Tag Archives: trust in the Lord

7 September, Thursday – God’s Providence

7 Sept

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Colossians 1:9-14

Ever since the day we heard about you, we have never failed to pray for you, and what we ask God is that through perfect wisdom and spiritual understanding you should reach the fullest knowledge of his will. So you will be able to lead the kind of life which the Lord expects of you, a life acceptable to him in all its aspects; showing the results in all the good actions you do and increasing your knowledge of God. You will have in you the strength, based on his own glorious power, never to give in, but to bear anything joyfully, thanking the Father who has made it possible for you to join the saints and with them to inherit the light.

Because that is what he has done: he has taken us out of the power of darkness and created a place for us in the kingdom of the Son that he loves, and in him, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.

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Luke 5:1-11

Jesus was standing one day by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the crowd pressing round him listening to the word of God, when he caught sight of two boats close to the bank. The fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats – it was Simon’s – and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

When he had finished speaking he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.’ ‘Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.’ And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, so they signalled to their companions in the other boat to come and help them; when these came, they filled the two boats to sinking point.

When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying, ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.’ For he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners. But Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.’ Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.

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We worked hard all night long and caught nothing.

This week, I met up with a good friend of mine to celebrate his birthday with a quiet lunch. We’ve known each other for some 20 odd years and I’ve seen him in various stages of life. My friend leads a pretty good life. I don’t remember him going through any major challenges in life. Having retired from a lucrative corporate job some years back, he leads a life that most people would envy. He has time to pursue his passions; run marathons around the world, buy art and travel. To top it off, he manages to make his money ‘work’ for him by investing in several businesses.

At lunch, we caught up with each other and what’s been happening. I haven’t seen him in about a month as we have been both busy. My friend told me that he has been consulting for a company in his industry. The project keeps him busy and he travels quite a bit now because of it. He told me that if this deal comes through, he would never have to work again for the rest of his life! Wow!

I have to admit, instead of being genuinely happy for my friend, deep in my heart, I could hear myself saying “As if you need even more money??!!” I was not only envious of his position but that day, I complained to God “Why is it that those who already have everything, have even more?” And why it that people who work their butts off to just survive the day, get into deeper problems? We worked hard all night long and caught nothing. I generally never really feel envious over what people have, hence my own reaction surprised me. Where did this come from? I shared this incident with 2 friends and they both said to me – can you not be contented? And something welled up within me. I told them, it’s not about being contented. It’s a matter of survival and fairness! I got even more upset. But as I reflected on it a little more, Jesus is really using these 2 people to tell me that I should just be happy with who I am and not to measure my own ‘success’ using others’ barometer.

But if you say so, I will pay out the nets. In today’s gospel, Jesus invites us to see beyond what our human eyes see and minds understand and to trust him. Step out of our comfort zones. Jesus calls us to different paths in life. This week, one homily I heard stood out for me and stayed with me throughout the week. The priest said ‘Jesus wants our dependence on Him. Not our own strength. Trust in His providence for us.’ Simon Peter followed what Jesus told him and he went on to net a huge number of fish. So it’s not a matter of being contented. Today’s gospel challenges us to trust in the Lord and, in faith, follow where He leads us. He knows our needs.

Today’s first reading, we hear ‘through perfect wisdom and spiritual understanding, you should reach the fullest knowledge of His will. So you will be able to lead the kind of life which the Lord expects of you, a life acceptable to Him in all its aspects.

Can we just let go controlling our own lives and its outcome and let Jesus lead us?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, we pray that you will give us the wisdom and understanding to live out the life that you have intended for us. Give us the courage to let go, give us the trust and faith in You.

Thanksgiving:  Thank you Jesus, for your providence in all aspects of our lives. You indeed know what is needed.

27 August, Sunday – Who do you say I am?

26 August 2017

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Isaiah 22:19-23

Thus says the Lord of Hosts to Shebna, the master of the palace:

I dismiss you from your office,
I remove you from your post,
and the same day I call on my servant
Eliakim son of Hilkiah.
I invest him with your robe,
gird him with your sash,
entrust him with your authority;
and he shall be a father
to the inhabitants of Jerusalem
and to the House of Judah.
I place the key of the House of David
on his shoulder;
should he open, no one shall close,
should he close, no one shall open.
I drive him like a peg
into a firm place;
he will become a throne of glory
for his father’s house.

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Romans 11:33-36

How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge – and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his methods! Who could ever know the mind of the Lord? Who could ever be his counsellor? Who could ever give him anything or lend him anything? All that exists comes from him; all is by him and for him. To him be glory for ever! Amen.

