Tag Archives: forgiveness

8 November, Thursday – On Coming Home

8 November

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Philippians 3:3-8

We are the real people of the circumcision, we who worship in accordance with the Spirit of God; we have our own glory from Christ Jesus without having to rely on a physical operation. If it came to relying on physical evidence, I should be fully qualified myself. Take any man who thinks he can rely on what is physical: I am even better qualified. I was born of the race of Israel and of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrew parents, and I was circumcised when I was eight days old. As for the Law, I was a Pharisee; as for working for religion, I was a persecutor of the Church; as far as the Law can make you perfect, I was faultless. But because of Christ, I have come to consider all these advantages that I had as disadvantages. Not only that, but I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

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Luke 15:1-10

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

‘What man among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” he would say “I have found my sheep that was lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance.

‘Or again, what woman with ten drachmas would not, if she lost one, light a lamp and sweep out the house and search thoroughly till she found it? And then, when she had found it, call together her friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” she would say “I have found the drachma I lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.’

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“… Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep”

Those of you reading this blog regularly will know that I stopped going to church briefly when the news of our Catholic Church’s scandals came to light. I have since found my way back to mass, albeit a little warily. The distrust that I feel for the ruling priestly elite hasn’t gone away. You can say that I have taken to heart Paul’s advice to “not put confidence in the flesh”. I am a committed Catholic. I identify myself as Catholic. I’m not afraid to speak of my faith, even now with all the scandal surrounding our Church. Outwardly, I tell everyone that this is surmountable, that we will emerge from this a stronger body of believers. But privately, I feel lost, like the proverbial sheep. The trust between myself and the political institution that is the Catholic Church has been broken. So, going to Mass has become challenging. Like the wife who has been cheated on, or the child whose innocence is lost, I am there physically — but things are not the same.

I have been re-reading the Bible a lot, grasping for a sign, for something. It’s ironic how familiar verses speak new meaning to us when our circumstances are different. I yearn for the homecoming that is described in today’s gospel, that great rejoicing when the shepherd finds his lost sheep. But to what exactly am I coming home to? God’s Church has been defiled. If this is our threshing moment, when wheat is separated from chaff, what will God’s Church look like when it is all over? And with all this anger, frustration and disillusionment in my heart, will there still be a place for me with Him?

As if to throw me a lifeline, God has led me to a small community of women that has formed within my own parish. We seem to all have this in common, this feeling of being scattered like sheep. We spend one morning a week, praying, poring over the Bible, processing our feelings of confusion about this whole thing – who knew what when, and what did they do about it. This must be what a support group feels like. Wow, am I thankful for it!! I’ve also taken to reading up on the history of the Catholic Church. We seem to go through cycles of renewal and purification; perhaps we are in the throes of one now. I wonder how it ends.

Christ’s words from the Book of Matthew have never been more significant to me than right now – “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves… a good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then you will know them by their fruits” (Matt 7: 15-20). If this is to be a threshing moment for all believers, I hope that at the end of it, I will not be found wanting. I pray that God will help me to process these feelings I hold in my heart, so that going to Mass becomes less of a struggle. Because I want that homecoming, to be that lost sheep that is found. I want to reclaim that trust that was lost. Don’t we all?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all those who are working towards healing the Church and restoring its credibility with believers.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people that God puts in our lives to get us through difficult moments.

4 October, Thursday – Faith in Crisis

4 October – Memorial for St. Francis of Assisi

Francis Bernardone (1181–1226) was the son of Pietro Bernadone, a rich cloth merchant. Though he had a good education and became part of his father’s business, he also had a somewhat misspent youth. He was a street brawler and some-time soldier. He was captured during a conflict between Assisi and Perugia, and spent over a year as prisoner of war. During this time, he had a conversion experience, including a reported message from Christ calling him to leave this worldly life. Upon release, Francis began taking his religion seriously.

He took the Gospel as the rule of his life, Jesus Christ as his literal example. He dressed in rough clothes, begged for his sustenance, and preached purity and peace. His family disapproved, and his father disinherited him; Francis formally renounced his wealth and inheritance. He visited hospitals, served the sick, preached in the streets, and took all men and women as siblings.

