Tag Archives: annette soo

1 March, Sunday – Spiritual Detox

1 March


Genesis 2:7-9,3:1-7

The Lord God fashioned man of dust from the soil. Then he breathed into his nostrils a breath of life, and thus man became a living being.
The Lord God planted a garden in Eden which is in the east, and there he put the man he had fashioned. The Lord God caused to spring up from the soil every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat, with the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden.

Now the serpent was the most subtle of all the wild beasts that the Lord God had made. It asked the woman, ‘Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?’ The woman answered the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden. But of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, “You must not eat it, nor touch it, under pain of death.”’ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘No! You will not die! God knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.’ The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye, and that it was desirable for the knowledge that it could give. So she took some of its fruit and ate it. She gave some also to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realised that they were naked. So they sewed fig-leaves together to make themselves loin-cloths.


Romans 5:12-19

Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned. Sin existed in the world long before the Law was given. There was no law and so no one could be accused of the sin of ‘law-breaking’, yet death reigned over all from Adam to Moses, even though their sin, unlike that of Adam, was not a matter of breaking a law.

Adam prefigured the One to come, but the gift itself considerably outweighed the fall. If it is certain that through one man’s fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift. The results of the gift also outweigh the results of one man’s sin: for after one single fall came judgement with a verdict of condemnation, now after many falls comes grace with its verdict of acquittal. If it is certain that death reigned over everyone as the consequence of one man’s fall, it is even more certain that one man, Jesus Christ, will cause everyone to reign in life who receives the free gift that he does not deserve, of being made righteous. Again, as one man’s fall brought condemnation on everyone, so the good act of one man brings everyone life and makes them justified. As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.


Matthew 4:1-11

Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, after which he was very hungry, and the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves.’ But he replied, ‘Scripture says:

Man does not live on bread alone
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

The devil then took him to the holy city and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple. ‘If you are the Son of God’ he said ‘throw yourself down; for scripture says:

He will put you in his angels’ charge,
and they will support you on their hands
in case you hurt your foot against a stone.’

Jesus said to him, ‘Scripture also says:

You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘I will give you all these’ he said, ‘if you fall at my feet and worship me.’ Then Jesus replied, ‘Be off, Satan! For scripture says:

You must worship the Lord your God,
and serve him alone.’

Then the devil left him, and angels appeared and looked after him.


“One does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

After the past few months of merriment and feasting, it is now time for Lent – a time for abstinence, reflection, reconciliation and preparation to receive God. There are essentially three pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting and charity. To mark our first week of Lent, today’s theme touches on fasting.

We read a lot about people fasting in the Old Testament, usually after some sin has been committed and that person is repentant (Jonah 3:6), or when a person needs deliverance or prayers heard (Esther 4:16). There are also examples of fasting before one receives God in the form of guidance and direction (Deuteronomy 9:9). There was, of course, fasting in the New Testament; with the most well-known fast being Jesus, who fasted for 40 days in the wilderness after being baptized, where he was later tempted by the Devil.

Fasting is still relevant today for reasons very similar to our ancestors in the Bible. Admittedly, repentance is personally my main reason for fasting. But reading today’s Gospel has opened my eyes to the answer that I have perhaps been looking for – that fasting enables one to be prepared to receive God.

Let’s try to put this in a modern context: we have heard a lot about the benefits of doing a detox or cleansing diet to eliminate toxins in our bodies and restoring nutrients to our systems. Most of these diets involve some form of fasting either via a total fast for a short period of time, or avoidance of certain foods. The idea is to ‘reset’ our bodies and rejuvenate it by eliminating waste that could potentially harm us. In a similar vein, what we put into our bodies may not just affect our physical body, but also our minds and state of being. If, by fasting, we can restore our bodies to good health, why not fasting in all aspects (including refraining from negative habits) to restore balance in our minds and God in our lives? When we fast, we are meant to pray and look to God for strength. As such, though our physical body may be weakened, our will is not for we have sustenance from God.

In the Gospel reading, the first test that the Devil tried was to ask Jesus to prove that He is the Son of God by commanding the stones to be turned into bread. But Jesus responds by saying that “One does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God”. Likewise, Jesus was able to rebuff the Devil’s other temptations by relying on His spiritual strength. If we meditate on God’s Word while we eliminate the distractions from the outside world, we too, would gain spiritual strength to sustain us and perhaps, consciousness and clarity as to what God wants us to do.

Adam and Eve were tempted by the Devil to eat the forbidden fruit that was ‘pleasing to the eyes’ with the promise that ingesting it would make them like gods and open their eyes. Theirs was a quick fix with a sorry ending. Perhaps if they had restrained themselves from eating it, they might have had their eyes opened in a different way, according to God’s plan for them. Perhaps if they had focused on God and remembered His warning, they might have been more prepared to rebuff the Devil as Jesus had. But I suppose we will never know now.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, during this Lenten period, we pray for strength when we fast and abstain in our dedicated ways to You. For the promises that we have made to You, may our will be strong to quieten the temptations that lie in wait for us that we may fulfill those promises successfully, that in the end, we may be able to praise and give You glory.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for Your sustenance in the most holy Word of God, that we can strive forward. Though our bodies may be weak, but our minds and spirit are not, for we have You to keep us going.

29 October, Tuesday – Gardening

29 Oct 2019


Romans 8:18-25

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


Luke 13:18-21

Jesus said, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it with? It is like a mustard seed which a man took and threw into his garden: it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air sheltered in its branches.’

