Tag Archives: stewardship

11 November, Saturday – Heart Matters

Nov 11 – Memorial for St. Martin of Tours, bishop

Martin (316-397) was born to pagan parents. His father was a Roman military officer and tribune. Martin was raised in Pavia, Italy, where he discovered Christianity and became a catechumen in his early teens. He joined the Roman imperia army at the age of 15, serving in a ceremonial unit that acts as the emperor’s bodyguard, and was rarely exposed to combat. He became a cavalry officer and was assigned to garrison duty in Gaul.

Trying to live his faith, he refused to let his servant wait on him. Once, while on horseback in Amiens in Gaul (modern France), he encountered a beggar. Having nothing to give but the clothes on his back, he cut his heavy officer’s cloak in half, and gave it to the beggar. Later, he had a vision of Christ wearing the cloak.

Martin was baptized into the Church at the age of 18. Just before a battle, Martin announced that his faith prohibited him from fighting. Charged with cowardice, he was jailed and his superiors planned to put him in the front of the battle. However, the invaders sued for peace, the battle never occurred, and Martin was released from military service at Worms.

On a visit to Lombardy to see his parents, he was robbed in the mountains – but managed to convert one of the thieves. At home, he found that his mother had converted, but his father had not. The area was strongly Arian, and openly hostile to Catholics. Martin was badly abused by the heretics, and at one point even by the order of the Arian bishop. Learning that the Arians had gained the upper hand in Gaul and exiled St. Hilary of Poitiers, his spiritual teacher, Martin fled to the island of Gallinaria (modern Isola d’Albenga).

In 361, Martin learned that the emperor had authorized Hilary’s return, and Martin ran to him and became a hermit for ten years in the area now know as Ligugé. A reputation for holiness attracted other monks, and they formed what would become the Benedictine abbey of Ligugé. He preached and evangelised through the Gallic countryside. Many locals held strongly to the old beliefs, and tried to intimidate Martin by dressing asthe old Roman gods, and appearing to him at night, but Martin continued to win converts. He destroyed old temples, and built churches on the land.

When the bishop of Tours died in 371, Martin was the immediate choice to replace him. Martin declined, citing unworthiness. Rusticus, a wealthy citizen of Tours, claimed his wife was ill and asked for Martin. When he arrived in the city, he was declared bishop by popular acclamation, and was consecrated on Jul 4, 372.

He moved to a hermit’s cell near Tours. Other monks joined him, and a new house, Marmoutier, soon formed. He rarely left his monastery, but sometimes went to Trier to plead with the emperor for his city, his church, or his parishioners. Once, when he went to ask lenience for a condemned prisoner, an angel woke the emperor to tell him that Martin was waiting to see him; the prisoner was reprieved.

Martin himself was given to visions, but even his contemporaries sometimes ascribed them to his habit of lengthy fasts. An extensive biography of Martin was written by Sulpicius Severus. When he died, he was buried, at his request, in the Cemetery of the Poor. Martin was the first non-martyr to receive the cultus of saint. His relics rested in the Basilica of Tours, a scene of pilgrimages and miracles until 1562 when the cathedral and relics were destroyed by militant Protestants. Some small fragments on his tomb were found during construction excavation in 1860.

St. Martin of Tours is patron against poverty; alcoholism; hotel-keepers; quartermasters; soldiers, among others.

Prayer to Continue to Fight for God

“Lord, if your people still have need of my services, I will not avoid the toil. Your will be done. I have fought the good fight long enough. Yet if you bid me continue to hold the battle line in defense of your camp, I will never beg to be excused from failing strength. I will do the work you entrust to me. While you command, I will fight beneath your banner.” – St Martin of Tours, Italian Soldier, Hermit, Bishop

  • Patron Saint Index

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Romans 16:3-9, 16, 22-27

My greetings to Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked death to save my life: I am not the only one to owe them a debt of gratitude, all the churches among the pagans do as well. My greetings also to the church that meets at their house.

