31 July, Wednesday – In our nothingness, God becomes everything

Jul 31 – Memorial for St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest

St. Ignatius (1491-1556) was wounded in the leg by a cannonball at the siege of Pampeluna on 20 May 1521, an injury that left him partially crippled for life. During his recuperation, the only books he had access to were The Golden Legend, a collection of lives of the saints, and the Life of Christ by Ludolph the Carthusian. These books, and the time spent in contemplation, changed him.

On his recovery, he took a vow of chastity, hung his sword before the altar of the Virgin of Montserrat, and donned a pilgrim’s robes. He lived in a cave for a year, contemplating the way to live a Christian life. His meditations, prayers, visions and insights led to forming the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Exodus 34:29-35
When Moses came down from the mountain of Sinai – as he came down from the mountain, Moses had the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands – he did not know that the skin on his face was radiant after speaking with the Lord. And when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, the skin on his face shone so much that they would not venture near him. But Moses called to them, and Aaron with all the leaders of the community came back to him; and he spoke to them. Then all the sons of Israel came closer, and he passed on to them all the orders that the Lord had given him on the mountain of Sinai. And when Moses had finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. Whenever he went into the Lord’s presence to speak with him, Moses would remove the veil until he came out again. And when he came out, he would tell the sons of Israel what he had been ordered to pass on to them, and the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he returned to speak with the Lord.

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Matthew 13:44-46

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.’

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treasure hidden in a field

Some of you may be familiar with this much-loved tune, ‘Colors of the Wind’, from Pocahontas – a classic, Disney-animated movie. In that song, there is a phrase I especially adore which goes like this; “ … how high can a sycamore grow? If you cut it down, then you’ll never know! ”.

In more recent times, I have grown to truly appreciate this movie for the poignancy of the message it brings – that our world today has long forgotten what it means to value people and things for what they are and not for what value they can bring and create. The ‘value’ can be in terms of both economic as well as what it can bring to our prestige, our pleasure, our power. It speaks to me, of an ear when man has become separated from his Creator and from what he is created to BE and not what he can be used for. It tells of the powerful truth that man has forgotten who God really is. That, very often in our own lives, we have forgotten who God really is. We have often heard the phrase that we cannot contain the immensity of God within the puny confines of our human intellect or emotions. I say, we have reduced God to even just a mere fraction of that. He has become really miniscule in the reality of the world we live and operate in — powerless, distant, indifferent, there for the mere purpose of serving our needs. Nothing more, nothing less.

And yet, our God seems to take particular pleasure when He gets to remind humanity just exactly who He is. His best work is done when He is busy turning this world upside down. Just when we think we finally have Him subjugated to our wills, He reminds us exactly who He is. And in salvation history, He has sent us so many reminders about exactly how His ways are, as far from us as East is to the West. He reminds us, in no uncertain terms, just who God is. And that He is very much alive and kicking, and calling the shots.

Consider these  …

  • The mustard seed of faith that is capable of moving the Himalayan Mountains;
  • The tiniest seed that grows into the tallest, strongest Sycamore tree;
  • The yeast that causes the flat dough of our lives to grow to become bread that sustains life;
  • The widow’s 2 coins that become the priceless offering in heaven’s treasury of graces;
  • The rejected stone that becomes the cornerstone upon which the foundations of our faith become unshakeable;
  • The David that brings Goliath to his knees with one, tiny little pebble;
  • The one lost sheep for which the Shepherd is prepared to pay the ultimate sacrifice of His own life to find;
  • The great feast you make possible for your needy and hungry children from just 2 fishes and 5 loaves

Conventional wisdom looks down upon these. But yes, God has this habit of taking the weakest, smallest, poorest, most rejected, most unworthy, most unintelligent, most helpless and turning the world upside down with the values of the kingdom and the results of what these can become when left in the hands of the Creator. True wisdom, God’s wisdom, prevails. As it always does.

And why does He do this? To remind us that He is God. Not us. Him. That He rules sovereign over all created things of heaven and of earth. And that by His grace, and that alone, the smallest, weakest, poorest, broken and least worthy becomes almighty. Because when nothingness encounters God, then there is only God left. That He is the God of the impossible. And that He is Almighty.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father, help us to grasp the truth of the infinite love of God for us and to abandon our self to Your will, with the confidence of a child in his loving Father who looks after His own with the utmost care. Set us free from the worries and concerns of what the future may bring so as to be able to fully experience the joy of returning God’s love.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for lifting us beyond the limitations of our human frailty, for believing in us so much more than we do in ourselves, and allowing us to become all that you have created us to be.

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