11 December, Friday — What if…?

Dec 11 – Memorial for St. Damasus I, pope

St. Damasus (306-384) was raised in a pious family. His father was a priest in Rome, and Damasus served for a time as deacon in his father’s church, St. Laurence. He was ordained a priest and became assistant to Pope Liberius. He was elected the 37th pope in a disputed election, in which a minority chose the anti-pope Ursinus. The two reigned simultaneously in Rome, which eventually led to violence between their supporters and Damasus’ false accusation of a crime.

His pontificate suffered from the rise of Arianism and from several schisms, including break-away groups in Antioch, Constantinople, Sardinia, and Rome. However, it was during his reign that Christianity was declared the religion of the Roman state. He enforced the 370 edict of Emperor Valentinian controlling gifts to prelates, and opposed Arianism and Apollinarianism. He supported the 374 council of Rome, which decreed the valid books of the Bible, and the Grand Council of Constantinople in 381, which condemned Arianism.

He was the patron of his secretary, St. Jerome, and commissioned him to make the translation of scripture now known as the Vulgate. Damasus restored catacombs, shrines, and the tombs of martyrs, and wrote poetry and metrical inscriptions about, and dedicated to, martyrs. They state that he would like to be buried in the catacombs with the early martyrs, but that the presence of one of his lowly status would profane such an august place. Ten of his letters, personal and pontifical, have survived.

  • Patron Saint Index

Isa 48:17-19
Mt 11:16-19

If only you had been alert to my commandments…

It is a mere two weeks till Christmas…where has the year gone? It seems like only yesterday that I was traipsing around in Italy, enjoying a holiday (this is before COVID-19 and all its attendant restrictions). Now, everyone is looking back at the year gone by and starting to wonder where the time went. I, for one, have done many things which previously would not have been accomplished in a ‘normal’ year. And my life is enriched because of what I embarked on since early March, when life as we know it went topsy-turvy.

Yes, for those of us who decided to make full use of the crisis that befell the world, we took the time to ‘reflect’ and ‘reset’. In re-evaluating what was tried-and-tested before, from daily lifestyle habits to mundane processes, I realised that we all could do with learning to live with a lot less. What we cannot not live without, however, was basic human connection. Then again, if you were to speak to spouses with school-going children who found themselves cooped up at home, you might get a different reaction. Because those who found ‘sanctuary’ from the home while at work, no longer had the office to hide in. And those who regularly clocked up air miles as part and parcel of their job found themselves becoming armchair warriors, having to deal with food deliveries and all manner of entertainment just to keep sane.

And what about those who really seized the opportunity to truly reflect and retreat within themselves, to do some spring cleaning interiorly? We couldn’t go to daily mass, let alone fulfil our Sunday obligations. Yet, it has been a time of spring cleaning for me, not just at home, but even at work (I had 4 resignations), and most certainly in ministry. But with the grace of God, I took everything in my stride, confident that He had a plan for me and was pulling all the strings. All He asked was for me to surrender in total trust. Not easy for many of us, a tad disconcerting for those of us ‘alpha’ characters who need to plan, control and then direct/command. But in typical ‘God fashion’, our heavenly Father gave me all the rope to play with, at times get entangled in, and emerge a little wiser, a little scarred, but certainly in a better place compared to the beginning of the year.

In today’s first reading, the prophet Isaiah exclaims, ‘If only you had been alert to my commandments…’ almost lamenting how many of us seem to live our lives in a state of constant deafness to God’s word. As a society, we are running full tilt each day — commuting from one appointment to the next, ‘relaxing’ in front of a blaring TV, wondering when travel restrictions will be lifted so that we can busy ourselves on a work/holiday trip away from home — we simply don’t take the time to just be still and listen out for God speaking to us. And then we lament that He does not listen to our prayers, He does not understand, He does not care for us.

Brothers and sisters, just for today, what if we took a few minutes to sit with God, shut out what’s happening around us and give ourselves a treat? What if we took a slightly different route on our way to work, or on our walk in the park? What if we took an extra minute or two in the car park and just sat in silence in our cars? What if we let the train pass and just stood on the emptied platform? What if we looked out the window and looked at the cloud that is floating by? What if we just followed the flight of that insect hovering near a plant? What if we took a deeper breath and held it to appreciate the smell of Christmas? What if we let the coffee machine ‘rest’ for a few more minutes and we just sat in our kitchen, appreciating the empty house? What if we said ‘good morning’ to the homeless person roughing it out on the bench, and handed him/her our sandwich?

What if we stopped outside our parish and said one ‘Our Father’ before running off to that meeting/appointment? What if we stopped fretting about the lift breaking down and took the stairs instead? What if we took a few minutes from lunch break and opened up a bible just to let Him feed us? What if…

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Abba Father, we ask you to fill our thoughts, fill our hearts and fill our lives as we stop to listen to your voice in the short pauses we make today.

Thanksgiving:  We thank you for never giving up on us.

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