9 June – Memorial for St. Ephrem of Syria, deacon and Doctor of the Church
St. Ephrem (306-373) was baptized at age 18. He helped to evangelize Nisibis, Mesopotamia. He may have attended the Council of Nicaea in 325. He was a deacon and preacher, and had a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In 363 Nisibis was ceded to Persia, and great persecution of Christians began. St. Ephrem led an exodus of the faithful to Edessa, where he founded a theological school. He helped introduce the use of hymns in public worship, wrote poems and hymns, and used them to fight Gnosticism and Arianism. In 1920, St. Ephrem was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church.
– Patron Saint Index
1 Kings 18:41-46
Elijah said to Ahab, ‘Go back, eat and drink; for I hear the sound of rain.’ While Ahab went back to eat and drink, Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel and bowed down to the earth, putting his face between his knees. ‘Now go up,’ he told his servant ‘and look out to the sea.’ He went up and looked. ‘There is nothing at all’ he said. ‘Go back seven times’ Elijah said. The seventh time, the servant said, ‘Now there is a cloud, small as a man’s hand, rising from the sea.’ Elijah said, ‘Go and say to Ahab, “Harness the chariot and go down before the rain stops you.”’ And with that the sky grew dark with cloud and storm, and rain fell in torrents. Ahab mounted his chariot and made for Jezreel. The hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and tucking up his cloak he ran in front of Ahab as far as the outskirts of Jezreel.
Jesus said to his disciples, If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.’
You will not be released until you have paid the last penny
My neighborhood church sits high on a hill, looking out to sea. Her building is modest, but her heart is big. When you enter, you’re greeted by a twenty foot wooden sculpture of Jesus with his arms outstretched. The cross of Calvary looms large behind him. It’s a big structure, but it isn’t foreboding. It’s embracing – which is how I felt the first time I sat in those pews. I felt embraced.
Joining a church is like starting a relationship. In the beginning, you’re overwhelmed by feelings of warmth and happiness. You feel loved and accepted. It is only after a few months in, when you start getting involved in ministry, that you begin to see things that don’t exactly sit right with you. That has started to happen to me. And I have had to take a step back to remind myself that one or two bad experiences should not color how much I love this body of God’s people. And how even after two years, there are more things that I love about it, than there are things that exasperate me.
To aim for that standard of perfection, or at least to expect it in church is to fall into the trap that Jesus talks about in today’s Gospel reading. Very often, I hear complaints of how, “I can’t believe he/she is Catholic!” or “Why do these people behave that way? They’re supposed to be Catholics!” I’ve been guilty of the same indignation myself. But Catholics aren’t born flawless. If we were, we wouldn’t need salvation as Jesus says, we would have a righteousness that ‘surpasses that of the scribes and the Pharisees’. We wouldn’t need Christ to save us. And that just makes no sense.
God’s commandment to us was, above all, to love one another as I’ve loved you. Make no mistake, there were times when our Shepherd himself grew frustrated (e.g. in Luke 9:37-56, when he rebukes his apostles for their unbelief, pride and general bone-headedness). But he never gave up, despite their failings. So who are we to walk away from our ministry because we feel frustrated, disillusioned and betrayed by our brothers and sisters in Christ? Is there some way we can rebuke to correct, as Jesus did, without becoming bitter, angry and resentful? Pray today for Christ to help us break through our disenchantment. Return to the ministry that you walked away from. Adopt Christ’s embracing heart and return to the fold.
(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for all those who have fallen away from the church because of disillusionment.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those whom God sends to love us despite ourselves.