He began to attract followers in 1209, and with papal blessing, founded the Franciscans based on a simple statement by Jesus: “Leave all and follow me.” In 1212, Clare of Assisi became his spiritual student, which led to the founding of the Poor Clares. He visited and preached to the Saracens. He composed songs and hymns to God and nature. He lived with animals, worked with his hands, cared for lepers, cleaned churches, and sent food to thieves. In 1221, he resigned direction of the Franciscans.

While in meditation on La Verna (Mount Alvernia) in the Apennines in September 1224, Francis received the stigmata, which periodically bled during the remaining two years of his life. This miracle has a separate memorial on 17 September.

In the Middle Ages, people who were believed to be possessed by Beelzebub especially called upon the intercession of St. Francis, the theory being that he was the demon’s opposite number in heaven.

“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.” – St. Francis of Assisi

– Patron Saint Index

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Job 19:21-27

Job said:

Pity me, pity me, you, my friends,
for the hand of God has struck me.
Why do you hound me down like God,
will you never have enough of my flesh?

Ah, would that these words of mine were written down,
inscribed on some monument
with iron chisel and engraving tool,
cut into the rock for ever.
This I know: that my Avenger lives,
and he, the Last, will take his stand on earth.
After my awaking, he will set me close to him,
and from my flesh I shall look on God.
He whom I shall see will take my part:
these eyes will gaze on him and find him not aloof.

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Luke 10:1-12

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, “We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near.” I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.’

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I am sending you out like lambs

“I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” The existing and potential members of the harvest expect the labourers of the harvest to be like lambs, but how should they react when these trusted labourers turn out to be like wolves instead? As the church in America reels from the sex abuse scandals, possibly the most serious in its history, the rest of the faithful in other parts of the world are also grappling with the shockwaves from this crisis that is rocking the church.

It is natural to expect religious leaders, as shepherds of the flock, to hold themselves accountable to high moral standards. Alas, although chosen, they too are not perfect, and many have succumbed to temptations of the flesh. While there are those outside and within the church who will use the scandals to condemn the institution, this is a good time for the faithful to ask ourselves who it is that we are following, and why we are following Him.

Being over two millennia in age, the church has weathered many storms and crises. A recent article by the Catholic News Agency suggests that the faithful seek guidance from Saint Catherine of Siena in these troubled times. St Catherine lived in a time of great division and corruption in the church. The pope was estranged from Rome and living in France. She was a simple laywoman, but her love for Christ and His body was so strong that she took action in writing to the pope to convince him to return to Rome.

The church is not here to serve us; rather, we are here to serve the body of Christ. There is not much that most of us can do in this context, except to hold firm in the faith and remain unified in prayer for the victims and the church.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the victims of abuse, that they find healing and forgiveness through the love of Christ.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gift of faith, especially in times of crisis.

20 September, Thursday – Proclamation by Action

20 September – Memorial for St. Andrew Kim Taegon and Companions, Korean Martyrs; Memorial for Sts. Laurent Imbert, Bishop Jacques Chastan, Priest (Martyrs of College General, Penang, Malaysia)

There are 103 martyrs in this group, consisting of priests, missionaries and lay people who died in the early days of the Church in Korea. Most were murdered during waves of persecutions in 1839, 1846 and 1867.

Andrew Kim Taegon’s father was a martyr. Andrew was baptised at age 15, then travelled 1,300 miles to the nearest seminary in Macao. He was Korea’s first native priest, and the first priest to die for the faith in Korea.

Laurent Imbert was a missionary to China. He taught at the College General, Penang from 1821 to 1822. He was named Vicar Apostolic of Korea on 26 April 1836. He and St. Jacques (or Jacob) were arrested for the crime of evangelisation, and then tortured and martyred.

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you – believing anything else will not lead to anything.

Well then, in the first place, I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared first to Cephas and secondly to the Twelve. Next he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died; then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles; and last of all he appeared to me too; it was as though I was born when no one expected it.

I am the least of the apostles; in fact, since I persecuted the Church of God, I hardly deserve the name apostle; but by God’s grace that is what I am, and the grace that he gave me has not been fruitless. On the contrary, I, or rather the grace of God that is with me, have worked harder than any of the others; but what matters is that I preach what they preach, and this is what you all believed.

