23 February, Friday – New Heart, New Spirit, Renew Me

23 Feb – Memorial for St. Polycarp, bishop and martyr

St. Polycarp (69-155) was an associate of, converted by, and disciple of St. John the Apostle. He was a friend of St. Ignatius of Antioch, and he fought Gnosticism. He was the Bishop of Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey), and was a revered Christian leader during the first half of the second century.

The Asia Minor churches recognized Polycarp’s leadership and chose him representative to Pope Anicetus on the question of the date of the Easter celebration. Only one of the many letters written by Polycarp has survived – the one he wrote to the Church of Philippi, Macedonia.

At 86, Polycarp was to be burned alive in a stadium in Smyrna, but the flames did not harm him and he was finally killed by a dagger, and his body burned. The ‘Acts’ of Polycarp’s martyrdom are the earliest preserved reliable account of a Christian martyr’s death. He is considered an Apostolic Father of the Church.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ezekiel 18:21-28

Thus says the Lord:

‘If the wicked man renounces all the sins he has committed, respects my laws and is law-abiding and honest, he will certainly live; he will not die. All the sins he committed will be forgotten from then on; he shall live because of the integrity he has practised. What! Am I likely to take pleasure in the death of a wicked man – it is the Lord who speaks – and not prefer to see him renounce his wickedness and live?

‘But if the upright man renounces his integrity, commits sin, copies the wicked man and practises every kind of filth, is he to live? All the integrity he has practised shall be forgotten from then on; but this is because he himself has broken faith and committed sin, and for this he shall die. But you object, “What the Lord does is unjust.” Listen, you House of Israel: is what I do unjust? Is it not what you do that is unjust? When the upright man renounces his integrity to commit sin and dies because of this, he dies because of the evil that he himself has committed. When the sinner renounces sin to become law-abiding and honest, he deserves to live. He has chosen to renounce all his previous sins; he shall certainly live; he shall not die.’

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Matthew 5:20-26

Jesus said to his disciples, If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.

‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.’

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Whoever is angry with his brother is liable for judgement”

As I write this, I am angry with someone. So would you believe how appropriate God’s message is for me? In the workplace, there is a colleague who makes me feel like she is a bully. I for one, do not stand for anyone being a bully. So this was a very difficult one for me to accept. As the youngest child of three, I was bullied at home when we were still kids and I never found out if that was a reason or an excuse which I had when I bullied a few girls in school. So I am a renewed bully and a victim of bullying, I can admit this to all who read this because I know my Lord’s mercy has healed me, restored me as he had done so for my ‘victims.’

Some of the words of this colleague, really pierced me in ways I should not have allowed. And after a few days of feeling really ‘bad’ when I was going to work, I stumbled upon a newsfeed which said, “If their name isn’t God, their opinion should not matter so much.” and though the words are not from scripture, it sure made me realise that I have made my anger for the person and her hurtful words as a quasi God. And from the same newsfeed, even St Josphine Bakhita said “I have given everything to my Lord, He will take care of me”.

I was named after St Joseph (not St Josephine) and I have taken St Anthony of Padua as my favourite saint; and this list is growing. But just like role models, one cannot have enough intercessions of saints.

On reflecting upon this scripture, my anger vanished, indeed the word of God has such high power. Today I urge you as you walk through the desert of Lent, give your anger and hurt to Jesus. Do not let anger hold you for His dwelling place, your inheritance. Anger is stressful, tiring and has no real benefits, none at all. May our souls be waiting for the Lord more than sentinels wait for dawn.

We have a Lord who calls us to cast away our crimes and evils ways, adopting a new heart and a new spirit. What sin are we still holding on to? Time to nip it in the bud, God is offering a chance to start anew. This is an invitation to each one of us, no matter if we are 6 or 60, slender or obese, rich or poor, angry or loving – come to Him, only He offers the fullness of life.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, today we offer up all instances of anger, ours and those of whom we used to consider our perpetrators. We are all your children, help us to love each other as your offsprings.

Thanksgiving: I wait for you O Lord, more eagerly that the waves that kiss the shore and the sun which appears from the horizon of the sea in the break of day.

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