25 May, Wednesday — Can We Handle the Truth?

May 25 – Memorial for St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Worker; Memorial for St. Gregory VII, Pope; Memorial for St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, Virgin

St. Bede (672-735) was born around the time England was finally, completely Christianized. He was raised from age seven in the abbey of Sts. Peter and Paul at Wearmouth-Jarrow, and lived there the rest of his life. He was a Benedictine monk, and the spiritual student of the founder, St. Benedict Biscop. He was ordained in 702 by St. John of Beverley. He was a teacher and author; he wrote about history, rhetoric, mathematics, music, astronomy, poetry, grammar, philosophy, hagiography, homiletics, and Bible commentary.

He was known as the most learned man of his day, and his writings started the idea of dating this era from the incarnation of Christ. The central theme of Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica is of the Church using the power of its spiritual, doctrinal, and cultural unity to stamp out violence and barbarism. Our knowledge of England before the 8th century is mainly the result of Bede’s writing. He was declared a Doctor of the Church on 13 November 1899 by Pope Leo XIII.

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St. Gregory (1020-1085) was educated in Rome, Italy. He was a Benedictine monk, and chaplain to Pope Gregory VI. He was in charge of the Patrimony of St. Peter. He was a reformer and an excellent administrator. He was chosen the 152nd pope, but he declined the crown. He was chief counsellor to Pope Victor II, Pope Stephen IX, Pope Benedict X, and Pope Nicholas II. He eventually became the 157th pope.

At the time of his ascension, simony and a corrupt clergy threatened to destroy faith in the Church. Gregory took the throne as a reformer, and Emperor Henry IV promised to support him. Gregory suspended all clerics who had purchased their position, and ordered the return of all purchased church property.

The corrupt clergy rebelled; Henry IV broke his promise, and promoted the rebels. Gregory responded by excommunicating anyone involved in lay investiture. He summoned Henry to Rome, but the emperor’s supporters drove Gregory into exile. Henry installed the anti-pope Guibert of Ravenna, who was driven from Rome by Normans who supported Gregory; the Normans were, themselves, so out of control that the people of Rome drove them out. Gregory then retreated to Salerno, Italy, where he spent the remainder of his papacy.

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St. Catherine (1566-1607) had a religious upbringing. She was initially sent to a convent at the age of 14, but was taken back home by her family, who opposed her religious vocation and wanted her to marry well. They eventually gave in, and Catherine became a Carmelite of the Ancient Observance at 16, taking the name Sister Mary Magdalene. She as a mystic, and led a hidden life of prayer and self-denial, praying particularly for the renewal of the Church and encouraging the sisters in holiness. Her life was marked by many extraordinary graces.

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Acts 17:15,22-18:1
Jn 16:12-15

“I still have many things to say to you, but they would be too much for you now. But when the spirit of truth comes, he will lead you to the complete truth...

Jesus is all about the Truth, the Way, the Life. When he came and started spreading the Word of God, it was different from what people had been taught at that point in time. From all the rules and commandments in the past, Jesus distilled it to two important commandments (Mark 12:30-31): “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” I can imagine the people’s reaction: “What? Is that it?” The people at the time were bound by practices and traditions that were mostly man-made and when the Pharisees saw that Jesus’ disciples were not following these practices, they questioned Jesus. But each time, Jesus would respond with hard truths about what it meant to be following God vs following practices. He was trying to open their eyes to understand the Truth. Unfortunately, not everyone could comprehend Jesus’ teachings; even his own disciples had difficulties.

We have the benefit of hindsight now where the Bible is concerned. But if we were transported back two thousand plus years ago to the time of Jesus, we probably would be equally stumped. Had we lived during that time, we too would have probably pushed back on what Jesus was trying to reveal. We would have needed time and guidance to understand the context. We would need help to see how we could apply the truth. We would need space for reflection to realise the message.

Jesus knew that we, like the disciples thousands of years before us, would struggle to understand. Even now, with Bible classes and commentaries available at the tips of our fingers, it would take us time to figure it all out. He knew that we would suffer from information overload. He has already taught us all that we need to know, and he has simplified it for us as best as he can. But knowing it vs understanding it are completely different things, one that would require us time and a chance to live our lives to figure out the meaning. But Jesus had always promised that he would not leave us without any help. The Holy Spirit is the guiding force and inspiration to help us make the right choices in life, to help us understand Jesus’ teachings in the context of the modern world that we live in. The truths that he shared two thousand years ago still ring true today. I suppose despite advancements in civilization and technology, our troubles also remain the same as they were eons ago: family, purpose of life, love, career, finances, health, persecution, injustice…

Despite all that, one thing remains constant — God’s love. It is constant whatever the season, whatever the reason. What we have done or have failed to do, doesn’t dim His love, not even for a second. His love is unconditional, everlasting, infinite. It is His love for us that gives rise to the Way, the Truth, and the Life, everlasting life with God. A life that is in sync with Him and unites us with Him; for when we abide in God, He abides in us. His love is the beginning and the end, the ‘forever’. And that’s the truth. Can we handle that?

(Todays OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, sometimes life can get a little bit much for us to handle. When we feel overwhelmed trying to do things our way and overthink things, that’s when we get lost. Help us, we pray oh Lord, to see the forest for the trees, to understand your teachings in our lives. We pray to the Holy Spirit to guide us back to you.

Thanksgiving: Lord, you are the Way, the Truth and the Life. Sometimes, we get a little lost trying to figure things out on our own, but we thank you for the Holy Spirit who redirects us and gives us inspiration to realise the meaning of your Word.

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