18 Mar – Memorial for St. Cyril of Jerusalem, bishop and doctor
Cyril (315-386) was raised a Christian in Jerusalem. He was well-educated, especially in religion. He was ordained a priest by St. Maximus, and was a great instructor of catechumens. His instructions are still source documents for the Church’s early teachings. He became Bishop of Jerusalem in 348. He was exiled three times by the Arians, usually on some trumped up charge like selling church furniture, but actually on theological grounds. He attended the Council of Seleucia in 359, and the Council of Constantinople in 381. He is a Greek Father of the Church, and a Doctor of the Church.
Moses said to the people:
‘Now, Israel, take notice of the laws and customs that I teach you today, and observe them, that you may have life and may enter and take possession of the land that the Lord the God of your fathers is giving you.
‘See, as the Lord my God has commanded me, I teach you the laws and customs that you are to observe in the land you are to enter and make your own. Keep them, observe them, and they will demonstrate to the peoples your wisdom and understanding. When they come to know of all these laws they will exclaim, “No other people is as wise and prudent as this great nation.” And indeed, what great nation is there that has its gods so near as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call to him? And what great nation is there that has laws and customs to match this whole Law that I put before you today?
‘But take care what you do and be on your guard. Do not forget the things your eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your heart all the days of your life; rather, tell them to your children and to your children’s children.’
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.’
But take care what you do and be on your guard
Having just made it out of Italy (I did not venture north while I was there for 2 weeks), I can appreciate how Singapore has responded to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, especially since I work in one of the universities. I witnessed first-hand the impact back home when, the evening prior to my departure, we were all summoned back to the office because we had a confirmed case of an infected student (he has fully recovered and been discharged).
Then, I left for my holiday in Italy, which I had planned since October last year. Nothing was going to stop me from enjoying the two weeks I had already planned out, in spite of the possible outbreak there. The day I arrived in Rome, the number spiked dramatically to 100. And I was due to travel to Milan the next day. Thankfully, I decided to heed the advice of a priest friend and cancelled the 3-day Milan leg, staying in Rome. By the time I left Italy 2 weeks later, the northern region had already been in lockdown and it was a matter of a few days before the entire nation was put on lockdown.
While many around the world question Singapore’s freedoms, we have also been lauded for the handling of the crisis, managing to contain the spread and enabling most of us to go about our daily lives, albeit with some restrictions — in my case, twice daily reporting of temperature and working from home with split teams. But as I discussed with friends the differences between how each country has responded and managed its own situations, one thing that struck me was that it is only in nations where the citizens are more ‘obedient’ that measures have proven successful. I cannot imagine how any of the Western countries could issue mandatory stay home notices and quarantine orders.
Now take the ‘laws’ that God handed down to Moses and the ‘laws’ which Jesus speaks about in today’s Gospel. I believe many of us have, over the years, put our own interpretations on some of these laws and either ignored some or even adhered to those which suited our ways of thinking. Why? Because while we are on this earth, there are no foreseeable, tangible ‘penalties’ for flouting these laws. On the other hand, try flouting a stay home notice or quarantine order and see what happens to you — 2 students were expelled from their respective universities.
The difference with God is that there is no hiding from Him. We cannot hope that He does not see us missing Sunday Mass (here in Singapore, it has been broadcast online since the suspension of masses last month). We cannot hope that He does not see us judging others, hoarding, gossiping, disobeying our parents…the list goes on. Just because we don’t see Him, we cannot let our guard down. In fact, it is now, in this time of crisis, that we need to be the face of Christ to others. It is now when we need to be compassionate, understanding, patient and forgiving.
Brothers and sisters, as sons and daughters of God, we are beholden to a set of laws that have been handed down through the generations. Whether they are archaic or not is not the question. The question is whether we are living our lives according to the laws prescribed. Or whether we have let the countless viruses of modern living infect our spirituality to the point where we have become immune whenever we break the laws. And cause hurt not only to our loved ones, but to Jesus.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)
Prayer: Father, we pray for your merciful blessings upon this world, in spite of our weaknesses and for having forsaken you. We ask for your healing graces to pour forth and shower us with your love, mercy and forgiveness.
Thanksgiving: We thank you for giving us a second chance at life in this time of crisis, Abba Father. Heal our families as we come together and bond during this trying time.