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Luke 7:36-50

One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to a meal. When he arrived at the Pharisee’s house and took his place at table, a woman came in, who had a bad name in the town. She had heard he was dining with the Pharisee and had brought with her an alabaster jar of ointment. She waited behind him at his feet, weeping, and her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them away with her hair; then she covered his feet with kisses and anointed them with the ointment.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who this woman is that is touching him and what a bad name she has.’ Then Jesus took him up and said, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Speak, Master’ was the reply. ‘There was once a creditor who had two men in his debt; one owed him five hundred denarii, the other fifty. They were unable to pay, so he pardoned them both. Which of them will love him more?’ ‘The one who was pardoned more, I suppose’ answered Simon. Jesus said, ‘You are right.’

Then he turned to the woman. ‘Simon,’ he said ‘you see this woman? I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. For this reason I tell you that her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great love. It is the man who is forgiven little who shows little love.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Those who were with him at table began to say to themselves, ‘Who is this man, that he even forgives sins?’ But he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’

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“ I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

In today’s Gospel, we read of the sinful woman being forgiven by Christ. A tendency we would usually have is to focus on the imperfections, mistakes, unworthiness and weaknesses of another. We judge many for their lack of virtues, based on our own perceptions.

Today, we have an insight of how Christ’s sees. Not with the same judgment, but truly, with love. Jesus doesn’t just see and take offense in the many sins the woman has committed, but focuses on her contrite and repentant heart. Mistakes we will always made, but it’s truly in the realising, the awareness and in the seeking reconciliation that we can then move forward.

It is this proclamation that the readings speak of. It is more than a proclamation by mouth, but really, through action. An act with love, to love. We see in the Gospel of the sinful woman washing Jesus’ feet with ointment, kissing and weeping over them. And also in the first reading, where it speaks of Christ’s death and resurrection and His appearances. These are actions that proclaim love.

St Paul, in the first reading, also writes of a special gift — Grace. “For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain.” Because of original sin, there was really nothing we could do, that could ‘qualify’ us for the kingdom. It is this grace, this salvation, this victory that Christ has won for us through His death, that has given us the opportunity to be reunited with Him and the Father.

There is nothing we can do that can earn our place, nothing we can do to ‘repay’ our Father. And it is precisely this that we are not called to focus on ‘giving back’ but really just giving, just loving for eternity is already ours, and we are called to live this kingdom life here on earth. My friends, eternity is now, this life, this faith is real; His love and forgiveness is real. Let us not wait till we are ready, but let’s make an effort to be ready now, let us proclaim this faith by action, by our life. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the grace to see as you see. That we can focus on the actions of the present and not the past. That we see the heart.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for showing us the way. For your wisdom, for teaching us through your life as an example. Thank you for this grace that all of us are so undeserving of, thank you for this gift. Thank you for your love. Amen.

13 September, Thursday – Marie Kondo And Forgiveness

13 September – Memorial for St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor

John’s (347-407) father died when he was young and he was raised by a very pious mother. It was for his sermons that John earned the title “Chrysostom” (golden-mouthed). They were always on point, they explained the scriptures with clarity, and they sometimes went on for hours.

As bishop, he criticised the rich for not sharing their wealth, fought to reform the clergy, prevented the sale of ecclesiastical offices, called for fidelity in marriage, and encouraged practices of justice and charity. St. John’s sermons caused nobles and bishops to work to remove him from his diocese; and he was twice exiled from his diocese. He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 451.

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 8:1-7,11-13

Now about food sacrificed to idols. ‘We all have knowledge’; yes, that is so, but knowledge gives self-importance – it is love that makes the building grow. A man may imagine he understands something, but still not understand anything in the way that he ought to. But any man who loves God is known by him. Well then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: we know that idols do not really exist in the world and that there is no god but the One. And even if there were things called gods, either in the sky or on earth – where there certainly seem to be ‘gods’ and ‘lords’ in plenty – still for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things come and for whom we exist; and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things come and through whom we exist.

