11 November, Thursday — Seeking the Kingdom of God

Nov 11 – Memorial for St. Martin of Tours, bishop

St. Martin (316-397) was born to pagan parents. His father was a Roman military officer and tribune. Martin was raised in Pavia, Italy, where he discovered Christianity and became a catechumen in his early teens. He joined the Roman imperia army at the age of 15, serving in a ceremonial unit that acts as the emperor’s bodyguard, and was rarely exposed to combat. He became a cavalry officer and was assigned to garrison duty in Gaul.

Trying to live his faith, he refused to let his servant wait on him. Once, while on horseback in Amiens in Gaul (modern France), he encountered a beggar. Having nothing to give but the clothes on his back, he cut his heavy officer’s cloak in half, and gave it to the beggar. Later, he had a vision of Christ wearing the cloak.

Martin was baptized into the Church at the age of 18. Just before a battle, Martin announced that his faith prohibited him from fighting. Charged with cowardice, he was jailed, and his superiors planned to put him in the front of the battle. However, the invaders sued for peace, the battle never occurred, and Martin was released from military service at Worms.

On a visit to Lombardy to see his parents, he was robbed in the mountains but managed to convert one of the thieves. At home, he found that his mother had converted, but his father had not. The area was strongly Arian, and openly hostile to Catholics. Martin was badly abused by the heretics, and at one point, even by the order of the Arian bishop. Learning that the Arians had gained the upper hand in Gaul and exiled St. Hilary of Poitiers, his spiritual teacher, Martin fled to the island of Gallinaria (modern Isola d’Albenga).

In 361, Martin learned that the emperor had authorized Hilary’s return, and Martin ran to him and became a hermit for ten years in the area now know as Ligugé. A reputation for holiness attracted other monks, and they formed what would become the Benedictine abbey of Ligugé. He preached and evangelised through the Gallic countryside. Many locals held strongly to the old beliefs, and tried to intimidate Martin by dressing as the old Roman gods and appearing to him at night, but Martin continued to win converts. He destroyed old temples, and built churches on the land.

When the bishop of Tours died in 371, Martin was the immediate choice to replace him. Martin declined, citing unworthiness. Rusticus, a wealthy citizen of Tours, claimed his wife was ill and asked for Martin. When he arrived in the city, he was declared bishop by popular acclamation, and was consecrated on Jul 4, 372.

He moved to a hermit’s cell near Tours. Other monks joined him and a new house, Marmoutier, soon formed. He rarely left his monastery, but sometimes went to Trier to plead with the emperor for his city, his church, or his parishioners. Once when he went to ask lenience for a condemned prisoner, an angel woke the emperor to tell him that Martin was waiting to see him; the prisoner was reprieved.

Martin himself was given to visions, but even his contemporaries sometimes ascribed them to his habit of lengthy fasts. An extensive biography of Martin was written by Sulpicius Severus. When he died, he was buried, at his request, in the Cemetery of the Poor. Martin was the first non-martyr to receive the cultus of saint. His relics rested in the basilica of Tours, a scene of pilgrimages and miracles until 1562, when the cathedral and relics were destroyed by militant Protestants. Some small fragments on his tomb were found during construction excavation in 1860.

St. Martin of Tours is patron against poverty, alcoholism, hotel-keepers, quartermasters, soldiers, among others.

Prayer to Continue to Fight for God

“Lord, if your people still have need of my services, I will not avoid the toil. Your will be done. I have fought the good fight long enough. Yet if you bid me continue to hold the battle line in defense of your camp, I will never beg to be excused from failing strength. I will do the work you entrust to me. While you command, I will fight beneath your banner.” – St  Martin of Tours, Italian Soldier, Hermit, Bishop

– Patron Saint Index

Wis 7:22 – 8:1
Lk 17:20-25

“For, you must know, the Kingdom of God is among you.”

Let me first start by acknowledging that I am probably the least qualified person to be writing about the Kingdom of God. I researched and pondered about this for a long time but what do I, a sinner, know about it? I used to think that the coming of the Kingdom of God was like the end of the world, heralded with calamities, sickness, and war, like something out of a Nostradamus prediction. In fact, the Gospel of Luke would continue the reading by saying that people would go about in sin and no one would know the coming, and it would be like a surprise attack as when the floods came in Noah’s time, or when God rained down fire onto Sodom. So, what is it then if not like the apocalypse?

In Matthew Chapter 13, Jesus tries to help us (and the people then) understand the Kingdom of God through seven parables. I won’t discuss the parables here, but there were two points that stood out for me. The first point was from the parable of the fishing net and the wheat and weeds, that God’s Kingdom is available to everyone, both believers and unbelievers. It is not our place to judge whether someone belonged or not, we would all get sorted on judgment day. The second point was that it starts small and grows into something big, almost like a kindness movement. This was in the parable of the mustard seed and the yeast. It just needs one person to have an unshakeable faith in Jesus and be that living representation of faith to “pass it on”, and from that spark, a fire grows. If our lives reflect the teachings of Christ, then anyone who meets us would experience what it would be like to be living a Christ-led life, the Kingdom of God among us.

As today is the Memorial of St Martin of Tours, let us reflect on the story that he is most known for, which I feel is a good depiction of a Christ-led life. The story goes that when St Martin was a young man, he joined the cavalry. One day, he met a beggar who was unclothed and clearly cold. St Martin stopped and took off his cloak, cut it in half and gave one half to the beggar. That night, he had a vision of Christ who said to him, “Martin, a mere catechumen has clothed me.” This simple act of charity echoes Matthew 25:35-36: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”

Each day, we are presented with opportunities to do what Christ would have us do as Christians. Each day, we get to meet Christ in the form of people who need our help. Each day, we get to seek the Kingdom of God. We are that spark, and from what we do, we have the chance to start a fire burning for Christ. On that day, we will have a glimpse of the Kingdom of God, well and truly present in our midst.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord God, as we go about our daily lives, help us realise that we are, and can be, instruments of Your perfect love. Let this love course through our hearts and souls, and be reflected in our lives and all that we do so that we may be a true representation of the Kingdom of God.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for being amongst us, for living amongst us. When we experience little acts of kindness from other people, we are seeing You in them, and in that moment, we experience what it is like to be part of the Kingdom of God.

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