Jul 26 – Memorial of Sts. Joachim and Anne, parents of the Virgin Mary
By tradition, Joachim and Anne are considered to be the names of the parents of Mary, the Mother of God. We have no historical evidence, however, of any elements of their lives, including their names. Any stories about Mary’s father and mother come to us through legend and tradition. It was the parents of Mary who nurtured Mary, taught her, brought her up to be a worthy Mother of God. It was their teaching that led her to respond to God’s request with faith, “Let it be done to me as you will.” It was their example of parenting that Mary must have followed as she brought up her own son, Jesus. It was their faith that laid the foundation of courage and strength that allowed her to stand by the cross as her son was crucified and still believe. Such parents can be examples and models for all parents.
God spoke all these words. He said, ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
‘You shall have no gods except me.
‘You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God and I punish the father’s fault in the sons, the grandsons, and the great-grandsons of those who hate me; but I show kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
‘You shall not utter the name of the Lord your God to misuse it, for the Lord will not leave unpunished the man who utters his name to misuse it.
‘Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath for the Lord your God. You shall do no work that day, neither you nor your son nor your daughter nor your servants, men or women, nor your animals nor the stranger who lives with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that these hold, but on the seventh day he rested; that is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it sacred.
‘Honour your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God has given to you.
‘You shall not kill.
‘You shall not commit adultery.
‘You shall not steal.
‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
‘You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his servant, man or woman, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is his.’
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You are to hear the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom without understanding, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart: this is the man who received the seed on the edge of the path. The one who received it on patches of rock is the man who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy. But he has no root in him, he does not last; let some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, and he falls away at once. The one who received the seed in thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this world and the lure of riches choke the word and so he produces nothing. And the one who received the seed in rich soil is the man who hears the word and understands it; he is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.’
You shall not…
Today, we celebrate the feast of the parents of our blessed Mother. I have often wondered how obedient she would have been as a child, especially since she was destined to become the mother of our Lord. I’m pretty sure St Joachim and St Anne would have had an easy time raising the young Mary, who epitomises obedience. Not being a parent myself, I look around at my friends who have multiple children and marvel at their energy, stamina and, most of all, their self-sacrificing love for their offspring (no matter how disobedient they become).
I reckon many of my vintage were brought up with quite strict parents – disciplinarians who had low tolerance for anything ‘out of the norm’. I recall many occasions when I was forced to practice my violin late in the night (and miss ‘Six Million Dollar Man’, ‘CHiPS’ or ‘Spencer For Hire’) because I had lied to my parents or decided to ‘play truant’ from my violin practice. I remember even coming up with crazy excuses (being held back in school etc) to skip piano lessons so that I could cycle freely within our huge estate for an hour. Of course, the best-laid plans always get unravelled whenever a well-meaning teacher phones up our parents to ‘check on us’ (imagine if we had mobile phones back then!).
Brothers and sisters, our God loves us too much to be such a disciplinarian. In fact, He lets us do what we choose to do because He already knows how things are going to pan out, good or bad. So even when we sin (yes, WHEN!), He is ever ready to bring us back into the fold, as long as we are sincere in our contrition. The first reading and the parable of the sower paint two different paths to salvation that reflect the spirit of the times. Just as how parents these days have to be tolerant and more understanding of their children and the pressures they face, Jesus came to offer us salvation through Him, knowing that this new generation of believers would close their ears and hearts to words that were not pleasing (such as “you shalt not…”).
Rather, He now tells us not to give the devil a chance to enter into our lives through sin. Someone I know has had to deal with an illness to her young son and has spent the better part of more than a year just refusing to believe and allow that cancer to take hold of her son. Today, he is in remission and is finally able to go out and interact with other children. She can also finally go out and spend time with her friends without having to worry too much. In refusing to allow the negativity and all its consequent feelings to take root, she conquered the illness through faith and prayer.
I recently attended the Hillsong Conference in Sydney and one of the enduring phrases was preached by Pastor Louie Giglio at his amazing session. He said, ‘Don’t give the enemy a seat at your table’ — 9 words he says changed his life during a period of turbulence and desolation. And he demonstrated it so vividly by managing to squeeze in between a married couple in the audience just by asking, “Can you just give me a bit of room here”; and then he got to work.
Brothers and sisters, let us NOT allow the enemy in through the cracks and fissures of our lives that are present in the workplace, in family, in ministry, in our emotions, in our dealings with others. Rather, let us allow God to smooth over these areas by praying constantly and going for the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly so that we can become watertight in our faith. This will enable God to work His miracles in our lives and empower us to conquer anything that life throws at us, even serious illnesses such as leukaemia.
(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep us faithful and focussed on the road ahead through our daily prayers and help us to see your guiding hand in all that we do.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always being there for us in our times of desolation.