19 November, Saturday – From the depths of my heart

19 November

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Apocalypse 11: 4-12

I, John, heard a voice saying: ‘These, my two witnesses, are the two olive trees and the two lamps that stand before the Lord of the world. Fire can come from their mouths and consume their enemies if anyone tries to harm them; and if anybody does try to harm them he will certainly be killed in this way. They are able to lock up the sky so that it does not rain as long as they are prophesying; they are able to turn water into blood and strike the whole world with any plague as often as they like. When they have completed their witnessing, the beast that comes out of the Abyss is going to make war on them and overcome them and kill them.
Their corpses will lie in the main street of the Great City known by the symbolic names Sodom and Egypt, in which their Lord was crucified. Men out of every people, race, language and nation will stare at their corpses, for three-and-a-half days, not letting them be buried, and the people of the world will be glad about it and celebrate the event by giving presents to each other, because these two prophets have been a plague to the people of the world.’
After the three-and-a-half days, God breathed life into them and they stood up, and everybody who saw it happen was terrified; then they heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, ‘Come up here’, and while their enemies were watching, they went up to heaven in a cloud.

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Some Sadducees – those who say that there is no resurrection – approached him and they put this question to him, ‘Master, we have it from Moses in writing, that if a man’s married brother dies childless, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Well then, there were seven brothers. The first, having married a wife, died childless. The second and then the third married the widow. And the same with all seven, they died leaving no children. Finally the woman herself died Now, at the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife since she had been married to all seven?’
Jesus replied, ‘The children of this world take wives and husbands, but those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the resurrection from the dead do not marry because they can no longer die, for they are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God. And Moses himself implies that the dead rise again, in the passage about the bush where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.’
Some scribes then spoke up. ‘Well put, Master’ they said – because they would not dare to ask him any more questions.

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Jesus withdrew… to keep… from being crushed.

As I write this today, the depths of my heart echo a silent exhausted plea. Still, I will write – even as clarity evades me. My efforts are my offering that the first reading of Hebrews describes the high priests carrying out. More often than not, our present sacrifices and efforts may not bring swift reward or make sense. But it is possible to keep on offering ourselves upon the altar for a higher purpose. How can we keep on trusting in this greater reality?

The Gospel of Mark relates Jesus doing just this. Exhausted from offering himself to the multitudes by ministering to them, he withdraws to the lakeside. Despite his retreat, the crowds pursued him. So persistent were they, that he had to request a boat to float out to the lake’s heart – to create real physical distance between them and keep himself from being crushed. ‘Crushed’ by the needs and expectations of others. I can relate to this and Jesus feels so real in this picture. He created distance to seek communion and peace with God and within himself first, before reaching out to others. His reality was his divine Sonship. Even Jesus was humble enough to not have a Messiah complex. How about me?

Today, as you read this, I will be getting married. My sombre tone as I write this now, two weeks before, does not do my inner joy justice. Exhaustion does this to people. I had envisioned myself to be jubilant two weeks before the wedding, with smooth-sailing gears falling into precision pace. Yet plans seem cranking. I am excited about the day and our life ahead. Yet I am in need of a spiritual oasis to replenish my confidence, purpose, and ground my reality in discipleship.

I am learning something new every moment — about myself, and this vocation I am blessed with. Marriage is partnership and teamwork, a mutual self-giving. Just as man and wife give to each other, each must first encounter this Holy exchange with the Lord Himself. How does Jesus do this, spent as He was? Psalm 39 is where the puzzle of the three readings begin to fall into place.

Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will.
You do not ask for sacrifice and offerings,
but an open ear.
You do not ask for holocaust and victim.
Instead, here am I […]
My God, I delight in your law
in the depth of my heart.

Whose will do we think we carry out in our lives? The high priests of the Old Testament offered sacrifices and oblation day after day after day. Sounds about right for husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers the world over, doesn’t it? But these could never be perfect and complete – save for the redemptive ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. Do I open my ears and heart? Do I seek to unite my will to that of our Lord?

As a single person, it is easier to steer the wheel of my will and wish others to get onboard. At comfortable points when flexibility is required of me, it is easier to ‘bend’ my will. But in being enjoined with another, the sacrifices for simplicity and harmony can be a painful flesh-struggle. It is humbling and bittersweet to be refined this way. As I approach my husband-to-be and our day of Holy Matrimony, I pray for the courage to keep on choosing to die to the false selves hidden within. I ask the Holy Spirit to clothe me in true wisdom and grace. May our Blessed Mother’s fiat and generosity inspire my open ears and heart to accept this priestly ministry of being a faithful Christian and wife. It will be hard work, but “nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37)

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer: We pray, in this last day of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, that our marriages and families be awash with mutual mercy and healing tenderness. With our wills united to Christ, may we never tire of trying again.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for your ultimate sacrifice in love. With the living proof of your Eucharist, I beseech you for the strength to love others with a prodigal generosity without seeking reward, save that of knowing I do your most holy will.

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