Greetings to my friend Epaenetus, the first of Asia’s gifts to Christ; greetings to Mary who worked so hard for you; to those outstanding apostles Andronicus and Junias, my compatriots and fellow prisoners who became Christians before me; to Ampliatus, my friend in the Lord; to Urban, my fellow worker in Christ; to my friend Stachys; Greet each other with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.

I, Tertius, who wrote out this letter, greet you in the Lord. Greetings from Gaius, who is entertaining me and from the whole church that meets in his house. Erastus, the city treasurer, sends his greetings; so does our brother Quartus.

Glory to him who is able to give you the strength to live according to the Good News I preach, and in which I proclaim Jesus Christ, the revelation of a mystery kept secret for endless ages, but now so clear that it must be broadcast to pagans everywhere to bring them to the obedience of faith. This is only what scripture has predicted, and it is all part of the way the eternal God wants things to be. He alone is wisdom; give glory therefore to him through Jesus Christ for ever and ever. Amen.

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Luke 16:9-15

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?

‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and laughed at him. He said to them, ‘You are the very ones who pass yourselves off as virtuous in people’s sight, but God knows your hearts. For what is thought highly of by men is loathsome in the sight of God.’

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“You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.”

Recently, we had fellowship tea after a community meeting. Each of us contributed an item of food to share with the group. One of our ministry members brought 3 curry puffs (of which he downed one) to share amongst some 20 of us. We all joked that that’s how rich people get richer. I could not help but be a little disgusted with him. He has got to be one of the more well of people in the group and yet he was less than generous.

A year ago, I was the co-chairperson of our parish’s fund raising committee, raising money needed for the renovation of our new church annex building. I was very nervous and unsure if we could raise the amount needed because of donor fatigue – there were many other churches also raising money, and we were tapping on the same Catholics to contribute. However, I was humbled by the generosity of our parishioners and friends of the parish. They contributed so generously that we met our target amount and more. Yes, we have some well-to-do donors who were very generous. But what touched me most were the contributions from the everyday, working class parishoners who pitched in so wholeheartedly. Many donated anonymously, and they contributed generously according to their means.

I am reminded of the story of the widow’s mite – the humble gift of a poor widow. Jesus said she had contributed more than anyone else that day. But how could it be when the rich people had contributed large sums? The difference is one of proportion. The rich were giving large sums, but they still retained their fortunes; the widow put in everything, all she had to live on. Hers was a true sacrifice; the rich had not begun to give to the level of her sacrifice.

Why do I share these 3 stories? The theme of good stewardship continues from my sharing of yesterday’s readings. Whatever we possess today, belongs to God – our wealth, our health, our jobs, our homes… everything. We are called to be generous in the way we use these gifts. It’s not about how much we give to others but it’s the intent and what’s in our hearts that matter to God. Are we fair and just as employers in how we remunerate our staff? Are we giving monies to the school fund so that we can ‘buy’ a place in that school for our kids? Why do we choose certain charities to contribute to? Because it is a good cause or for the tax incentives? Are we only good and kind to people because we genuinely love them or is it because they are ‘important’ and of use to us? When we see a brother or sister struggling, do we render our help?

Brothers and sisters, we are all sinners and we certainly fall short of His glory. But as we mature in our faith and grow closer to Him, God shows us our sins and ugliness and purifies our heart. Will we shut our eyes to what He is showing us, or allow Him to work in our lives? Our God is an omniscient God. He knows and sees everything. There is nowhere we can hide. I am not perfect and, in many areas, I know I fail miserably. But today I choose God. He leads and guides me. It’s not always where I want to go, but He knows best.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, you know and see everything, past and future. You see the condition of our hearts. Though we hide behind masks of love and charity, you see the ugliness and the selfishness. Help us to be more giving and loving. Teach us to be faithful and honest in the small things today. Prepare us for the true riches of heaven.

Thanksgiving: For everything that we have today, we thank you. Thank you for giving us a discerning heart, to know what’s right and what’s wrong. And with this knowledge, may we always do what’s right, just and life giving.

