16 Nov – Memorial of Saint Margaret of Scotland
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
Saint Margaret of Scotland
Granddaughter of King Edmund Ironside of England. Great-niece of Saint Stephen of Hungary. Born in Hungary while her family was in exile due to the Danish invasion of England, she still spent much of her youth in the British Isles. While fleeing the invading army of William the Conqueror in 1066, her family’s ship wrecked on the Scottish coast. They were assisted by King Malcolm III Canmore of Scotland, whom Margaret married in 1070. Queen of Scotland. They had eight children including Saint Maud, wife of Henry I, and Saint David of Scotland. Margaret founded abbeys and used her position to work for justice and improved conditions for the poor.
When peaceful silence lay over all,
and night had run the half of her swift course,
down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt your all-powerful Word;
into the heart of a doomed land the stern warrior leapt.
Carrying your unambiguous command like a sharp sword,
he stood, and filled the universe with death;
he touched the sky, yet trod the earth.
For, to keep your children from all harm,
The whole creation, obedient to your commands,
was once more, and newly, fashioned in its nature.
Overshadowing the camp there was the cloud,
where water had been, dry land was seen to rise,
the Red Sea became an unimpeded way,
the tempestuous flood a green plain;
sheltered by your hand, the whole nation passed across,
gazing at these amazing miracles.
They were like horses at pasture,
they skipped like lambs,
singing your praises, Lord, their deliverer.
Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. ‘There was a judge in a certain town’ he said ‘who had neither fear of God nor respect for man. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, “I want justice from you against my enemy!” For a long time he refused, but at last he said to himself, “Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for man, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death.”’
And the Lord said ‘You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’
I tell you, He will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth
As a child, I had real problems learning. Unlike my siblings, it didn’t come naturally to me. I’ve always had to try harder because I was just slower than they were. My mother tells many stories of her exasperation with my slowness, how she had to resort to ‘show and tell’ exercises, just to get me to understand the sound of words. As I grew older, it got worse. I think that what I had was a mild form of learning deficiency, only we never knew it back then so we never sought the right help and never got the training to overcome it. It still takes me a long time to understand things. I have to read a passage a few times before I can focus and the words start to make sense; they’re just forms and shapes and sounds, the first time round. My mother deserves all the credit for how far I’ve come. I can read because she persevered despite my limitations. If the same happened to me now, if I had a child with the same disadvantage, I don’t know if I’d have my mother’s tenacity or her perseverance to keep going at it. I know my mother prayed and prayed that I’d somehow grow out of it but the thing is, I never did. What DID happen was that technology made a quantum leap in my generation. Personal computers, the IPad, the Internet, YouTube and audio books advanced enough so people like me could manage without our disadvantages becoming obvious to everyone. My mother prayed expecting only a single outcome but God answered in a manner far bigger than what we could have imagined.
A lot of times, when we pray, we plead repetitively, almost demanding that God see things OUR way and deliver us our answers. If He really loves us, why does He let us suffer so? Can’t He see how much we’re hurting? But a lot of that frustration comes from a flawed understanding of what prayer is. We use prayer like a ‘sales pitch’ to impose upon God how we think things ought to work out – “God, do this for me” or “God, do that for me because of all these reasons”. How can we even know what to ask for, if we can’t see the full picture? And why would we even try to tell God how to do His job? More than that, why does God tolerate our insolence and back talking? Who are we to presume we can teach God anything?
The reading from today’s gospel is often quoted as an example of the power of ‘persistence’. I think the real story of the parable is not how often we ought to pray, but HOW we pray, the spirit in which we petition the Lord and the perseverance with which we seek His will, not ours. As an extreme example, if I demanded of the Lord to deliver me the winning lottery numbers for next week’s draw, I don’t think He would even deign to look my way. That sort of prayer, where ‘self’ is the central focus, likely goes unanswered. However, if I asked the Lord to help me be generous and kind, He is likely to send me situations where I am given the opportunity to exercise those qualities. This might include coming into some kind of windfall or being put in a position where I can impact someone meaningfully. See the difference?
“We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love Him, whom He has called according to His plan” (Romans 8:28). Sometimes, that entails holding back on what we ask for, so He can help us to learn something from the process. Other times, He lets us plead in prayer because it is only with pleading and the passage of time that we discover if the spirit of what we ask for is truly pure, and not driven by selfish motivations. “We are weak but the Spirit comes to help us… the Spirit intercedes for us without words, as if with groans. And He who sees inner secrets knows the desires of the Spirit, for he asks for the holy ones, what is pleasing to God” (Romans 8: 26-27). The Spirit within us knows how to pray on our behalf. When we quieten our hearts and kneel in prayer, we open ourselves to the Spirit’s influence, which aligns our wants to God’s desires. It is when this happens that prayers get answered. Today when we pray, let’s examine our petitions from those angles – how we are praying, the spirit in which we petition the Lord and the perseverance with which we are seeking His will. After all, it’s not about what we want, it’s about what He wants.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: Lord, please align my heart and its desires to all that is pleasing to you, so that I may not waste my time (and Yours) in fruitless, selfish ‘prayer’.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, who guides our thoughts, our actions and our hearts to the Lord.