Some people, however, do not have this knowledge. There are some who have been so long used to idols that they eat this food as though it really had been sacrificed to the idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled by it. In this way your knowledge could become the ruin of someone weak, of a brother for whom Christ died. By sinning in this way against your brothers, and injuring their weak consciences, it would be Christ against whom you sinned. That is why, since food can be the occasion of my brother’s downfall, I shall never eat meat again in case I am the cause of a brother’s downfall.

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Luke 6:27-38

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I say this to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly. To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you. Treat others as you would like them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect? For even sinners do that much. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount. Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return. You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.’

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“… forgive and you will be forgiven”

Fall always makes me a little melancholic. Yes, it’s my favourite season of the year; I mean, I love the family gatherings, the start of football season, the smell of pumpkin spice latte at the coffee shops. But there’s also a kind of sadness to it. You see, Fall is when I ‘KonMari’ out my house. The closets are cleaned out, the pantry is stripped down, drawers are emptied, half-used bottles of nonsense thrown out. Any object that does not ‘spark joy’ (as per Ms Marie Kondo) is put in a pile to be disposed or repurposed. It’s a cathartic experience. The fact that I have moved homes three times in the last 5 years means I don’t actually have a lot of stuff. I’d like to think that everything I have held on to has significance. If you don’t stay on top of it though, ‘stuff’ builds up like you wouldn’t believe it! A truly clutter-free home requires near religious fervour! Yes, it’s physically exhausting, but it is also very liberating. I remember feeling euphoric the moment I realized that I could get by with relatively little. There’s been no turning back since!

Knowing all this about myself then, it’s a little ironic that I don’t apply Marie Kondo’s principles of housekeeping to my own heart. Why am I still carrying around the hurts and slights from high school?! So what if people used to make fun of my weight/looks/economic status, etc? Wasn’t all of that ancient history? Why was all this angst still hanging around? So what if there were double standards in my childhood home, or my workplace? So what if I didn’t get that promotion? Does it really matter anymore? So what if my ex was a loser who checked out of our relationship and left me holding a sham? Wasn’t that why we went ‘ex’? Did it even matter in the end?

I’ve set aside a week this Fall to clear out all the chaff that’s clogging up my heart. Marie Kondo was really on to something! If something doesn’t spark joy, let it go! That’s the crux of forgiveness isn’t it? Letting things go. Loving your enemies or, at least, being able to accept them for who they are, so you can move forward. When we feel we’ve been wronged, when our pride is wounded, we tend to hold on to that hurt as if storing away fuel to keep our anger burning. But why? Does it serve us? It most certainly doesn’t make us joyful people. Worse than that, it keeps us from having a meaningful relationship with God and the people around us. Who wants to be around an angry person all the time? So stop now – “stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6: 37). We don’t know when our time on earth comes to an end. Shouldn’t it be our prerogative to live as joyful and free a life as we possibly can?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the grace to forgive those who have wronged us, who have hurt us with their sharp words and wounded us with their insensitive actions. We pray for the maturity to let go of all our anger towards them.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, who inspires wisdom and insight. We ask that it guide us to make good decisions, not just for ourselves but also those that God has placed in our lives.

16 August, Thursday – What Does It Really Mean To Forgive?

16 August

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Ezekiel 12:1-12

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows, ‘Son of man, you are living with that set of rebels who have eyes and never see, ears and never hear, for they are a set of rebels. You, son of man, pack an exile’s bundle and emigrate by daylight when they can see you, emigrate from where you are to somewhere else while they watch. Perhaps they will admit then that they are a set of rebels. You will pack your baggage like an exile’s bundle, by daylight, for them to see, and leave like an exile in the evening, making sure that they are looking. As they watch, make a hole in the wall, and go out through it. As they watch, you will shoulder your pack and go out into the dark; you will cover your face so that you cannot see the country, since I have made you a symbol for the House of Israel.’

I did as I had been told. I packed my baggage like an exile’s bundle, by daylight; and in the evening I made a hole through the wall with my hand. I went out into the dark and shouldered my pack as they watched.

The next morning the word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows, ‘Son of man, did not the House of Israel, did not that set of rebels, ask you what you were doing? Say, “The Lord says this: This oracle is directed against Jerusalem and the whole House of Israel wherever they are living.” Say, “I am a symbol for you; the thing I have done will be done to them; they will go into exile, into banishment.” Their ruler will shoulder his pack in the dark and go out through the wall; a hole will be made to let him out; he will cover his face rather than see the country.’

