11 December, Monday – The Hard Yards

Dec 11 – Memorial for St. Damasus I, pope

Damasus (306-384) was raised in a pious family. His father was a priest in Rome, and Damasus served for a time as deacon in his father’s church, St. Laurence. He was ordained a priest and became assistant to Pope Liberius. He was elected the 37th pope in a disputed election in which a minority chose the anti-pope Ursinus. The two reigned simultaneously in Rome, which eventually led to violence between their supporters and Damasus’ false accusation of a crime.

His pontificate suffered from the rise of Arianism, and from several schisms including break-away groups in Antioch, Constantinople, Sardinia, and Rome. However, it was during his reign that Christianity was declared the religion of the Roman state. He enforced the 370 edict of Emperor Valentinian controlling gifts to prelates, and opposed Arianism and Apollinarianism. He supported the 374 council of Rome which decreed the valid books of the Bible, and the Grand Council of Constantinople in 381 which condemned Arianism.

He was the patron of his secretary, St. Jerome, and commissioned him to make the translation of scripture now known as the Vulgate. Damasus restored catacombs, shrines, and the tombs of martyrs, and wrote poetry and metrical inscriptions about and dedicated to martyrs. They state that he would like to be buried in the catacombs with the early martyrs, but that the presence of one of his lowly status would profane such an august place. Ten of his letters, personal and pontifical, have survived.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 35:1-10

Let the wilderness and the dry-lands exult, let the wasteland rejoice and bloom,let it bring forth flowers like the jonquil, let it rejoice and sing for joy.

The glory of Lebanon is bestowed on it, the splendour of Carmel and Sharon; they shall see the glory of the Lord, the splendour of our God.

Strengthen all weary hands, steady all trembling knees and say to all faint hearts, ‘Courage! Do not be afraid. ‘Look, your God is coming, vengeance is coming, the retribution of God; he is coming to save you.’

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, then the lame shall leap like a deer and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy; for water gushes in the desert, streams in the wasteland, the scorched earth becomes a lake, the parched land springs of water.

The lairs where the jackals used to live become thickets of reed and papyrus…

And through it will run a highway undefiled which shall be called the Sacred Way; the unclean may not travel by it, nor fools stray along it.

No lion will be there nor any fierce beast roam about it, but the redeemed will walk there, for those the Lord has ransomed shall return.

They will come to Zion shouting for joy, everlasting joy on their faces; joy and gladness will go with them and sorrow and lament be ended.

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Luke 5:17-26

Jesus was teaching one day, and among the audience there were Pharisees and doctors of the Law who had come from every village in Galilee, from Judaea and from Jerusalem. And the Power of the Lord was behind his works of healing. Then some men appeared, carrying on a bed a paralysed man whom they were trying to bring in and lay down in front of him. But as the crowd made it impossible to find a way of getting him in, they went up on to the flat roof and lowered him and his stretcher down through the tiles into the middle of the gathering, in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith he said, ‘My friend, your sins are forgiven you.’ The scribes and the Pharisees began to think this over. ‘Who is this man talking blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ But Jesus, aware of their thoughts, made them this reply, ‘What are these thoughts you have in your hearts? Which of these is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven you” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ – he said to the paralysed man – ‘I order you: get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.’ And immediately before their very eyes he got up, picked up what he had been lying on and went home praising God.

They were all astounded and praised God, and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today.’

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“I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”

It’s ‘moving month’ for me this December. We’ve found a new house in a less crowded city, and have decided to take the plunge. With ‘moving’ comes ‘shedding’ and ‘renewing’. That process has been cathartic for us. It’s staggering how much unnecessary baggage you accumulate when you’re in a state of inertia. As traumatic as this has all been, I’m glad we are doing it. I had started to get the feeling that things were stagnating where we were – spiritually, emotionally, intellectually. And though the new house has been beset with problems, I feel alive again. We have purpose! I find myself seeking God a lot more (because it is impossible to manage cracked water mains without prayer, an able team of engineers and divine intervention). That feeling of being able to engage Him in all our problem-solving has been an uplifting experience.

Our Catholic faith is a faith of action. Bringing people to God requires action! The miracle healing of the paralytic perfectly illustrates this point. I’ve always felt that miracles are a function of teamwork, faith and the willingness to go the hard yards. It took tenacity, perseverance and some clever ‘out of the box’ thinking to get the paralytic up the roof, through the tiles and in front of Jesus. Ingenuity, creativity, serendipity, opportunity – these are all gifts that are given to us if we first make the effort to answer His call to action. The paralytic and his friends must have been daunted by the throngs they faced, yet they persevered. And because of their refusal to give in, they found a new way forward.

The path of least resistance is not usually the one that yields the greatest fulfilment. Scripture bears testament to this – all of God’s great heroes had to struggle and cope with seemingly insurmountable problems before they saw the light. Moses had to trudge the Hebrews through the desert. Joshua fought for their right to the Promised Land. Perhaps true happiness is found in the throes of struggle, and fulfilment lies in doing the hard yards?

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: God, help me to see the boundless opportunities around me, even if they come in the guise of problems. Help me to recognize Your purpose for me. Give me faith and wisdom to discern beyond the present.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the wisdom to make good decisions for ourselves and those around us.

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