Daily Archives: April 13, 2015

Monday, 13 Apr – Redemption Propels Us Onward

13 Apr – Memorial of Saint Martin, Pope, Martyr

Chosen 74th pope in 649 without imperial approval. Conducted the Lateran Council which condemned the patriach of Constantinople for Monothelitism, which claimed that Christ had no human will. This put him in opposition to the emperor who had him arrested and tortured. Paul, Patriarch of Constantinople, repented of his stance which saved Martin from execution, but the pope died soon after from damage done during his imprisonment, and is considered a martyr, the last martyred pope.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 4:23-31

As soon as Peter and John were released they went to the community and told them everything the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard it they lifted up their voice to God all together. ‘Master,’ they prayed ‘it is you who made heaven and earth and sea, and everything in them; you it is who said through the Holy Spirit and speaking through our ancestor David, your servant:

Why this arrogance among the nations,
these futile plots among the peoples?
Kings on earth setting out to war,
princes making an alliance,
against the Lord and against his Anointed.

‘This is what has come true: in this very city Herod and Pontius Pilate made an alliance with the pagan nations and the peoples of Israel, against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, but only to bring about the very thing that you in your strength and your wisdom had predetermined should happen. And now, Lord, take note of their threats and help your servants to proclaim your message with all boldness, by stretching out your hand to heal and to work miracles and marvels through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ As they prayed, the house where they were assembled rocked; they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to proclaim the word of God boldly.

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John 3:1-8 ©
There was one of the Pharisees called Nicodemus, a leading Jew, who came to Jesus by night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who comes from God; for no one could perform the signs that you do unless God were with him.’ Jesus answered:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
unless a man is born from above,
he cannot see the kingdom of God.’

Nicodemus said, ‘How can a grown man be born? Can he go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?’ Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
unless a man is born through water and the Spirit,
he cannot enter the kingdom of God:
what is born of the flesh is flesh;
what is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Do not be surprised when I say:
You must be born from above.
The wind blows wherever it pleases;
you hear its sound,
but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.
That is how it is with all who are born of the Spirit.’

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What is born of the flesh is flesh; what is born of the Spirit is spirit.

‘How can a grown man be born? Can he go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?’ asked Nicodemus. In times of trial, when I feel cornered by my circumstances and filled with regret over the way events and actions have unraveled, I ask the same. In essence, I cry out, “How can I ever start over on a clean slate again Lord!”

Certainly we cannot go back in time, and regret is a painful land of exile because little hurts and grave mistakes cannot be undone. Yet what if we cannot perceive a better way forward when it is hardest to fathom making peace or saying “Sorry”. We are stuck.

Yet our Christian faith proclaims another way. This way is made known to us through Jesus’ Resurrection. During Lent, we are brought to confront our sins and failings; we are asked die to our sinful nature and repent with a contrite heart. Many times after my sorrowful reflection, I resolve to repent but still wonder if my slate has truly been wiped clean. My sins may have been absolved with my Confession, but after I walk out, I admit I sometimes wonder where to from here? Even if God is OK with me, how will I be OK with the one whom I have hurt, or that person who has wounded me when we meet? What do I actually say or how should I act now? Sometimes, it’s not so simple.

In the Gospel passage, Jesus responds to Nicodemus’ question obliquely. He doesn’t answer directly whether a man could actually be returned to his mother’s womb to be “born again”, to start over. Instead, he says plainly and unapologetically,

‘I tell you most solemnly,
unless a man is born through water and the Spirit,
he cannot enter the kingdom of God:
what is born of the flesh is flesh;
what is born of the Spirit is spirit.’

With these words of conviction, assurance, and promise, Jesus is teaching us that God is not interested in time travel or rewriting history. Our God is not a god of regrets. He is not one who looks back in time to condemn us or repeat our faults, like some may experience relationships where decades-long grievances are constantly dredged up. God offers us the way of the cross and the promise of resurrection because His infinite love and mercy is fundamentally a Redemption story.

The Lord’s promise of redemption because of our faith, is one that ceaselessly propels us forward into a new day and a clean slate. Therefore Jesus makes a distinction between being born of flesh and born of Spirit. Our fleshly nature cannot be denied nor revoked. God doesn’t ask this of us. Instead we are invited to move into a new state. Jesus relinquishes his earthly body so that new thing may come — Jesus departs, and in his place he leaves the first apostles with the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In the reading of Acts, though Christ is no longer physically with them, the apostles call upon his name and the Holy Spirit descends upon them as the Paraclete, the Advocate and Counsellor in Jesus’ place. They are filled with this Spirit and no longer afraid: ‘As they prayed, the house where they were assembled rocked; they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to proclaim the word of God boldly’ (Acts 4:31).

As Catholics, we need to be an Easter people, not just in word but also in deed. As we proclaim Christ is risen, we need to also believe actively — by loving deeply, and loving in spite of our fears and wounds. Through our faith and acts of love for those hardest to love, we collaborate in God’s plan to redeem the regret and sorrow in our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer: Abba Father, we seek the Your mercy to heal our hurting and frightened hearts; we desire to be channels of mercy for the people we love too.

Thanksgiving: Lord Jesus, you took the thief who was hung beside you on the cross to Heaven because all he asked of you was “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” You said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43). Thank you for showing us that you NEVER hold us captive to our past but you long to bring us onwards with you into your heavenly kingdom.