22 January, Sunday — Guided by faith

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isa 8:23-9:3
1 Cor 1:10-13,17
Mt 4:12-23

At once…they followed him.

I was extremely blessed to spend 5 days in Medjugorje just after the New Year. We had travelled there via Istanbul and Dubrovnik and I had been craving some peace and quiet, having gone through a tough, challenging year. Having a special affinity for Mother Mary, I was keen to recharge and renew my spirits in a town that I had only heard of, but never really read about.

The people that walked in darkness had seen a great light

Upon reaching Medjugorje and meeting our local guide, Julia, we had a brief orientation (everything was within walking distance) and I felt a calmness descend over me. After 3 nights in Istanbul and 3 nights in Dubrovnik, everything (even the sunny weather) seemed to have fallen in place and I had great expectations in my heart. Yes, I had been ‘walking in darkness’ the past few months and had certainly not been a shining light for my family, even during Christmas; all I could think of, was getting away.

We attended daily morning mass and visited the sites with Julia. Thanks to her deep, intimate knowledge of the village (her family is from there) and the personal connections she had with the locals, I came to understand why this ‘sleepy town’ has been gaining lots of attention from Catholics. I was thankful that we had travelled in the off-season and we didn’t have hordes of pilgrims to negotiate. Even then, masses were relatively full and I sensed a strong faith in all who we met.

Lo and behold, a chance encounter at a restaurant opposite our hotel one evening opened the door for me to share my experience over a YouTube channel. God certainly works in mysterious ways; a German pilgrim, who had started the channel after staying on in Medjugorje, asked “Hello, where are you from?” as I walked past him back to my table. One thing led to another and I ended up doing a 15-minute interview on the terrace (braving the cold weather).

The very next morning, I arose early (it was still dark) to meet with another guide who was going to lead me up Cross Mountain. This is a rather tough, 90-minute climb up a 300-odd metre mountain, along which were 16 bronze sculptures depicting the various Stations of the Cross (details for a later reflection perhaps). It was during that climb that Mother Mary spoke to me and encouraged me to persevere in my life journey. She assured me that Jesus, her Son, was by my side and that my prayers were being heard. For those who have visited this blessed town, she still appears to two of the original 6 visionaries daily.

The Lord is my light and my help

Brothers and sisters, it would take me many words to fully describe my 5-day pilgrimage and the emotions and feelings that stirred in my heart. Suffice to say that yet again, God did not disappoint. I likened the encounters with those I had during my walk on the Santiago de Compostela 6 years ago. There was a peace and serenity that I felt each day as I walked the streets and met with locals, as well as those who helped us understand what it means to have an unwavering faith. Indeed, the Lord sends angels our way in our times of crisis, when we are anxious, and when we are at our most despondent. And sometimes, those he sends are those that he blesses with a grace and gifts that only He can give.

In those five days, I learnt how to trust those who led the way each day for us, to appreciate the beauty and spirituality of this special town. I pray for all of those who are guided at work, at home, in ministry, by leaders/mentors who are blessed with gifts and talents that shine forth like a light. Let us appreciate our family, especially our parents and elder siblings, who have paved the way for us and nudged us to be who we are today.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Abba Father, we pray for all those who shoulder the responsibilities of leading, guiding and mentoring others. Bless them with the continual grace to fulfil their calling with patience, kindness and understanding.     

Thanksgiving: We thank you for the gift of our spiritual counsellors/directors, guides, ministry leaders and our priests.       

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