11 July – Memorial of Saint Benedict, Abbot
Born to the Roman nobility. Twin brother of Saint Scholastica. Studied in Rome, Italy, but was dismayed by the lack of discipline and the lackadasical attitude of his fellow students. Fled to the mountains near Subiaco, living as a hermit in a cave for three years; reported to have been fed by a raven. Friend of Saint Romanus of Subiaco who lived as a nearby hermit. Benedict’s virtues caused an abbey to request him to lead them. Founded the monastery at Monte Cassino, where he wrote the Rule of his order. His discipline was such that an attempt was made on his life; some monks tried by poison him, but he blessed the cup and rendered it harmless. He returned to his cave, but continued to attract followers, and eventually established twelve monasteries. Had the ability to read consciences, the gift of prophesy, and could forestall attacks of the devil. Destroyed pagan statues and altars, drove demons from groves sacred to pagans. At one point there were over 40,000 monasteries guided by the Benedictine Rule. A summation of the Rule: “Pray and work.”
– The Patron Saint Index
Judah went up to Joseph and said, ‘May it please my lord, let your servant have a word privately with my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself. My lord questioned his servants, “Have you father or brother?” And we said to my lord, “We have an old father, and a younger brother born of his old age. His brother is dead, so he is the only one left of his mother, and his father loves him.” Then you said to your servants, “Bring him down to me that my eyes may look on him.” But you said to your servants, “If your youngest brother does not come down with you, you will not be admitted to my presence again.” When we went back to your servant my father, we repeated to him what my lord had said. So when our father said, “Go back and buy us a little food,” we said, “We cannot go down. If our youngest brother is with us, we will go down, for we cannot be admitted to the man’s presence unless our youngest brother is with us.” So your servant our father said to us, “You know that my wife bore me two children. When one left me, I said that he must have been torn to pieces. And I have not seen him to this day. If you take this one from me too and any harm comes to him, you will send me down to Sheol with my white head bowed in misery.” If I go to your servant my father now, and we have not the boy with us, he will die as soon as he sees the boy is not with us, for his heart is bound up with him. Then your servants will have sent your servant our father down to Sheol with his white head bowed in grief.’
Then Joseph could not control his feelings in front of all his retainers, and he exclaimed, ‘Let everyone leave me.’ No one therefore was present with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers, but he wept so loudly that all the Egyptians heard, and the news reached Pharaoh’s palace.
Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph. Is my father really still alive?’ His brothers could not answer him, they were so dismayed at the sight of him. Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come closer to me.’ When they had come closer to him he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not grieve, do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here, since God sent me before you to preserve your lives.’
Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘As you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils. You received without charge, give without charge. Provide yourselves with no gold or silver, not even with a few coppers for your purses, with no haversack for the journey or spare tunic or footwear or a staff, for the workman deserves his keep.
‘Whatever town or village you go into, ask for someone trustworthy and stay with him until you leave. As you enter his house, salute it, and if the house deserves it, let your peace descend upon it; if it does not, let your peace come back to you. And if anyone does not welcome you or listen to what you have to say, as you walk out of the house or town shake the dust from your feet. I tell you solemnly, on the day of Judgement it will not go as hard with the land of Sodom and Gomorrah as with that town.’
It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me here ahead of you
Today’s gospel reminds me of our Christian leaders. Joseph’s brothers had sold him into Egypt, causing great grief to his father. But he returned in disguise and provided meals for all during a great famine. Often, when someone is overly enthusiastic in his beliefs, he might seem like an outcast for his ferventness. “Normal” people cannot totally identify with someone who loves Jesus and God with all their heart and soul and might. But eventually, these people of faith – our Christian leaders and not necessarily office holders – have a way of being there when we need them the most. Their strong faith, and their belief in our common familyhood, binds them to us at all times, just like how Joseph provided food to his family even though they had chased him out in the first place.
In our natal families, some are inevitably converted to Catholicism earlier than others. It is as Joseph said to his brothers, “It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me here ahead of you.” One of my cousins was converted to Christianity at a young age, and continues to be fervent in his faith till this day. His conversion caused a lot of heartache for his family because they are mainly of another faith. But he persisted with the help of the Holy Spirit. When he got married to a woman whom he converted to Christianity, this woman loved his family so much that his sister now wants to be baptized as a Christian. I find this story a great inspiration for those who become Catholics without the support of their families, but who gradually find their families converting to their faith. With God, nothing is impossible.
“The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Let us then not cease in our efforts to demonstrate our faith in the Trinitarian God to others. For with Him, there is eternal life. Let us be Jesus’ hands and legs on earth and show through our lives the good that believing in Him does for us.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Serene Goh)
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for our Christian leaders and the good work they do in our communities.
Prayer: I pray that more families may convert to Catholicism together, and be a support for one another in their walk of faith.