Another thing he said, ‘What shall I compare the kingdom of God with? It is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.’


It is like a mustard seed that a person took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches

I’ve recently found an interest in gardening that I never knew I had. Being in Singapore, living space is a premium, let alone gardening space, and while I don’t actually have a garden in the way we know it – with the grass and trees – I have carved out a small little spot on the tarmac that I have gradually populated with various potted plants. It hasn’t been a bed of roses (excuse the pun) but it has been an experience of trial and error, of mixed emotions, and dare I say, even a cathartic one.

I have found a quiet excitement when I see things growing, a tremendous joy when things that I thought dead are revived, dismay when things die or get attacked by bugs and disease. I’ve found curiosity and amusement in understanding the plants’ various needs, patience in waiting for fruition, and sense of satisfaction and accomplishment upon their flowering. In the process, I have found myself to be calmer, more patient and caring. I have found healing and takepleasure in nurturing things. And maybe, that isn’t very different from what the Kingdom of God is like.

I don’t profess to know what the Kingdom of God really is. I do believe that it is not a physical place that can be found by man (as alluded to in Luke 17:21), but again in that same line, the “Kingdom of God is in your midst”. Well, what does that really mean? In my humble belief, we are all born with a little mustard seedling of what could be the Kingdom within us. If we nurture it and take care of it, give it the right nutrients and sunshine and water, it may well flourish and if God is in our lives and takes precedenc in all our thoughts and actions, well I truly believe that it would show through in our personality and a presence that other people can perceive for themselves. If you give love – and God is love – those around you will feel love, not enmity. If you project joy, others will partake in your joy as well. If your heart is warm and open, people will feel more drawn to you and welcome your friendship. If all that is godly and good within us shines forth, is that not God’s work at play? Our family and friends and those around us would feel comfortable in our presence and feel us more approachable and loving. Would they not then be like the birds in the sky that come to us and find comfort and safe dwelling in our branches? When all is well with our inner being, our soul rejoices. When we have weeded out the bad in our lives that stunt our growth, allowing us to bloom and flourish to our fullest potential, well… that would most certainly be like watching a dying plant come back to life again with new little green shoots.

All our “garden” needs are a little patience, a little care, a little perseverance when things go awry, and it will flourish for all seasons to come. Not only are we cultivating ourselves, but we are cultivating God’s love that others too can perceive and enjoy.

And to me, when all is good in our spiritual garden, that is the Kingdom of God that dwells in each one of us, a manifestation of God in our midst. A wonderful “garden” that radiates peace, gives joy, and is such a projection of individual beauty that God has marked out for us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for patience and perseverance with ourselves as we tend to our spiritual gardens. May we give it time, attention and the right nurturing that we may one day overcome our “weeds” and flower and fruit and become a garden for others too.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to God our Father for this seed of love and hope within us, that we are even worthy in the first place for it to be sown in our hearts. For this, we humbly thank you. 

27 October, Sunday – The Final Race

27 Oct 2019


Ecclesiasticus 35:12-14, 16-19

The Lord is a judge
  who is no respecter of personages.
He shows no respect of personages to the detriment of a poor man,
  he listens to the plea of the injured party.
He does not ignore the orphan’s supplication,
  nor the widow’s as she pours out her story.
The man who with his whole heart serves God will be accepted,
  his petitions will carry to the clouds.
The humble man’s prayer pierces the clouds,
  until it arrives he is inconsolable,
And the Lord will not be slow,
  nor will he be dilatory on their behalf.


2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18

My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.
The first time I had to present my defence, there was not a single witness to support me. Every one of them deserted me – may they not be held accountable for it. But the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.


Luke 18:9-14

Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else: ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.” The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’


I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith

As we approach the final two months in the calendar, most of us are probably caught a little off-guard by how fast the year has passed. Perhaps the inevitable question that comes to the forefront of the mind is — what have we accomplished in the past 12 months? Can we look back at the past year and feel proud of what we have achieved? If yes, then good on you! Sadly, for a fair number of people, the past year would probably look like a grim repeat of the previous year. We might feel like we’ve gone nowhere: still stuck in the same rut, same complaints about the boss/job/colleagues, working long hours but not having much to show for it. We’ve definitely chalked up our dues, but what have we accomplished?

While these are a few questions we may ask ourselves at the close of the year, on a bigger scale, it would also resemble the questions we would ask ourselves if we knew that “the time of [our] departure is at hand”. That is quite a daunting thought, for me at least. We have been given this gift of life here on earth by God. Seventy or eighty years down the line (God willing), we might look back and wonder what we have achieved during that time. Our achievements need not be glorious as what man decrees, they don’t need to be emblazoned across the sky or splashed across the media. Plaques, medals and certificates may all be well but it won’t do us much good on our day of judgment. In God’s eyes, a humble and faithful spirit of service is what He would probably value the most, as illustrated in today’s readings. There is no need to trumpet our own righteousness or deeds, God already knows. Our deeds can be as ‘small’ as feeding the homeless every week, or raising our children to be God-fearing people, or even overcoming negative habits or addictions that don’t serve us well. Or they can be as ‘big’ as being a good and upright leader. The question is, and we ask this in our own conscience, can we, like St Paul, have the right to say, “I have competed well, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”? Can we truly say, hand to heart, that we lived a life that God had called for us, that we made a positive difference in the lives of others or even one person, or done something that was purposeful? Did we have the courage to answer God’s call when we perceived it, or did we run away? Did we keep the faith or did we falter?

