14 October – Memorial for St. Callistus I, Pope and Martyr
Callistus (d. 223) was born a slave, owned by Carpophorus, a Christian in the household of Caesar. His master entrusted a large sum to Callistus to open a bank, which took in several deposits, made several loans to people who refused to pay them back, and went broke. Knowing he would be personally blamed and punished, Callistus fled, but was caught and returned to his owner. Several depositers begged for his life, believing that he had not lost the money, but had stolen and hid it.
They were wrong; he wasn’t a thief, just a victim, but he was sentenced to work the tin mines. By a quirk of Roman law, the ownership of Callistus was transferred from Carpophorus to the state, and when he was later ransomed out of his sentence with a number of other Christians, he became a free man. Pope St. Zephyrinus put Callistus in charge of the Roman public burial grounds, today still called the Cemetery of Saint Callistus. He later became an archdeacon and the 16th pope.
Most of what we know about him has come down to us from his critics, including an anti-Pope of the day. He was, on more than one occasion, accused of heresy for such actions as permitting a return to Communion for sinners who had repented and done penance, or for proclaiming that differences in economic classes were no barrier to marriage.
This last put him in conflict with Roman civil law, but he stated that in matters concerning the Church and the sacraments, Church law trumped civil law. In both cases he taught what the Church has taught for centuries, including today, and though a whole host of schismatics wrote against him, his crime seems to have been to practice orthodox Christianity. He was martyred for his faith.
– Patron Saints Index
It is in Christ that we were claimed as God’s own,
chosen from the beginning,
under the predetermined plan of the one who guides all things
as he decides by his own will;
chosen to be,
for his greater glory,
the people who would put their hopes in Christ before he came.
Now you too, in him,
have heard the message of the truth and the good news of your salvation,
and have believed it;
and you too have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit of the Promise,
the pledge of our inheritance
which brings freedom for those whom God has taken for his own, to make his glory praised.
The people had gathered in their thousands so that they were treading on one another. And Jesus began to speak, first of all to his disciples. ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees – that is, their hypocrisy. Everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. For this reason, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in hidden places will be proclaimed on the housetops.
‘To you my friends I say: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. I will tell you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has the power to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Can you not buy five sparrows for two pennies? And yet not one is forgotten in God’s sight. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. There is no need to be afraid: you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.’
Every hair on your head has been counted.
And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. This line of the scripture is one of my favourites. It fascinates me and also comforts me. This was the line that struck me during my conversion 5 years ago and continues to carry me though. Fascinating — to think that God actually counts every hair on my head, knows me through and through. He actually sees me and knows everything about me.
Recently, I embarked on a mini spiritual walk starting in Portugal and concluding in Spain. I walked with a friend of mine. The Portuguese route, while marked clearly, doesn’t quite tell us where we are. One of those mornings, we began our walk fresh from a good night’s rest. As usual, the familiar yellow arrows — which were our ‘signposts’ for the direction to take — pointed us towards a path. About 300 metres along, we came to a junction. No more signposts and we were faced with 3 different routes to take.
My travel companion asked “So where do we go?” I had been the navigator during the trip and this time, I wasn’t quite sure. After some discussion, and walking back to look at where that original yellow ‘signpost’ was pointing, we decided to take a particular path straight ahead of us.
The path was narrower than the usual paths we had taken those past few days. Not at all well-trodden by pilgrims. As we walked further and further, the path kind of disappeared, and soon we were walking on overgrown vegetation and vines. I was beginning to wonder to myself if we had picked the wrong route. Thorny creepers lined this path and we had to be very careful not to get pricked. We had walked quite far along by then, and we were faced with the decision of whether to backtrack or to keep moving forward. I could not see any clearing ahead of us. The overgrown path seemed to continue as far as I could see.
Under my breath, I whispered “Lord, help me out here. Cause I am kinda lost and don’t know if this is the right way.” Not long after, I saw a couple of cyclists appear some 100 metres ahead. One of them stopped at the intersection of that overgrown path, looked directly at me and then cycled ahead of him. What a relief to see them! They were cycling pilgrims; an indication that we were on the right track, or at least the path ahead would lead us back on the right track. And so we continued our walk.
The rest of the day’s walk was ‘trying’. I was so preoccupied with getting us to our destination in Facha that I failed to appreciate the beauty of the landscape and God’s creation. I was agitated, frustrated, hot and hungry.
As I reflected on the walk, I realised that as usual, I was taking everything into my own hands. Getting all too caught up in the details, that I failed to see that Jesus was there with me all along.
He had sent angels along the way when we got lost – the cyclists, the tiny lady appearing out of her window, who gesticulated the way we should continue and then disappeared again, the grapes from the vine that sustained me when I was famished. If only I had looked up to see Him, He was right ahead of me. If only I silenced myself to feel His presence and appreciate the beauty around me. He would never let me get lost. He knew exactly where I was, He was leading me all along. He is so profoundly close to me, to all of us. If only I would just let go. And trust. If the little sparrows are never forgotten or lost in the sight of Jesus, would He lose sight of me?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: Lord, teach us to open our eyes to see your presence. You are so profoundly close and yet we never take the time to look up to see you. Teach us to walk through life’s journey with complete faith and trust, knowing that You are there to lead us.
Thanksgiving: Lord Jesus, thank you for teaching us that You are always present in our lives. That through life’s journey, as mysterious and untrodden as it may seem, You are always there to lead, never losing sight of us.