Jesus came to be among sinners, we should have the confidence to step into the light, with all our iniquities and run into the embrace of our loving Father.

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, you know our brokenness and weaknesses, and accept us for who we are. Teach us never to run away in shame but have the confidence and courage to approach your throne of grace.

Thanksgiving: Our Father, thank you for your gift of Jesus, who came among sinners so that we may find our way back to your Heavenly kingdom.

17 December, Monday – God Is Enough For Me

17 December

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Genesis 49:2,8-10

Jacob called his sons and said:

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

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Matthew 1:1-17

A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:

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

The sum of generations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ.

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“…until he come to whom it belongs, to whom he peoples shall render obedience”

My wife and I were recently involved in the Conversion Experience Retreat (CER) held for the parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour (OLPS). Specifically, I was asked to play in the music ministry, which was formed out of a group of ex-CER retreatants.

When I received the WhatsApp messages from a brother and his wife (both long-time and close friends), I did not answer immediately.  Instead, I took about two weeks to think about it.

One of the biggest concerns was that I had not played guitar for about a year and felt I was not good enough to play in such a ministry. This feeling of inadequacy was made worse after I attended the first practice session where I realised ALL the musicians were so well-trained that they actually did not need music song sheets to play along!

Over time, despite the disparity in the level of musical talent between my band members and I, we played together and had a level of understanding and communication that was surprising to me. Somehow, only God could know how well we would play and understand each other.

I was caught up in the trap of thinking I needed to be perfect in order to serve God. Instead, I should have trusted that God would take who I was and make me perfect enough.

The readings today reinforces this.

In Jesus’ geneology, we see Judah (who had slept with his daughter-in-law, Tamar, who had been dressed as a prostitute at the time), Ruth (from the tribe of Moab, a tribe begotten when Lot was held and raped by his two daughters) and finally David (who had committed adultery with Bathsheba).

In spite of such imperfection, God had chosen this particular lineage for Jesus to be born into. If perfection was totally important in God’s redemptive work, He could easily have chosen another ‘more perfect’ family.

How powerful! God truly is enough!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we may have faith in You Father, that You will make us enough. Enough to serve You and enough to serve all around us.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful, Father God, for loving us. For telling us that we, and our faith in You, is enough.

23 August, Thursday – Hearts of Flesh

23 August

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Ezekiel 36:23-28

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows: ‘I mean to display the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned among them. And the nations will learn that I am the Lord – it is the Lord who speaks – when I display my holiness for your sake before their eyes. Then I am going to take you from among the nations and gather you together from all the foreign countries, and bring you home to your own land. I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your defilement and all your idols. I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead. I shall put my spirit in you, and make you keep my laws and sincerely respect my observances. You will live in the land which I gave your ancestors. You shall be my people and I will be your God.’

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Matthew 22:1-14

Jesus began to speak to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a feast for his son’s wedding. He sent his servants to call those who had been invited, but they would not come. Next he sent some more servants. “Tell those who have been invited” he said “that I have my banquet all prepared, my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, everything is ready. Come to the wedding.” But they were not interested: one went off to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his servants, maltreated them and killed them. The king was furious. He despatched his troops, destroyed those murderers and burnt their town. Then he said to his servants, “The wedding is ready; but as those who were invited proved to be unworthy, go to the crossroads in the town and invite everyone you can find to the wedding.” So these servants went out on to the roads and collected together everyone they could find, bad and good alike; and the wedding hall was filled with guests. When the king came in to look at the guests he noticed one man who was not wearing a wedding garment, and said to him, “How did you get in here, my friend, without a wedding garment?” And the man was silent. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’

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For many are called, but few are chosen.’

Pain is something that only a rson who has flesh can experience. The first reading of today reminds us that God will replace a heart of stone with a heart of flesh. However, how is it possible for a normal human being to have a heart of stone? I believe that this is possible through the intention to remain obstinate in the face of the truth

What pains God the most is when we choose to go on a way of sin when the path of right is present before us. Perhaps this obstinacy is due to the desire to enjoy the temporary pleasures which the world can offer. As we continue down this path, it gradually coarsens our heart and makes us less sensitive to God’s calling us to return to Him.

The Gospel today reminds us that God the Father wants us to return to the Heavenly Banquet which He has prepared for us. We need to be in the right disposition to be able to receive it. We can do this by nourishing our soul through the reading of Scripture and also frequent reception of the Sacraments. As we continue in the daily challenges in our lives, let us always put God in the centre of our life.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us discover the beauty of your ways through a deep encounter with you in the Sacraments

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who accept us despite our failings.