19 September, Wednesday – The Gift of Love

19 September – Memorial for St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr

Januarius (d. 305) was arrested on account of his profession of the Christian religion during persecution of Christians. He was cast into the fiery furnace, through which he passed wholly unharmed. On the following day, along with a number of fellow martyrs, he was exposed to the fury of wild beasts, which laid themselves down in tame submission at his feet.

Timotheus, the governor who pronounced the sentence of death upon Januarius, was struck with blindness but was immediately healed by the powerful intercession of the saint, a miracle which converted nearly five thousand men on the spot. The ungrateful judge, only roused to further fury by these occurrences, caused the execution of Januarius by the sword to be forthwith carried out. The body was ultimately removed by the inhabitants of Naples to that city, where the relic became very famous for its miracles.

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13

Be ambitious for the higher gifts. And I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them.

If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.

Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.

Love does not come to an end. But if there are gifts of prophecy, the time will come when they must fail; or the gift of languages, it will not continue for ever; and knowledge – for this, too, the time will come when it must fail. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect; but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will disappear. When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and think like a child, and argue like a child, but now I am a man, all childish ways are put behind me. Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known.

In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.

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Luke 7:31-35

Jesus said to the people: ‘What description can I find for the men of this generation? What are they like? They are like children shouting to one another while they sit in the market-place:

‘“We played the pipes for you,
and you wouldn’t dance;
we sang dirges,
and you wouldn’t cry.”

‘For John the Baptist comes, not eating bread, not drinking wine, and you say, “He is possessed.” The Son of Man comes, eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Yet Wisdom has been proved right by all her children.’

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“…and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

The word that comes to mind after reading the readings for the day is — ‘Transactional’. In a world that inducts one from birth into a reward system, it sees us distorting the meaning and definition of love. Such that our faith today seems more like one that can be exploited and abused to fulfil our immediate desires such as financial needs, political power; basically everything else that we can’t obtain from the ‘outside world’.

One makes use of the hospitality, compassion and sometimes even scripture to get what they want. To take advantage of one’s ‘loving’ nature to satisfy one’s selfish desires and pleasures.

Indeed, our faith without love is truly nothing. We see that among the many who attend daily masses, those who are active in various ministries and especially those who hold leadership positions in the church; many fail to be a witness and an example that would lead others to Christ. And, in the whole spirit of welcoming and accepting one as he/she is, we allow them to continue their ways at the expense of so many other lives and souls.

This is the church. So broken and imperfect. I’m not sure if I led a decent life outside, I would still be actively involved. Sometimes, politics is more evident than in the corporate workplaces; what’s worse is that everyone else is a volunteer. Yes, this is our church, this is my church. For it is even in this ‘pathetic’ state that Christ still chooses us and adopts us as His children, to guarantee us a place in His kingdom, even as we continue to choose sin over love. He still gives Himself to us through the sacraments and the Eucharist week after week, in spite of how unworthy and unprepared or even, when we simply just make it a routine.

My friends, this is love. This is the gift of love. The definition of love. A gift of oneself completely for the good of the other. A love that is unconditional, definitely not transactional for it can’t be measured, can only be given.

Many times we also look to take, look to receive. May we always fix our gaze on you, for what you took is the weight of our sin on the cross, the crucifixion and death, and still you wait to receive us with open arms. Help us learn to make a gift of ourselves, a gift of love. Let our love be a testimony of our faith and our faith in You translate to loving all we meet. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for a renewal, a revival, a re-evangelising of hearts. That in a world filled with distractions, we are able to see you and your working in our lives. That our faith is more than a knowing, it is a call to love. Not to love as the world loves but to love as You love. I love you Lord.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for your love and your life. Thank you for showing us what it means to make a gift of one’s self. Thank you for the church, for still making the church Your bride.

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