31 Dec – 7th Day in the Octave of Christmas, and Memorial of Saint Sylvester I, Pope
Son of Rufinus. Pope in the reign of Emperor Constantine I. Built the Basilica of Saint John Lateran and other churches. Sent legates to the First Council of Nicaea, and was involved in the controversy over Arianism. The spurious Donation of Constantine was supposedly given to Saint Sylvester.
– The Patron Saint Index
1 John 2:18-21
Children, these are the last days;
you were told that an Antichrist must come,
and now several antichrists have already appeared;
we know from this that these are the last days.
Those rivals of Christ came out of our own number, but they had never really belonged;
if they had belonged, they would have stayed with us;
but they left us, to prove that not one of them
ever belonged to us.
But you have been anointed by the Holy One,
and have all received the knowledge.
It is not because you do not know the truth that I am writing to you
but rather because you know it already
and know that no lie can come from the truth.
In the beginning was the Word:
and the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things came to be,
not one thing had its being but through him.
All that came to be had life in him
and that life was the light of men,
a light that shines in the dark,
a light that darkness could not overpower.
A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.
The Word was the true light
that enlightens all men;
and he was coming into the world.
He was in the world
that had its being through him,
and the world did not know him.
He came to his own domain
and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to all who believe in the name of him
who was born not out of human stock
or urge of the flesh
or will of man
but of God himself.
The Word was made flesh,
he lived among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father,
full of grace and truth.
John appears as his witness. He proclaims:
‘This is the one of whom I said:
He who comes after me ranks before me
because he existed before me.’
Indeed, from his fullness we have, all of us, received –
yes, grace in return for grace,
since, though the Law was given through Moses,
grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God;
it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart,
who has made him known.
If they had belonged, they would have stayed with us
Last week I was invited to give a sharing to my team members and those of another team at work. The topic was “How have I changed this past year”. Quite an open topic, no? After much thought, I decided to share how I’ve changed in seven areas of my life: family, health, education, career, service, financial and spiritual. It’s apt that I’m sharing it with you here on this last day of 2013.
This is the year that I finally accepted where I am spiritually. For the past 3 years since I stopped going to church, I’ve sought a community to belong to, a religion that I could accept since I no longer considered myself Catholic. This year, I accepted that religiously following a religion is bad for me, so I’ve settled on my identity of being ex-Catholic. This is to give tribute to the faith that taught me about God and introduced me to Him, and for that I love this religion. It is also to accept that where I am now and what I believe in, I can’t really consider myself Catholic anymore.
So I feel somewhat uncomfortable reading and reflecting on the first reading, but that’s tempered by the gospel reading, as I’ll soon explain. The first reading tells us that antichrists come from within the Church. It’s never external forces but internal forces that threaten to destroy or contaminate the Church. It’s been that way from the beginning and even today it’s still that way.
However, the first reading alone may give us the impression that such antichrists are to be avoided at all costs, to be rejected and condemned. But if we do that, we’re not being very Christian, are we? It’s important to know that the light of God exists within all men, even the antichrists, the ones who try to destroy the Church from within. It’s important to note that such people aren’t really attempting to destroy the Church – it’s easy to forget that sometimes. They are merely doing what they think is necessary to protect themselves, their beliefs, their feelings, and their consciences.
It’s important to realise that while there are people in the world, ex-Catholics included, who no longer believe what Catholics believe as a religion, we’re not bad people; we’re broken inside. Sometimes we speak out against the Catholic Church and I know from personal experience that this comes from a great deal of pain, hurt, anger and unforgiveness. What can we do for them? Here’s the tough answer: Nothing. If you’re Catholic and speaking to an ex-Catholic full of hatred and anger against anything remotely Catholic, you’re not going to be able to do anything for this person. This person has been blinded by his own hurt and pain and until that’s removed or healed, nothing you say or do is going to help.
You can go on and say that, “Yes, there are black sheep in every religion and remember the good things that Catholics have done”, but I can tell you outright that it takes at least 5 good deeds by Catholics to neutralise the hurt that 1 bad Catholic has done. I’m still dealing with my own brokenness, and it kind of helps that the hypnotherapist I’m working with is Catholic and has been through the path I’m walking now.
As I close this last reflection of 2013, I want to share with you one thing I know for sure: God will bring me back to the Catholic Church one day in His own way and His own time. Pray for me.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Daniel Tay)
Prayer: We pray for all ex-Catholics who are holding on to so much pain and hurt in their lives, may they never lose God.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Lord for those 5 Catholics doing good deeds for us, working hard to erase the hurt that the one bad deed that Catholic might have done to us.