24 March 2019
Moses was looking after the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law priest of Midian. He led his flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in the shape of a flame of fire, coming from the middle of a bush. Moses looked; there was the bush blazing but it was not being burnt up. ‘I must go and look at this strange sight,’ Moses said, ‘and see why the bush is not burnt.’ Now the Lord saw him go forward to look, and God called to him from the middle of the bush. ‘Moses, Moses!’ he said. ‘Here I am,’ Moses answered. ‘Come no nearer,’ he said. ‘Take off your shoes, for the place on which you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your fathers,’ he said, ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ At this Moses covered his face, afraid to look at God.
And the Lord said, ‘I have seen the miserable state of my people in Egypt. I have heard their appeal to be free of their slave-drivers. Yes, I am well aware of their sufferings. I mean to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians and bring them up out of that land to a land rich and broad, a land where milk and honey flow, the home of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites.’
Then Moses said to God, ‘I am to go, then, to the sons of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you.” But if they ask me what his name is, what am I to tell them?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I Am who I Am. This’ he added ‘is what you must say to the sons of Israel: “I Am has sent me to you.”’ And God also said to Moses, ‘You are to say to the sons of Israel: “The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.” This is my name for all time; by this name I shall be invoked for all generations to come.’
1 Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12
I want to remind you, brothers, how our fathers were all guided by a cloud above them and how they all passed through the sea. They were all baptised into Moses in this cloud and in this sea; all ate the same spiritual food and all drank the same spiritual drink, since they all drank from the spiritual rock that followed them as they went, and that rock was Christ. In spite of this, most of them failed to please God and their corpses littered the desert.
These things all happened as warnings for us, not to have the wicked lusts for forbidden things that they had. You must never complain: some of them did, and they were killed by the Destroyer.
All this happened to them as a warning, and it was written down to be a lesson for us who are living at the end of the age. The man who thinks he is safe must be careful that he does not fall.
Some people arrived and told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices. At this he said to them, ‘Do you suppose these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell and killed them? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’
He told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to the man who looked after the vineyard, “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?” “Sir,” the man replied “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.”’
It may bear fruit next year
It has been just over a year since a few of us decided to take the plunge and step up to certain core leadership roles within our ministry. Since then, there has been attrition due to various reasons and as I look around, there are probably a quarter of us left still earnestly striving hard to make the necessary changes in a few areas so that we can continue to attract new members and retain some of those who recently joined us.
In order to move forward, I have always believed that a community needs to take a long, hard look at themselves to see where the weak links are so that they can be addressed strategically and systematically. One key area is succession planning, something which is not uncommon within parishes and even in successful organizations. This time last year, I made a commitment to myself that I needed to step up and improve on certain competencies if I was going to be taken seriously in my eventual role within my ministry. So I embarked on a few small initiatives and, looking back, I can see for myself the growth that has occurred. Like the fig tree in today’s gospel, I have undergone fertilization, pruning and a bit of nurturing through one of our leaders. While it has not been an easy journey, I believe that I have come out a lot surer and more confident in my current role. And I am under no illusion that if I were to continue, it is only going to get more difficult and arduous.
Brothers and sisters, when we say ‘Yes’ to God and decide to devote time in his vineyard, we must be prepared to endure all kinds of hardship. Hours spent in meetings may come to nought because of indecision, a well-laid plan may be turned upside down because of a last-minute decision by a priest, a piece of equipment that worked during practice or rehearsal may just decide to not function 5 minutes before a worship session. This is when a certain maturity and understanding is called for, especially from those in leadership roles. No point getting irritated or staring daggers at the ministry member(s) involved, nor panicking and throwing a tantrum. When the fires rage, cool heads are called for and most certainly prayer and intercession.
Our spiritual director recently exhorted that should the devil decide to attack the archdiocese, he would attack two pillars here in Singapore, and his primary tactic would be to sow discord and disunity among ministry leaders. Therefore we all need to make sure that we are able to stand firm by nourishing ourselves with the Word of God each and every day. Constant prayer and constant intercession are crucial if we are to continue bearing good fruit and reaching out to others in need. A steady diet of good Christian literature and daily celebrations of the Eucharist will ensure that as we mature in our spirituality, we will not allow ourselves to be toppled nor have our faith uprooted.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)
Prayer: Father, we ask you to continue to tend to us and to nourish us daily with your Word as we toil in your vineyard. Give us the strength to persevere and be patient as we grow in our own spirituality
Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for always being patient with us and for your kindness and mercy.