24 Jul – Memorial for St. Charbel Makhluf, Priest
St. Charbel was a Lebanese monk, born in a small mountain village and ordained in 1858. Devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, he spent the last twenty three years of his life as a hermit. Despite temptations to wealth and comfort, St. Charbel taught the value of poverty, self-sacrifice and prayer by the way he lived his life.
When Pharaoh, king of Egypt, was told that the Israelites had made their escape, he and his courtiers changed their minds about the people. ‘What have we done,’ they said ‘allowing Israel to leave our service?’ So Pharaoh had his chariot harnessed and gathered his troops about him, taking six hundred of the best chariots and all the other chariots in Egypt, each manned by a picked team. The Lord made Pharaoh, king of Egypt, stubborn, and he gave chase to the sons of Israel as they made their triumphant escape. So the Egyptians gave chase and came up with them where they lay encamped beside the sea – all the horses, the chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen, his army – near Pi-hahiroth, facing Baal-zephon. And as Pharaoh approached, the sons of Israel looked round – and there were the Egyptians in pursuit of them!
The sons of Israel were terrified and cried out to the Lord. To Moses they said, ‘Were there no graves in Egypt that you must lead us out to die in the wilderness? What good have you done us, bringing us out of Egypt? We spoke of this in Egypt, did we not? Leave us alone, we said, we would rather work for the Egyptians! Better to work for the Egyptians than die in the wilderness!’
Moses answered the people, ‘Have no fear! Stand firm, and you will see what the Lord will do to save you today: the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The Lord will do the fighting for you: you have only to keep still.’
The Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to me so? Tell the sons of Israel to march on. For yourself, raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and part it for the sons of Israel to walk through the sea on dry ground. I for my part will make the heart of the Egyptians so stubborn that they will follow them. So shall I win myself glory at the expense of Pharaoh, of all his army, his chariots, his horsemen. And when I have won glory for myself, at the expense of Pharaoh and his chariots and his army, the Egyptians will learn that I am the Lord.’
Some of the scribes and Pharisees spoke up. ‘Master,’ they said ‘we should like to see a sign from you.’ He replied, ‘It is an evil and unfaithful generation that asks for a sign! The only sign it will be given is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the sea-monster for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.’
We would like to see a sign
We use signs and symbols everyday. In traffic, we stop when it is red. We move on when it is green. We follow the signs or else there will be traffic accidents. We also sometimes rely our luck based on various signs. I remember back when I was in grade school, I enjoyed reading about my future, about my lucky number, and lucky colour for the day. And I saw to it that I had with me any accessory that had that particular ‘lucky’ colour.
It says in our Gospel today that Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees that those who ask for a sign are evil and unfaithful. He said that the only sign will be from the prophet Jonah. Wherein, Jonah was inside the belly of the fish for three days and three nights, the same with the Son of Man, in the heart of the earth, for three days and three nights.
There are times as we pray, we like to ask God for signs to find out if our prayers have been answered. It seems as if we want some security to know if God really hears us. God is God. Yet, we act like we are mightier than Him. We demand too much; but we are only His children, His followers. We want to have tangible things to hold on to believe in God.
We sometimes get mad at God when we perceive that He does not answer. There must be an answer, but we just do not have the heart to discern it. Or maybe our prayers have been only a one-way communication. It should not be the case. Prayer is our communication with God. It should be two-way. Yes, we want a lot from God. However, we should also have time to pray and listen to what God is telling us. We are so pre-occupied and in a hurry to lift up all our material wants that we neglect to pray and discern God’s plan for us.
A sign is indeed important. But our faith should not be based on what we can sense. It is the state of our heart where we believe that God is with us and answers our prayers, even when we cannot perceive that He does.
Let us keep our faith strong. God does answer our prayers. I believe that God gives us signs and symbols. Sometimes, these are different from what we expect; or there are times when the signs are already evident, it is just we still do not have the grace to realise it.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)
Prayer – Father God, grant that we may always have unwavering faith in You. May we always believe even in times when we feel like giving up.
Thanksgiving – We thank you Lord, for the gift of faith. We thank you for your mercy and continued blessings despite of our unworthiness.