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Matthew 16:13-20

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.’ Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

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“whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

This reflection comes very timely as just yesterday I was at a session and we had to look ourselves in the mirror for about 10 minutes. It was an empowering time with Jesus.

When I first looked into the mirror, I saw, my outer appearance, kind of like, a first impression. More to how people see me versus whether or not they know me. I’ve many flaws, many things which I would like to change. I kind of prefer my old self, how I looked versus how I look now. But what is my reason for wanting to look good? So that I’ll be loved, popular, likeable?

I began to go deeper into reflection and what I saw next was, what did I represent? What values do I stand by? Why do people want to hang out with me? What do others see in me? I am proud of some of the things I stand for and firmly in my life, but some, I just simply fail to stand up to the temptations and pleasures of the world.

Then looking closer, I saw the stains in my life, the stains from my body that cannot be removed, no matter how many times I’ve gone for confession. These are my regrets and misses. And I realised the stains can’t be removed for they are a part of me, I can’t undo the past but I can embrace it, learn from it so that I’ll have a better future.

And finally, who am I? Am I defined by how I look? By what people think or say? By the stains and inadequacies of my life? By what I do? Where does my identity lie? In the world or in Christ?

It’s always easy to just say Christ but what does that really mean? We can only live in Christ if we know Christ. And if we know Christ then we will also know that He suffers whenever He sees us suffering, He hurts whenever we do wrong to others and to ourselves but most importantly, He loves us despite all our imperfections and sees the perfection in us always. It is this love that He gives which translates to our freedom, our freedom to choose Him or others.

So today when we are asked, who God is, may we speak with conviction, to proclaim that He is Lord, He is the Christ, He is Father of us all, King of Kings, Prince of Peace and Love itself. My identity is in Christ and may yours be too. God Bless.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we will grow to know you and to trust in your plan. For you didn’t create us just for us to survive, but you did so, in order that we may live. Help us to live this life according to your will, that we may help build your kingdom here on earth.

Thanksgiving:  Thank you Lord for your Word, your Love, for choosing us even amidst the many times when we have chosen others before you.

20 June, Tuesday – Rich Man, Poor Man

20 June 2017

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2 Corinthians 8:1-9

Now here, brothers, is the news of the grace of God which was given in the churches in Macedonia; and of how, throughout great trials by suffering, their constant cheerfulness and their intense poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity. I can swear that they gave not only as much as they could afford, but far more, and quite spontaneously, begging and begging us for the favour of sharing in this service to the saints and, what was quite unexpected, they offered their own selves first to God and, under God, to us.

Because of this, we have asked Titus, since he has already made a beginning, to bring this work of mercy to the same point of success among you. You always have the most of everything – of faith, of eloquence, of understanding, of keenness for any cause, and the biggest share of our affection – so we expect you to put the most into this work of mercy too. It is not an order that I am giving you; I am just testing the genuineness of your love against the keenness of others. Remember how generous the Lord Jesus was: he was rich, but he became poor for your sake, to make you rich out of his poverty.

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Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

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…so that by his poverty you might become rich.

I have been struggling lately with feelings of anger because of certain lifestyle changes I have had to make, purely for financial reasons. However, after sharing my predicament and struggles with my brothers and also lifting up the situation to Jesus during a recent retreat, I began to understand God’s plan for me and to accept the burden graciously. After all, I have had a pretty comfortable (hmmmm, there’s ‘COM’ again) life all this while.

Admittedly, I am not in a dire situation. And while serving in my ministry, I have witnessed many miracles of salvation and heard countless testimonies from others who have been in much worse situations, yet have been saved by the grace of God. Truly, our God is so generous that He cannot be outdone. What He requires from us is faith — an unwavering belief that He will provide, in spite of how bad we think our situation is.

The verse above assures me that by His sacrifice, Christ has enriched me in a way that is beyond our secular undersatnding. And how ‘rich’ I am or will be is going to be dependent on how open I am to accepting the situations that come my way as I serve in His vineyard. Already, there has been a call from my parish to help and yet, the call from CSC remains ever strong. I shared with my discipleship group recently that God seems to be encouraging me to simplify my life in order for me to serve Him more. It is a fact that if I were not in ministry, I would probably be spending many weekday evenings out with friends, enjoying spirits of a more liquid nature, spending money needlessly.

So brothers and sisters, if I wanted to be extremely practical about it, I could say, “Yes Lord, I will serve because that would mean committing X days a week to you, therefore saving $Y every month.” But I know that wouldn’t get me very far. Rather, I need to listen in the silence of my heart and discern His call and to just say “Yes”. Easier said than done, you might say. But how many times have we been approached by our priests and/or ministry members to serve yet we brush them away with “I don’t have the time” or “I am sure someone else can do a better job”?