12 October, Wednesday – Fruit of the earth, work of human hands

12 October

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Galatians 5:18-25

If you are led by the Spirit, no law can touch you. When self-indulgence is at work the results are obvious: fornication, gross indecency and sexual irresponsibility; idolatry and sorcery; feuds and wrangling, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels; disagreements, factions, envy; drunkenness, orgies and similar things. I warn you now, as I warned you before: those who behave like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control. There can be no law against things like that, of course. You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires.

Since the Spirit is our life, let us be directed by the Spirit.

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Luke 11:42-46

The Lord said to the Pharisees:

‘Alas for you Pharisees! You who pay your tithe of mint and rue and all sorts of garden herbs and overlook justice and the love of God! These you should have practised, without leaving the others undone. Alas for you Pharisees who like taking the seats of honour in the synagogues and being greeted obsequiously in the market squares! Alas for you, because you are like the unmarked tombs that men walk on without knowing it!

A lawyer then spoke up. ‘Master,’ he said ‘when you speak like this you insult us too.’

‘Alas for you lawyers also,’ he replied ‘because you load on men burdens that are unendurable, burdens that you yourselves do not move a finger to lift.’

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What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control

There was a vacant pot of soil in my family’s apartment corridor garden. Once, after eating a delightfully sweet blood orange, I decided to lay two seeds in the soil. Then, I buried a random assortment of other seeds into this pot. This was a strange magpie instinct in me to hoard the seeds in my ‘pot of treasures,’ curiously waiting for what might erupt from the soil. When my dad found out, he laughed and called me ‘kooky’ for not even labeling them in separate pots. Who knew which would grow? What if the different seedlings strangle each other as they vied for root space?

It is a mysterious thing: how life forms, how nature pushes forth from the deep darkness of seeming nothingness but a single seed. Lo and behold, one sturdy stalk sprung forth and just kept on growing. It was anyone’s guess which plant it was. But we committed to water and watch it. Its leaves grew larger, its ring of branches began to exhibit a pattern of growth. So, from pot to bigger pot, dad then moved it to the common ground below my window. It was only two feet tall then. Left outside to grow, we learnt to surrender our tending and tilling to the aid of the elements. Stood the assault of wind and rain it did. Once, bending almost halfway down.

And so it goes, that the work of our hands is really both about the graces given by God in opportunities and talents, as well as the intention and effort we pour into our work. In today’s Galatians verse, it is no coincidence that each fruit of the Spirit is both a noun and a verb. It may be a given quality, but it too needs to be cultivated by action. This is what virtue is: in unequal parts nature and nurture, by God’s design.

So as the priest prays these words over the bread and wine on the Altar before they are consecrated to God and become transubstantiated as the Body and Blood of Christ:

“Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink.”

We recognise the mystery of our co-operation in God’s grace. As we have received the earth and seeds as gifts through God’s goodness, these wheat and grapes have grown from the earth by God’s blessing by the movements of Nature. At the same time, the bread and wine are indeed the work of human hands – through our tilling, cultivation, harvesting, threshing, milling, ingenuity and baking. It is the same when grapes are amazingly transformed into wine. Hence we offer to Him the fruit of our labours through our participation in His design, yet recognising that the very origin of these produce comes alone from His goodness.

Finally, in our offering on the Altar, we surrender to Him what we have worked on and created unto His Will. We return the true and divine Authorship of mystery unto the Lord, just as we cannot see nor comprehend how the first seeds of all manner of life first came to be, God shall transform this bread of life and spiritual drink yet again – mystically – into the real Body and Blood of Christ (John 6:53-56; Matthew 16:5-12).

We are collaborators with God in His work of creation. True spiritual fruits require both divine grace and human effort to become abiding virtues that stand the test of time.

Over the past months, the plant has grown taller than me. Its once small leaves now larger than my palm. Its green stalk browns now as it turns to a wider trunk. We don’t quite know which of the seeds this is. But certainly its flowers and fruits will tell.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer: Let us see the work of our hands as a means of worship and praise to the Lord. May our work be suffused with true virtue and charity. No work is too menial when offered for God’s delight.