Truly, it is not easy to answer the call of God. We will meet our fair share of doubts and hardships, as St Timothy and St Paul did, but we can be encouraged and encourage each other in the grace of God. As St Paul writes, “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7) And through battling through our hardships and emerging triumphant at the end will we have, and become, a testimony of faith and God’s love for us. Then only can we say that we are deserving of the crown that God has prepared for us in His heavenly kingdom.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: We pray Lord, for the courage to live the fulfilling lives that God has designed for us, so that we can stand on judgment day and proudly say that we competed well, we finished the race and kept the faith.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to our Heavenly Father, for the strength and grace that only He can provide to see us through any weather. We give thanks for this one precious life that we have been given. May we live it well in order to deserve it.

3 September, Tuesday – Hope in the Light

Sep 3 – Memorial for St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor

St. Gregory (540-590) collected the melodies and plain chant so associated with him that they are now known as Gregorian Chants. He was elected by unanimous acclamation for pope. Incidentally, he was also the first monk to be pope. Before his papacy, he turned his home into a Benedictine monastery, and used his money to build six monasteries in Sicily and one in Rome. He became a missionary to England upon seeing English children being sold in the Roman Forum.


1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, 9-11

You will not be expecting us to write anything to you, brothers, about ‘times and seasons’, since you know very well that the Day of the Lord is going to come like a thief in the night. It is when people are saying, ‘How quiet and peaceful it is’ that the worst suddenly happens, as suddenly as labour pains come on a pregnant woman; and there will be no way for anybody to evade it.

But it is not as if you live in the dark, my brothers, for that Day to overtake you like a thief. No, you are all sons of light and sons of the day: we do not belong to the night or to darkness, so we should not go on sleeping, as everyone else does, but stay wide awake and sober. God never meant us to experience the Retribution, but to win salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that, alive or dead, we should still live united to him. So give encouragement to each other, and keep strengthening one another, as you do already.


Luke 4:31-37

Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because he spoke with authority.

In the synagogue there was a man who was possessed by the spirit of an unclean devil, and it shouted at the top of its voice, ‘Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ And the devil, throwing the man down in front of everyone, went out of him without hurting him at all. Astonishment seized them and they were all saying to one another, ‘What teaching! He gives orders to unclean spirits with authority and power and they come out.’ And reports of him went all through the surrounding countryside.


But you, brothers, are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief

When I was pregnant with my son and close to my due date, I wasn’t expecting him for a while more and was still slumming it from the holiday period. Of course, he had other plans — he came a week and a half earlier than expected. I had barely packed my overnight bag. And despite having done the birthing classes and read the books, if I am being real honest, it felt like going for a practical exam where you wonder if you had read everything that you were meant to, and wondering if you could do what you studied if this or that question came out in the exam. When you’re not quite mentally ready, and the labour pains start, well… there’s no turning back. It’s onwards from here, panicky or not.

Unless you are having a Caesarean section, you won’t really know when exactly the baby will arrive. However, you can prepare to the best of your ability so that you won’t be in a state of anxiety when it happens.  In today’s reading, St Paul reminds us that the Day of the Lord will be like that — sudden and unexpected. We know that it will happen, but we won’t know when, and when it does happen, he reminds us that we need to be ready for it for none of us will escape it when it comes. However, he also has a message of hope — for those who believe in Christ Jesus, we should already be ready to receive Him. As children of God, we should be living a life according to God’s Word. We should already have the values and teachings ingrained in us. We should already be familiar with the Word of God and know what to expect and what to do when the time comes. Having professed our faith then, the Word of God is in us, and we live the Word of God. If we continue to do so, then we have nothing to fear for we should be ready to meet our bridegroom.

Remember the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), where five of them went to wait for the bridegroom with additional oil, while the other five were foolish not to bring more oil with them? When the bridegroom finally arrived, it was midnight, in the thick of night, and the five wise virgins were able to refill their lamps and join the bridegroom while the foolish ones were left behind and prevented from joining the bridegroom.

Yes, we should be ready especially being “children of the light, children of the day”. Perhaps we are anxious about how ready we are and whether we have done enough to meet the day. Anxiety, though, is a thief of faith. If we are anxious, we cannot be the best that God has equipped us to be; instead of looking forward to the life He has prepared for us, we will always be looking back over our shoulder. No, we should move forward to do the work that God has called us to do, be the person He wants us to be, so that neither fear nor anxiety has a place in our hearts. The reading today closes with encouragement from St Paul — since we are already children of the light, we won’t go down the path like the others will. Instead, let us meet it with faith and hope. Let us encourage each other in life and eradicate the fear that we will be left behind when our Bridegroom comes.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, I don’t know if I will ever be prepared enough to meet the day when You come again. I don’t know when it will happen, and I can’t vouch for my feelings. But I lift that anxiety up to You and ask for the peace of Christ Jesus to fill my heart instead and help me prepare myself in faith and in hope, for the day when we are reconciled with You.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for the promise of salvation, the value of which knows no bounds.

2 September, Monday – Grace In All Guises

2 September 2019


1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

We want you to be quite certain, brothers, about those who have died, to make sure that you do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with him. We can tell you this from the Lord’s own teaching, that any of us who are left alive until the Lord’s coming will not have any advantage over those who have died. At the trumpet of God, the voice of the archangel will call out the command and the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then those of us who are still alive will be taken up in the clouds, together with them; to meet the Lord in the air. So we shall stay with the Lord for ever. With such thoughts as these you should comfort one another.


Luke 4:16-30

Jesus came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me.

