11 December, Saturday — “It is finished” – Mission accomplished

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

Ecc 48:1-4,9-12
Mt 17:10-13

…however, I tell you that Elijah has come already and they did not recognize him but treated him as they pleased.

As Captain John Miller led his motley squad in search of Private Ryan (from the movie Saving Private Ryan), they stumbled upon a German bunker complex. When Cpt Miller gave orders for the bunker to be taken, his squad was resistant and reluctant. “We can still achieve our objective without having to take this bunker. This is NOT our mission, Sir!”. Cpt Miller’s response was swift, strong and stoic – “OUR mission … is to save Allied lives…and to win this war! Is it not?”.  

Brothers and sisters — our mission is to win this war against the Evil one and to save souls for Christ! Is it not?

But we often find many occasions for compromise. For excuses. For rationalisations. For justifications. To NOT fulfill that mission. Do we not?

Whilst out shopping at Orchard Road one Sunday morning, I overhead a little girl telling her dad, “Daddy, I am sorry for missing Catechism class this morning because I wanted to go shopping”. “What a sweet girl,” I thought to myself. Then came the reply from her dad, “It’s ok dear. So long as the teacher doesn’t know the real reason, that’s fine. Just tell her you overslept because you had a lot of homework to do last night or come up with some other excuse. It’s all good.” No kidding, folks. I am not pulling a fast one on you. This is a true story. This is what a Catholic parent teaches a primary-school going age Catholic child. For skipping out on Catechism class, no less. So many occasions for compromise. For excuses. For rationalisations. For justifications. To NOT fulfil that mission. Is it not?

But here’s the clincher, I was infuriated when I heard the parent’s response – I turned around and was storming towards him to tell him off for setting such a monstrously shameful example for his child. Then third step into the backtrack, I changed my mind. I chickened out and turned around back to where I was walking from. “It is none of my business really. That’s not my kid”; “I don’t want to make a scene in public”; “I should not embarrass the dad in front of his child”; “I might scare and even scar the little girl if things were to get ugly between me and her dad in front of her”. I simply chose to walk away and say nothing and do nothing. So many occasions for compromise. For excuses. For rationalisations. For justifications. To NOT fulfil that mission. Is it not?

So, on that Sunday morning, the mission of saving souls and winning the war against the Devil was not accomplished. In that particular battle of faith, I lost; the dad lost and most of all, the little girl lost. Big time.

Unlike at the Garden of Gethsemane, at Golgotha and at the humble house of Mary when Angel Gabriel delivered the missive from God – at those places and during those pivotal cross-roads of our eternal salvation, Jesus and our Blessed Mother too, were faced with the temptation to make excuses, to rationalise, to justify not doing the will of God, not completing the mission entrusted to them by God. But luckily for us, they stood firm, they came through, they did not lose sight, they did not falter.

And when all was said and done, Jesus was able to hang on that Cross, to look up at His Father and to say, “Father, it is finished! Mission accomplished!”.

And we were saved. Were we not?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father, help us. Save us from our inconstancies and infidelities. From our fragility and weakness. From our agitation and wastefulness. From our imprudence and thoughtlessness. From the devil and from ourselves.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you. For all the times you have saved us from a world and from ourselves, so sinful and indifferent to sin. Thank you for Jesus and our Blessed Mother’s uncompromising love for you and for us, which will lead the way to our eternal life with you, one day.

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