1 August, Monday – Little Faith

1 August – Memorial for St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop, Religious founder, Doctor

Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) vowed early to never to waste a moment of his life and lived that way for over 90 years. As a lawyer, he had his own practice by age 21, and was a leading lawyer in Naples. He never attended court without having attended Mass first.

As he matured and learned more of the world, he liked it less, and finally felt a call to religious life. He was ordained at age 29. As preacher and home missioner around Naples, St. Alphonsus was noted for his simple, clear, direct style of preaching, and his gentle, understanding way in the confessional. He was often opposed by Church officials for a perceived laxity toward sinners, and by government officials who opposed anything religious. He founded the Redemptoristines women’s order and the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists).

As bishop, St. Alphonsus worked to reform the clergy and revitalise the faithful in a diocese with a bad reputation. The royal government threatened to disband his Redemptorists, claiming that they were covertly carrying on the work of the Jesuits, who had been suppressed. Calling on his knowledge of the Congregation, his background in theology, and his skills as a lawyer, St. Alphonsus defended the Redemptorists so well that they obtained the king’s approval.

– Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 28:1-17

At the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah in the fifth month of the fourth year, the prophet Hananiah son of Azzur, a Gibeonite, spoke as follows to Jeremiah in the Temple of the Lord in the presence of the priests and of all the people. ‘The Lord, the God of Israel, says this, “I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. In two years’ time I will bring back all the vessels of the Temple of the Lord which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon carried off from this place and took to Babylon. And I will also bring back Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the exiles of Judah who have gone to Babylon – it is the Lord who speaks. Yes, I am going to break the yoke of the king of Babylon.”’

The prophet Jeremiah then replied to the prophet Hananiah in front of the priests and all the people there in the Temple of the Lord. ‘I hope so’ the prophet Jeremiah said. ‘May the Lord do so. May he fulfil the words that you have prophesied and bring the vessels of the Temple of the Lord and all the exiles back to this place from Babylon. Listen carefully, however, to this word that I am now going to say for you and all the people to hear: From remote times, the prophets who preceded you and me prophesied war, famine and plague for many countries and for great kingdoms; but the prophet who prophesies peace can only be recognised as one truly sent by the Lord when his word comes true.’

The prophet Hananiah then took the yoke off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah and broke it. In front of all the people Hananiah then said, ‘The Lord says this, “This is how, two years hence, I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and take it off the necks of all the nations.”’ At this, the prophet Jeremiah went away.

After the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke which he had taken off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah the word of the Lord was addressed to Jeremiah, ‘Go to Hananiah and tell him this, “The Lord says this: You can break wooden yokes? Right, I will make them iron yokes instead! For the Lord Sabaoth, the God of Israel, says this: An iron yoke is what I now lay on the necks of all these nations to subject them to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. They will be subject to him; I have even given him the wild animals.”’

The prophet Jeremiah said to the prophet Hananiah, ‘Listen carefully, Hananiah: the Lord has not sent you; and thanks to you this people are now relying on what is false. Hence – the Lord says this, “I am going to throw you off the face of the earth: you are going to die this year since you have preached apostasy from the Lord.”’

The prophet Hananiah died the same year, in the seventh month.

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Matthew 14:13-21

When Jesus received the news of John the Baptist’s death he withdrew by boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But the people heard of this and, leaving the towns, went after him on foot. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them and healed their sick.

When evening came, the disciples went to him and said, ‘This is a lonely place, and the time has slipped by; so send the people away, and they can go to the villages to buy themselves some food.’ Jesus replied, ‘There is no need for them to go: give them something to eat yourselves.’ But they answered ‘All we have with us is five loaves and two fish.’ ‘Bring them here to me’ he said. He gave orders that the people were to sit down on the grass; then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven and said the blessing. And breaking the loaves handed them to his disciples who gave them to the crowds. They all ate as much as they wanted, and they collected the scraps remaining; twelve baskets full. Those who ate numbered about five thousand men, to say nothing of women and children.

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Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.

One Saturday early this year, both of us were approached by our parish priest to help out in the parish’s fund raising project. I was made to understand that it was simply to look at the finances of the project — simple enough, but I asked for a day to think about it. I was hesitant, given my rather heavy commitment in the music ministry that I am part of.

However, on the very next day, our parish priest sent out an official note to all in the committee introducing us. That’s how both us became ‘Co-Chairs’ of the parish fundraising committee. We didn’t even have the opportunity to say ‘Eh, maybe not…!’ All too soon, we found out that it entailed more than just looking at numbers. We had to put an entire programme together and it was already February! The building works were well in progress and the building would be up before the year ends. Our priest tricked us!!

My partner in crime was more confident than I was. He obviously is stronger in faith. We have never been in parish ministry. We did not know anyone. How would we put together smaller committees to get all the projects going?

“You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”

Yup, I had little faith that we could pull this off. As we put together our ‘action plan’, my anxiety went from level five to ten. However, we went along with the projects, praying and trusting Jesus to guide us along the way.

Fast forward 6 months later. ‘Five loaves and two fish’ means so much more to me. Jesus has been the project leader all along. He is ever so generous in sending people to help us carry out his work. My initial trepidation was unfounded. Everything has been moving along swimmingly well. All I needed to do was say “Yes!” and surrender everything to Jesus. And He did everything else. Whatever little we had to offer, He multiplied it several times over.

At the end of May, we kicked off our very first project. We told our fellow parishioners we hoped that our five loaves and two fish would come back yielding twelve baskets full of scraps. And indeed it has! Praise God.

“Take my five loaves and two fishes

Do with it as you will. I surrender

Take my fears and my inhibitions

All my burdens, my ambitions

You can use it all to feed them all”

The lovely song by Corrine May says it all.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, when you call on us, teach us to trust that you will equip us with everything we need to do in order to fulfil your will. May we never fear nor be anxious about anything.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for your graces. Thank you for our gifts and talents. May we use them for your glory. All we need to do is to say ‘Yes’! And you will take over.

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