He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’

But he replied, ‘No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”’ And he went on, ‘I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.’

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.


It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon

It saddens me each time to read about incidences of bullying, especially those that lead to suicide. This is bullying in all forms, either in politics or at the playground. Are we really such inhumane, uncompassionate creatures, the very opposite of what God made us to be? If we are made in His likeness, I’m sure it is meant to be in all aspects. Yet, we still choose the fruit of knowledge of evil to see how far we can go, how much we can get away with. And these perpetrators go about their lives thereafter as though nothing happened. Is there anything to be gained in making someone else miserable? Is there any pleasure at the thought of ridiculing and ending another’s existence? And then go about life like normal as though it was an entitlement to you? A moment of ‘fun’ for the perpetrator is a lifetime of scarring for the oppressed.

If you have ever felt oppressed, rejected, or like an outsider, the stress must be only too great and I do not say this lightly at all. If you find yourself in such a situation, reach out to someone you can trust — a parent, teacher, pastor, or helpline. Seek help — help is at hand, help will come. Remember that Jesus was rejected by his own people in his hometown, remember that they wanted to throw him off a cliff. Remember that they did eventually kill him on the cross, but not before humiliating and hurting him. Remember that he was abandoned, betrayed and denied by those who followed him, some who were closest to him. Yet, at the end, God delivered him from the clutches of death by raising him on the third day. The naysayers were silenced. Tears were turned to rejoicing, disbelief turned to belief.

Remember that you are worthy, we are all worthy in God’s eyes. Jesus reminds us today that God performed miracles in the unlikeliest of places — the widow from Zarephath in Sidon, an area considered to be an outsider, and Naaman from Syria, a foe of Israel. Miracles could have well been performed in Israel, but God wanted to prove a point – that His love knows no bounds. The downtrodden, the oppressed, the unloved – if the world has rejected you, know that God has not. God doesn’t only reserve His mercies and graces to people who are born Christians or high-ranking leaders or active people in ministry. His grace is open to all. His grace is overflowing, even to outsiders (see Eph 2:11-13). His love is for you and me; it is in rejecting His love, where we will lose it and He will move on to others who need Him, until the day we return to Him.

Remember as well the Gospel reading from yesterday (Luke 14:7-14), where Jesus told his host to invite to his banquet “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind”. God sees these people worthy to be at His banquet, more so than people who have been invited but rejected the invitation (Luke 14:24). Do not think that God has forsaken you. Those that have oppressed you may enjoy their lives now but there will come a time when they will need help, only to find that help will be denied them.

I don’t think I will understand why people have to be so unkind. There is nothing to be gained from being unkind, only for it to come back and bite us some day. Our lives are given to us by the mercy and grace of God; if we abuse it or reject it, some day it will be taken away from us and given to another.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the oppressed, the rejected, the unloved. We pray that You will deliver them from their pain and persecution, and give to them the grace and mercy that You have promised for all of us.

Thanksgiving: Lord we give You thanks for deeming us worthy, regardless of our standing in life, or the value that others may place on us. We give You thanks for Your unending and unconditional love.

1 September, Sunday – Humility

1 Sep 2019


Ecclesiasticus 3:19-21,30-31

My son, be gentle in carrying out your business,
  and you will be better loved than a lavish giver.
The greater you are, the more you should behave humbly,
  and then you will find favour with the Lord;
for great though the power of the Lord is,
  he accepts the homage of the humble.
There is no cure for the proud man’s malady,
  since an evil growth has taken root in him.
The heart of a sensible man will reflect on parables,
  an attentive ear is the sage’s dream.


Hebrews 12:18-19,22-24

What you have come to is nothing known to the senses: not a blazing fire, or a gloom turning to total darkness, or a storm; or trumpeting thunder or the great voice speaking which made everyone that heard it beg that no more should be said to them. But what you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem where the millions of angels have gathered for the festival, with the whole Church in which everyone is a ‘first-born son’ and a citizen of heaven. You have come to God himself, the supreme Judge, and been placed with spirits of the saints who have been made perfect; and to Jesus, the mediator who brings a new covenant and a blood for purification which pleads more insistently than Abel’s.


Luke 14:1,7-14

On a sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely. He then told the guests a parable, because he had noticed how they picked the places of honour. He said this, ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, and the person who invited you both may come and say, “Give up your place to this man.” And then, to your embarrassment, you would have to go and take the lowest place. No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, “My friend, move up higher.” In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

Then he said to his host, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’


Humble yourself more, the greater you are, and you will find favour with God

I thought a lot about whether to share this story today, and perhaps it might turn out to be something that may resonate with someone out there. This is a true story of a person I know who rose up the career ladder at a meteoric pace. I will give him the credit of his hard work and perseverance that got him there. As such, his efforts were recognized and he was duly given positions of importance and seniority. Through the years, his success doubled but sadly, I felt that his character changed. The thought that he could do anything seemed to get to his head. He was less patient, less courteous. I don’t know why, but I tried to reason with myself that perhaps people with important decisions to make don’t have time to be as patient as we would like them to be. Why I tried to justify his behavior is beyond me. The day I realized his position went over his head was when he told me that I tried to “leverage on his power”. I was utterly gobsmacked. I remember replying that I was in no way the kind of person to do so, and I reiterated my position during our conversation. We parted ways eventually – amicably enough – though for my part I felt that I had been truly wronged. I could have stewed about it for days if I had chosen to, but with sheer force and lots of prayer, I redirected my energy to move forward instead. I took it as a sign from God that it was time to move on, and I lifted my woes to Him instead and decided to leave it to God to defend me against the injustice that was meted out against me.