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Matthew 18:21-19:1

Peter went up to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.

‘And so the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants. When the reckoning began, they brought him a man who owed ten thousand talents; but he had no means of paying, so his master gave orders that he should be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, to meet the debt. At this, the servant threw himself down at his master’s feet. “Give me time” he said “and I will pay the whole sum.” And the servant’s master felt so sorry for him that he let him go and cancelled the debt. Now as this servant went out, he happened to meet a fellow servant who owed him one hundred denarii; and he seized him by the throat and began to throttle him. “Pay what you owe me” he said. His fellow servant fell at his feet and implored him, saying, “Give me time and I will pay you.” But the other would not agree; on the contrary, he had him thrown into prison till he should pay the debt. His fellow servants were deeply distressed when they saw what had happened, and they went to their master and reported the whole affair to him. Then the master sent for him. “You wicked servant,” he said “I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?” And in his anger the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt. And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.’

Jesus had now finished what he wanted to say, and he left Galilee and came into the part of Judaea which is on the far side of the Jordan.

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He let him go and cancelled the debt.

For a long time, I have struggled to forgive others who have hurt me, offended me, or those whose actions put me in a very disadvantageous position. I knew that things would never be the same as when before the offense had been committed. I could no longer be friends or be as affectionate to them as how I used to be, and I thought because I could not be as I was with them, I was unable to forgive.

The call to forgive has been viewed by some hurting Christians as a difficult yoke to carry. It also makes us feel guilty when we think we have not forgiven others. After all, many of us desire to make Jesus happy. I was in this situation until I came across Fr Mike Schmitz’s video on forgiveness. I realized that what was making my cross heavy was not that I was unable to forgive; it was because I didn’t know what forgiveness really meant. If we have to forgive seventy-seven times, shouldn’t we know what forgiveness really means?

When you forgive, does that mean you no longer feel hurt? Does it mean you can go back to the way you were as if nothing happened? Does it mean you don’t think the other person was wrong? The answer is no. Paraphrasing what Fr. Mike has said, to forgive means to cancel the debt. It means that you will not hold the person responsible for the pain, the disappointments, or the unfavorable circumstances you are experiencing as a result of the person’s action.

Forgiving someone is a decision, it’s an action and not just a feeling. We could still feel hurt, angry and disappointed, and we can choose to forgive at the same time. For me, it means being at peace and not requiring the person to make-up for what has been done to you; some of them are not in the disposition to do so.

Forgiving doesn’t mean that things have to go back to the way things are. In fact, it may be even be better to move away from that relationship to allow for healing and growth to take place. This is very difficult especially when the relationship is with your immediate family member like parents, siblings, etc. That’s why understanding that forgiving is all about cancelling debts helps one move forward.

I would imagine the king feeling disappointed and betrayed by the servant when he could not pay him back. I would think that the king felt this even though he felt pity towards the servant. Yet, his forgiving nature prevailed. I will not be surprised if he still felt hurt from the incident even after he had cancelled the servant’s debts.

When we forgive someone, we exercise patience over their shortcomings toward us. At the same time, let us exercise patience towards ourselves and allow ourselves to feel the pain and sorrow as we decide to cancel other’s debts.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, there are people who have hurt me and disappointed me. At times, your invitation to forgive is very difficult. Help me understand and know how to truly forgive so that the yoke I carry will not be heavier than it should.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you for trials and the tribulations as they help me grow in love and faith. And thank you, Lord, because I know that good will come out of this.  

21 Jun, Thursday – Staying the Faith

21 Jun – Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious

Born to the Italian nobility who grew up in a castle, the son of Ferdinand Gonzaga, a prince in the Holy Roman Emperor and a compulsive gambler. Cousin of Saint Rudolph Acquaviva. Trained from age four as a soldier and courtier. Served as a page in the Spanish court. He suffered from kidney disease, which he considered a blessing as it left him bed-ridden with time for prayer. While still a boy himself, he taught catechism to poor boys. He received his First Communion from Saint Charles Borromeo. At age 18, Aloysius signed away his legal claim to his family’s lands and title to his brother, and became a Jesuit novice. Spiritual student of Saint Robert Bellarmine. Tended plague victims in Rome, Italy in the outbreak of 1591 during which he caught the disease that killed him at age 23.