Thanksgiving: We bless the Lord for giving us hope that the fruit of our work, when offered to God, is eternally significant.

17 August, Wednesday – On Power

17 August

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Ezekiel 34:1-11

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows: ‘Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them:
‘“Shepherds, the Lord says this: Trouble for the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Shepherds ought to feed their flock, yet you have fed on milk, you have dressed yourselves in wool, you have sacrificed the fattest sheep, but failed to feed the flock. You have failed to make weak sheep strong, or to care for the sick ones, or bandage the wounded ones. You have failed to bring back strays or look for the lost. On the contrary, you have ruled them cruelly and violently. For lack of a shepherd they have scattered, to become the prey of any wild animal; they have scattered far. My flock is straying this way and that, on mountains and on high hills; my flock has been scattered all over the country; no one bothers about them and no one looks for them.
  
‘“Well then, shepherds, hear the word of the Lord. As I live, I swear it – it is the Lord who speaks – since my flock has been looted and for lack of a shepherd is now the prey of any wild animal, since my shepherds have stopped bothering about my flock, since my shepherds feed themselves rather than my flock, in view of all this, shepherds, hear the word of the Lord. The Lord says this: I am going to call the shepherds to account. I am going to take my flock back from them and I shall not allow them to feed my flock. In this way the shepherds will stop feeding themselves. I shall rescue my sheep from their mouths; they will not prey on them any more.”
‘For the Lord says this: “I am going to look after my flock myself and keep all of it in view.”’

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Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. He made an agreement with the workers for one denarius a day, and sent them to his vineyard. Going out at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place and said to them, “You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage.” So they went. At about the sixth hour and again at about the ninth hour, he went out and did the same. Then at about the eleventh hour he went out and found more men standing round, and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” “Because no one has hired us” they answered. He said to them, “You go into my vineyard too.” In the evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his bailiff, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first.” So those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each. When the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each. They took it, but grumbled at the landowner. “The men who came last” they said “have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” He answered one of them and said, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?” Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.’

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“… but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally”

Yesterday, we talked about the stewardship of wealth and material gain. Today’s readings are about the stewardship of something just as corrupt, if handled improperly – power. The movie ‘Spotlight’ came out last year amid a certain amount of publicity. I watched it when it first opened and remember being incensed by it. It hit me where I hurt the easiest, my faith. I watched it again after I had calmed down a bit. Then again. And again. We had a long discussion about it at church. The Father addressed everyone. Some people were shaken up, some dismissed it. Some got angry and walked out of the room. I sat back and watched everything quietly, thinking how happy I was that we could have a dialogue about this so openly. I remember thinking, ‘How I love my church, we’re so mature’. And then an article came out in the local papers that seemed to imply that some years ago, a woman had been assaulted by a priest in our parish and not enough had been done about it. She was now seeking further compensation for her distress. Suddenly it was here, this ‘thing’, this ‘sickness’ that we had only read about or talked about, here it was in our midst. It hurt because distrust was in His house, in our house. Did it happen? Did it not happen? Was someone just trying to rehash an old story to get some attention? Was the press goading her on to sell some newspapers?

People don’t realize the power they wield until they exercise their influence. In this instance, the people that held the power to do something were the Father, the priest in question and the reporter who thought it a good idea to rehash an old story. Power corrupts when we exercise it poorly. Did the priest do it, did he not? Did the Father do enough by removing the priest in question? Did the press do too much by scandalizing a case that was already in the midst of being worked out? Who’s wrong, who’s right? Are we even allowed to opine on it?

I grew a little ‘older’ after that incident, no more the wide-eyed happy-just-to-be-here parishioner anymore. I still go to church. I still love my faith. But I lost something in all of that — my innocence — maybe? And a small seed of doubt had been sown in my heart. Is this how Adam and Eve felt when they opened their eyes and thought they could see? Do people in power ever think about the damage they can do other people’s faith journeys?

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for those in power, that they wield it with self-awareness and responsibility.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the ability to discern the truth from the hype.