Perhaps in such situations, we should just stop and pray silently and ask the Lord, “Lord, what is it that you desire from me? What is your plan for me?” Then listen to the stirring in your heart or the soft voice that prompts a ‘Yes’. Because that simple ‘Yes’ could lead you to a lot more riches than you could ever imagine.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, we pray that you give us a heart of worship and to surrender to you willingly when you call without counting the cost.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always enriching us and providing for us in our times of need.

3 June, Saturday – Let Faith Ripple

Jun 3 – Memorial for St. Charles Lwanga & companions, martyrs

One of 22 Ugandan martyrs, St. Charles Lwanga is the patron of youth and Catholic action in most of tropical Africa. He protected his fellow pages, aged 13 to 30, from the homosexual demands of the Bagandan ruler, Mwanga, and encouraged and instructed them in the Catholic faith during their imprisonment for refusing the ruler’s demands.

For his own unwillingness to submit to the immoral acts and his efforts to safeguard the faith of his friends, Charles was burned to death in 1886 by Mwanga’s order. When Pope Paul VI canonized these 22 martyrs in 1964, he referred to the Anglican pages martyred for the same reason.

http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/SaintOfDay/default.asp?id=1403

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Acts 28:16-20,30-31

On our arrival in Rome Paul was allowed to stay in lodgings of his own with the soldier who guarded him.

After three days he called together the leading Jews. When they had assembled, he said to them, ‘Brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. They examined me and would have set me free, since they found me guilty of nothing involving the death penalty; but the Jews lodged an objection, and I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I had any accusation to make against my own nation. That is why I have asked to see you and talk to you, for it is on account of the hope of Israel that I wear this chain.’

Paul spent the whole of the two years in his own rented lodging. He welcomed all who came to visit him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ with complete freedom and without hindrance from anyone.

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John 21:20-25

Peter turned and saw the disciple Jesus loved following them – the one who had leaned on his breast at the supper and had said to him, ‘Lord, who is it that will betray you?’ Seeing him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘What about him, Lord?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to stay behind till I come, what does it matter to you? You are to follow me.’ The rumour then went out among the brothers that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus had not said to Peter, ‘He will not die’, but, ‘If I want him to stay behind till I come.’

This disciple is the one who vouches for these things and has written them down, and we know that his testimony is true.

There were many other things that Jesus did; if all were written down, the world itself, I suppose, would not hold all the books that would have to be written.

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He welcomed all who came to visit him

We have come to the end of the Easter season. Recalling just seven weeks ago, we came together to celebrate the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Before that, the season of Lent was where we fasted, repented and give alms. Were most of you just like me, taking note of the long weekend, filling the weekends with so much activities that missed out on the importance of celebrating Easter itself? We keep our heads down, our minds drowned in our work, or we are too busy with friends and forget that for at least once each week, we should think deeply about our faith, of what Jesus has done for us; and that the present is very much like the moment when Jesus ascended into Heaven.

Let us reflect on the feelings of the disciples, the moments when they felt so lost, sad and confused when their Master was crucified. Then turning to joy and confidence in preaching His death on the cross to everyone else. At which stage of discipleship are we at? Have we begun to welcome people into our home, and into our belief in the Lord Jesus Christ? Has religion and the bad behaviour of priests made us keep Him in a corner?

It is unfortunate that religion is such a sensitive issue until today. It seems that in the period of Peter and Paul, it took a lot of courage for them to preach the Good News. Today, we are still being judged — that Christians are to be perfect and to be trusted – yet, negative news surrounds us and we find it hard for others to believe in us. Let us take that small step within us to actually be close to the celebrations of the Church. In this way, we participate and understand the goodness of our Lord present in a genuine community.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: O wonderful Lord, I pray for our community that they may invite both believers and non-believers into a warm environment of prayer.

Thanksgiving: I give thanks for all those who are advocates of peace in our society, that they may continue to do the good works in the power of the Holy Spirit.

24 April, Monday – Birth from above

24 Apr – Memorial for St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, priest & martyr

St. Fidelis Sigmaringen (1577-1622) was a lawyer and teacher of philosophy. Disgusted by the greed, corruption, and lack of interest in justice by his fellow lawyers, Mark Rey abandoned the law, became a priest and a Franciscan friar with his brother George. He changed his name to Fidelis and gave away his worldly wealth to poor people in general, and poor seminarians in particular. He served his friary as guardian and worked in epidemics, especially healing soldiers. He led a group of Capuchins to preach to Calvinists and Zwinglians in Switzerland. The success of this work, and lack of violence suffered by mission was attributed to Fidelis spending his nights in prayer. He was, however, eventually martyred for his preaching.

