5 July – Memorial for St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria, Priest
St. Anthony (1502-1539) studied medicine at Padua, receiving his doctorate at age 22. Working among the poor in Cremona, he felt called to the religious life. He was ordained at age 26; legend says that angels were seen around the altar at his first Mass. St. Anthony established two congregations that helped reform the morals of the faithful, encouraged laymen to work together with the apostolate, and frequent reception of Communion.
– Patron Saint Index
Genesis 21:5, 8-20
Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham gave a great banquet on the day Isaac was weaned. Now Sarah watched the son that Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. ‘Drive away that slave-girl and her son,’ she said to Abraham; ‘this slave-girl’s son is not to share the inheritance with my son Isaac.’ This greatly distressed Abraham because of his son, but God said to him, ‘Do not distress yourself on account of the boy and your slave-girl. Grant Sarah all she asks of you, for it is through Isaac that your name will be carried on. But the slave-girl’s son I will also make into a nation, for he is your child too.’ Rising early next morning Abraham took some bread and a skin of water and, giving them to Hagar, he put the child on her shoulder and sent her away.
She wandered off into the wilderness of Beersheba. When the skin of water was finished she abandoned the child under a bush. Then she went and sat down at a distance, about a bowshot away, saying to herself, ‘I cannot see the child die.’ So she sat at a distance; and the child wailed and wept.
But God heard the boy wailing, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven. ‘What is wrong, Hagar?’ he asked. ‘Do not be afraid, for God has heard the boy’s cry where he lies. Come, pick up the boy and hold him safe, for I will make him into a great nation.’ Then God opened Hagar’s eyes and she saw a well, so she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.
God was with the boy. He grew up and made his home in the wilderness, and he became a bowman.
When Jesus reached the country of the Gadarenes on the other side, two demoniacs came towards him out of the tombs – creatures so fierce that no one could pass that way. They stood there shouting, ‘What do you want with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before the time?’ Now some distance away there was a large herd of pigs feeding, and the devils pleaded with Jesus, ‘If you cast us out, send us into the herd of pigs.’ And he said to them, ‘Go then’, and they came out and made for the pigs; and at that the whole herd charged down the cliff into the lake and perished in the water. The swineherds ran off and made for the town, where they told the whole story, including what had happened to the demoniacs. At this the whole town set out to meet Jesus; and as soon as they saw him they implored him to leave the neighbourhood.
I will make of him a great nation
“I will make a great nation of him also, since he too is your offspring.” How wonderful and comforting it is to hear God’s promises to us. As I read today’s first reading, I thought to myself, how much ‘easier’ it was for Abraham. If God spoke to me square in the face so directly, I too would have the courage to move ahead with His calling. Don’t get me wrong, it was a tough situation for Abraham to be placed in, hard decisions had to be made. After all, Ishmael too was his son and now he is called upon to send away Hagar and his own flesh and blood. How torn and distressed he must have felt. However, to be able to hear God’s voice tell you “Do not be distressed” made it so much more comforting for Abraham.
I wish God would speak to me so directly and clearly too when I am called to make important life decisions. For most times, God is silent. And when I think I do hear Him, something else happens and I wonder if I heard correctly.
Recently, I was serving in an outreach retreat. While riding in our bus, I got to speaking to a fellow ministry member. We never really knew each other prior to this trip. We were in different ministries in our community and never really crossed paths. We were chatting along the way and he shared with me his story. Naturally, our conversation started with what he does for a living. Jeremy shared that he stopped work since 2012 at the height of his career. Everything had been going swimmingly well for him then and he was travelling quite a bit, setting up regional offices for his organisation. Then something went wrong and, feeling empty, he left that job. He had plenty of other opportunities, given his experience. However, after attending the Conversation Experience Retreat, he was prompted to give it all up and follow Jesus. Jeremy sold his home, the home that he and his family had lived in for many years and moved in with his father. He felt that he was called to live and look after his dad in his twilight years. His wife, too, left her job after her own retreat.
Not long after, Jeremy joined a ministry in our community. However, after a few years, he felt that he wanted to leave that ministry. However, he was prompted in prayer to stay on. So despite his own jaded feelings, he stayed on. Fast forward to today, Jeremy is helping out in our music ministry as we were in need of musicians. I asked him if he had left his own ministry and he replied ‘No, I am still part of it.’ The Lord has used him and his talents to help where he is needed. I needed to ask him that one very human question “So how are you and your family coping with no income?” His frank answer — “The Lord has provided.” They live a simpler lifestyle and continue to trust in where God leads them. Jeremy is truly a gift to our music ministry (though borrowed) and he continues to be an active member in his own ministry.
I half joked (and was also serious) when I told him, “Be careful when you surrender everything to the Lord.” He will use us and take us places where we don’t necessarily want to go. But trust that He will make great nations of us.
I left a corporate job 3 years ago. It started off as a sabbatical of no more than 2 years. Where the Lord has led me is beyond my wildest imagination. Not necessarily a plan I would have made for myself if left to my own devices. With time on my hands, I created and started Tabby’s Tail some 2 years ago. It started off as nothing more than helping a few priest friends make liturgical apparel. This is my passion and it fuels the creative side of me. I didn’t think it would get very far. But through word of mouth, it has since grown and we are now embarking on bigger and more creative projects. I do wrestle with God now and again. But I know He has got other plans for Tabby’s Tail. I may not fully understand it right now, but He has shown me throughout this year that if I place my plans with Him and trust in God, He will lead me on a journey. A vocation is never static. It is a journey. He will use the gifts and talents He has given us for greater good. And yes, He will take care of the rest.
So my brothers and sisters, trust that the Lord is indeed speaking to us. We just need to peel our ears a little more and quieten that noisy head and heart of ours. And He will indeed make great nations of each and every one of us!
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: Lord, we pray for docility to follow where you lead. For courage to take the very first steps and for fortitude to continue on this journey when things appear hard. For ultimately, the blueprint of our lives has already been drafted by you. And you know best how to use us to glorify Our Father.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for making each one of us special and in your likeness. Despite our weakness and sinfulness, you have deemed us worthy of being called Priests, Prophets and Kings.