16 November, Friday – Loving in Distress

16 November – Memorial for St. Margaret of Scotland; Memorial for St. Gertrude, Virgin

Margaret (1045–1093) was the granddaughter of King Edmund Ironside of England, and the great-niece of St. Stephen of Hungary. She was born in Hungary while her family was in exile due to the Danish invasion of England. Even so, she still much of her youth in the British Isles.

While fleeing the invading army of William the Conqueror in 1066, her family’s ship wrecked on the Scottish coast. They were assisted by King Malcolm III Canmore of Scotland, whom Margaret married in 1070, and became Queen of Scotland. They had eight children, one of whom was St. Maud, wife of Henry I. Margaret founded abbeys and used her position to work for justice and improved conditions for the poor.

– Patron Saint Index

Gertrude (1256–1302) may have been an orphan. She was raised in the Benedictine abbey of St. Mary of Helfta, Eiselben, Saxony from the age of five. She was an extremely bright and dedicated student, and she excelled in literature and philosophy. When she was old enough, she became a Benedictine nun.

At age 26, when she had become too enamoured of philosophy, she received a vision of Christ who reproached her. From then on she studied the Bible and the works of the Church Fathers. Gertrude received other visions and mystical instruction, which formed the basis of her writings. She helped spread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Her writings have been greatly praised by St. Teresa and St. Francis de Sales, and continue in print today.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 John 1:4-9

It has given me great joy to find that your children have been living the life of truth as we were commanded by the Father. I am writing now, dear lady, not to give you any new commandment, but the one which we were given at the beginning, and to plead: let us love one another.

To love is to live according to his commandments: this is the commandment which you have heard since the beginning, to live a life of love.

There are many deceivers about in the world, refusing to admit that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. They are the Deceiver; they are the Antichrist. Watch yourselves, or all our work will be lost and not get the reward it deserves. If anybody does not keep within the teaching of Christ but goes beyond it, he cannot have God with him: only those who keep to what he taught can have the Father and the Son with them.

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Luke 17:26-37

Jesus said to the disciples:

‘As it was in Noah’s day, so will it also be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating and drinking, marrying wives and husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It will be the same as it was in Lot’s day: people were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but the day Lot left Sodom, God rained fire and brimstone from heaven and it destroyed them all. It will be the same when the day comes for the Son of Man to be revealed.

‘When that day comes, anyone on the housetop, with his possessions in the house, must not come down to collect them, nor must anyone in the fields turn back either. Remember Lot’s wife. Anyone who tries to preserve his life will lose it; and anyone who loses it will keep it safe. I tell you, on that night two will be in one bed: one will be taken, the other left; two women will be grinding corn together: one will be taken, the other left.’ The disciples interrupted. ‘Where, Lord?’ they asked. He said, ‘Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather.’

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“Let us love one another… This is the commandment in which you should walk”

When I was in my teens, a fellow classmate bullied me and ostracized me from all my friends, warning them that if they ever spoke to me, she would ensure they suffered the same fate. I don’t quite understand what I ever did to deserve that, but I suffered her for the remaining years until I left school.

When I was in my twenties, I fell into a relationship with someone who treated me very poorly and unfairly. I was bitterly upset, and my mood swung from anger to revenge to sadness to self-loathing (for my stupidity). I vowed I would have my day of justice, I vowed he would have his comeuppance. I don’t know if he ever did, but in the end I swallowed that bitter pill and said nothing.

When I was in my thirties, I worked hard to forge a career only to have certain colleagues pull the rug from under my feet and throw me under the bus; something I could have avoided if I had relented and played my political cards right. The inequitable treatment seethed within me, and I left.

Any of this sound familiar? They are all our own stories, stories where someone, somewhere, at some point in our lives wronged us to the point of revenge. We all carry a little ‘badge’ within us, something that marks an incident that wounded us so profoundly, it shaped us and changed us. Let us not judge the badge-wearer, or their stories, for we only know the gist of it. We should instead salute their courage for walking away from the bitterness and anger, instead of letting it consume their being. “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil” (Psalm 37:8-9). Or how about the quote from Star Wars’ Yoda: “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Not so much the suffering of others, but suffering of ourselves.

It is indeed such a struggle to walk away from the all-consuming anger. Even if and when you have sought justice and redress for yourself, the relief can only be temporary; the hurt remains like a scar that can never heal, and giving in to anger is like the satisfaction of scratching an itch. But the struggle can get better, if we allow ourselves to love.

Even that is difficult to explain, but in the darkest, most empty times in my life, I opened up my heart to God’s love, telling myself to move away from the self-blame and self-loathing and to use all my might to turn that negativity around. In my own darkness, I was able to empathize with those in a similar place, and I have learned to open up my heart and pray for them, and yes, pray even for those who have hurt me. They who have wronged us have no concept of the hurt they have caused so our tears will not move them. Pity them instead, for they do not know love as we do, and pray for them.

I wish I could say that this applies to everything, every difficult situation in our lives like tragedy and death, and I wish I had the words. But I send love, with the hope that every drop of love that one receives will turn into a mighty outpouring of love that will one day heal that pain.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, the hardest love is to love when one is in distress. But in loving, we forgive those who hurt us, and we forgive ourselves. Free us from our shackles of anger we pray, that we may claim for ourselves wholly the promises of God with a heart unbound.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Lord for those who love us, who have healed our wounds with their prayers, thoughts, kind words and deeds. We pray that we too can heal those that need healing.

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