01 May – Feast of St. Joseph the Worker
EXAMPLE TEACHES, NOT BOOKS
The authorities in a part of China decided to introduce football into their native land. So they bought rule books, drilled the teachers in them, and told them to go out and teach the subject.
The boys memorized the rules, the teachers gave lectures and even drew on the blackboard. Then there were written tests and almost everyone failed. They were discouraged.
Then a young man from Europe came by and some of the lads' efforts until then had been in vain.
"Good heavens," the visitor exclaimed, "you'll never learn to play football from books. You've got to learn by playing…"
So he bought a football, took the boys out onto the field, and within a couple hours taught them more than they had learned in the last six weeks from books.
– Tonne (1000 Stories You Can Use, Volume One by Frank Mihalic, SVD)
How about putting to practice all that you've learnt about Christianity from the books you've read?
After Jesus had fed the five thousand, his disciples saw him walking on the water. Next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side saw that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that the disciples had set off by themselves. Other boats, however, had put in from Tiberias, near the place where the bread had been eaten. When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into those boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side, they said to him, "Rabbi when did you come here? Jesus answered:
"I tell you most solemnly,
you are not looking for me
because you have seen the signs
but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.
Do not work for food that cannot last,
but work for food that endures to eternal life,
the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you,
for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal."
Then they said to him, "What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?" Jesus gave them this answer, "This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent."
“What must we do if we are to do what God wants?”
Our Lord’s answer is at once simple and yet profound. Believe in the one whom God has sent, his only Son Jesus Christ.
Most Christians would recognise that the message of the Gospel presuppose the love of neighbour and a duty to care for him. A Christian who does not do that but goes to Church every Sunday can be easily dismissed as a hypocrite. However, a more subtle temptation which afflicts especially devout socially conscious Christians is to engage in what Our Lord calls, “the work for food that cannot last”. Devout Christians may be out there lobbying against abortion, better working conditions for workers, democracy and human rights for oppressed peoples, looking after the sick. These are excellent works in themselves and give glory to God as we share in his work of redemption.
The problem comes when while doing this, we forget that the basis of our work is because of faith in Jesus Christ, and love for him. Pope Benedict XVI warns us especially in his encyclical on the love of God of this temptation to a “growing secularism in doing charity work”. The Christian forgets prayer, forgets that his work is driven by “the one God has sent”, and works only for the bread which cannot last, attempting to build the kingdom of God on earth, perhaps even tempted to accuse God of not creating the best of all possible worlds.
That’s why our Lord did not tell the crowd to engage in social activist projects, rather he insists that they believe in Him, for only in Him that charity, love and justice finds their true source.
“When we consider the immensity of others' needs, we can, on the one hand, be driven towards an ideology that would aim at doing what God's governance of the world apparently cannot: fully resolving every problem. Or we can be tempted to give in to inertia, since it would seem that in any event nothing can be accomplished. At such times, a living relationship with Christ is decisive if we are to keep on the right path, without falling into an arrogant contempt for man, something not only unconstructive but actually destructive, or surrendering to a resignation which would prevent us from being guided by love in the service of others. Prayer, as a means of drawing ever new strength from Christ, is concretely and urgently needed. People who pray are not wasting their time, even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone. Piety does not undermine the struggle against the poverty of our neighbours, however extreme. In the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta we have a clear illustration of the fact that time devoted to God in prayer not only does not detract from effective and loving service to our neighbour but is in fact the inexhaustible source of that service. In her letter for Lent 1996, Blessed Teresa wrote to her lay co-workers: “We need this deep connection with God in our daily life. How can we obtain it? By prayer”. – Pope Benedict XVI “Deus Caritas Est” – para. 36.
It is time to reaffirm the importance of prayer in the face of the activism and the growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work. Clearly, the Christian who prays does not claim to be able to change God's plans or correct what he has foreseen. Rather, he seeks an encounter with the Father of Jesus Christ, asking God to be present with the consolation of the Spirit to him and his work. A personal relationship with God and an abandonment to his will can prevent man from being demeaned and save him from falling prey to the teaching of fanaticism and terrorism. An authentically religious attitude prevents man from presuming to judge God, accusing him of allowing poverty and failing to have compassion for his creatures. When people claim to build a case against God in defence of man, on whom can they depend when human activity proves powerless? – Pope Benedict XVI “Deus Caritas Est” – para 37.
(Today's OXYGEN by Nick Chui)
Prayer intention: For all Christians engaging in the social apostolate.
Thanksgiving: For the end of my exams! And for the start of a new phase in life!
Tue, May 2 – Acts 7:51 – 8:1a; John 6:30-35; Memorial for St. Athanasius, bishop, doctor
Wed, May 3 – 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; John 14:6-14; Feast of Sts. Philip and James, apostles
Thu, May 4 – Acts 8:26-40; John 6:44-51
Fri, May 5 – Acts 9:1-20; John 6:52-59
Sat, May 6 – Acts 9:31-42; John 6:60-69
Sun, May 7 – Acts 4:8-12; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18; Fourth Sunday of Easter; World Day of Prayer for Vocations
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Disclaimer: The reflections expressed in this e-mail are the writer's own. They may not necessarily reflect the teachings of the Catholic Church. Nonetheless we should all be able to learn something from it.