“Woe to me if I should prove myself but a halfhearted soldier in the service of my thorn-crowned Captain.” ~ St Fidelis

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Acts 4:23-31

As soon as Peter and John were released they went to the community and told them everything the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard it they lifted up their voice to God all together. ‘Master,’ they prayed ‘it is you who made heaven and earth and sea, and everything in them; you it is who said through the Holy Spirit and speaking through our ancestor David, your servant:

Why this arrogance among the nations,
these futile plots among the peoples?
Kings on earth setting out to war,
princes making an alliance,
against the Lord and against his Anointed.

‘This is what has come true: in this very city Herod and Pontius Pilate made an alliance with the pagan nations and the peoples of Israel, against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, but only to bring about the very thing that you in your strength and your wisdom had predetermined should happen. And now, Lord, take note of their threats and help your servants to proclaim your message with all boldness, by stretching out your hand to heal and to work miracles and marvels through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ As they prayed, the house where they were assembled rocked; they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to proclaim the word of God boldly.

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John 3:1-8

There was one of the Pharisees called Nicodemus, a leading Jew, who came to Jesus by night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who comes from God; for no one could perform the signs that you do unless God were with him.’ Jesus answered:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
unless a man is born from above,
he cannot see the kingdom of God.’

Nicodemus said, ‘How can a grown man be born? Can he go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?’ Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
unless a man is born through water and the Spirit,
he cannot enter the kingdom of God:
what is born of the flesh is flesh;
what is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Do not be surprised when I say:
You must be born from above.
The wind blows wherever it pleases;
you hear its sound,
but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.
That is how it is with all who are born of the Spirit.’

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“In all truth I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above”

“In all truth I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born through water and the Spirit; what is born of human nature is human; what is born of the Spirit is spirit…” The Gospel today reminds us of our identity. Who are we? After our Baptism, after our Confirmation, after our Marriage, who are we? Who am I?

As we are into the second week of Easter, we proclaim our Risen Lord, we profess our faith, we receive Christ week after week in the Eucharist. What is it we are doing? As Catholics, even for myself, I get trapped and worried about all the rules, commandments and practices that I find myself trapped in a meaningless routine and Christ seems more distant than ever. Catholicism is often also associated with the carrying of our crosses, pains, sufferings. Am I called to suffer just as Jesus did? Am I called to live in the conditions that Jesus lived in?

Our faith, today, challenges us in so many different but very difficult ways. Ways that draw us away from our true identity. We listen to the voice of the world and not that of God. We are told who we are by the world and, for some reason, we believe it more. We find ourselves like Peter and Pilate, during the Passion of Jesus Christ, not standing up to who they are and what they believed in; they simply wanted to blend in with the crowd that followed blindly.

The Gospel today mentions that we can’t enter the kingdom of God without being born through water and the Spirit. We need to allow the Spirit to live in us, to acknowledge Christ as our Lord, our Father and we, as His children. It’s not about knowing our future, but trusting in the Lord’s providence, that as long as we live our lives for Him, He will not be outdone in generosity. Let us welcome the Spirit into our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for strength that many times, we fail to stand up for our faith. We let the world dictate who we are, we let the lies control our lives. Lord, help us listen to you, your Word. Help us allow the Spirit to lead and guide us. Lead us Lord to your kingdom.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your Spirit, for the many gifts and blessings you have showered upon us.

4 March, Saturday – Humble enough to let Him lead

4 Mar – Memorial for St. Casimir

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

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

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

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

  • Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 58:9-14

The Lord says this:

If you do away with the yoke,
the clenched fist, the wicked word,
if you give your bread to the hungry,
and relief to the oppressed,
your light will rise in the darkness,
and your shadows become like noon.
The Lord will always guide you,
giving you relief in desert places.

He will give strength to your bones
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water
whose waters never run dry.

You will rebuild the ancient ruins,
build up on the old foundations.
You will be called ‘Breach-mender’,
‘Restorer of ruined houses.’

If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,
and doing business on the holy day,
if you call the Sabbath ‘Delightful’,
and the day sacred to the Lord ‘Honourable’,
if you honour it by abstaining from travel,
from doing business and from gossip,
then shall you find your happiness in the Lord
and I will lead you triumphant over the heights of the land.
I will feed you on the heritage of Jacob your father.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

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Luke 5:27-32

Jesus noticed a tax collector, Levi by name, sitting by the customs house, and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And leaving everything he got up and followed him.
In his honour Levi held a great reception in his house, and with them at table was a large gathering of tax collectors and others. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples and said, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus said to them in reply, ‘It is not those who are well who need the doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the virtuous, but sinners to repentance.’

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Follow me and leaving everything, he got up and followed him.

