Daily Archives: May 25, 2011

Wednesday, 25 May – Why Is God So Useless?

25 May – Memorial for St Bede the Venerable, Priest & Doctor of the Church; Memorial for St Gregory VII, Pope; Memorial for St Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin

Bede (672-735) was born around the time England was finally completely Christianized. He was raised from age seven in the abbey of Sts. Peter and Paul at Wearmouth-Jarrow, and lived there the rest of his life. He was a Benedictine monk, and the spiritual student of the founder, St. Benedict Biscop. He was ordained in 702 by St. John of Beverley. He was a teacher and author; he wrote about history, rhetoric, mathematics, music, astronomy, poetry, grammar, philosophy, hagiography, homiletics, and Bible commentary.

He was known as the most learned man of his day, and his writings started the idea of dating this era from the incarnation of Christ. The central theme of Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica is of the Church using the power of its spiritual, doctrinal, and cultural unity to stamp out violence and barbarism. Our knowledge of England before the 8th century is mainly the result of Bede’s writing. He was declared a Doctor of the Church on 13 November 1899 by Pope Leo XIII.

– Patron Saint Index

Gregory (1020-1085) was educated in Rome, Italy. He was a Benedictine monk, and chaplain to Pope Gregory VI. He was in charge of the Patrimony of St. Peter. He was a reformer and an excellent administrator. He was chosen the 152nd pope, but he declined the crown. He was chief counsellor to Pope Victor II, Pope Stephen IX, Pope Benedict X, and Pope Nicholas II. He eventually became the 157th pope.

At the time of his ascension, simony and a corrupt clergy threatened to destroy faith in the Church. Gregory took the throne as a reformer, and Emperor Henry IV promised to support him. Gregory suspended all clerics who had purchased their position, and ordered the return of all purchased church property.

The corrupt clergy rebelled; Henry IV broke his promise, and promoted the rebels. Gregory responded by excommunicating anyone involved in lay investiture. He summoned Henry to Rome, but the emperor’s supporters drove Gregory into exile. Henry installed the anti-pope Guibert of Ravenna, who was driven from Rome by Normans who supported Gregory; the Normans were, themselves, so out of control that the people of Rome drove them out. Gregory then retreated to Salerno, Italy, where he spent the remainder of his papacy.

– Patron Saint Index

Catherine (1566-1607) had a religious upbringing. She was initially sent to a convent at the age of 14, but was taken back home by her family who opposed her religious vocation and wanted her to marry well. They eventually gave in, and Catherine became a Carmelite of the Ancient Observance at 16, taking the name Sister Mary Magdalene. She as a mystic, and led a hidden life of prayer and self-denial, praying particularly for the renewal of the Church and encouraging the sisters in holiness. Her life was marked by many extraordinary graces.

– Patron Saint Index
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Acts of the Apostles 15:1-6

Some men came down from Judaea and taught the brothers, ‘Unless you have yourselves circumcised in the tradition of Moses you cannot be saved.’ This led to disagreement, and after Paul and Barnabas had had a long argument with these men it was arranged that Paul and Barnabas and others of the church should go up to Jerusalem and discuss the problem with the apostles and elders.

All the members of the church saw them off, and as they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria they told how the pagans had been converted, and this news was received with the greatest satisfaction by the brothers. When they arrived in Jerusalem they were welcomed by the church and by the apostles and elders, and gave an account of all that God had done with them.

But certain members of the Pharisees’ party who had become believers objected, insisting that the pagans should be circumcised and instructed to keep the Law of Moses. The apostles and elders met to look into the matter.
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John 15:1-8

Jesus said:

‘I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in me that bears no fruit
he cuts away,
and every branch that does bear fruit
he prunes to make it bear even more.
You are pruned already,
by means of the word that I have spoken to you.
Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.
As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself,
but must remain part of the vine,
neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me, with me in him,
bears fruit in plenty;
for cut off from me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers;
these branches are collected and thrown on the fire,
and they are burnt.
If you remain in me
and my words remain in you,
you may ask what you will
and you shall get it.
It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit,
and then you will be my disciples.’
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If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask what you will and you shall get it.

The verse above frustrates me because there are some things in my life which I have asked for time and time again, yet have not received. Don’t I pray enough, God? Don’t I try to be mindful of your presence as much as possible? Don’t I have a heart that is increasingly like Your’s? Yet why is it that I have not received certain things that I want?

The questions above can be summarized as: Aren’t I doing enough to deserve what I want?

This mindset is similar to that of the eldest son in the parable of the prodigal son who bitterly told his father, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf’ (Luke 15: 28-30). Like him, I too work hard each day. Like him, I work so that I can deserve what I want. Like him, I am bitter that I have worked so hard and still I have not received it. Like him, I cry, “It’s not fair!”

The father’s response to his son was, “My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours”. What the father is telling his son is that he has not held back from giving everything to his son. He has not deliberately withheld something that the eldest son wants so that the eldest son will continue to strive to earn it. No. He has given everything.

It is comforting to know that similarly, God loves me and thereby does not withhold anything from me. Yet, I cannot help but also think, “Is this all He can do for me? It’s not good enough! I still don’t get what I really want! Why is my God so useless?”

Isn’t this the same mindset that the people who crucified Jesus had? They were seeking a Messiah who would bring them freedom, but specifically in the form of political freedom. However, when given a Messiah who offered them freedom not in the way they wanted but in an even more important and better form (i.e., spiritual freedom), they grew angry and rejected Him.

Like them, I too reject God because He does not deliver what I want, in the way I want it. Yet, perhaps like those who crucified Jesus, I too am blind to see that God is giving me what I want but He is delivering it in an even more important and better way.

I am blind and unable to see this right now. But I believe that if I continue to remain with God, one day I will see the verse above take flesh in an even more meaningful and important way.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jean Cheng)
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Prayer: Father, You love me so much that You refuse to indulge me with all my petty and minute desires. Instead, You want to bless me with so much more. I am blind but help me remain with You so that one day, I will see.

Thanksgiving: We thank God for always wanting to give us even more than we can ever realize possible.

Upcoming Readings:
Thu, 26 May – Acts of the Apostles 15:7-21; John 15:9-11
Fri, 27 May – Acts of the Apostles 15:22-31; John 15:12-17; Memorial for St Augustine of Cantebury, Bishop
Sat, 28 May – Acts of the Apostles 16:1-10; John 15:18-21
Sun, 29 May – Acts of the Apostles 8:5-8.14-17; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21; Sixth Sunday of Easter