20 August, Sunday – Joy in Service

Aug 20 – Memorial for St. Bernard, abbot, doctor

Bernard (1090-1153) founded and led a monastery which had over 700 monks and 160 daughter houses. He revised and reformed the Cistercians, and was advisor to, and admonisher of, King Louis the Fat and King Louis the Young, and spritual advisor to Pope Eugenius III, who had originally been one of his monks. Every morning Bernard would ask himself, “Why have I come here?”, and then remind himself of his main duty – to lead a holy life.

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Isaiah 56:1, 6-7

Thus says the Lord: Have a care for justice, act with integrity, for soon my salvation will come and my integrity be manifest.

Foreigners who have attached themselves to the Lord to serve him and to love his name and be his servants – all who observe the sabbath, not profaning it, and cling to my covenant – these I will bring to my holy mountain. I will make them joyful in my house of prayer. Their holocausts and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.

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Romans 11:13-15, 29-32

What I want to say now is no pretence; I say it in union with Christ – it is the truth – my conscience in union with the Holy Spirit assures me of it too. What I want to say is this: my sorrow is so great, my mental anguish so endless, I would willingly be condemned and be cut off from Christ if it could help my brothers of Israel, my own flesh and blood. They were adopted as sons, they were given the glory and the covenants; the Law and the ritual were drawn up for them, and the promises were made to them. They are descended from the patriarchs and from their flesh and blood came Christ who is above all, God for ever blessed! Amen.

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Matthew 14:22-33

Jesus 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.’

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…I will make them joyful in my house of prayer.

After nearly 5 months, I served at the most recent Conversion Experience Retreat #57 where, due to some last-minute pullouts, we were whittled down to a team of just over 20. But over the 5 days, we experienced such joy in service (and lots of laughter as well), so much so that I didn’t feel tired at all on the last day. In fact, some of us went out for a nice dinner after the thanksgiving mass as we continued to share and laugh at some of the more ‘lighthearted’ moments during our meals in the retreat.

In spite of the usual stresses and physical strains, I enjoyed myself thoroughly over the five days, with a light heart and He spoke to me through the bible verses I drew before we began each session. The verses brought smiles to my heart as I reflected during quiet moments, listening to Him speak encouraging words to me. Truly, our God is a joyful God who relishes seeing us serve with humility and giving cheerfully of our time and effort.

Brothers and sisters, there are many of us who serve in ministry and if we have lost some of the joy in serving, I encourage you to lift your worries, fears, anxieties and troubles up to God so that He can give you back the initial fervour and joy when you first decided to serve Him. Over the years, it is easy to get disillusioned, hurt or disappointed for one reason or another. We must always remind ourselves why we are serving in the first place. It is certainly not for our own glory but rather we must focus our gaze on Jesus.

For it is only when we have Jesus at the center can we truly proclaim that we are serving God in His vineyard. And when our hearts are humble, that is when the true joy of serving the Lord fills us and when we truly bear fruit that is good.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, we pray that you continue to sustain us in our service to you so that we bear good fruit that is lasting.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the times you have called us to serve in your vineyard.

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