I have just concluded my tenure as Co-Chairperson of our parish’s fund raising committee with the culmination of an event called ’10,000 Reasons’. It was an evening of music and testimonies – a thanksgiving for our parish, our shepherds and the community. We were so blessed with people who came forward to give of their time and talent. They were producers, creative directors, musicians and yet, when we asked them to be involved in our ‘little’ production, they said a resounding yes! The months of work culminated with a wondering evening — a huge production, it was almost like a concert. The singing and the people who shared their life stories are testimonies of God’s gift to us. It was a fitting event to mark the end of my tenure.

When my other half and I started on this journey, we were wet behind the ears and had no idea where we should start. Actually we were ‘tricked’ by our parish priest into the role. He kind of said “Follow me.” And we blindly did. At the start when we planned the events, we were in the driving seat. We felt we needed to take on the responsibility that was given to us, to ‘lead’ the way.

However, ’10,000 Reasons’ taught me a lesson in humility by humbly ‘following’ people who were better positioned to put this evening together. I will admit I was uncomfortable at first. The whole event took on a life of its own and I was not part of the ‘steering team’, I was not in control. But I finally learnt that I had to let go and let the professionals do the work. I had to admit that I had no clue how to even begin putting this whole event together. And because I followed their lead, the results speak for itself. It was simply awesome. My biggest contribution for the evening was to ring the bell to signal the start of the evening!

The Sunday that followed after the event, the Lord continued to teach me what it means to follow him. Again, He spoke to me at mass, in a way that I could understand – the unteachable, stubborn person that I am. The example He showed me was ’10,000 Reasons’. Just as I had to let go and let the professionals take over, He showed me that I too need to let go the steering wheel of my life and He (the professional and the writer of my life’s script) can finally do the work. And then shall you find happiness in the Lord and I will lead you triumphant over the heights of the land. 

It is not those who are well who need the doctor, but the sick. No I am not physically sick, but my heart is weak and my head keeps trying to take over – complete disaster. It’s indeed time to let go and follow.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, you are all-knowing and an awesome God. You know everything about us, what we think, what we feel, our hopes, dreams, fears and anxiety. Teach us to give it all to you, to surrender our lives to You. Teach us to know what it really means to follow you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for being so ever present to us. For being our Friend, Comforter, Cheerleader and Captain of our lives.

5 October, Wednesday – Facing up to challenges every day

5 October

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Galatians 2:1-2,7-14

It was not till fourteen years had passed that I went up to Jerusalem again. I went with Barnabas and took Titus with me. I went there as the result of a revelation, and privately I laid before the leading men the Good News as I proclaim it among the pagans; I did so for fear the course I was adopting or had already adopted would not be allowed. On the contrary, they recognised that I had been commissioned to preach the Good News to the uncircumcised just as Peter had been commissioned to preach it to the circumcised. The same person whose action had made Peter the apostle of the circumcised had given me a similar mission to the pagans. So, James, Cephas and John, these leaders, these pillars, shook hands with Barnabas and me as a sign of partnership: we were to go to the pagans and they to the circumcised. The only thing they insisted on was that we should remember to help the poor, as indeed I was anxious to do.

When Cephas came to Antioch, however, I opposed him to his face, since he was manifestly in the wrong. His custom had been to eat with the pagans, but after certain friends of James arrived he stopped doing this and kept away from them altogether for fear of the group that insisted on circumcision. The other Jews joined him in this pretence, and even Barnabas felt himself obliged to copy their behaviour.

When I saw they were not respecting the true meaning of the Good News, I said to Cephas in front of everyone, ‘In spite of being a Jew, you live like the pagans and not like the Jews, so you have no right to make the pagans copy Jewish ways.’

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Luke 11:1-4

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘Say this when you pray:

“Father, may your name be held holy,
your kingdom come;
give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us.
And do not put us to the test.”’

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And do not put us to the test.

Every day, we are faced with tests. From the time we hit the road, making our way to work, to the time we reach home, having to deal with other personal matters, God puts before us situations and people that test us to see if we truly are worthy to be called sons and daughters of God. Having just returned from three weeks in Spain and having faced certain challenges while there, I have finally settled back in to life at work and at home.

They say that walking the Camino changes you. That while a part of you remains on The Way, the person who returns is different. Over the past week, I have had various colleagues and ministry members remark that I seem to look different now. A few have even said that there is a certain glow. While I certainly feel diferent inside, I am not too sure if I look different on the outside. But after my various encounters along The Way, I know that I return with a deeper appreciation of God’s love for us.