– The Patron Saint Index

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Ecclesiasticus 48:1-15

The prophet Elijah arose like a fire, his word flaring like a torch. It was he who brought famine on the people, and who decimated them in his zeal. By the word of the Lord, he shut up the heavens, he also, three times, brought down fire.

How glorious you were in your miracles, Elijah!

Has anyone reason to boast as you have? – rousing a corpse from death, from Sheol by the word of the Most High; dragging kings down to destruction, and high dignitaries from their beds; hearing reproof on Sinai, and decrees of punishment on Horeb; anointing kings as avengers, and prophets to succeed you; taken up in the whirlwind of fire, in a chariot with fiery horses; designated in the prophecies of doom to allay God’s wrath before the fury breaks, to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children, and to restore the tribes of Jacob,

Happy shall they be who see you, and those who have fallen asleep in love; for we too will have life. Elijah was shrouded in the whirlwind, and Elisha was filled with his spirit; throughout his life no ruler could shake him, and no one could subdue him.

No task was too hard for him, and even in death his body prophesied. In his lifetime he performed wonders, and in death his works were marvellous.

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Matthew 6:7-15

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So you should pray like this:

‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be held holy, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us. And do not put us to the test, but save us from the evil one.

‘Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.’

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Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him

The people who know us best need not hear us speak but just the raising of an eyebrow or a knowing glance is enough for both parties to hear what is needed from the other party. I believe the readings of today remind us of the need to stay close to God and to trust in His plans for us.

Each one of us like to be in control of the issues which are before us. Individual autonomy is something which we so desire yet such an approach must be in alignment with what God so desires for us. The Prophet Elijah certainly learnt this in his ministry where he carried out the instructions of God regardless of the feelings or apprehension which he had. I wish that I had such boldness and courage to face the plans which are before me. Indeed, sometimes God desires that we surrender to Him our will and let Him work through us.

One way in which we can let this happen is to first accept our own failings and the failings of others. The weaknesses which we possess are the reminders that we need to stay close to God. In accepting our own flaws, we also can accept the flaws of other people. We become less judgemental and more kind. This is indeed something which we can strive to do this day. As we pray the Our Father prayer, let us remember to “forgive those who trespass against us” and in doing so, we are set free from the chains preventing us from loving God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

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Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the discernment to know our weaknesses and ask for your grace to heal us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who accept us as we are.

29 April, Sunday – Forgiving Others, Because We Are Forgiven

29 April – 5th Sunday of Easter

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Acts 9:26-31

When Saul got to Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him: they could not believe he was really a disciple. Barnabas, however, took charge of him, introduced him to the apostles, and explained how the Lord had appeared to Saul and spoken to him on his journey, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. Saul now started to go round with them in Jerusalem, preaching fearlessly in the name of the Lord. But after he had spoken to the Hellenists, and argued with them, they became determined to kill him. When the brothers knew, they took him to Caesarea, and sent him off from there to Tarsus.

The churches throughout Judaea, Galilee and Samaria were now left in peace, building themselves up, living in the fear of the Lord, and filled with the consolation of the Holy Spirit.

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1 John 3:18-24

My children,

our love is not to be just words or mere talk,
but something real and active;
only by this can we be certain
that we are children of the truth
and be able to quieten our conscience in his presence,
whatever accusations it may raise against us,
because God is greater than our conscience and he knows everything.
My dear people,
if we cannot be condemned by our own conscience,
we need not be afraid in God’s presence,
and whatever we ask him,
we shall receive,
because we keep his commandments
and live the kind of life that he wants.
His commandments are these:
that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ
and that we love one another
as he told us to.
Whoever keeps his commandments
lives in God and God lives in him.
We know that he lives in us
by the Spirit that he has given us.

