Nov 21 – Memorial for the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Today we commemorate the presentation of the Blessed Virgin as a child in the Temple where, according to tradition, she was educated. The feast originated in the Orient probably about the seventh century, and is found in the constitution of Manuel Comnenus (1166) as a recognized festival. It was introduced into the Western Church in the 14th century, abolished by Pope Pius V, but re-established by Sixtus V in 1585. Its observance by the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as the day of their origin led to the devotion of Mater Admirabilis (Mother Most Admirable).
– Patron Saint Index
2 Maccabees 6:18-31
Eleazar, one of the foremost teachers of the Law, a man already advanced in years and of most noble appearance, was being forced to open his mouth wide to swallow pig’s flesh. But he, resolving to die with honour rather than to live disgraced, went to the block of his own accord, spitting the stuff out, the plain duty of anyone with the courage to reject what it is not lawful to taste, even from a natural tenderness for his own life. Those in charge of the impious banquet, because of their long-standing friendship with him, took him aside and privately urged him to have meat brought of a kind he could properly use, prepared by himself, and only pretend to eat the portions of sacrificial meat as prescribed by the king; this action would enable him to escape death, by availing himself of an act of kindness prompted by their long friendship. But having taken a noble decision worthy of his years and the dignity of his great age and the well earned distinction of his grey hairs, worthy too of his impeccable conduct from boyhood, and above all of the holy legislation established by God himself, he publicly stated his convictions, telling them to send him at once to Hades. ‘Such pretence’ he said ‘does not square with our time of life; many young people would suppose that Eleazar at the age of ninety had conformed to the foreigners’ way of life, and because I had played this part for the sake of a paltry brief spell of life might themselves be led astray on my account; I should only bring defilement and disgrace on my old age. Even though for the moment I avoid execution by man, I can never, living or dead, elude the grasp of the Almighty. Therefore if I am man enough to quit this life here and now I shall prove myself worthy of my old age, and I shall have left the young a noble example of how to make a good death, eagerly and generously, for the venerable and holy laws.’
With these words he went straight to the block. His escorts, so recently well disposed towards him, turned against him after this declaration, which they regarded as sheer madness. Just before he died under the blows, he groaned aloud and said, ‘The Lord whose knowledge is holy sees clearly that, though I might have escaped death, whatever agonies of body I now endure under this bludgeoning, in my soul I am glad to suffer, because of the awe which he inspires in me.’
This was how he died, leaving his death as an example of nobility and a record of virtue not only for the young but for the great majority of the nation.
Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the town when a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance: he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. He was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him: ‘Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.’ And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully. They all complained when they saw what was happening. ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house’ they said. But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, ‘Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.’
“Today salvation has come to this house”
Growing up in a poor family, I had often wondered how it felt to have money to spend, to actually join my schoolmates on their regular outings. It was really tough-going, and I really felt excluded and not part of the ‘in’ group.
One day, however, I found S$50 in the bathroom when I was showering. While I knew it was wrong, the temptation was much too great to resist; I stole the money. Soon after, my grandaunt realized that she had somehow misplaced the money. She was upset, and my shame prevented me from owning up.
Soon after, I could not take the constant nagging of my conscience and finally owned up. I remember confessing my crime to my grandaunt and finally returned the money to her. I promised never to do it again and thankfully was forgiven for my transgression.
When I read the account of Zacchaeus wanting to meet with Jesus and finally proposing to give half his property to the poor and offering to make restitution to anyone he may have cheated by returning them four times the amount, I imagined myself in that position.
Over time, however, the same passage has spoken to me in a different way.
During the time of Jesus, tax collectors were thought to be corrupted, often collecting amounts in excess of the actual amounts they were required to collect and pocketing the difference. It was a view held by everyone.
I wonder if Zacchaeus was as corrupted as everyone thought he was. Perhaps his offer of restitution was his way of showing that he was open to scrutiny. We never know for sure. What this taught me is that we have a tendency of judging people, without actually knowing what the truth is. Zacchaeus may well have been cheating people, but without knowing the facts, we are unable to judge. Zacchaeus’ narrative reinforces this message to me.
Brothers and sisters, may we remember to always be open to scrutiny and to never judge others.
(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)
Prayer: We pray that we may always be open to our God, to be open to His forgiveness. Help us to be willing to change.
Thanksgiving: We thank You Jesus, for showing us that no matter what happens, You are open to accepting and loving us.