The three pilgrim masses I attended in the cathedral in Santiago were truly anointed. Many of the pilgrims had themselves endured their own ‘tests’ along their journeys. Many had to endure blisters, some ran out of money, others were battling their own inner demons and frailties. There was, however, one thing for certain – everyone who arrived at the Plaza del Obradorio in Santiago de Compostela celebrated a personal victory. There were tears of joy, relief; there were people hugging each other. And as we queued for more than two hours in the Pilgrim’s Office just to get our compostela (the certificate issued for pilgrims who had walked more than 100km), no one complained about the wait. We all spent the time joking and sharing our own experiences, and getting reacquainted with pilgrims we had encountered along The Way.

Brothers and sisters, God does not put us to the test. Rather, He places situations in front of us and allows us to choose what we ourselves would do. So in many ways, the problems and challenges we encounter are of our own doing. However, what God does is that He protects and watches over us by sending us angels to guide and help us. Or He fashions solutions for us which we put down to coincidence or plain luck. During my 300-plus km journey, I prayed the rosary a lot. And I know that each day, as we negotiated rough terrain, inclement weather and weariness, He was always there by our side pushing us along. Just as He does each and every day of our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

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Prayer: Dear God, pour out your Wisdom on us, so that we may always know to choose the right path whenever we find ourselves at a crossroad in our life.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord, for always giving me the opportunity to choose my own path in life. And for always being there to catch me whenever I fall.

4 October, Tuesday – Decluttering from the every day

4 October – Memorial for St. Francis of Assisi

Francis Bernardone (1181–1226) was the son of Pietro Bernadone, a rich cloth merchant. Though he had a good education and became part of his father’s business, he also had a somewhat misspent youth. He was a street brawler and some-time soldier. He was captured during a conflict between Assisi and Perugia, and spent over a year as prisoner of war. During this time, he had a conversion experience, including a reported message from Christ calling him to leave this worldly life. Upon release, Francis began taking his religion seriously.

He took the Gospel as the rule of his life, Jesus Christ as his literal example. He dressed in rough clothes, begged for his sustenance, and preached purity and peace. His family disapproved, and his father disinherited him; Francis formally renounced his wealth and inheritance. He visited hospitals, served the sick, preached in the streets, and took all men and women as siblings.

He began to attract followers in 1209, and with papal blessing founded the Franciscans based on a simple statement by Jesus: “Leave all and follow me.” In 1212, Clare of Assisi became his spiritual student, which led to the founding of the Poor Clares. He visited and preached to the Saracens. He composed songs and hymns to God and nature. He lived with animals, worked with his hands, cared for lepers, cleaned churches, and sent food to thieves. In 1221 he resigned direction of the Franciscans.

While in meditation on La Verna (Mount Alvernia) in the Apennines in September 1224, Francis received the stigmata, which periodically bled during the remaining two years of his life. This miracle has a separate memorial on 17 September.

In the Middle Ages, people who were believed to be possessed by Beelzebub especially called upon the intercession of St. Francis, the theory being that he was the demon’s opposite number in heaven.

“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.” – St. Francis of Assisi

– Patron Saint Index

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Galatians 1:13-24

You must have heard of my career as a practising Jew, how merciless I was in persecuting the Church of God, how much damage I did to it, how I stood out among other Jews of my generation, and how enthusiastic I was for the traditions of my ancestors.

Then God, who had specially chosen me while I was still in my mother’s womb, called me through his grace and chose to reveal his Son in me, so that I might preach the Good News about him to the pagans. I did not stop to discuss this with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were already apostles before me, but I went off to Arabia at once and later went straight back from there to Damascus. Even when after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days, I did not see any of the other apostles; I only saw James, the brother of the Lord, and I swear before God that what I have just written is the literal truth. After that I went to Syria and Cilicia, and was still not known by sight to the churches of Christ in Judaea, who had heard nothing except that their one-time persecutor was now preaching the faith he had previously tried to destroy; and they gave glory to God for me.

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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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…and yet few are needed, indeed only one.

Many of us tend to be more like Martha – always planning ahead, worrying and fretting about this and that. Over the past few months, while preparing for my long holiday in Spain, I tried to accomplish as much as possible at work so that my team would be able to function as best as possible while I was away. Indeed, at my last debrief with my unit heads, I told them that I would not be checking emails each day (as I usually do when on holiday) as I would be on the road walking most of the time.

The time away proved absolutely refreshing and essential for my spiritual renewal. To my own surprise, I quickly dismissed all thoughts about work and other commitments the moment I got to the airport. I even checked myself out of quite a few group chats, saying that I would rejoin when I got back home. It was rather uncharacteristic of me but I knew that all my physical preparation for my journey would come to naught if I was going to worry about what was happening back home all the time.

