Moses said to the people: ‘The Lord your God today commands you to observe these laws and customs; you must keep and observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.
‘You have today made this declaration about the Lord: that he will be your God, but only if you follow his ways, keep his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and listen to his voice. And the Lord has today made this declaration about you: that you will be his very own people as he promised you, but only if you keep all his commandments; then for praise and renown and honour he will set you high above all the nations he has made, and you will be a people consecrated to the Lord, as he promised.’
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’
“Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
As I reflected on this account of the saints today, I was reminded of the toils the persecuted church had to endure. Today we are faced with a new form of persecution — indifference. Having a Christian badge has its own share of expectations from the public who claim to be guided by their conscience. This can be interpreted in many variants which confuses rather than directs
I recall a dialogue with a staunch Atheist professor some years ago. He saw I was passionate about my faith in God and asked one day after class if my God — being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent — could create something so heavy he could not lift. I was perplexed and posed the question to some religious and friends. They helped me realise it was a rhetorical question which should not warrant any of my time entertaining in the first place. Jesus advocates in the Gospels moral righteousness higher than the old covenant, and just as Israel was to imitate God in being holy, so we are called to imitate God’s perfect compassion (Lk 6:36).
I had a close relative who attended daily Mass, taught in a catholic school and volunteered with the Cadet Corp during World War II. He stood up against the Japanese invaders as long as they could but obeyed orders to surrender when his commanders told him so. He witnessed many atrocities and saw many of his fellow soldiers die from abuse and torture, especially when they were sent to build the bridge over River Kwai. He contracted malaria but miraculously recovered and stayed on as a medic in the field hospital. His strong faith in God’s providence helped him to survive the war. He was eventually honored by the Queen, which proved the passage in today’s first reading; “you shall be a consecrated people set high above all nations.” Now I just focus on sharing real life accounts of faith to encourage and help those who doubt.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Christian Eber )
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that through the intercession of Sts Perpetua and Felicity, we may be faithful witnesses to Your word, trusting that our love for others will overcome any hatred or scepticism and bring healing to all we come into contact with.
Thanksgiving: Thank you for the martyrs and their faithful examples. Keep us ever closer to You that we may grow in humility, sincerity and courage to keep on sharing Your love.