18 August, Tuesday — Just Rewards

Tuesday of Week 20 in Ordinary Time

Eze 28:1-10
Mt 19:23-30

We have left everything and followed you. What are we to have, then?

In contrast to yesterday’s gospel reading, where the wealthy man went away dejected because he could not give up his material wealth to follow Jesus, we have St Peter today asking Jesus what His followers are to reap since they gave up everything. I am pretty sure those who journeyed to the end would not have foreseen nor expected persecution, condemnation and, ultimately martyrdom. For St Peter, he even denied our Lord three times in order to save himself; yet, he was the ‘rock’ upon whom the Church was built. Today, there stands by the Sea of Galilee, the Church of the Primacy of St Peter and, in Rome, the magnificent, majestic Basilica of St Peter — perhaps much more than the man himself could have asked for.

Brothers and sisters, to leave everything behind and follow Jesus in the modern-day context may be a tad unrealistic for many of us; unless we truly feel called to enter the seminary or choose to become a nun. For most of us, the concept of ‘leaving everything’ relates more to giving up the pleasures of material goods, pleasures of the flesh, pleasures of indulging in good food/wine regularly. When I decided to give up alcohol more than a year ago, it was more to do with making sure I could remain as healthy as possible, so that I don’t end up suffering in my golden years. But as I reflected on today’s readings, I realise too that God had led me down this path, one step at a time.

And it all started very ‘innocently’, when I decided to serve in ministry. I remember thinking, “There goes my Wednesday and Friday each week…” and most certainly, many other days followed as I was called to take on more and more. Looking back, the sacrifices of time meant that I was not lulled into any activities that involved drinking at a bar (and therefore spending money needlessly) and then going out for a ‘celebratory meal’ — there were more than a few of those back in the day. As a result, my ‘reward’ has been a healthier bank balance and, more visibly, a much healthier countenance. Indeed, a friend who I had not met for more than 15 years recently commented over a coffee that I looked a lot fitter and with more energy now that when we last saw each other.

I remarked one day as we were chatting, how much I had ‘squandered’ in my younger years on alcohol and music (back then, CDs were the rage before iTunes and Spotify). I couldn’t help but wonder if I had continued splurging on myself, what state I would be in today. Thanks to Facebook and Instagram, I still catch posts from old friends who have continued enjoying life to its fullest and I, for one, know that it is a very ‘tiring’ way of living. And I give it to them, that they have managed to sustain their lifestyles. Don’t get me wrong — everyone is entitled to their choice of ‘boat’ to steer.

So I ask Jesus, “What am I to have, then?” Well…not much more from a financial point of view. Just a good, stable job that affords me the time to do His work as well. And while the people He sends along my path are just as interesting, they have moulded me into someone that now appreciates people for who they are, rather than what they can do for me. Over the past few months under lockdown and, as we have started to reopen, I have come to appreciate the love of my mother even more; the love of a soulmate who I try to have regular ‘adventures’ with (sometimes without having to spend more than a few dollars); the love of a small group of friends who themselves are on their own journeys of faith and discovery; and the love and fellowship of my ministry members whose constant affirmation give me hope.

These, brothers and sisters, are our just rewards for leaving everything behind. May you all find your rewards as you walk your own roads and decide which smaller ones to take. Remember, the rocky path may eventually lead you to a nice, smooth highway.  

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Abba Father, prepare the road ahead for us and give us the assurance that no matter what we endure now in our daily lives, You will show us the way each day and guide us onto a path that leads us back to You.

Thanksgiving:  Thank you, Lord, for all that you put in our lives. May they always mould, shape and form us into your final image of who we are meant to be.

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