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John 15:1-8

Jesus said:
‘I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in me that bears no fruit
he cuts away,
and every branch that does bear fruit
he prunes to make it bear even more.
You are pruned already,
by means of the word that I have spoken to you.
Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.
As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself,
but must remain part of the vine,
neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me, with me in him,
bears fruit in plenty;
for cut off from me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers;
these branches are collected and thrown on the fire,
and they are burnt.
If you remain in me
and my words remain in you,
you may ask what you will
and you shall get it.
It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit,
and then you will be my disciples.’

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“Our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active”

I just love ‘The Hobbit’ by J.R.R. Tolkien. The book talks about how a Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins is thrown into an adventure against his nature. If he could choose, he would prefer to potter around the house, have his multiple breakfasts (as Hobbits are known to do!), drink his mead and do whatever Hobbits like to do.

While he begins his journey reluctantly, there comes a point when he makes a conscientious decision to continue with it, despite being given an option for him to return home; the home he so desires.

At the end of his exploits, Bilbo returns home, only to realise that he has returned a different Hobbit from when he first began; he can no longer go back to his ‘old self’ after having gone through his experiences.

In the first reading of today, we read about how the converted Paul (formerly known as Saul) tries to join the disciples. They are afraid of him, the great persecutor of the Christians. How can it be that such a hater of the Christians can experience such a conversion and decide to join them? How is it even possible?

In the Gospel today, our Lord Jesus tells us that it is possible. He alone is the true vine and if we are truly plugged in to this true vine, we would bear much fruit. We need to have faith in this truth.

I have been guilty of being a skeptic. I once shared with my wife about how I did not like someone (from my past). I related my past experiences about how I had been wronged by that person. Quietly, she would remind me that it is possible that the person may have changed and that I should give them another chance. How right she was. If God continues to give us opportunities to change and become better people, who are we to judge them? If God has forgiven our debt of 10,000 talents, who are we go about demanding our 100 denarii?

Let us learn never to be judgemental. Like Barnabas in the first reading, let us learn to be forgiving.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Lord, we pray that we may learn to forgive those who have wronged us. Let us learn, instead, to be beacons of our faith in You, and draw others to You.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for loving and forgiving us first. Thank You for sending our Lord Jesus to us to show us how to forgive, and love others.

6 March, Tuesday – Forgiveness, Ad Infinitum

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We give thanks to God for your steadfast following of Oxygen.

As we enter into the Paschal Mystery of the Church, we invite our readers who want to help contribute a reflection to come forward.

The following readings are available for reflection:

Holy Saturday

1st Reading + Responsorial Psalm

2nd Reading + Responsorial Psalm

3rd Reading + Responsorial Psalm

4th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

5th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

6th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

7th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

Epistle + Responsorial Psalm

Gospel

This is a good time for you to share with our readers the joys you have had in reading Oxygen. Do drop an email to descksoon@yahoo.com who will be in touch with you on how to proceed.

God bless

Oxygen Core Team

 

6 March

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Daniel 3:25,34-43

Azariah stood in the heart of the fire, and he began to pray:

Oh! Do not abandon us for ever,
for the sake of your name;
do not repudiate your covenant,
do not withdraw your favour from us,
for the sake of Abraham, your friend,
of Isaac your servant,
and of Israel your holy one,
to whom you promised descendants as countless as the stars of heaven
and as the grains of sand on the seashore.
Lord, now we are the least of all the nations,
now we are despised throughout the world, today, because of our sins.
We have at this time no leader, no prophet, no prince,
no holocaust, no sacrifice, no oblation, no incense,
no place where we can offer you the first-fruits
and win your favour.

But may the contrite soul, the humbled spirit be as acceptable to you
as holocausts of rams and bullocks,
as thousands of fattened lambs:
such let our sacrifice be to you today,
and may it be your will that we follow you wholeheartedly,
since those who put their trust in you will not be disappointed.
And now we put our whole heart into following you,
into fearing you and seeking your face once more.

Do not disappoint us;
treat us gently, as you yourself are gentle
and very merciful.
Grant us deliverance worthy of your wonderful deeds,
let your name win glory, Lord.

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Matthew 18:21-35

Peter went up to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.

