Jul 30 – Memorial for St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop & Doctor
An adult convert, St. Peter (406-450) fought paganism and heresy, enforced reforms, and built several churches and ornate altars in his see. A preacher with outstanding language skills, he was given the name ‘Chrysologus’, referring to his ‘golden word’. 176 of his sermons have survived; it is the strength of these beautiful explanations of the Incarnation, the Creed, the place of Mary and John the Baptist in the great plan of salvation, etc., that led to his being proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1729.
Exodus 33:7-11, 34:5-9, 28
Moses used to take the Tent and pitch it outside the camp, at some distance from the camp. He called it the Tent of Meeting. Anyone who had to consult the Lord would go out to the Tent of Meeting, outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the Tent, all the people would rise. Every man would stand at the door of his tent and watch Moses until he reached the Tent; the pillar of cloud would come down and station itself at the entrance to the Tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. When they saw the pillar of cloud stationed at the entrance to the Tent, all the people would rise and bow low, each at the door of his tent. The Lord would speak with Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would turn back to the camp, but the young man who was his servant, Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the Tent.
And the Lord descended in the form of a cloud, and Moses stood with him there.
He called on the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness; for thousands he maintains his kindness, forgives faults, transgression, sin; yet he lets nothing go unchecked, punishing the father’s fault in the sons and in the grandsons to the third and fourth generation.’ And Moses bowed down to the ground at once and worshipped. ‘If I have indeed won your favour, Lord,’ he said ‘let my Lord come with us, I beg. True, they are a headstrong people, but forgive us our faults and our sins, and adopt us as your heritage.’
Moses stayed there with the Lord for forty days and forty nights, eating and drinking nothing. He inscribed on the tablets the words of the Covenant – the Ten Words.
Leaving the crowds, Jesus went to the house; and his disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain the parable about the darnel in the field to us.’ He said in reply, ‘The sower of the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed is the subjects of the kingdom; the darnel, the subjects of the evil one; the enemy who sowed them, the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the angels. Well then, just as the darnel is gathered up and burnt in the fire, so it will be at the end of time. The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that provoke offences and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. Then the virtuous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Listen, anyone who has ears!’
as one speaks to a friend
Consider for a moment the first reading. Did you notice the presence of God? It is ‘unmissable’ (pardon my blatant disregard for good grammar) – the pillar of cloud. It is mind-boggling that day in and day out, the people of Israel had God literally living in a tent in their midst, visible for all to see. And on top of that, God spoke as one would speak to a friend.
Fast forward a few millennia. Most, if not all of us, have struggled to sense God’s presence at one point in our lives — how we yearn to hear Him when we are in desperate need of direction, of hope, of faith. How we long to see him when our world suddenly turns upside down with pain, insecurity, betrayal, hopelessness, terror. Where then is the pillar of cloud, the presence of God in our lives? Has it dissipated into thin air? Has our faith dissipated into thin air? Was it ever really there in the first place?
Allow me to point to the fidelity of God in our lives, through the person of His mother – the first and only perfect disciple of the Holy Trinity.
I spend a fair bit of time sitting in prayer and refection, at the open-air courtyard at Nativity Church, in front of the life-sized statue of our Lady of Grace. And as I sit there, many of her children come by each day to pray to her. Two have left a deep impression on me, on how real God and our Blessed Mother’s love has been for them. I make a caveat though — these are entirely what I see and the judgments I make on my part about them — not necessarily grounded in truth, but I believe in my heart, from my observations and reflections about them, that they are deeply grounded in faith and filled with grace from God.
The first is that of a young father with his son. The father looks like a typical ‘Ah Beng’ (local slang for gangster) – with a full body tattoo from head to toe. He struck me as one who perhaps lived a dangerous life, a reckless life. Beside him was his young son. They were kneeling in front of our Blessed Mother – the father patiently and lovingly teaching his son to pray the Rosary. It was really an odd picture – something unexpected but powerful, in the sense of surprise it gave me. It made me reflect deeply. And as I reflected, I asked myself – did something happen to help him turn over a new leaf? How was his life touched by God and our Mother which has led him to now want to build strong roots of faith in his son? Was he saved from tragedy? Or from a life which would have been perilous to his family?
The second is that of a grandmother wheeling a boy on a wheelchair to the feet of Mother Mary. The boy appeared to be suffering from severe muscular dystrophy and his body was severely contorted and deformed, his head twisted to almost right angles to his shoulder. He also appeared mentally retarded and was not able to relate normally to the grandmother’s words. The grandmother however, was the picture of perfect love, fidelity, patience, support and compassion for the boy. She was joyful, smiling and showered the boy with immense love. Her love for her grandson was self-sacrificial – his life, dignity, comfort, self-worth and well-being was all that mattered. It was a cross she knew she would need to carry for the rest of her life. But she was able to embrace that cross. With amazing joy, with amazing love.
Stares did not bother them, tragedy did not lead them to despair, darkness did not overwhelm the flicker of faith in their eyes, which were not fixed on what the world thought of them, nor their condition, nor those they loved. No,– their eyes were fixed on the saving love of their God and the unfailing love of the Mother of their God. Through the painful curve balls thrown at them by life, the learnt that they had a God whose love, care and fidelity is constant, unchanging and unchangeable. These were blessed, not by the circumstances of their lives which was fraught with suffering, but in knowing that they could no longer help themselves. They were blessed with faith which helped them know, with great certainty, that their God was very present, very real, very faithful. A God which spoke to them in their lives, as one spoke to a friend. For these blessed ones, the pillar of cloud, which is their Almighty God, continues to be their protector, their provider, their refuge, their salvation.
In both instances, I asked myself what exactly did they have to go through in life that allows their spirit to remain so strong, their faith and fidelity and hope in God and our Blessed Mother to remain so steadfast and unwavering? What grace was it that gives them such victory despite such heavy defeats in life? My only conclusion — the only one that could make any sense whatsoever to me — Amazing Grace, Amazing Love, Amazing God.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)
Prayer: Father, help us. When our lives are so filled with pain, with fear, with angst and you seem silent and very far away, we lose our way and our courage and our hope. Bring us back, by your saving love and amazing grace to that place where you remind us that you have never left us and for us to then know we will always have a Father who is also a friend, who walks every step of life with us.
Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for all the times you stayed by our side when we had long abandoned you. For never giving up on us. For remaining true to us and being our friend, no matter what. Thank you for Our Mother, through whose loving arms and tender heart, you let us know the gentleness and depth with which you embrace us.