Recently, I learnt that this person had lost his position of power and had since been relegated to a lesser position. Wow…I was gobsmacked again. I couldn’t believe it. Was it karma? Was it a case of him having to eat his words? I still hadn’t forgotten what he had said and done to me and wondered if God had a hand in this. I didn’t realise it then, but when his name came up in conversation, my words were still laced with bitterness even though I thought I had been mature enough to put it behind me. I stopped short of rejoicing in his downfall, although I think I was still too stunned at what happened to contemplate it. But I was still hurting and dare I say, bitter.

So what does this have to do with today’s reading? I suppose the most apparent answer is that it resonates with Sirach 3:18: “Humble yourself more, the greater you are”, in that being in a position of power exposes you to the risk of being drunk on power. Perhaps it really was God’s doing. But no, the point that I would like to make is the one of myself — God had vindicated me, yet I was still bitter. It took a friend of mine to remind me that as long as I still criticized him, I would only be hurting myself. I would never be free from the chains of resentment. I would not be doing God any justice by giving in to the power of resentment when He had so graciously given me the strength and perseverance to move forward. If He would say something to my oft-deaf ear, it would probably be “Why are you holding yourself back? Are you waiting for these people to fall? Don’t you trust that everything is as it should be?” My friend also reminded me that negative energy begets negative energy. The resentment I have will just undo all the good work that I have done. And it made me realise that the message of humility is not for this person – that is his own personal business with God. The humility lesson is for me: to be humble in the presence of all that God has done for me. To be humble enough to give thanks to God for deliverance, yet be compassionate enough to pray for the people who have wronged me. To realise that the bigger the grace that God has given me, the more humble I must be. Humility in my prayers, humility in my thanksgiving. And I had been lacking that. Yes, I had put my faith in God and trusted Him to lead me on the right path, but I know now that that is not enough. I had to pray for this person, for those who had done me wrong, because they are hurting now.

There is no happiness in this kind of hurt, no ‘winners’ in this kind of war. But even we can turn this around and be humble in the face of vindication. When Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, the celebration by his followers and disciples was not a case of shoving it and showing it to those who had wronged him, rather it was a celebration of Jesus who lives. Let our humility be a sign to others that Jesus is truly alive in us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for all those who have wronged us, those who have oppressed us and lied against us. We pray for those who did not stand up for us but put us down instead. We pray for forgiveness for them, and forgiveness for our bitterness. We pray that they may turn around and find their way back to You.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for the strength and perseverance that you have given me to move forward instead of allowing myself to be swallowed up in despair. Thank you for the grace You have given me, even though I realise I am not worthy of it. Thank you for counting me worthy to be saved.


11 May, Saturday – Pre-Packaged Promises

11 May 2019


Acts 9:31-42

The churches throughout Judaea, Galilee and Samaria were now left in peace, building themselves up, living in the fear of the Lord, and filled with the consolation of the Holy Spirit.

Peter visited one place after another and eventually came to the saints living down in Lydda. There he found a man called Aeneas, a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years. Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ cures you: get up and fold up your sleeping mat.’ Aeneas got up immediately; everybody who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they were all converted to the Lord.

At Jaffa there was a woman disciple called Tabitha, or Dorcas in Greek, who never tired of doing good or giving in charity. But the time came when she got ill and died, and they washed her and laid her out in a room upstairs. Lydda is not far from Jaffa, so when the disciples heard that Peter was there, they sent two men with an urgent message for him, ‘Come and visit us as soon as possible.’

Peter went back with them straightaway, and on his arrival they took him to the upstairs room, where all the widows stood round him in tears, showing him tunics and other clothes Dorcas had made when she was with them. Peter sent them all out of the room and knelt down and prayed. Then he turned to the dead woman and said, ‘Tabitha, stand up.’ She opened her eyes, looked at Peter and sat up. Peter helped her to her feet, then he called in the saints and widows and showed them she was alive. The whole of Jaffa heard about it and many believed in the Lord.


John 6:60-69

After hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’ Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, ‘Does this upset you? What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?

‘It is the spirit that gives life,
the flesh has nothing to offer.
The words I have spoken to you are spirit
and they are life.

‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the outset those who did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. He went on, ‘This is why I told you that no one could come to me unless the Father allows him.’ After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.

Then Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.’


“Do you also want to leave?”

Do you remember watching the film Jerry Maguire back in the 90s? A heart-warming story of sports agent Jerry Maguire (played by Tom Cruise) who gets dismissed because he wrote a mission statement about his views on the sports management business which he felt was dishonest, and his aspiration to change that. Remember the part where he leaves, and no one initially follows him? Jerry feels terribly embarrassed and gutted at being abandoned, even by his personal assistant whom he assumed would leave with him. In the end, Renée Zellweger, who plays Dorothy ends up being the only person (besides the fish) who goes with him.

In today’s reading, Jesus was trying to explain to his disciples about the Bread of Life, that he is that Bread of Life given by God, sent from heaven. He tried to explain that if they partook in his body and blood, they would be saved and have eternal life. Some of his disciples couldn’t understand it, perplexed at how an ‘ordinary’ carpenter’s son could be sent from heaven. Earlier in the reading from John 6, they had asked Jesus to perform a sign so that they could believe in him (John 6:30). They were hoping for something along the lines that their ancestors had seen, i.e. manna falling from heaven, but little did they realise that the miracle, the manna they were looking for, was actually sitting in front of them. Because they couldn’t accept what Jesus was trying to explain to them, only wanting a sign in the form that they had in their minds, they decided to abandon Jesus, and went back to their old ways. At this point Jesus asks the Twelve Apostles, “Do you also want to leave?”

