7 August – Memorial for St. Sixtus, pope, martyr, and companions; St. Cajetan, Priest
Sixtus (d. 258) was an adult convert to Christianity. In his papacy, he dealt with the controversy concerning Baptism by heretics. He believed that anyone who was baptised with a desire to be a Christian, even if the Baptism was performed by a heretic, was truly baptised into the faith, and that the validity of his faith was based on his own desire and actions, not the errors of the person who performed the sacrament. He was martyred with six deacons and sub-deacons.
Cajetan (1480-1547) was offered governing posts, but turned them down for a religious vocation. He was aware of the need of reformation in the Church and felt called to enter a religious community to serve the sick and poor. With three others, he formed the Congregation of Clerks Regular (Theatines) with the mission of fostering the Church’s mission and reviving the spirit and zeal of the clergy. He also founded a bank to help the poor and offer an alternative to usurers (loan sharks); it later became the Bank of Naples.
St. Cajetan was known for a gentle game he played with parishioners where he would bet prayers, rosaries or devotional candles on whether he would perform some service for them; he always did, and they always had to “pay” by saying the prayers. He is a patron saint of the unemployed.
– Patron Saint Index
That night had been foretold to our ancestors, so that,
once they saw what kind of oaths they had put their trust in,
they would joyfully take courage.
This was the expectation of your people,
the saving of the virtuous and the ruin of their enemies;
for by the same act with which you took vengeance on our foes
you made us glorious by calling us to you.
The devout children of worthy men offered sacrifice in secret
and this divine pact they struck with one accord:
that the saints would share the same blessings and dangers alike;
and forthwith they had begun to chant the hymns of the fathers.
Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen. It was for faith that our ancestors were commended.
It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the call to set out for a country that was the inheritance given to him and his descendants, and that he set out without knowing where he was going. By faith he arrived, as a foreigner, in the Promised Land, and lived there as if in a strange country, with Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. They lived there in tents while he looked forward to a city founded, designed and built by God.
It was equally by faith that Sarah, in spite of being past the age, was made able to conceive, because she believed that he who had made the promise would be faithful to it. Because of this, there came from one man, and one who was already as good as dead himself, more descendants than could be counted, as many as the stars of heaven or the grains of sand on the seashore.
All these died in faith, before receiving any of the things that had been promised, but they saw them in the far distance and welcomed them, recognising that they were only strangers and nomads on earth. People who use such terms about themselves make it quite plain that they are in search of their real homeland. They can hardly have meant the country they came from, since they had the opportunity to go back to it; but in fact they were longing for a better homeland, their heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, since he has founded the city for them.
It was by faith that Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He offered to sacrifice his only son even though the promises had been made to him and he had been told: It is through Isaac that your name will be carried on. He was confident that God had the power even to raise the dead; and so, figuratively speaking, he was given back Isaac from the dead.
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.
‘Sell your possessions and give alms. Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, treasure that will not fail you, in heaven where no thief can reach it and no moth destroy it. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
‘See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. It may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready. You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house. You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’
Peter said, ‘Lord, do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone?’ The Lord replied, ‘What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you truly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time coming,” and sets about beating the menservants and the maids, and eating and drinking and getting drunk, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.
The servant who knows what his master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash. The one who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes. When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.’
When a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.
How many of us are actually waiting ‘in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ’? These are the words the priest prays after the Lord’s Prayer is said by the congregation. Do we contemplate the words of this prayer daily, or do we simply take for granted each new day we have been given? The Scripture readings today are all glaringly shouting, “any moment now!” But it seems that unconsciously, it is more natural to be like the servant in the Gospel passage who loafs about while the master is out, and who exploits those who have been given under his charge. It is utter folly, for God, being omniscient, will choose the opportune time to return while the errant servant is unaware, and will ‘cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.’
At brief reading, it may seem that the master is the tricky one to trap his servant. I have considered this before! It is shocking that without deep reflection, we can falsely assume it is our birthright to escape the responsibility of being alive and human. That is, that we are sinners and will tend to sin. Thus we must stay vigilant against our own weaknesses; lest the evil one stumbles us with temptation! Still, it would be our choice – free will, after all. Why did the servant commit these grave errors? How then can we stand our guard against the thief of the night?
It is impatience and the lack of faith that stumbled him. Being impatient for the master’s return, he began to take things into his own hands – believing himself to have taken over the household from his master who, perhaps, may not return at all! So he goes about beating and ill-treating his fellow menservants. This points to the vengeance and self-justified violence that some people turn to, to exact righteousness on those who have trespassed them, e.g. honour killings, vigilantes and crimes of jealousy, etc. Of course, these are extremes. But on a daily basis, perhaps our own impatient and unfair actions towards others are similar in theory, although not in magnitude.
Can we repent? Then to Abraham we must look. In the second reading of Hebrews we are told:
“Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen. It was for faith that our ancestors were commended… All these died in faith, before receiving any of the things that had been promised, but they saw them in the far distance and welcomed them, recognising that they were only strangers and nomads on earth.”
This image is arresting. These Fathers of Faith are the servants who were not caught with their pants down. They were constantly ‘waiting in joyful hope’ for the the return of their master. They had their eyes cast expectantly to the better country promised to them. They were not waiting too comfortably nor skiving off in the master’s BarcaLounger while he was away. Such stewards are our models of faith and leadership. Their persevering awareness of their finite existence on earth gave them a motivation and mission that surpassed any length of wait.
I desire for greater definition of my mission and vocation in this life. As I continue to wait on the Lord to lead me, I pray for joy and endurance to wait with purpose and devotion. In the times I may meander and stray, may God have mercy on me.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
Prayer: Lord, help me to remain steadfast in faith and devotion to the path you have set me on.
Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and shield.
Our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you. (Ps. 33:20-22)