Acts of the Apostles 16:1-10
From Cilicia Paul went to Derbe, and then on to Lystra. Here there was a disciple called Timothy, whose mother was a Jewess who had become a believer; but his father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of Timothy, and Paul, who wanted to have him as a travelling companion, had him circumcised. This was on account of the Jews in the locality where everyone knew his father was a Greek.
As they visited one town after another, they passed on the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, with instructions to respect them.
So the churches grew strong in the faith, as well as growing daily in numbers.
They travelled through Phrygia and the Galatian country, having been told by the Holy Spirit not to preach the word in Asia. When they reached the frontier of Mysia they thought to cross it into Bithynia, but as the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them, they went through Mysia and came down to Troas.
One night Paul had a vision: a Macedonian appeared and appealed to him in these words, ‘Come across to Macedonia and help us.’ Once he had seen this vision we lost no time in arranging a passage to Macedonia, convinced that God had called us to bring them the Good News.
Jesus said to his disciples:
‘If the world hates you,
remember that it hated me before you.
If you belonged to the world,
the world would love you as its own;
but because you do not belong to the world,
because my choice withdrew you from the world,
therefore the world hates you.
Remember the words I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master.
If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too;
if they kept my word, they will keep yours as well.
But it will be on my account that they will do all this,
because they do not know the one who sent me.’
My choice withdrew you from the world
Whenever I say grace before my meals in public, especially in front of my colleagues, I always feel out of place. Some of them would stop eating and wait for me. Others might continue what they’re doing but no longer speak as freely until I am done. Only after I’m finished, will there be a sense of relief on their part (and mine) that the “awkward moment” has passed.
Saying grace is merely one of the many examples in which I have felt out of place being a Catholic. There are many times when I have wished I could go along with the crowd and accept popular values. I wish I could accept cohabitation so that friends of mine who are cohabitating do not think I reject them, and thereby distant themselves from me, just because I reject such a lifestyle. There are so many times when I wished I was not a Catholic so that I could laugh with the crowd, agree with them, and be embraced by them.
The fact is I do have a choice. I can reject my Catholic beliefs and identity to blend into the secular world if I want to. I can be embraced by the crowd if I want to. But I don’t want to do this and it’s not because I’m afraid that God will punish me if I do. I don’t want to because I believe that the teachings in my faith are truths that will liberate me and lead me to the fullness of life that my heart seeks. I have tasted this liberation and life whenever I have chosen to die to myself and follow these teachings, increasing my conviction in their veracity.
Yet, this does not mean that the journey is easy. Every time I have to acknowledge my Catholic identity and uphold my faith, I experience rejection from others. Some reject me because they simply reject anything “Catholic”. Some reject because they are unwilling to be challenged to move out of their comfort zone. Others reject unintentionally, where they reject because they equate disagreement as rejection.
Rejection is always painful; nonetheless, let us be comforted that continual rejection from the world serve as constant affirmations that we are with our God.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Jean Cheng)
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, help me to be encouraged that I am with you whenever I am away from the world.
Thanksgiving: We thank God for family and friends who do not reject us, even when they disagree with us.
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