Thank you for journeying with us all this while. The liturgical year is coming to an end, and the OXYGEN team would like to invite interested writers to contribute a reflection or two for the Christmas mass readings at the end of this year. If you feel called to put the sharing of your faith into writing, please do drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!
The OXYGEN team
All of us, in union with Christ, form one body, and as parts of it we belong to each other. Our gifts differ according to the grace given us. If your gift is prophecy, then use it as your faith suggests; if administration, then use it for administration; if teaching, then use it for teaching. Let the preachers deliver sermons, the almsgivers give freely, the officials be diligent, and those who do works of mercy do them cheerfully.
Do not let your love be a pretence, but sincerely prefer good to evil. Love each other as much as brothers should, and have a profound respect for each other. Work for the Lord with untiring effort and with great earnestness of spirit. If you have hope, this will make you cheerful. Do not give up if trials come; and keep on praying. If any of the saints are in need you must share with them; and you should make hospitality your special care.
Bless those who persecute you: never curse them, bless them. Rejoice with those who rejoice and be sad with those in sorrow. Treat everyone with equal kindness; never be condescending but make real friends with the poor. Do not allow yourself to become self-satisfied.
One of those gathered round the table said to him, ‘Happy the man who will be at the feast in the kingdom of God!’ But he said to him, ‘There was a man who gave a great banquet, and he invited a large number of people. When the time for the banquet came, he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, “Come along: everything is ready now.” But all alike started to make excuses. The first said, “I have bought a piece of land and must go and see it. Please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen and am on my way to try them out. Please accept my apologies.” Yet another said, “I have just got married and so am unable to come.”
‘The servant returned and reported this to his master. Then the householder, in a rage, said to his servant, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” “Sir” said the servant “your orders have been carried out and there is still room.” Then the master said to his servant, “Go to the open roads and the hedgerows and force people to come in to make sure my house is full; because, I tell you, not one of those who were invited shall have a taste of my banquet.”’
Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them
A friend of mine once shared some very insightful thoughts with me on his experiences working in Church ministry. The ones that struck me the most in relation to the readings today are
“Not everyone will like you.”
“You will make people angry regardless how godly you handle yourself; it comes with the position.”
“Not everyone will respond positively to your preaching, teaching, or leadership. You will bring people to tears with the same sermon: one in joy, another in anger.”
“You will be criticized, rarely to your face, and frequently behind your back. This criticism will come from those that love you, those that obviously do not like you, and clergy and Christians that barely know you.”
In spite of just a few years in my ministry, these sharings resonated with my experiences. We all share a love and passion for God and serving His people, although everyone has different personalities and gifts. Running a ministry is truly a big cross for all the leaders and committees to carry because everyone has various experiences and impressions of God and thus opinions and priorities on how best to serve him differ. Sadly, often our enemies are not from the outside but amongst those within. Even Lord Jesus affirmed the same experience as He spoke about the invited guests who made excuses and declined the rich man’s invitation. As we are familiar with celebration invitations in our time such as wedding, family meal, birthday etc, the rich man probably had informed his intended guests in advance. But when the time came, the guests made the excuses out of blue. The rich man’s anger is understandable. But instead of being consumed by his fury, he invited all the poor and outcast outside to his feast. Lord Jesus emphasized, those who made excuses could not come to the feast any more. They had forfeited the Lord’s generosity.
As in the Gospel, the Lord gives out His graces freely to everyone, even the undeserved and unworthy ones. But it also comes as the warning for those who reject this grace or who attend the feast unworthily. We must always remember that we have been given the choice to receive and say “Yes” to His invitation to salvation and His saving ministry.
“Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them” is a reminder for those others who are at their wits’ end, including myself. Although we may have reached our limits in service or patience, we must not forget that there are always graces from God, and we need to persevere in joyous service in His name. Since we have unlimited graces, we should follow Saint Paul’s advice to rejoice in the hope, endure affliction and persevere in prayer. Do not forget that since we are already in communion with God, those sufferings we face, serve as the sanctifying graces for our souls, paving the way to Heaven. I think I am happy enough to carry my cross and follow Lord Jesus.
“The Saints rejoiced at injuries and persecutions, because in forgiving them they had something to present to God when they prayed to Him” – Saint Teresa of Avila
(Today’s OXYGEN by Michael Goo)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, empower us to build Your Kingdom here on earth in midst of our sufferings for we know we are within Your Hands. Bless everyone we meet everyday and grant the conversion of the world. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks to God for the unlimited graces we receive everyday.