12 November – Saint Josaphat
He was born in the Ukraine of Orthodox parents. In 1595 the Union of Brest brought the Ruthenian Church into communion with Catholic Rome while still preserving its own liturgy. The result was a schism within the church itself, with one party wanting to remain Orthodox and in the orbit of Moscow and Constantinople, while the other accepted the Union. Matters were complicated by the presence of the Greek Uniates, a remnant of a century-old attempt at church union (who remain a living church to this day).
Josaphat joined the first monastery of the order of St Basil to be united to the Catholic Church: he was the first person to do so. He was ordained priest and, eventually and reluctantly, appointed bishop of Polotsk in 1617. Although Sigismund III Vasa, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, supported the union, the local aristocracy were against it because it threatened their control of ecclesiastical benefices. Plotting with the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, who visited the Ukraine in 1621, they stirred up trouble and as a result Josaphat was murdered by a mob in 1623 while on a pastoral visit to Vitebsk.
Within Wisdom is a spirit intelligent, holy,
unique, manifold, subtle,
active, incisive, unsullied,
lucid, invulnerable, benevolent, sharp,
irresistible, beneficent, loving to man,
steadfast, dependable, unperturbed,
penetrating all intelligent, pure
and most subtle spirits;
for Wisdom is quicker to move than any motion;
she is so pure, she pervades and permeates all things.
She is a breath of the power of God,
pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty;
hence nothing impure can find a way into her.
She is a reflection of the eternal light,
untarnished mirror of God’s active power,
image of his goodness.
Although alone, she can do all;
herself unchanging, she makes all things new.
In each generation she passes into holy souls,
she makes them friends of God and prophets;
for God loves only the man who lives with Wisdom.
She is indeed more splendid than the sun,
she outshines all the constellations;
compared with light, she takes first place,
for light must yield to night,
but over Wisdom evil can never triumph.
She deploys her strength from one end of the earth to the other,
ordering all things for good.
Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was to come, Jesus gave them this answer, ‘The coming of the kingdom of God does not admit of observation and there will be no one to say, “Look here! Look there!” For, you must know, the kingdom of God is among you.’
He said to the disciples, ‘A time will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man and will not see it. They will say to you, “Look there!” or, “Look here!” Make no move; do not set off in pursuit; for as the lightning flashing from one part of heaven lights up the other, so will be the Son of Man when his day comes. But first he must suffer grievously and be rejected by this generation.’
…when the kingdom of God was to come
“When are we going?” “Is it time yet?” Each year, I’d pester my parents with these incessant questions. When I was a young child, I looked forward to holidays by the beach.
My uncle worked in the government sector and one of the benefits was being able to utilise one of the company’s huge 2-storey holiday bungalows in Changi. It could fit in 4 families in its huge space. It was literally maybe 15 metres to the beach and the sprawling garden in front of the bungalows were tree-lined and very serene. We would pack ourselves away for a week; together with my uncles, aunts and cousins. Mom and her sisters would be cooking up a storm, while the kids and uncles played carrom, Monopoly or just ran around outside. And there was always the barbeque to look forward to.
One of my fondest memories was that of our then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew jogging past our bungalow with his entourage of bodyguards. He was very obliging and waved to us children. The PM’s private bungalow was located next to ours.
So each year, I’d ask the question “When are we going?”
Like children, the Pharisees were impatient and asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was coming. In their minds, the coming of God would be at a specific date and time. God would be heralded by sounding trumpets with fanfare, a huge production to welcome the Messiah King. However, this was not so. The Pharisees failed to understand what Jesus was telling them. The kingdom of God is among you. It was right in front of them; present in, and through the very person of Jesus.
He is the living embodiment of God’s loving power – revealed in His teachings, in the healing of the sick, in His compassion for sinners and outcasts, in His freeing of the people who were under bondage of evil spirits. These were clear examples that God’s reign is among us.
Many times, we seek the things of great significance in the furthest, most out of the way places. However, the very things we seek are sometimes right under our noses. God is already deeply rooted in our hearts, through the presence of Jesus who dwells within us.
Can we see the very presence of Jesus in our daily lives? Through the person who lent you a listening ear when you were at a low point of your life? The colleague whom you could not quite see eye to eye with, who helps you out on a project with impossible deadlines? The people in your church who gathered around you when you had to care for an ailing parent? And you, my brothers and sisters, you were the face of Jesus when you put food on the table for that needy family. Whenever people reflect love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, joy, peace in their lives…… there the Kingdom of God lives.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: Jesus, give us eyes to see and ears to hear. Let us be fully aware of your presence in our everyday existence. Let us also be the embodiment very presence of God when we show love and mercy to our fellow brothers and sisters.
Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for reminding us that you are present in our lives in more ways than we realize. Especially in the people you send into our lives – through their words of encouragement, their silent acts of love. Thank you for assuring us of your constant presence in our midst.