29 April, Friday – The bigger picture

29 Apr – Memorial for St. Catherine of Siena, virgin & doctor

St. Catherine (1347-1380) was the youngest child in a large family. At the age of six, she had a vision in which Jesus appeared and blessed her. Her parents wanted her to marry, but she became a Dominican tertiary. She was a mystic and stigmatist. She received a vision in which she was in mystical marriage with Christ, and the Infant Christ presented her with a wedding ring. She was counsellor to Pope Gregory XI and Pope Urban VI. She was proclaimed Doctor of the Church on 4 October 1970.

  • Patron Saint Index

Acts 5:34-42
Jn 6:1-15

This really is the prophet who is to come into the world

In recent times you may have heard about Catholics deciding to leave the church because of her teachings on homosexuality and marriage. People find it unacceptable that while the progressive world has “moved on” in terms of giving homosexuals equal rights to marriage, the church remains stuck in what is perceived as archaic notions of marriage. This affront to worldly wisdom is the latest in a list of “strict rules” that reflect the church’s obstinacy to change with the times. The church’s stand against abortion and the use of contraceptives remain thorny issues, with the former having morphed into a political tool in the United States, becoming the fuel for a bitter and divisive cultural war.

The feeding of the five thousand is one of the best known miracles in the Gospel. The account stands out for its sheer scale – how could five loaves and two fish be multipled to feed thousands? Jesus had just demonstrated His power in front of an enormous crowd, which certainly must have numbered more than five thousand if you were to include the women and children. Furthermore, this miracle was not one that they observed from afar happening to someone else. They had all seen, touched and eaten the food. Surely then, this man is the messiah long hoped for?

Notice the shift in perception of the crowd. While initially perceived as an impressive healer, perhaps one of several healers in their day, Jesus’ standing in their eyes rose to become that of a prophet. And not simply any prophet, but the prophet. Although it may appear that the crowd’s eyes were opened as a result of the miracle they experienced, in reality they were as misguided as before. Jesus was not their desired political leader or war captain. That was not God’s plan. When Jesus died on the cross, multitudes must have felt sorely disappointed, for God had not given them what they wanted. They needed someone to lead them out of Roman oppression, but this man was talking about something called “eternal life”, and referring to “a kingdom not of this world”, which can only be reached via the “narrow gate”. Why go through all that trouble when a political messiah could change everyone’s fortunes?

More than two thousand years later, it would appear that little has changed. People are still expecting the church, the body of Christ, to bend to their will. When the church preaches a message contrary to their own worldview, then the church is the one who is wrong. Even if they still have faith in Jesus, they believe that the message of Christ must be distorted by a church that is selfish in denying the union of gay couples, impractical in insisting on unprotected sex, and unethical in refusing to protect women’s rights.

The first century Jews were badly in need of a political saviour, but Jesus did not fill that role. Instead, He gave a glimpse of the bigger picture of our existence, and revealed Himself as the path to the salvation of our souls. This is God’s way, which is above any human understanding or will. How willing are we to change ourselves to bend to His will?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: Dearest Father, we pray that, through your grace, that those who attack the church for her teachings may be able to discern the truth of your light in this world.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the spiritual and moral guidance given by the church, and for the gift of priests and religious who have provided much leadership and support in nurturing the faith of Christians.

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