14 December, Saturday – Doing vs Knowing

Dec 14 – Memorial for St. John of the Cross, priest, religious, doctor of the Church

John (1675–1726) was born in poverty. He cared for the poor in the hospital in Medina. He became a lay Carmelite brother in 1563 at age 21, though he lived stricter than their Rule. He studied at Salamanca. He was ordained a Carmelite priest in 1567 at age 25.

He was persuaded by St. Teresa of Avila to begin the Discalced (or barefoot) reform within the Carmelite Order, and took on the name John of the Cross. He was a master of novices, and spiritual director and confessor at St. Teresa’s convent. His reforms did not sit well with some of his brothers, and he was ordered to return to Medina. He refused and was imprisoned at Toledo, Spain, and escaped after nine months.

He was vicar-general of Andalusia. His reforms revitalized the Order. He was a great contemplative and spiritual writer. On Aug 24, 1926, he was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI.

  • – Patron Saint Index


Ecclesiasticus 48:1-4,9-12

The prophet Elijah arose like a fire, his word flaring like a torch.

It was he who brought famine on the people, and who decimated them in his zeal.

By the word of the Lord, he shut up the heavens, he also, three times, brought down fire.

How glorious you were in your miracles, Elijah! Has anyone reason to boast as you have?

Taken up in the whirlwind of fire, in a chariot with fiery horses; designated in the prophecies of doom to allay God’s wrath before the fury breaks, to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children, and to restore the tribes of Jacob,

Happy shall they be who see you, and those who have fallen asleep in love.


Matthew 17:10-13

As they came down from the mountain the disciples put this question to Jesus, ‘Why do the scribes say then that Elijah has to come first?’ ‘True;’ he replied ‘Elijah is to come to see that everything is once more as it should be; however, I tell you that Elijah has come already and they did not recognise him but treated him as they pleased; and the Son of Man will suffer similarly at their hands.’ The disciples understood then that he had been speaking of John the Baptist.


“… but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him… so also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands”

I often ask myself, would I be able to discern the Lord if he showed himself to me? What form would he come in? Would he be that homeless man I always want to buy breakfast for, but somehow never do? Or the old lady I often see diving in the dumpster outside of where I get my groceries? Have I walked past angels and not been aware? Or spoken out of turn to prophets because I was deaf to their message?

Would I be able to perceive Christ if He walked this earth again? I think the answer is no. And that’s really disappointing, because I like to think of myself as Catholic. I go to mass. I volunteer. I go to confession. I ‘do’ a whole bunch of things to check the boxes. But that’s all I do – check boxes. There is a ‘to-do’ list which I cross off as a matter of process and I go about it on autopilot. I don’t take the time to absorb the significance of why I am doing these things. In not doing so, I miss the point. And so I feel like I am just running errands all the time. Somewhere along the line, I put ‘doing’ above ‘knowing’ and shortchanged God in the process.

I became aware of this only recently, while moving house. My ‘to-do’ list exploded this past 3 weeks with all the things that needed to be sorted out when one moves house. Because I have tried to keep on top of everything, I’ve begun to behave with clockwork rigidity. Surprises are not welcome. I don’t do spontaneous. And there is no room for a change of plans. My husband looked visibly hurt one evening when he suggested we take a time-out for ourselves; instead of being loving and supportive, I angrily rattled off the litany of ‘to-do’s that were still outstanding and reminded him that he had things to accomplish too. So I shortchanged him in the process as well.

When we become all about ‘getting the job done’, when we’re so consumed with just crossing off the next thing, we lose sight of the ‘why’ in our lives. Why do we have friends? Why do we have family? Why do we have our faith? Why do we have a relationship with God? I lost sight of all of this while I was so busy trying to put together the ‘perfect’ house. But a house is not a home without family, without friends, without faith, without God.

We have just started to settle in and I am beginning to see clearly again. I hope that means that there will now be less ‘doing’ and more ‘knowing’. Being aware of our own compulsive disorder is the first step.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray that God makes us aware of the people in our lives, the relationships He has blessed us with and the evanescence of the time that we have with them.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for family, friends and the gift of faith.

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