Aug 7 – Memorial for St. Sixtus, pope, martyr, and companions; St. Cajetan, priest
Sixtus (d. 258) was an adult convert to Christianity. In his papacy, he dealt with the controversy concerning Baptism by heretics. He believed that anyone who was baptised with a desire to be a Christian, even if the Baptism was performed by a heretic, was truly baptised into the faith, and that the validity of his faith was based on his own desire and actions, not the errors of the person who performed the sacrament. He was martyred with six deacons and sub-deacons.
Cajetan (1480-1547) was offered governing posts, but turned them down for a religious vocation. He was aware of the need of reformation in the Church and felt called to enter a religious community to serve the sick and poor. With three others, he formed the Congregation of Clerks Regular (Theatines) with the mission of fostering the Church’s mission and reviving the spirit and zeal of the clergy. He also founded a bank to help the poor and offer an alternative to usurers (loan sharks); it later became the Bank of Naples.
St. Cajetan was known for a gentle game he played with parishioners where he would bet prayers, rosaries or devotional candles on whether he would perform some service for them; he always did, and they always had to “pay” by saying the prayers. He is a patron saint of the umemployed.
– Patron Saint Index
The sons of Israel began to wail, ‘Who will give us meat to eat?’ they said. ‘Think of the fish we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic! Here we are wasting away, stripped of everything; there is nothing but manna for us to look at!’
The manna was like coriander seed, and had the appearance of bdellium. The people went round gathering it, and ground it in a mill or crushed it with a pestle; it was then cooked in a pot and made into pancakes. It tasted like cake made with oil. When the dew fell on the camp at night-time, the manna fell with it.
Moses heard the people wailing, every family at the door of its tent. The anger of the Lord flared out, and Moses greatly worried over this. And he spoke to the Lord:
‘Why do you treat your servant so badly? Why have I not found favour with you, so that you load on me the weight of all this nation? Was it I who conceived all this people, was it I who gave them birth, that you should say to me, “Carry them in your bosom, like a nurse with a baby at the breast, to the land that I swore to give their fathers”? Where am I to find meat to give to all this people, when they come worrying me so tearfully and say, “Give us meat to eat”? I am not able to carry this nation by myself alone; the weight is too much for me. If this is how you want to deal with me, I would rather you killed me! If only I had found favour in your eyes, and not lived to see such misery as this!’
When Jesus received the news of John the Baptist’s death, he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, while the boat, by now far out on the lake, was battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind. In the fourth watch of the night he went towards them, walking on the lake, and when the disciples saw him walking on the lake they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’ they said, and cried out in fear. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ It was Peter who answered. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.’ ‘Come’ said Jesus. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink. ‘Lord! Save me!’ he cried. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. ‘Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’ And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’
Having made the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret. When the local people recognised him they spread the news through the whole neighbourhood and took all that were sick to him, begging him just to let them touch the fringe of his cloak. And all those who touched it were completely cured.
“…Five loaves and two fish are all we have here”
John 6:27 reminds us, “do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you”. How often we forget that when we obsess over the minutiae. I have started to plan this year’s Thanksgiving dinner – yes, I am ‘that person’, the super planner, the pedant in the kitchen! I realize that in my OCD-driven need for absolute perfection, the meaning of why we are celebrating Thanksgiving could get lost in the shuffle. Like the Hebrews in the desert, their rabid fixation on mindless detail (“the fish we used to eat without cost in Egypt, and the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic”) obscured the true miracle of their circumstances – they were still alive! And they were free men!
In Scripture, food and wine are used as vehicles of God’s power and grace – the bread and wine of redemption at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:17-30); the water that changed to wine at the wedding feast in Cana (John 2:1-11); the large catch of fish which moved Peter to leave it all behind to follow Christ (Luke 5:6-10). These were all epiphanies but only those with the gift of faith were able to perceive their significance. Not all who have eyes shall see; and that is a universal truth. The Hebrews complained about the inconvenience of their nomadic life despite being liberated from their taskmasters. They even criticized the manna from heaven, itself a daily reminder of the miracle of their salvation. The Psalmist nails it when he says, “I gave them up to the hardness of their hearts; they walked according to their own counsels”. In contrast, the reading from Matthew tells of how five loaves and two fish fed the multitude of faithful that had gathered before Jesus. “And they all ate, and everyone had enough” (Matt 14:20). It was simple food, but under those circumstances, it was a miraculous blessing – and everyone was satisfied.
In our chase for perfection, there is always more to covet after. We are always comparing, always complaining, always benchmarking. But do we really ‘see’ ourselves and our circumstances? Are we aware of where we’ve come from? Are we grateful for it? Humbled by it? Or is our first reflex to find fault, complain and be filled with discontent? Hold up the mirror, look long and hard. What you see might surprise you.
(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for God’s forgiveness for all the times we’ve missed the woods for the trees. Give us a heart of self-awareness and humility, that we may always be grateful for the miracles in our lives.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the blessings of family, friends, faith and community.