Contrast this with the first reading from the Acts, where Peter travels to Lydda and Sharon and Joppa, where he cures Aeneas who was paralysed, and brings Tabitha back from the dead. On both occasions, it is said that the inhabitants of the said towns heard about the miracles he performed and turned to the Lord.

In my humble opinion, the question that arises for me in today’s reading is this: are we sometimes fixated by a certain idea of how our prayers to God should be manifested if and when answered, that we become blind to the true promise that Jesus gives us, which could be in another form that is least expected? And if that petition of ours does not come to pass, do we feel disappointed that it didn’t happen how we wanted it to happen and therefore think that God isn’t fair? Do we then abandon God altogether, or do we try to understand why and what else might God be trying to tell us? Are we, like the disciples, looking for a sign or miracle before we dig in our heels of faith, or are we like Peter who says, “To whom shall we go?” because there is no one else besides Jesus who is the truth? If not the truth, then where else?

Jesus tried to explain that he is the Bread of Life, and the disciples couldn’t understand it, so they left him. Instead of abandoning him, perhaps it would have helped to ask for wisdom to understand rather than a sign. Just because we don’t ‘get it’ the first time, doesn’t mean that it is silly or doesn’t make sense, and then abandon it altogether. Like doing a math problem or reading a text, if we give up so easily because we didn’t understand it the first time, then we are at risk of missing out the worlds that could be open to us if we had stuck to it, or the sense of fulfillment that comes with sticking with it and understanding it at the end.

If our lives currently feel like riddles, perhaps we should ask God for wisdom to unravel the message that lies within. The solution is not abandonment. The solution is to ask.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for wisdom to understand what you have in store for us, even if it doesn’t turn out how we might have expected it. At the end of the day, your will be done.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for not leaving us, even though sometimes we might have left you. Thank you for believing in us and supporting us in your gentle way. 

10 May, Friday – Chosen by God

10 May 2019


Acts 9:1-20

Saul was still breathing threats to slaughter the Lord’s disciples. He had gone to the high priest and asked for letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, that would authorise him to arrest and take to Jerusalem any followers of the Way, men or women, that he could find.

Suddenly, while he was travelling to Damascus and just before he reached the city, there came a light from heaven all round him. He fell to the ground, and then he heard a voice saying, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ he asked, and the voice answered, ‘I am Jesus, and you are persecuting me. Get up now and go into the city, and you will be told what you have to do.’ The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless, for though they heard the voice they could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but even with his eyes wide open he could see nothing at all, and they had to lead him into Damascus by the hand. For three days he was without his sight, and took neither food nor drink.

A disciple called Ananias who lived in Damascus had a vision in which he heard the Lord say to him, ‘Ananias!’ When he replied, ‘Here I am, Lord’, the Lord said, ‘You must go to Straight Street and ask the house of Judas for someone called Saul, who comes from Tarsus. At this moment he is praying, having had a vision of a man called Ananias coming in and laying hands on him to give him back his sight.’

When he heard that, Ananias said, ‘Lord, several people have told me about this man and all the harm he has been doing to your saints in Jerusalem. He has only come here because he holds a warrant from the chief priests to arrest everybody who invokes your name.’ The Lord replied, ‘You must go all the same, because this man is my chosen instrument to bring my name before pagans and pagan kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he himself must suffer for my name.’ Then Ananias went. He entered the house, and at once laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, I have been sent by the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on your way here so that you may recover your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately it was as though scales fell away from Saul’s eyes and he could see again. So he was baptised there and then, and after taking some food he regained his strength.

He began preaching in the synagogues, ‘Jesus is the Son of God.’


John 6:52-59

The Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said. Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood
has eternal life,
and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’

He taught this doctrine at Capernaum, in the synagogue.


“this man is a chosen instrument of mine…”

If my father were alive today, he would be celebrating his 76th birthday in 5 days’ time. Sadly he passed away three years ago after battling a long illness. In his memory, I would like to share how our gracious Lord Jesus came into his life and gave him the peace that escaped him for so long.

My dad was not born a Christian. In fact, he shunned Christianity for the most part of his life. I liken his conversion to Saul’s conversion, every time I think about it. Growing up with him was not easy – he was distant and had a temper. We were all scared of him. If we wanted something, we would rather not ask and keep quiet than risk incurring his wrath and snorts of disapproval. We had an aunt and uncle who were, and still are, very faithful Christians. When they came from abroad to visit, they would make it a point to visit and the visit would ultimately end up with my uncle telling my dad about Jesus and Christianity. It was sometimes embarrassingly painful to watch as my dad would immediately lose interest and his gaze would dart elsewhere. Had smartphones been invented at the time, he would most definitely have diverted his attention there. He would sometimes ridicule and criticize some of our relations’ Christian faith, dismissing their attempts to preach to him as being overzealous. At a wedding once, the entire party stood up before the dinner to say grace, but my dad sat stoically in his chair, looking around with a smug smile on his face while the rest of us stood up out of respect. It was an uncomfortable scene to behold.

