27 August, Thursday — Black Swans and White Angels

Aug 27 – Memorial for St. Monica, married woman

St. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted a heresy and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night, she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted.

When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan, where she became a leader of the devout women there.

Patron Saint Index

1 Cor 1:1-9
Mt 24:42-51

Stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming.

It is easy, in the hustle and bustle of daily life, to slip into a comfortable existence of daily busyness. When I am busy with work and chores, I do not need to think about anything, except for getting the job done and completing the tasks of the day. It is also easy to tell myself that I simply didn’t have the ‘bandwidth’ to deal with anything outside of the day-to-day.

Or that is what we like to think.

Yet when 2020 hit us like a maelstrom, we were all suddenly given more than ample time to reflect on our mortality and relationship with God. When we switch on the news and all we see is death and sickness, we realise that perhaps we may have been too complacent. As the year slowly slips by and countless months are spent under lock-down or ‘socially-distant’ conditions, it is now clear that an irreversible change has come over the world.

Were we awake when this change occurred? What were you doing when the coronavirus was slowly and silently entering your country? How did you react when the first infections emerged?

Before the coronavirus hit us, I was already living under semi-lockdown, as Hong Kong writhed in the throes of its endless internal conflicts and protests. The lockdown would continue even when we returned to Singapore, with the onset of the pandemic. While it is possible to find the everyday beauty of God amidst lockdown, it is also possible to slip into an existential complacency, as we spend our days worrying about the here and now.

Perhaps the Lord is reminding us today to focus on the life that will come after, to stay awake to the movements of the spirit, even if the world around us is slowly falling apart. There is a John Mayer song that I like a lot, and its refrain goes “my dear we’re slow dancing in a burning room”.

Yes, my room is slowly and inexorably burning down, and my life is slowly ebbing away even as we speak. But my Lord, He is here holding me still. He is slow-dancing with me through this life, if only I would slow down and let Him lead me, rather than try to shuffle my way from one burning room to another. So we stay awake and keep dancing, focusing on that radiant light in front of us, relying on the Lord and His angels to guide us out of the deep uncertainty that we are living in today.

(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the wisdom and grace to be attentive to Your light and movements.   

Thanksgiving: We are thankful for the eternal presence of our Risen Lord, who guides and loves us in good times and bad.

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