And while on my walk, stripped of many of the creature comforts of home, I fould myself enjoying each day as we headed towards our destination. I began to enjoy ‘living in the present’ and being more attuned to the sights, sounds and smells that the Spanish countryside and villages had to offer. Even after we had arrived in Santiago and spent a few days in Madrid, I hardly (I can’t say ‘never’) checked on emails from the office. For the first time in a long while, I wasn’t planning ahead and fussing about what we were going to have for dinner while eating breakfast. I left everything in His hands and trusted fully that He would deliver each and every day.

Brothers and sisters, it is very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day ‘doing’ of things at work, running errands, completing chores, attending meetings, fulfilling appointments and just generally living the hectic lives that WE choose for ourselves. But in the end, what’s more important is that we must learn and develop the habit of being still in order to listen effectively to Christ speaking to us – in the faces that we meet, the helping hand that we shake, the greeting from an office cleaner first thing in the morning, the ‘free cuppa’ from the pantry – the list goes on. It is difficult to keep calm and carry on while all around us, things are turning topsy-turvy or becoming chaotic. But are they? Or are we simply fretting about things just so that we can keep our minds occupied?

Taking it one step further — are we really that busy at work, at home, even in church, that we can’t spare 15 minutes (at the very least) being ‘busy’ with God?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

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Prayer: Dear God, bless us with patience and humility so that we learn to me more attuned to you and to your constant presence in our hustle-and-bustle lives. Teach us to enjoy the present rather than to constantly fret about the future.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for the being so patient with us and for always being there for us in spite of our inattentiveness.

3 October, Monday – Giving without receiving

3 October

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Galatians 1:6-12

I am astonished at the promptness with which you have turned away from the one who called you and have decided to follow a different version of the Good News. Not that there can be more than one Good News; it is merely that some troublemakers among you want to change the Good News of Christ; and let me warn you that if anyone preaches a version of the Good News different from the one we have already preached to you, whether it be ourselves or an angel from heaven, he is to be condemned. I am only repeating what we told you before: if anyone preaches a version of the Good News different from the one you have already heard, he is to be condemned. So now whom am I trying to please – man, or God? Would you say it is men’s approval I am looking for? If I still wanted that, I should not be what I am – a servant of Christ.

The fact is, brothers, and I want you to realise this, the Good News I preached is not a human message that I was given by men, it is something I learnt only through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

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Luke 10:25-37

There was a lawyer who, to disconcert Jesus, stood up and said to him, ‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? What do you read there?’ He replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ ‘You have answered right,’ said Jesus ‘do this and life is yours.’

But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead. Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion when he saw him. He went up and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. He then lifted him on to his own mount, carried him to the inn and looked after him. Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said “and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.” Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands‘ hands?’ ‘The one who took pity on him’ he replied. Jesus said to him, ‘Go, and do the same yourself.’

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‘Go, and do the same yourself.’

Easier said than done, isn’t it? To give when no one has asked you for anything, but just out of the goodness of your heart, with no expectation at all of any reward nor repayment. However, when you encounter Christ in person, that is what happens; you simply give. Of yourself, whatever you possess, and a lot more. And here’s the interesting bit — the more you give, the more you will receive.

In today’s dog-eat-dog, winner-take-all world, it is easy to understand why society is confronted with so many ills. I recently learnt about a niece living in another part of the world, who is going through clinical depression and her younger teenage sister, who is ‘becoming a handful’ as she battles drug and alcohol problems. And despite their parents trying their level best, the girls have both left the comforts of a loving home environment. I just wonder how they will cope out there on their own and whether a ‘good Samaritan’ will eventually take care of them when they fall.

When you’re out on the streets braving the elements or down on your luck with no one to turn to, there can be only one source of comfort – Jesus Christ. I experienced this every day as I walked the Camino. Over terrain that varied between dirt trails, rocky mountain passes, asphalt, cobbled city streets and muddy farm tracks, it was Christ that sustained me each step of the way towards Santiago. And while the encounters came in various forms, there was no mistaking His presence – sometimes by my side, at times just walking quietly behind me.

I have never experienced a period when my heart was as light and as carefree as those weeks on the road. And towards the end, I did feel the change in me. As I look back and reflect, there were so many situations that occurred where I would normally get angry, irritated or lose my patience. But I realise that I simply dismissed them with a laugh or shrug. And He did prompt me to give on many occasions. What I received in return was something intangible yet invaluable – an overwhelming love that could only come from God.

Brothers and sisters, when He asks of us to give, it may not necessarily be in a spectacular manner. It could just be a subtle prompting that comes from within your heart. And while it may require quietening your heart in order to discern it, you will know when it happens because it is rather impossible to ignore the call. So I encourage you to be sensitive to His promptings by learning how to quieten your heart once in a while. You may surprise yourself.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

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Prayer: Father, we pray for the opportunity to be with ourselves more regularly so that we can be more attentive to your promptings. Help us to quieten our hearts each day and to discern your call clearly.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we thank you for being such a giving Father and for showering us with all your gifts each and every day.

