Aug 13 – Memorial for St. Pontian, pope, martyr, and St. Hippolytus, priest, martyr
Pontian was among the first victims of an anti-Christian new emperor. Rounded up with the antipope Hippolytus, Pontian was deported to the labour mines. While imprisoned, Hippolytus reconciled his differences with Pontian and even ordered his followers to bring themselves back to the Church. Before he succumbed to the harsh treatment of the mines, Hippolytus became a true confessor of Christ. Pontian, in the mines only two months, was brutally beaten to death by his jailers.
- Patron Saint Index
“…it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”
In today’s gospel, Jesus’ instruction to his disciples is quite clear – that He welcomes all the little children. Why is this so? I think that it is because only the little children possess an innocence which is untainted by any sort of life experiences. And it is this innocence which enables them to trust fully in whatever is told to them.
It has been documented that the best years for a child to learn a second language fluently is between the ages of three and ten. After the age of eighteen, there is a sharp decline in one’s ability to pick up a new language. Hardly surprising then that we adults are the ‘toughest nuts to crack’ in terms of learning something new.
And there, brothers and sisters, lies the nub of the issue. Because we have been so conditioned by our life experiences, because of how we have been treated by family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, we each develop our own ‘outer shell’ – a layer of protection that helps us defend ourselves from all that life throws at us. Inevitably, that makes us ‘impervious’ to God’s word, God’s teachings and God’s wisdom. We think we know it all or we don’t allow ourselves to appreciate or accept what is written in the bible — just like the Pharisees in yesterday’s gospel reading.
So when Jesus says, “…it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs”, He is not referring only to the little children. He is actually asking for us to have a faith just like these children, where we accept all we are taught, without judgment, nor reservation.
I have been blessed, over the past few months (since Easter actually), to have been given the opportunity to impart some of my knowledge to two different groups of vocalists. At the same time, I am enjoying my ‘new’ role as a vocalist in a choir where only 4 of us (not counting the musicians) sing and harmonise almost intuitively. As a ‘coach’, I am always mindful of being encouraging and affirming, simply because I myself don’t take too well to being told what/how I should do something. And in my role as vocalist, I am enjoying absorbing all that our dear choir mistress (herself an accomplished musician) is imparting. I attend practices after our mass with a ‘child-like’ demeanour, always looking forward to learning a new hymn or a new tenor part for a familiar hymn.
And it is with such a countenance that I want to encourage all of us, brothers and sisters, to approach reading the bible, listening to homilies, and even sessions with our spiritual directors. Let us put our full trust in God’s Word and embrace those who are in positions of teaching/coaching/mentoring. It is never easy to receive instruction or feedback from others but I have found that if we look beyond the words and discern the intention, we will learn to be more accepting of such words.
Of all the teachers, Jesus’ intentions were always good and clear, borne out of a love for us, one that only wants to bring us closer to God, our heavenly Father.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)
Prayer: Good and gracious Lord, we ask for your blessings upon all those who lead, guide, mentor, coach, counsel or direct the lives of children, youth, and adults who seek answers to their life situations. Give them a child-like faith to trust in your Word so that they always carry good and loving intentions as they impart their wisdom to others.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for all the priests, spiritual directors, leaders and counsellors who give of their time and of themselves so willingly in service to others.