It was not till fourteen years had passed that I went up to Jerusalem again. I went with Barnabas and took Titus with me. I went there as the result of a revelation, and privately I laid before the leading men the Good News as I proclaim it among the pagans; I did so for fear the course I was adopting or had already adopted would not be allowed. On the contrary, they recognised that I had been commissioned to preach the Good News to the uncircumcised just as Peter had been commissioned to preach it to the circumcised. The same person whose action had made Peter the apostle of the circumcised had given me a similar mission to the pagans. So, James, Cephas and John, these leaders, these pillars, shook hands with Barnabas and me as a sign of partnership: we were to go to the pagans and they to the circumcised. The only thing they insisted on was that we should remember to help the poor, as indeed I was anxious to do.
When Cephas came to Antioch, however, I opposed him to his face, since he was manifestly in the wrong. His custom had been to eat with the pagans, but after certain friends of James arrived he stopped doing this and kept away from them altogether for fear of the group that insisted on circumcision. The other Jews joined him in this pretence, and even Barnabas felt himself obliged to copy their behaviour.
When I saw they were not respecting the true meaning of the Good News, I said to Cephas in front of everyone, ‘In spite of being a Jew, you live like the pagans and not like the Jews, so you have no right to make the pagans copy Jewish ways.’
Once Jesus was in a certain place praying, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘Say this when you pray:
“Father, may your name be held holy,
your kingdom come;
give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us.
And do not put us to the test.”’
And do not put us to the test.
Every day, we are faced with tests. From the time we hit the road, making our way to work, to the time we reach home, having to deal with other personal matters, God puts before us situations and people that test us to see if we truly are worthy to be called sons and daughters of God. Having just returned from three weeks in Spain and having faced certain challenges while there, I have finally settled back in to life at work and at home.
They say that walking the Camino changes you. That while a part of you remains on The Way, the person who returns is different. Over the past week, I have had various colleagues and ministry members remark that I seem to look different now. A few have even said that there is a certain glow. While I certainly feel diferent inside, I am not too sure if I look different on the outside. But after my various encounters along The Way, I know that I return with a deeper appreciation of God’s love for us.
The three pilgrim masses I attended in the cathedral in Santiago were truly anointed. Many of the pilgrims had themselves endured their own ‘tests’ along their journeys. Many had to endure blisters, some ran out of money, others were battling their own inner demons and frailties. There was, however, one thing for certain – everyone who arrived at the Plaza del Obradorio in Santiago de Compostela celebrated a personal victory. There were tears of joy, relief; there were people hugging each other. And as we queued for more than two hours in the Pilgrim’s Office just to get our compostela (the certificate issued for pilgrims who had walked more than 100km), no one complained about the wait. We all spent the time joking and sharing our own experiences, and getting reacquainted with pilgrims we had encountered along The Way.
Brothers and sisters, God does not put us to the test. Rather, He places situations in front of us and allows us to choose what we ourselves would do. So in many ways, the problems and challenges we encounter are of our own doing. However, what God does is that He protects and watches over us by sending us angels to guide and help us. Or He fashions solutions for us which we put down to coincidence or plain luck. During my 300-plus km journey, I prayed the rosary a lot. And I know that each day, as we negotiated rough terrain, inclement weather and weariness, He was always there by our side pushing us along. Just as He does each and every day of our lives.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)
Prayer: Dear God, pour out your Wisdom on us, so that we may always know to choose the right path whenever we find ourselves at a crossroad in our life.
Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord, for always giving me the opportunity to choose my own path in life. And for always being there to catch me whenever I fall.