30 April, Saturday – Too Good to be True

30 Apr – Memorial for St. Pius V, pope

Antonio Ghislieri (1504-1572) was born to impoverished Italian nobility, the son of Paolo Ghislieri and Domenica Augeria. He worked as a shepherd as a boy, and received an excellent education in piety and holiness, including a scholastic education from a Dominican friar. He joined the Order in 1518, taking the name Michele. He studied in Bologna, Italy, and was ordained in 1528 in Genoa.

He was appointed teacher of philosophy and divinity in Genoa, and was a professor of theology in Pavia for 16 years. He was the Master of novices and prior of several Dominican houses, and he worked for stricter adherence to the Order’s rule.

He was an inquisitor in Como and Bergamo, and the commissary general of the Roman Inquisition in 1551. On Sep 4, 1556, he was ordained Bishop of Nepi and Sutri against his will. He was Inquisitor in Milan and Lombardy in the same year, and created cardinal on Mar 15 the following year, made Grand Inquisitor on Dec 14, 1558, and was part of the conclave of 1559. He was appointed Bishop of Mondovi, Italy on Mar 17, 1560. As bishop, he worked to lead his flock with words and examples, and served as a continual messenger encouraging personal piety and devotion to God.

He became the 225th pope in 1566, and immediately faced the task of enacting the reforms of the Council of Trent. New seminaries were opened, a new breviary, new missal, and new catechism were published. Foundations were established to spread the faith and preserve the doctrine of the Church. He spent much time personally working with the needy. He built hospitals and used the papal treasury to care for the poor. He faced many difficulties in the public forum, both in the implementation of the Tridentine reforms and interaction with other heads of state. He created 21 cardinals. At the time of his death, he was working on a Christian European alliance to break the power of the Islamic states.

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Acts 6:1-7
Jn 6:16-21

It is I. Do not be afraid.

Most people reading this reflection would probably never experience this, but I would just like to state the obvious that it is really difficult to attain a doctorate. There is good reason why synthesis is placed at the highest level of Bloom’s taxonomy (a hierarchical classification of levels of thinking), for the process of producing novelty in a piece of research is at best tedious, and at its worst, excruciating and a threat to one’s mental health. Having been steeped in this journey for the past four years or so, I had often carried the image of today’s gospel passage in my mind, picturing myself helpless in a boat on stormy seas, engulfed by the fear that I cannot complete the journey.

A series of spiritual revelations lately has signalled to me that I should not be focusing on the situation of the boat, but on the person of Christ. He alone was calm and collected in the storm, casually walking on water while chaos reigned around Him. He did not immediately calm the seas for his disciples, but presented Himself as a beacon of hope and peace amidst darkness and uncertainty.

In all four gospel accounts of Jesus walking on water, the disciples responded with fear to this light among their darkness. Could it be that they found the light too good to be true that they shrank away from Him instead of celebrating His presence? Similarly, since I have difficulty believing that Jesus has the power and love to conquer my darkness with His light, I choose to wallow in self-pity and worry, unable to recognise that Jesus has been there with me all this while, blessing me with silver linings and unexpected sources of grace.

“It is I. Do not be afraid.” (John 6:20) What do we have to fear when we have God on our side? May God fill our hearts with a love and confidence that overrides all fear.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, grant us the eyes of faith to perceive your goodness during our trials and tribulations. Help us to draw strength and courage from your love.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the times when God revealed His abundant love for us during trying times.

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