24 January, Friday – What would you write in a blank cheque?

24 Jan – Memorial for St. Francis de Sales, Bishop & Doctor of the Church

St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) was born in a castle to a well-placed family. His parents intended him to become a lawyer, enter politics, and carry on the family line and power. He studied at La Roche, Annecy, Clermont College in Paris, and law at the University of Padua. He became a Doctor of Law, returned home, and found a position as Senate advocate.

It was at this point that he received a message telling him to “Leave all and follow Me”. He took this as a call to the priesthood, a move his family fiercely opposed. However, he pursued a devoted prayer life, and his gentle ways won over the family.

He became a priest, and a provost in the diocese of Geneva, Switzerland, a stronghold of Calvinists. He was a preacher, writer and spiritual director in the distrcit of Chablais. His simple, clear explanations of Catholic doctrine, and his gentle way with everyone, brought many back to the Roman Church.

He was ordained Bishop of Geneva at the age of 35. He travelled and evangelized throughout the Duchy of Savoy, working with children whenever he could. He was a friend of St. Vincent de Paul. He turned down a wealthy French bishopric. He helped found the Order of the Visitation with St. Jeanne de Chantal. He was a prolific correspondent. He was declared a Doctor of the Church.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Samuel 24:3-21

Saul took three thousand men chosen from the whole of Israel and went in search of David and his men east of the Rocks of the Wild Goats. He came to the sheepfolds along the route where there was a cave, and went in to cover his feet. Now David and his men were sitting in the recesses of the cave; David’s men said to him, Today is the day of which the Lord said to you, “I will deliver your enemy into your power, do what you like with him.”’ David stood up and, unobserved, cut off the border of Saul’s cloak. Afterwards David reproached himself for having cut off the border of Saul’s cloak. He said to his men, ‘The Lord preserve me from doing such a thing to my lord and raising my hand against him, for he is the anointed of the Lord.’ David gave his men strict instructions, forbidding them to attack Saul.

Saul then left the cave and went on his way. After this, David too left the cave and called after Saul, ‘My lord king!’ Saul looked behind him and David bowed to the ground and did homage. Then David said to Saul, ‘Why do you listen to the men who say to you, “David means to harm you”? Why, your own eyes have seen today how the Lord put you in my power in the cave and how I refused to kill you, but spared you. “I will not raise my hand against my lord,” I said “for he is the anointed of the Lord.” O my father, see, look at the border of your cloak in my hand. Since I cut off the border of your cloak, yet did not kill you, you must acknowledge frankly that there is neither malice nor treason in my mind. I have not offended against you, yet you hunt me down to take my life. May the Lord be judge between me and you, and may the Lord avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be laid on you. (As the old proverb says: Wickedness goes out from the wicked, and my hand will not be laid on you.) On whose trail has the king of Israel set out? On whose trail are you in hot pursuit? On the trail of a dead dog! On the trail of a single flea! May the Lord be the judge and decide between me and you; may he take up my cause and defend it and give judgement for me, freeing me from your power.’

When David had finished saying these words to Saul, Saul said, ‘Is that your voice, my son David?’ And Saul wept aloud. ‘You are a more upright man than I,’ he said to David ‘for you have repaid me with good while I have repaid you with evil. Today you have crowned your goodness towards me since the Lord had put me in your power yet you did not kill me. When a man comes on his enemy, does he let him go unmolested? May the Lord reward you for the goodness you have shown me today. Now I know you will indeed reign and that the sovereignty in Israel will be secure in your hands.’

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Mark 3:13-19

Jesus went up into the hills and summoned those he wanted. So they came to him and he appointed twelve; they were to be his companions and to be sent out to preach, with power to cast out devils. And so he appointed the Twelve: Simon to whom he gave the name Peter, James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom he gave the name Boanerges or ‘Sons of Thunder’; then Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, the man who was to betray him.

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I will deliver your enemy into your power, do what you like with him.

Whenever the topic of discernment pops up, the most common question I would hear is ‘How would you know what God wants you to do?’ For me, this is the agonizing part of discernment – to find out exactly what God wanted me to do. It used to make me feel very uneasy and agitated, so I read many books on discernment and attended many talks on discernment.

What I learned is that discernment is needed when you are presented with a choice involving morally good options. If something is morally bad, it’s clear that we are not supposed to do it. If it’s a choice between a morally neutral or a morally good option, then we should ask God to give us the courage to choose the morally good option.

Well, what if it’s a choice between two morally neutral options, or two morally good options? What do we do? That’s why we need discernment. We need to pray for wisdom to choose the best. Remember Solomon? God basically gave him a blank cheque so he could write what he would like to wish for. Obviously, he should not have chosen bad options but you see, riches are not bad if they are used for the welfare of his kingdom. Good health for the king is not bad because he could rule longer and provide security for his country. Solomon made a wise choice and chose wisdom. The Bible made it look like an easy choice but I would like to think that he prayed over his choice for some time.

In today’s reading, I think David was given a similar situation. I would like to think that killing Saul would not have been an act of murder but an act of self-defense. And to defend ourselves is not wrong. So in a way, it sounded to me like God had given David a blank cheque.

I know that God will give us many blank cheques in our lives. I understand how this could sometimes drive faithful Catholics crazy — we would rather have a to-do list than a blank cheque. Whenever God puts a blank cheque in front of me, I would have, after praying for wisdom and courage and as part of my discernment, tell him a disclaimer — I would do what my heart feels is right, trusting that he will tell me if there is a better option. And if God wanted me to make a u-turn, I would gladly do it because it is better to make a u-turn so I could do the better option than to stay in the second-best road. And with that, I proceed to write my choice in the blank cheque.

Did God just give you a blank cheque? I hope you don’t agonize over it. Just pray over it faithfully and trust God with your choice. He will definitely tell you when you have to make a u-turn.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, why do you make choices so ‘complicated’? It would have been easier if you just told me how to do things, step-by-step. I trust that in your wisdom and love, you know that it’s not the best for me, so I’ll trust you more and take a step. I know you’ll lead me — either forward or back.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to live my life to the fullest by giving me options. And I thank you greatly for the wisdom and guidance you give me, and for my Guardian Angel who always guides me as well.

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