8 March, Wednesday – Compassion and Love

8 Mar – Memorial for St. John of God, religious

Juan (1495-1550) grew up working as a shepherd in the Castile region of Spain. He led a wild and misspent youth, travelling over much of Europe and North Africa as a soldier in the army of Charles V, and a mercenary. He fought through a brief period of insanity. He peddled religious books and pictures in Gibraltar, though without any religious conviction himself.

In his 40s, he received a vision of the Infant Jesus who called him ‘John of God’. To make up for the misery he had caused as a soldier, he left the military, rented a house in Granada, Spain, and began caring for the sick, poor, homeless and unwanted. He gave what he had, begged for those who couldn’t, carried those who could not move on their own, and converted both his patients and those who saw him work with them.

He was a friend of St. John of Avila, on whom he tried to model his life. John founded the Order of Charity and the Order of Hospitalers of St. John of God.

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Jonah 3:1-10

The word of the Lord was addressed a second time to Jonah: ‘Up!’ he said ‘Go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach to them as I told you to.’ Jonah set out and went to Nineveh in obedience to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was a city great beyond compare: it took three days to cross it. Jonah went on into the city, making a day’s journey. He preached in these words, ‘Only forty days more and Nineveh is going to be destroyed.’ And the people of Nineveh believed in God; they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least.

The news reached the king of Nineveh, who rose from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth and sat down in ashes. A proclamation was then promulgated throughout Nineveh, by decree of the king and his ministers, as follows: ‘Men and beasts, herds and flocks, are to taste nothing; they must not eat, they must not drink water. All are to put on sackcloth and call on God with all their might; and let everyone renounce his evil behaviour and the wicked things he has done. Who knows if God will not change his mind and relent, if he will not renounce his burning wrath, so that we do not perish?’

God saw their efforts to renounce their evil behaviour, and God relented: he did not inflict on them the disaster which he had threatened.

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Luke 11:29-32

The crowds got even bigger and Jesus addressed them, ‘This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign. The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.

On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.’

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God saw their efforts to renounce their evil behaviour, and God relented.

I am always intrigued by the television dramas which feature the lives of the imperial family of the various Chinese dynasties. There is a usual punishment where the entire clan of the offender is killed. It is the way the Emperor exerts his influence and prevents any possible threat of revenge from coming along. Perhaps the readings of today are instructive to us regarding the unnecessary need to begrudge the woes of our enemies and, instead, to focus on the sincere desire to repent.

God the Father loves His children but Prophet Jonah felt that He was too merciful. I sometimes do have this Jonah complex, where I believe in the mercy of God but wish ill upon my enemies. This season of Lent is a good opportunity for us to reflect upon the need to be empathetic to the people around us. All of us are facing tough and difficult challenges at work and in our personal lives. We need to learn from God to be gentle and forgiving to all who hurt us because sometimes, they may not know what they are doing.

Jesus said that this was a wicked generation and sometimes I feel that it is due to the fact that we do not recognise that the kingdom of God is near at hand and, in fact, is amongst us. We look for extraordinary signs for indications of something wonderful which will happen in our lives but perhaps God is acting in our lives now. The gift of health and life, the gift of speech, the opportunity to repent in the midst of the evil before us are all chances that we have to enjoy the mercy of God. We who desire this mercy of God must then, in turn, extend it to the people around us. As we enter into the middle of the first week of Lent, let us take time to pause to encounter the Lord Jesus in the silence of our hearts.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear God, we pray for the grace to forgive all who have hurt us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who help us see the light of forgiveness.

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