3 Feb – Memorial for St. Blaise, bishop and martyr; Memorial for St. Ansgar, bishop
Blaise (d. 316) was a physician and Bishop of Sebaste, Armenia. He lived in a cave on Mount Argeus. He was a healer of men and animals. According to legend, sick animals would come to him on their own for help, but would never disturb him in prayer.
Agricola, governor of Cappadocia, came to Sebaste to persecute Christians. His huntsmen went into the forests of Argeus to find wild animals for the arena games and found many waiting outside Blaise’s cave. Discovered in prayer, Blaise was arrested, and Agricola tried to get him to recant his faith. While in prison, Blaise ministered to, and healed his fellow prisoners, including saving a child who was choking on a fish bone; this led to the blessing of throats on Blaise’s feast day.
Thrown into a lake to drown, Blaise stood on the surface and invited his persecutors to walk out and prove the power of their gods; they drowned. When he returned to land, he was martyred by being beaten, his flesh torn out with wool combs (which led to his association with and patronage of those involved in the wool trade), and then beheaded.
Blaise has been extremely popular for centuries in both the Eastern and Western Churches. In 1222, the Council of Oxford prohibited servile labour in England on his feast. He is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.
Ansgar (801-865) was born to the French nobility. He was a Benedictine monk at Old Corbie Abbey in Picardy, and New Corbie in Westphalia. He studied under St. Adelard and St. Paschasius Radbert. He accompanied the converted King Harold to Denmark when the exiled king returned home.
He was a missionary to Denmark and Sweden. He founded the first Christian church in Sweden in c.832. He was abbot of New Corbie c.834. He was ordained Archbishop of Hamburg by Pope Gregry IV. He was a papal legate to the Scandanavian countries. He established the first Christian school in Denmark, but was run out by pagans, and the school was burned to the ground. He campaigned against slavery.
He was Archbishop of Bremen. He converted Erik, King of Jutland. He was a great preacher, a miracle worker, and greatly devoted to the poor and sick. Sadly, after his death, most of his gains for the Church were lost to resurgent paganism.
- Patron Saint Index
2 Samuel 15:13-14,30,16:5-13
A messenger came to tell David, ‘The hearts of the men of Israel are now with Absalom.’ So David said to all his officers who were with him in Jerusalem, ‘Let us be off, let us fly, or we shall never escape from Absalom. Leave as quickly as you can in case he mounts a surprise attack and worsts us and puts the city to the sword.’
David then made his way up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, his head covered and his feet bare. And all the people with him had their heads covered and made their way up, weeping as they went.
As David was reaching Bahurim, out came a man of the same clan as Saul’s family. His name was Shimei son of Gera, and as he came he uttered curse after curse and threw stones at David and at all King David’s officers, though the whole army and all the champions flanked the king right and left. The words of his curse were these, ‘Be off, be off, man of blood, scoundrel! the Lord has brought on you all the blood of the House of Saul whose sovereignty you have usurped; and the Lord has transferred that same sovereignty to Absalom your son. Now your doom has overtaken you, man of blood that you are.’ Abishai son of Zeruiah said to the king, ‘Is this dead dog to curse my lord the king? Let me go over and cut his head off.’ But the king replied, ‘What business is it of mine and yours, sons of Zeruiah? Let him curse. If the Lord said to him, “Curse David,” what right has anyone to say, “Why have you done this?”’ David said to Abishai and all his officers, ‘Why, my own son, sprung from my body, is now seeking my life; so now how much the more this Benjaminite? Let him curse on if the Lord has told him to. Perhaps the Lord will look on my misery and repay me with good for his curse today.’ So David and his men went on their way.
Jesus and his disciples reached the country of the Gerasenes on the other side of the lake, and no sooner had Jesus left the boat than a man with an unclean spirit came out from the tombs towards him. The man lived in the tombs and no one could secure him any more, even with a chain; because he had often been secured with fetters and chains but had snapped the chains and broken the fetters, and no one had the strength to control him. All night and all day, among the tombs and in the mountains, he would howl and gash himself with stones. Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and fell at his feet and shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, son of the Most High God? Swear by God you will not torture me!’ – for Jesus had been saying to him, ‘Come out of the man, unclean spirit.’ ‘What is your name?’ Jesus asked. ‘My name is legion,’ he answered ‘for there are many of us.’ And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the district.
Now there was there on the mountainside a great herd of pigs feeding, and the unclean spirits begged him, ‘Send us to the pigs, let us go into them.’ So he gave them leave. With that, the unclean spirits came out and went into the pigs, and the herd of about two thousand pigs charged down the cliff into the lake, and there they were drowned. The swineherds ran off and told their story in the town and in the country round about; and the people came to see what had really happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his full senses – the very man who had had the legion in him before – and they were afraid. And those who had witnessed it reported what had happened to the demoniac and what had become of the pigs. Then they began to implore Jesus to leave the neighbourhood. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed begged to be allowed to stay with him. Jesus would not let him but said to him, ‘Go home to your people and tell them all that the Lord in his mercy has done for you.’ So the man went off and proceeded to spread throughout the Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him. And everyone was amazed.
Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.
We all have demons in our closet and occasionally, we allow them to manifest.
As I meditated on today’s gospel, I realised it was the making of a horror scene where a demonic person would suddenly dash out from out of the grave. But thankfully with Jesus by my side, I feel quite invincible and very safe, for surely he will not allow the demoniac to touch me. Notice how Jesus asked the unclean spirit “What is your name?” (Mark 5:9) after casting the demon out of the man. I am sure Jesus already knew his name, but then, why ask? He wants us to name our ‘demons’ just like how we should not be ashamed to name and acknowledge our sins during the sacrament of reconciliation. Confess our sins right to the point like “I am sorry for stealing/cheating/being a glutton…” rather than beat round the bush explaining or, worse yet, justifying the sins we had committed.
We are also told that the unclean spirits numbered about ‘2000’. Indeed, there are a great number of evil spirits out there, dwelling in our midst – some known and many more unnamed. The number of evil spirits out there is ‘legion’. Yet, after Jesus had cleaned up the mess, people from that neighbourhood were unable to accept what he’d done, rejecting him and they “began to beg Jesus to leave their neighbourhood” (Mark 5:17). This goes to show, people still prefer living with ‘unclean spirits’ in them or remain addicted to their sins, rather than allow Jesus to come and cleanse them.
Finally, the demoniac was back to his old self. Then he asked to follow Jesus (I would totally do that too) but Jesus had better plans for him. He asked him to “Go home to your people and tell them all that the Lord in his mercy has done for you.” This is exactly what he is asking of some of us, to help him spread the good news and what he has done for us. After CER, and all the retreats, I will not go back to my former life or ‘demons’. I simply refuse. How can I, after all that He has done for me? He has completely changed my life for good. You may wonder what’s he done for me that’s so good. He has shown me the greatest love, a kind of love that gives me a new meaning to life, that frees me from feeling afraid of any trials and sufferings, and that which leads to joy and inner peace that no one else can ever give me. And with all this goodness bursting forth, I hope to be a living testimony of how much the Lord has done for me.
“It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.” (2 Samuel 16:12)
(Today’s OXYGEN by Cynthia Chew)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, pour your love on us so that it is all we need, that it is enough to fill our closets so full, there’s no room for anything else in our lives.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for all the things you’ve done and are about to do for us, even for the things we don’t yet know or understand.