25 May – Pope St Gregory VII
He was born in Tuscany and given the name Hildebrand. He became a monk, and assisted several successive Popes in reforming and purifying the Church. He was elected pope in 1073 and took the name of Gregory VII. He fought single-mindedly to free the Church from harmful influences and dependence on the state. This brought him into conflict with the Emperor Henry IV, who was excommunicated by Gregory, then submitted to him, then changed his mind and besieged and captured Rome. Gregory was “rescued” by the Norman Robert Guiscard, who captured Rome amid scenes of appalling violence, and Gregory had to flee to Salerno, where he died.
To those who repent, God permits return,
and he encourages those who were losing hope.
Return to the Lord and leave sin behind,
plead before his face and lessen your offence.
Come back to the Most High and turn away from iniquity,
and hold in abhorrence all that is foul.
Who will praise the Most High in Sheol,
if the living do not do so by giving glory to him?
To the dead, as to those who do not exist, praise is unknown,
only those with life and health can praise the Lord.
How great is the mercy of the Lord,
his pardon on all those who turn towards him!
Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.
Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’
“To those who repent, God permits return.”
I’m sure that most of us have played the board game Monopoly. You spin your rounds, accumulate property, collect rent, build houses and hotels… and every now and then, you pick a Chance card. I remember getting the “Go to Jail” card, on which is written something like “Go straight to jail, do not pass “Go”, do not collect $200”, thereby ending my turn until I can get out of “jail” somehow and rejoin the game.
The way we live our lives can sometimes “imprison” us. Our addictions — to alcohol, cigarettes, to our phone and ipad — dictate our lives; our sins take hold of us. Sometimes we feel trapped. We can achieve so much more in our lives with our God-given gifts, but we don’t because our sins weigh us down. Sometimes the gravity of our wrong-doings gnaw at our conscience and we are ashamed of ourselves. We are ashamed to pray or go to church, thinking that God knows our sins and thus we cannot face up to Him. We hide, just like Adam and Eve did before us; or we deny the sin, or blame others for it. Either way, nothing can ever erase that spot, nothing except for God’s forgiveness.
The fact that we are ashamed shows that we have a moral concept of good and evil. Our shame shows that we are aware of our wrong-doing, and we regret our actions. In today’s reading, God promises U-turns for those who repent. He is a merciful and loving God, and would welcome back into the fold any of His children who were lost, and have now returned. Like the prodigal son who deemed himself unworthy to be called his father’s son, we can and shall be redeemed in God’s presence.
God forgives us all, and wants to save us, despite our sins, numerous as they may be. “Who can be saved?” ask the apostles in the Gospel reading. And Jesus answers, “For men, it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God”.
(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, we come to you bearing the burden of our sins. We lift them up to you and pray for forgiveness and for your mercy, and for the strength to never sin again.
Thanksgiving: Lord, we thank you for freeing us from our individual prisons of sin, and taking us back into your arms again. We thank you for the liberating feeling of your forgiveness.