5 August, Friday – This Cruel Marketplace

5 August – Memorial for Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome

First raised at the order of Pope Liberius in the mid-fourth century, the Liberian Basilica was rebuilt by Pope Sixtus III shortly after the Council of Ephesus affirmed Mary’s title as Mother of God in 431. Rededicated at that time to the Mother of God, St. Mary Major is the largest church in the world honouring God through Mary.

St. Mary Major is one of the four Roman basilicas known as patriarchal cathedrals in memory of the first centres of the Church. This basilica represents the See of Antioch, where Mary is supposed to have spent most of her life.

http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/SaintOfDay/default.asp?id=1098

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Nahum 2:1,3,3:1-3,6-7

See, over the mountains the messenger hurries!
‘Peace!’ he proclaims.
Judah, celebrate your feasts,
carry out your vows,
for Belial will never pass through you again;
he is utterly annihilated.
Yes, the Lord is restoring the vineyard of Jacob
and the vineyard of Israel.
For the plunderers had plundered them,
they had broken off their branches.

Woe to the city soaked in blood,
full of lies,
stuffed with booty,
whose plunderings know no end!
The crack of the whip!
The rumble of wheels!
Galloping horse,
jolting chariot,
charging cavalry,
flash of swords,
gleam of spears…
a mass of wounded,
hosts of dead,
countless corpses;
they stumble over the dead.
I am going to pelt you with filth,
shame you, make you a public show.
And all who look on you will turn their backs on you and say,
‘Nineveh is a ruin.’
Could anyone pity her?
Where can I find anyone to comfort her?

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Matthew 16:24-28

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?

‘For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and, when he does, he will reward each one according to his behaviour. I tell you solemnly, there are some of these standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming with his kingdom.’

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What has a man to offer in exchange for his life?

The world is a marketplace. This description is too cruelly realistic for us to be content with it. What do I mean? The ‘marketplace’ is an arena of commercial dealings, trades, transactions. So what? Some may say it is a fact and this is just what is necessary. We need to trade and cut deals. We need to maximise profit, minimise loss. I’ve got to keep my job. Money talks. Business is not charity. “Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness. I am kind to everyone, but when someone is unkind to me, weak is not what you are going to remember about me.” This quote, attributed to big-time 19th century New York gangster Al Capone, pretty much paints today’s reality in the world of trade and industry.

The grave problem here is, the terms and objects of transactions are more than inanimate commodities. For some parts of the world, and in some societies, people are the goods and services. Yes, we cannot turn a blind eye to this. Prostitution, slavery, child labour, sweatshop industries, exploitation of wages/lives/trust/hope of refugees and the common man… these today are the ills of our world. In the words of Pope Francis, “This is terrorism too.”

The first reading from the Book of Nahum gives us a clue about the extent of man’s igornance, sin, and indifference to sin.

Woe to the city soaked in blood,
full of lies,
stuffed with booty,
whose plunderings know no end!
…a mass of wounded,
hosts of dead,
countless corpses;
they stumble over the dead.

Isn’t this image so real even today? Stories of garment factories in India who have utter disregard for fire regulations cause hundreds of their workers to perish by fire. Captains of the South Korean MV Sewol Ferry who told their passengers, numbering hundreds and with school children onboard, to stay in their cabins as the ferry capsizes – just so they themselves could escape in the limited numbers of lifeboats. Thousands of migrant construction workers (from India, Nepal, and elsewhere) who die from extreme working conditions in Qatar in the frantic infrastructure construction surrounding the 2022 World Cup stadium. These are but some examples of how our cities are indeed soaked in blood.

I do not have the answer for such clearly complex and wicked problems – so many actors and layers of decision-making are at play here. However, Jesus poses the ultimate question: “What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?” At the end of the day, it boils down to each individual and our personal encounter with Christ who hangs before us on the Cross, asking: “Do you choose me? If you want to be a follower of mine, will you renounce yourself and take up your cross and follow me?”

Are there any big and small decisions you face today that Jesus is asking you to surrender and obey Him? Are there any seemingly banal choices that we make each day which may seem insignificant, but are actually grounded in ethical and moral dimensions? Let us pause and confront this heartless and maddening marketplace for what it is. The Lord is calling us out of our distractions/obsessions/compulsions – to ponder and cherish the dignity of each human life formed in His divine image. How shall we honour our Heavenly Father? What is God revealing to you at this moment? Truly, when it comes down to our last breath, nothing we own in this world can be used for barter with God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: May our hearts be open today to receive the correction that Jesus lovingly points out. There is nothing beyond His forgiveness. He has the message of true and eternal life.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, for loving me while I was still a sinner mired in my own chaos and ignorance. Lift me up with Your mercy and help me bring glory to You with my life and my choices.

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