23 July, Thursday — Dimmed hearts, dulled minds.

Jul 23 – Memorial for St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious

Coming from a noble yet religious background, St. Bridget (1302-1373) was friend and counsellor to many priests and theologians of her day. As chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Blanche of Namur, she counselled and guided the Queen and King Magnus II. She was harassed by others at the court for pursuing a religious life.

She eventually renounced her title of princess and became the foundress of the Order of the Most Holy Savior (Bridgettines), chastening and counselling kings and Popes Clement VI, Urban VI, and Gregory XI. St. Bridget encouraged all who would listen to meditate on the Passion, and of Jesus Crucified.

– Patron Saint Index

Jer 2:1-3,7-8,12-13
Mt 13:10-17

“…only to dig cisterns for themselves, leaky cisterns that hold no water.”

Geraldine (Gerry), our fellow ‘Oxygenite’, in her very poignant and moving reflection of 6 June on the immense suffering of her friend Pearl, succinctly captured the essence of how debilitating is the state of our dimmed hearts and dulled minds. She wrote:

“And here’s what bothered me. Two of my friends on this chat remained completely silent. They didn’t even ask further about the situation. Both are comfortable financially. It would have been no skin off their backs if they contributed a bit to help Pearly during these difficult times. What bothered me even more were some of the reactions – from nonchalance to comments like ‘We give what we want and not what they need.’ That really stumped me. This is a friend in need. These are the same people who fly all over the world for holidays on business class, buy French butter for toast, feast on the most expensive food during this pandemic. Each day, I get sent pictures of their meals and I can’t help but feel disgusted. All this frivolity disgusted me. My rich friends were completely numb to a friend in need. My friends were worse than the scribes in today’s gospel. They didn’t even bother to put up a good front. They were completely and totally self-absorbed.”

The sufferings of others mean little to us. Why? Simply because, it is not ours nor of those we love. To make matters worse, that indifference is exacerbated by how insensitively we go on telling the world how happy our lives are, how blessed we are with wealth, health and God’s ‘favour’. Sometimes, we at least pretend to pay lip-service for the ‘unfortunate’ ones. But two seconds of that superficial and hypocritical BS – then it’s back to our ‘wonderful, blessed’ lives.

In one of Max Lucado’s little parables, a little girl was bawling her eyes out because she had a toothache. No matter how much her parents and siblings tried to pacify her – her agonizing wail did not wane for hours and hours as she was having “the worse toothache in the world”. When her daddy asked her why she thought it was the worst toothache in the world, she replied, “Because it is MY toothache”. It is my happiness, my money, my pleasure, my ‘blessing’, my good fortune, just reward for my hard work, my security, my plenty, it is mine to keep or to give away. God has nothing to do with it.

In the images used in the readings of today, so many of us are like cisterns, where the precious water of life, given to us by God, contained therein, has leaked out, and drawn out to be used to water our own selfish and frivolous purposes. So much of it so completely wasted. Instead of using the life-giving waters of graces that God has put within us as His holy vessels to bring life to others, we have mostly thrown all that away into the cesspool of sinful indifference, materialistic self-indulgence and spiritual tepidity.

Today’s readings point us to two key lessons of faith. Firstly, although we try to listen to the word of God, we will never be able to understand His message when we shut our hearts to the world. The Word of God is like dew that waters the world to bring it life and growth. When we live only in our own little world, the Word of God cannot do its work. And because we shut the world out by our selfishness and indifference, our spiritual response to the truth of God is dull and lifeless. So long as we turn away from the mission field which is the world that we live in, with all its pain, suffering, disappointment and neediness, the message of the Gospel remains hidden, dormant, lost. The second lesson is to recognize how the devil blinds our minds and spirits by appealing to our flesh. Flesh enslaves us to the things of this earth and chokes the godliness in our spirits. The ground upon which the Spirit is able to take root and grow, or not, lies in the ‘fertileness’ of our hearts. If the message is not understood, the fault lies not in the word. It is in the hardness of man’s heart. We do not understand God’s word because we have shut our eyes and ears and chosen not to see nor hear. 

We are all too familiar with the phrase, “There is none so deaf as those that will not hear; none so blind as those that will not see’. To which I would add this quote from Helen Keller, “The only thing worse than being blind, is having sight but no vision”.  

But you know something brothers and sisters? It is in our nature to be selfish and indifferent. To be self-absorbed and self-preserving. It is the fallen nature of man. It is man before the redemption of God’s grace. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking any otherwise.

That’s why we need God.

And that’s why God is God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father, help us. Lift us out of the darkness that enslaves our hearts. In that darkness, we stumble and fall over own selfishness, sinfulness and stupidity. We are unable to love our brothers and sisters because our hearts cannot see them. We see only ourselves. We choke upon the thorns and the weeds we have nurtured in the soil of our own hearts.  

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for the saving power of your love for us. Thank you for all the times You have reached out to all the brothers and sisters who are in their pain and suffering and despair when we have failed to answer Your call to us to reach out to them; because we were too busy with our own little “worst toothache in the world”.

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