But then my dad fell sick. He had been ill before, and had a bypass when he was in his forties, but this was more serious. He had cancer. For weeks following his diagnosis and multiple hospital stays, he could not rest. He complained he felt uneasy inside, not at peace, even when he slept. By this time, my sister and I had both converted to follow Christ, and we, along with my brother, had all grown up and flown the nest. One day, I received a call from my mother: in a ‘desperate’ attempt to find peace, my father had wandered into my room and had picked up a spare Bible that I had left there and had started reading it. From thereon, his conversion was swift. My uncle and aunt visited again shortly after and were one of the first who witnessed this conversion. His demeanor changed and he sat patiently listening and asking questions. He started going to church. After my mum and him both got baptized, they become really active at church joining various ministries. Even his personality changed – he became happier and was always smiling and laughing, more approachable and loving. He wasn’t 100% cured of his old habits, but he became a much warmer person. He prayed every day, twice a day, sometimes more especially towards the end of his life. He meditated on God’s Word regularly, and where he would have crumbled before, his faith kept him going all the way to the end.

As in the case of Saul, God chose my dad as an instrument to show that He is Almighty and only He is capable of thawing a hardened heart. God saw my dad as worthy to be saved, and that he would be a testament of God’s love, even if my dad had shunned it for so many years. Every Easter, we are reminded that we have all been chosen and called by God, to be saved and loved by Him, to be a living testament of His love and abundant promises. It is up to us to live that faith and make the calling worth the while. If God can choose and convert my dad, what more are the promises that lie in store for us who have already been called and chosen by God?

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Father Almighty, I pray for my father, that he may enjoy eternal rest with You. We pray for all those who have yet to come to know You, that they may have their hearts thawed and experience the glory of God as Saul did.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for giving my dad to us when he was alive. He may not have been perfect, but he was as good a dad as he could have ever been. Thank you for the memories.

09 May, Thursday – A Journey of Opportunities

9 May 2019


Acts 8:26-40

The angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, ‘Be ready to set out at noon along the road that goes from Jerusalem down to Gaza, the desert road.’ So he set off on his journey. Now it happened that an Ethiopian had been on pilgrimage to Jerusalem; he was a eunuch and an officer at the court of the kandake, or queen, of Ethiopia, and was in fact her chief treasurer. He was now on his way home; and as he sat in his chariot he was reading the prophet Isaiah. The Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and meet that chariot.’ When Philip ran up, he heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ ‘How can I’ he replied ‘unless I have someone to guide me?’ So he invited Philip to get in and sit by his side. Now the passage of scripture he was reading was this:

Like a sheep that is led to the slaughter-house,
like a lamb that is dumb in front of its shearers,
like these he never opens his mouth.
He has been humiliated and has no one to defend him.
Who will ever talk about his descendants,
since his life on earth has been cut short!

The eunuch turned to Philip and said, ‘Tell me, is the prophet referring to himself or someone else?’ Starting, therefore, with this text of scripture Philip proceeded to explain the Good News of Jesus to him.
Further along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘Look, there is some water here; is there anything to stop me being baptised?’ He ordered the chariot to stop, then Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water and Philip baptised him. But after they had come up out of the water again Philip was taken away by the Spirit of the Lord, and the eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. Philip found that he had reached Azotus and continued his journey proclaiming the Good News in every town as far as Caesarea.


John 6:44-51

Jesus said to the crowd:

‘No one can come to me
unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me,
and I will raise him up at the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They will all be taught by God,
and to hear the teaching of the Father,
and learn from it,
is to come to me.
Not that anybody has seen the Father,
except the one who comes from God:
he has seen the Father.
I tell you most solemnly,
everybody who believes has eternal life.

‘I am the bread of life.
Your fathers ate the manna in the desert
and they are dead;
but this is the bread that comes down from heaven,
so that a man may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh,
for the life of the world.’


“Get up and head south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route”

Heeding the call of Christ can be a lonely thing, a test of one’s faith. It’s not like planning a trip where you know the start and end of your journey, where you’d be staying, and what you’d be doing. When God sends us on a journey, He doesn’t tell you how the big picture is going to look like. It is only revealed to us one step at a time, and for the rest of the trip we are to put our whole trust in Him. If you are on a mission for God, or heeding His call to do something, be not afraid – you are in good company.

In today’s reading, we see that Philip was commanded by the angel of the Lord to “get up and head south”. There was no explanation as to what exactly he was to do there, where he was going to stay, even the end destination seemed a little vague: Philip was only asked to head down on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, but not necessarily that Gaza was his stop (we learn that he later ended up in Azotus, about 50km from Gaza). To compound the difficulty, he was commanded to take the desert route, a lonely, dusty, and hot route. Chances of meeting anyone else – zero. But God had other plans.

Along the way, Philip had an encounter with an Ethiopian. Not just any Ethiopian, but a court official, a eunuch in charge of the queen’s treasury. From the description, he appeared to be a learned and spiritual man, with people under his command. And the Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go and join up with that chariot”. What are the odds of such a chance encounter on a lonely desert road? Not only did Philip manage to catch up, but he was subsequently invited to sit with the Ethiopian to explain the meaning of the Scripture he was reading. As we learn, Philip ends up baptizing the Ethiopian, and the Ethiopian, filled with the glory of God’s love, continues on his way home, rejoicing and no doubt proclaiming the wonders of God Almighty.

