23 Dec – Memorial for St. John of Kanty, presbyter
John (1390-1473) was a Polish country lad. A brilliant student at the University of Krakow, Poland, he became a priest and professor of theology at the University of Krakow, where he was falsely accused and ousted by university rivals.
At the age of 41, he was assigned as parish priest at Olkusz, Bohemia. He took his position seriously, and was terrified of responsibility, but did his best. For a long time that wasn’t enough for his parishioners, but in the end he won their hearts. After several years in his parish, he returned to Krakow and taught Scripture for the rest of his life.
John was a serious, humble man, generous to a fault with the poor, sleeping little, eating no meat and little of anything else. He was a pilgrim to Jerusalem, hoping to be martyred by Turks. He made four pilgrimages to Rome, carrying his luggage on his back. When warned to look after his health, he pointed out that the early desert fathers lived long lives in conditions that had nothing to recommend them but the presence of God.
At the time of his death, John was so well loved that his veneration began immediately. For years his doctoral gown was worn by graduates receiving advanced degrees at the University of Krakow. He was declared patron of Poland and Lithuania in 1737 by Pope Clement XII, 30 years before his final canonization.
– Patron Saint Index
The Lord God says this: Look, I am going to send my messenger to prepare a way before me. And the Lord you are seeking will suddenly enter his Temple; and the angel of the covenant whom you are longing for, yes, he is coming, says the Lord of Hosts. Who will be able to resist the day of his coming? Who will remain standing when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire and the fullers’ alkali. He will take his seat as refiner and purifier; he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and then they will make the offering to the Lord as it should be made. The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will then be welcomed by the Lord as in former days, as in the years of old.
Know that I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before my day comes, that great and terrible day. He shall turn the hearts of fathers towards their children and the hearts of children towards their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a curse.
The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son; and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her joy.
Now on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother spoke up. ‘No,’ she said ‘he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘But no one in your family has that name’, and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called. The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they were all astonished. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea. All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.
Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me
As always during this time of the year, I have been extremely busy the last few weeks with a slew of events as well as a new marketing campaign to launch, working with new staff who are ‘experiencing the pain’ for the first time. After so many cycles, I have learnt never to take anything for granted and to always be prepared with possible solutions for any scenario that may arise. And while we try to anticipate and plan ahead, I have also learnt to be more open to situations (and fresh ideas/opinions) and not let any hiccups affect me (or my mood) in any way. For no matter how hard one prepares, you can never anticipate all situations and their possible outcomes.
This Advent season has certainly been one of anticipation for me. And I am looking forward to taking a few days off from work just to ‘chill out’ and to be with my loved ones. My brother will be coming back from Perth to spend Christmas with us and we are already planning Christmas meals, cell group gatherings and various other get-togethers (some on the golf course).
Amidst all the preparation, let us not forget the reason we celebrate Christmas. For while God sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for Christ, the birth of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, heralds for us new hope and signifies a resurrection in our spirits. Christ was sent to prepare us for our journey back to our heavenly Father. So while we plan to a fault, everything that we would like to do here on earth, are we doing any planning for the day when we eventually meet our maker?
For while God sent His son to prepare the way for us, that is only one side of the coin. We ourselves need to be prepared to receive Jesus Christ in our hearts. So I encourage all of us to reflect on the past year and ask ourselves this – have we fed the hungry, clothe the naked, given hope to the hopeless, brought joy to those in despair, a smile to those who weep, comfort to those in sorrow? Have we truly lived our lives the way God intended them to be, in humility and in gratitude for all that He has blessed us with? Or have we lost our way amidst the trappings of success and the hurly-burly of our seemingly busy lives?
Brothers and sisters, take out your management diaries and have a look at your scheduling assistant on your smartphone. What are the plans you’ve made to be with the Lord this holiday season?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)
Prayer: We pray Lord, that you will give us the time to spend with you in reflection as we prepare to welcome your Son. May we respond to your promptings and seek you in the stillness of our hearts.
Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we give thanks for your gift of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.