9 August, Thursday – Man-Managed or God-Guided?

Aug 9 – Memorial for St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), martyr

After witnessing the strength of faith of Catholic friends, Teresa (1891-1942), originally a Jew, became interested in Catholicism and studied a catechism on her own, and she eventually ended up “reading herself into” the Faith.

She became a Carmelite nun, teaching and lecturing at two schools. However, anti-Jewish pressure from the Nazis forced her to resign both positions. She was smuggled out of Germany, and assigned to Holland. When the Nazis invaded Holland, she and her sister Rose, also a convert to Catholicism, were captured and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz where they died in the ovens like so many others.

– Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 31:31-34 

See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel (and the House of Judah), but not a covenant like the one I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant of mine, so I had to show them who was master. It is the Lord who speaks. No, this is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel when those days arrive – it is the Lord who speaks. Deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I will be their God and they shall be my people. There will be no further need for neighbour to try to teach neighbour, or brother to say to brother, ‘Learn to know the Lord!’ No, they will all know me, the least no less than the greatest – it is the Lord who speaks – since I will forgive their iniquity and never call their sin to mind.

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Matthew 16:13-23

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’ Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

From that time Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. ‘Heaven preserve you, Lord;’ he said ‘this must not happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

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“…the way you think is not God’s way but man’s”

For a long while now, I have been questioning myself and plagued with self-doubt, wondering if my intentions where I am serving in ministry are guided by the spirit or some other motive. I have also been dealing with a wave of crises at work where I have had to rely on my wits and judgement, having had no precedence to follow.

In dealing with the various crises at work, I naturally had to deal with other colleagues as well as report in to senior management periodically. In the end, I learned that in such situations, while common sense usually prevails, as long as we all have a heart for our students and/or an aggrieved party, the outcome should turn out well. We could apply rational thinking to every decision and hope for the best but where emotions are involved, being able to have a sense of perspective taken from various points of view will help calm the situation and allow everyone involved a chance to resolve matters amicably. Typically man’s way of thinking.

So while the last few weeks have been quite draining, I have managed to emerge from relative darkness with a stronger faith in God and in those who serve Him. Just a few weekends ago, I had the good fortune to have been asked by a brother friend to help him in a facilitation for a group of communion ministers. Without hesitation, I said ‘Yes’, even though that Saturday was also 4th Saturday at the centre where I serve. Admittedly, I was also keen because Nick had originally asked my other half to borrow some of her very recent paintings for the reflection session.

I had always wanted to see him ‘at work’ and though we didn’t stay for the entire session, I left with a better sense of what he meant when he says he is truly doing God’s work. Because as we spent 30 minutes discussing and prepping during the lunch break prior to the session, He took over. As we prayed and asked the spirit to fill us and be present, I ended up doing a 5-minute opening prayer and then singing (instead of accompanying Nick on the violin). But it was obvious that the Spirit was working because the sharings by those being ministered to were genuine and heartfelt (with some tears included). This was certainly a God-anointed moment and I savoured it quietly from the back of the auditorium.

Brothers and sisters, when we are thrust into situations that require quick decisions, our natural instinct is to trust our gut or to put up defences and work on past assumptions/experiences. Perhaps we need to take a new tack and just spend a few minutes in prayer before diving back into the situation so that we allow God to work his magic and guide us to making a resolution that is centred upon Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for a greater sense of perspective. That we are able to distinguish between what is yours and what our human desires tell us to act on each day. We ask for you to always speak to our hearts and to help us discern your plan for all of us.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for always being there with us in our moments of crisis.

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