1 October, Saturday – Rejoice

1 October – Memorial for St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor, Patroness of Missions

Born to a pious middle-class French family of tradesmen, Francoise-Marie Therese Martin (1873–1897) was the daughter of Saint Louis Martin and Saint Marie-Azelie Guerin Martin, and all four of her sisters became nuns. Her mother died when Francoise-Marie was only four, and the family moved to Lisieux, Normandy, France to be closer to family.

She was cured from an illness at the age of 8 when a statue of the Blessed Virgin smiled at her. She was educated by the Benedictine nuns of Notre-Dame-du-Pre, and confirmed there at the age of 11. Just before her 14th birthday, she received a vision of the Child Jesus. She immediately understood the great sacrifice that had been made for her, and developed an unshakeable faith.

She tried to join the Carmelites, but was turned down due to her age. She was a pilgrim to Rome for the Jubilee of Pope Leo XIII whom she met and who knew of her desire to become a nun. She joined the Carmelites at Lisieux on 9 April 1888 at the age of 15, taking her final vow on 8 September 1890 at the age of 17.

She is known by all for her complete devotion to spiritual development and to the austerities of the Carmelite Rule. Due to health problems resulting from her ongoing fight with tuberculosis, her superiors ordered her not to fast. She became novice mistress at the age of 20, and at age 22 was ordered by her prioress to begin writing her memories and ideas. The material would turn into the book History of a Soul.

She defined her path to God and holiness at The Little Way, which consisted of child-like love and trust in God. She had an ongoing correspondence with the Carmelite missionaries in China, often stating how much she wanted to come work with them. Many miracles are attributed to her and she was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1997 by Pope John Paul II.

“You know well enough that our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.” – Saint Therese of Lisieux

– Patron Saints Index

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Job 42:1-3,5-6,12-17

This was the answer Job gave to the Lord:

I know that you are all-powerful:
what you conceive, you can perform.
I am the man who obscured your designs
with my empty-headed words.
I have been holding forth on matters I cannot understand,
on marvels beyond me and my knowledge.
I knew you then only by hearsay;
but now, having seen you with my own eyes,
I retract all I have said,
and in dust and ashes I repent.

The Lord blessed Job’s new fortune even more than his first one. He came to own fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand she-donkeys. He had seven sons and three daughters; his first daughter he called ‘Turtledove’, the second ‘Cassia’ and the third ‘Mascara.’ Throughout the land there were no women as beautiful as the daughters of Job. And their father gave them inheritance rights like their brothers.

After his trials, Job lived on until he was a hundred and forty years old, and saw his children and his children’s children up to the fourth generation. Then Job died, an old man and full of days.

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Luke 10:17-24

The seventy-two came back rejoicing. ‘Lord,’ they said ‘even the devils submit to us when we use your name.’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.’

It was then that, filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, he said, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

Then turning to his disciples he spoke to them in private, ‘Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.’

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“Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.”

As we conclude the week, we read in the first reading of God blessing Job with new fortune, even more than his first one. Indeed, our lives, our faith, it isn’t one about continuous sufferings or struggles but God has something far much greater that He wants to share with us, hence sometimes He tries to lead us away from the small temporary distractions that seem to attract us.

As in the 2 readings, most of the time, we need to see in order to believe and the Lord acknowledges that. But what is important is not the miracles we see daily or whether or not we are bestowed with gifts of healing and so on. What is truly important as emphasised in the Gospel, “yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.”

Let us not be distracted by our ultimate goal which is eternal life with our Father in heaven. Even though we may not be able to see or hear God’s voice, we know deep down within us, we are called to love, to care, to forgive, not just because the Bible says so, but it is very much who each and every one of us are, who we are all called to be.

We are given “power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you” but we will not know who the enemy is till we know who our master is. Let us not focus on the “power” but on the giver for the “power” may be temporary but the giver, eternal.

As the psalmist says, “let your face shine on your servant, O Lord”. Help us to live a life in order that when many see us, they see you too. Help us to love the way you love. Let us rejoice for you have blessed us abundantly and will only continue to bless us more. Let us rejoice for our lives, our faith is in your safe hands. Let us rejoice for we are yours. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

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Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for a continuous awareness of the distractions that turn our focus away from you. Help us to be reminded of your love and mercy. Help us to be your light and your love to all. Help us to trust in you. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for all the blessings you have bestowed on us. Thank you for your Word and your assurance that you are with us always.