28 August, Wednesday – Not dramatic, just lukewarm

Aug 28 – Memorial for St. Augustine, bishop, doctor

After investigating and experimenting with several philosophies, Augustine (354-430) became a Manichaean for several years; it taught of a great struggle between good and evil, and featured a lax moral code. A summation of his thinking at the time comes from his Confessions: “God, give me chastity and continence – but not just now.”

Augustine finally broke with the Manichaeans and was converted by the prayers of his mother and the help of St. Ambrose of Milan, who baptised him. Upon the death of his mother he returned to Africa, sold his property, gave the proceeds to the poor, and founded a monastery. He founded religious communities and fought heresies. His later thinking can also be summed up in a line from his writings: Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.

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1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Let me remind you, brothers, how hard we used to work, slaving night and day so as not to be a burden on any one of you while we were proclaiming God’s Good News to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, that our treatment of you, since you became believers, has been impeccably right and fair. You can remember how we treated every one of you as a father treats his children, teaching you what was right, encouraging you and appealing to you to live a life worthy of God, who is calling you to share the glory of his kingdom. Another reason why we constantly thank God for you is that as soon as you heard the message that we brought you as God’s message, you accepted it for what it really is, God’s message and not some human thinking; and it is still a living power among you who believe it.

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Matthew 23:27-32

Jesus said, ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of corruption. In the same way you appear to people from the outside like good honest men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who build the sepulchres of the prophets and decorate the tombs of holy men, saying, “We would never have joined in shedding the blood of the prophets, had we lived in our fathers’ day.” So! Your own evidence tells against you! You are the sons of those who murdered the prophets! Very well then, finish off the work that your fathers began.’

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To live a life worthy of God

I met someone who recently returned to the Catholic faith after a long period of being lapsed. She had really struggled with the feelings of shame and unworthiness after having accumulated a long list of sins, and she did not know how she could accept herself or re-enter the church after having strayed so far. The journey is still an ongoing one for her.

Today is the memorial of St Augustine of Hippo, bishop and doctor of the church. St Augustine is well-known for what I think are two main features of his life and works. One is his seminal book The Confessions of Saint Augustine, which continues to inspire and enlighten believers and non-believers alike. The other is his great conversion and transformation from living a lifestyle of debauchery and sin to one that is largely monastic and devoted to God.

Not every believer would encounter such dramatic transformations and conversions, since admittedly one would need to be in quite a deep state of sin in the first place. Instead of swinging from one extreme to another, prodigal son style, I would think that most of us are comfortably in the middle, not committing very serious sins but perhaps also not fully turning back to God. In that sense, it is not so much hypocrisy that we should be concerned about, but lukewarmness in faith. If the interior is truly transformed, it will naturally flow into the exterior. Lukewarmness makes the entire effort appear half-hearted, and half-heartedness will not get one through the narrow door into heaven.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the grace to develop the discipline for a true transformation of our selves.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for always leaving the door open for us.

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