To me, this tells us a few things: 1) when we are called to do something for God, it will more likely than not end up being a solitary task, or one that most people won’t understand; 2) when we follow the path God has laid out for us, we travel not with a map, but with faith, for half the time we won’t know what our journey will look like and what kind of obstacles we will meet; 3) it is not the destination, but the journey, the process, that counts. As an extension, we don’t have to wait till our final stop to do something wonderful for God, we can do it along the way; 4) God will place people along our path who will either help us or be in need of our help, and sometimes in the most unlikely of situations; 5) we may start our journey as we are, but our journey will inevitably change us, our experiences will enlighten us, as it did with the Ethiopian. So as before, it is the process of who we become that matters in the end; and 6) it doesn’t matter about race or religion, rich or poor, powerful or lowly, scholarly or not – there is no distinction in God’s eyes when it comes to God’s salvation through Christ Jesus. And God’s grace went with the Ethiopian who was eventually baptized.

We are all on this journey called life. Even if you have not found a specific calling, life itself is the journey. It may be a lonely one, or an unknown one, but today’s reading tells us that on this journey, God will present us with the opportunity to do something worthwhile, something that will make a positive difference to others, no matter how small. The question is, will we go and join up to meet with it as Philip did?

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Father Almighty, we pray for the wisdom and enlightenment to recognize the opportunities in life that You have given us where we can make a positive difference. Help us to open up our minds and not doubt it, but in wholehearted faith, embrace it knowing that You will have a plan for it.

Thanksgiving: Father Almighty, we give You thanks for this journey called life. It can be a bumpy ride, but we thank you for the ups and downs and for the perseverance to carry on, one step at a time.

23 March, Saturday – Not Forgotten

23 Mar – Memorial for St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, bishop

St. Turibius (1538-1606) was born a noble and became a lawyer, and then a professor of law at Salamanca. He was ordained in 1578, and was a judge of the Court of the Inquisition at Granada. He was later appointed Archbishop of Lima, Peru on May 15, 1579. He founded the first seminary in the Western hemisphere, and fought for the rights of the natives against the Spanish masters. He also organized councils and synods in the New World.

Prayer to St. Turibius

Lord, through the apostolic work of St. Turibius and his unwavering love of truth, you helped your Church to grow. May your chosen people continue to grow in faith and holiness. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Micah 7:14-15,18-20

With shepherd’s crook, O Lord, lead your people to pasture,
the flock that is your heritage,
living confined in a forest
with meadow land all around.
Let them pasture in Bashan and Gilead
as in the days of old.
As in the days when you came out of Egypt

grant us to see wonders.

What god can compare with you: taking fault away,
pardoning crime,
not cherishing anger for ever
but delighting in showing mercy?
Once more have pity on us,
tread down our faults,
to the bottom of the sea
throw all our sins.
Grant Jacob your faithfulness,
and Abraham your mercy,
as you swore to our fathers
from the days of long ago.


Luke 15:1-3,11-32

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

 ‘A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.

‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.

‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.”

‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”’


My son, you are here with me always. Everything I have is yours

I remember my baptism, and the preparation leading up to it. I had been on the RCIA program and I remember thinking at the time if I would be able to get through the year-long program. But the year sped by quite quickly and before you knew it, we were at Lent, getting ready for our baptism at the Easter vigil. It was almost like getting ready for a wedding: a lot of preparation beforehand, our placements, the rituals, the vows, the clothes that we would wear. And on the day of baptism, there we were, the ‘co-stars’ of the night, standing in front of the whole congregation in our new white garments, beaming proudly. Then shortly after the period of Mystagogy, it was back to life as usual.

It has been many years since my baptism, and probably for most of us too, as you read this. As we watch the next batch of Elect go through their sacraments of initiation, we watch their smiles, and we reflect on our own big day years ago. Maybe we wish that we could feel the overflowing of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, as we once did. Maybe we long for that closeness or assuredness in our relationship with God, as the Elect now have. Maybe many things have transpired since our baptism, that have dried up our spiritual well, and called us to question God’s presence in our lives. Perhaps we stopped seeking, perhaps life got in the way, we got distracted. Yes, life does go on but so does God; God continues to be present in our lives, even when we have stopped being the star of the day. When all the lights have faded and the sparkle wanes, God still remains.

Before we were each called by God, we were all lost in our own ways. When we opened our hearts to Him, we were like the prodigal son returned to the Father: “I once was lost, but now am found.” And when we accepted God into our hearts, He promised us salvation, a new and everlasting life in Christ Jesus, cleansed of our sins. He promised to be with us always: “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). He promised us security (Isaiah 43:2), strength (Isaiah 41:10), wisdom (James 1:5), unfailing love (Isaiah 54:10), forgiveness (1 John 1:9). He gave us all He had, His only Son Christ Jesus, so that we may live (John 3:16).

Our lives might be ‘as usual’, but remember David, the shepherd boy, overlooked by his brothers, but anointed as king. It would be many more years after his anointing before David finally assumed his place as king, and in the meantime, he went back to ‘life as usual’ – as a shepherd boy. But he had to, in order to learn about life to be a better king, to be in a better position to serve God and his people when the time came. Maybe if we take a different viewpoint, we may find that perhaps the preparation doesn’t end at baptism. After baptism, the real preparation begins: preparation to hear and heed God’s calling, to do His will and to be guided by Him. Our baptism may be over, but God does not forget us. He has plans for us, and if we allow it, He will reveal those plans to us. In the meantime, let us be comforted in the knowledge that whatever our life situation is, whether we are content or troubled, we are in the season of preparation for bigger things that God has in store for us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, in this season of Lent, help us to bring more consciousness in our preparation for Easter. We also pray for our Elect, as they prepare for their baptism on Easter.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for calling us to you when you did, for taking us in even when we were sinners, for finding us when we were lost. Even now, you are still with us, your gentle encouragement comforting us, guiding us through our daily lives.