Nov 15 – Memorial for St. Albert the Great, bishop, religious, doctor
Albertus (1206-1280) was the son of a military nobleman. A Dominican priest, he taught theology at Colgone and Paris and was the teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas. He was an influential teacher, preacher, and administrator, and became the Bishop of Regensburg. He introduced Greek and Arabic science and philosophy to medieval Europe.
He is known for his wide interest in what became later known as the natural sciences – botany, biology, etc. He wrote and illustrated guides to his observations, and was considered on par with Aristotle as an authority on these matters. He was a theological writer, and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church.
“It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. But where charity is not found, God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess charity, we possess God, for “God is Charity” (1 John 4:8)” – St. Albert the Great
I, John, heard the Lord saying to me: ‘Write to the angel of the church in Sardis and say, “Here is the message of the one who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: I know all about you: how you are reputed to be alive and yet are dead. Wake up; revive what little you have left: it is dying fast. So far I have failed to notice anything in the way you live that my God could possibly call perfect, and yet do you remember how eager you were when you first heard the message? Hold on to that. Repent. If you do not wake up, I shall come to you like a thief, without telling you at what hour to expect me. There are a few in Sardis, it is true, who have kept their robes from being dirtied, and they are fit to come with me, dressed in white. Those who prove victorious will be dressed, like these, in white robes; I shall not blot their names out of the book of life, but acknowledge their names in the presence of my Father and his angels. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”
‘Write to the angel of the church in Laodicea and say, “Here is the message of the Amen, the faithful, the true witness, the ultimate source of God’s creation: I know all about you: how you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were one or the other, but since you are neither, but only lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth. You say to yourself, ‘I am rich, I have made a fortune, and have everything I want’, never realising that you are wretchedly and pitiably poor, and blind and naked too. I warn you, buy from me the gold that has been tested in the fire to make you really rich, and white robes to clothe you and cover your shameful nakedness, and eye ointment to put on your eyes so that you are able to see. I am the one who reproves and disciplines all those he loves: so repent in real earnest. Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in to share his meal, side by side with him. Those who prove victorious I will allow to share my throne, just as I was victorious myself and took my place with my Father on his throne. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”’
Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the town when a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance: he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. He was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him: ‘Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.’
And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully. They all complained when they saw what was happening. ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house’ they said. But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, ‘Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.’
For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.
We are called to make choices every day. From the most minute details – ‘What should I have for lunch? Should I get my coffee hot or iced?’; to important decisions of our lives — Should I stay at my job, or should I find a new one? Do we want to have children? Should I reach out to an estranged relative or friend?. In almost all cases, we end up facing two choices, and having to pick one out of these two.
It is the same with our faith lives. As disciples of the Lord, we are called to choose between light and darkness, good and evil, compassion and apathy. These choices beckon to us every single day. Do we comfort a colleague or a friend in need? Or do we shrug and turn back to our screens? Do we stop to listen to the homeless man? Or do we just keep walking? Do we choose to address the darkness in our souls, or do we continue to find comfort in our gadgets and entertainment?
The great Christian philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, was well aware of this binary nature of faith when he wrote his seminal work Either/Or. In the book, the reader is confronted with two vastly different narratives. In the first part of the book, we read about the aesthetic life of Victor Eremita, who seeks only pleasure in his life. This is juxtaposed by the second half of the book, which is narrated by Judge Vilheim and which espouses an ethical (rather than aesthetic or superficial) life.
Today’s readings place a strong emphasis on choices. In choosing to host the Lord and give up his belongings to the poor and needy, Zaccheus has chosen to follow the Lord and lead the Christian life. A starker warning is given in the first reading, where the lukewarm person, who is neither hot nor cold, will be rejected, while the one who heeds the voice of the Lord will be victorious by His side.
The message is clear. We cannot be lukewarm Christians, buffeted around by the tides of our times. Instead, we must stand firm on our beliefs. As Jesus says in Matthew 12:30, “Whoever is not with me is against me”. There are no two ways about it. Those who are familiar with the work of Kierkegaard will also know that Either/Or is really a false choice, for the philosopher subsequently wrote in Fear and Trembling that the goal for us, as Christians, is neither an aesthetic nor an ethical life, but a religious life.
This requires us to take, as Kierkegaard has famously said, a ‘leap of faith’ into the great unknown, knowing only that God our Father will reach out and catch us, so long as we are leaping into His way of life.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)
Prayer: Lord, we pray for your wisdom and fortitude, so that we may always make the right choices in our everyday lives, and that we will always choose you.
Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for giving us our free will, so that we can freely love and serve Him from the depths of our souls.