‘And so the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants. When the reckoning began, they brought him a man who owed ten thousand talents; but he had no means of paying, so his master gave orders that he should be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, to meet the debt. At this, the servant threw himself down at his master’s feet. “Give me time” he said “and I will pay the whole sum.” And the servant’s master felt so sorry for him that he let him go and cancelled the debt. Now as this servant went out, he happened to meet a fellow servant who owed him one hundred denarii; and he seized him by the throat and began to throttle him. “Pay what you owe me” he said. His fellow servant fell at his feet and implored him, saying, “Give me time and I will pay you.” But the other would not agree; on the contrary, he had him thrown into prison till he should pay the debt. His fellow servants were deeply distressed when they saw what had happened, and they went to their master and reported the whole affair to him. Then the master sent for him. “You wicked servant,” he said “I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?” And in his anger the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt. And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.’

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“Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times”

 I have a lovely wife to whom I have been married 21 years, and we have 2 beautiful teenage children.

The first lesson I learnt after we got married is how to forgive. In fact, we spent every weekend arguing during the first six months of our marriage! Over the last 21 years, we have learnt over and over how to forgive each other; we NEVER stop learning how to forgive.

In the Gospel today, Peter asks our Lord what the limit is to forgiving others. Was it seven times? The answer was, in fact, seventy times seven times. In Judaism, the number ‘7’ signifies completion. Thus, ‘seventy-seven’ raises this even further, perhaps to infinity. Our Lord Jesus tells us that we should treat our brothers (and sisters) like our own families — to never give up on them. In effect, we have to be able to ‘outlast’ our brothers and sisters. Upset us a hundred times? We need to be able to forgive a hundred and one times.

In our relationship with God, we ourselves are the recipients of this recurrent forgiveness. Like the servant who owes his master the 10,000 talents (based on the income of the day, it would take 16 years to accumulate 1 talent!), we are beneficiaries of this ‘debt forgiveness’.

And yet, we need to remember that we cannot take this forgiveness for granted. As people who enjoy this immense gift, we need to be able to pass it on. The ‘100 denarii’ in the parable of today represents only a day’s wage for the average worker! Imagine what a great deal we have; we get to trade 160,000 hours worth of wages for a day’s wage! Amazing!

May we learn to treat other just like how we treat our own blood family and forgive unconditionally. Our God has given us the greatest prize — eternal life. Let us pass it on…. All for a wonderful price!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we will forgive others like You have forgiven us. Help us Jesus to always learn from and be like You!

Thanksgiving Thank You Father, for loving us and for forgiving us regardless of how many times we continue to sin against You.

24 November, Friday – Perfect Forgiveness

Nov 24 – Memorial for St. Andrew Dung-Lac, priest, martyr, and companions, Martyrs of Vietnam

Between the arrival of the first Portuguese missionary in 1533, through the Dominicans and then the Jesuit missions of the 17th century, the politically inspired persecutions of the 19th century, and the Communist-led terrors of the 20th, there have been many thousands of Catholics and other Christians murdered for their faith in Vietnam. Some were priests, nuns, or religious brothers. Some were lay people, some were foreign missionaries, but most were native Vietnamese killed by their own government and people.

Record keeping being what it was, and because the government did not care to keep track of the people it murdered, we have no information on the vast bulk of the victims. In 1988, Pope John Paul II recognized over a hundred of them, including some whose Causes we do have, and in commemoration of those we do not. They are collectively known as the Martyrs of Vietnam.

Andrew Dung Lac (1785-1839) was a Vietnamese priest who worked in the missions with the priests of the Foreign Mission Society of Paris (MEP). He was imprisoned and repeatedly tortured in the persecutions of Minh-Meng. He died with St. Peter Thi, beheaded in Hanoi for the offense of being a priest. He was canonized on 19 Jun 1988 by Pope John Paul II. He is one of the Martyrs of Vietnam.

  • Patron Saint Index

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1 Maccabees 4:36-37, 52-59

Judas and his brothers said, ‘Now that our enemies have been defeated, let us go up to purify the sanctuary and dedicate it.’ So they marshalled the whole army, and went up to Mount Zion.

On the twenty-fifth of the ninth month, Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-eight, they rose at dawn and offered a lawful sacrifice on the new altar of holocausts which they had made. The altar was dedicated, to the sound of zithers, harps and cymbals, at the same time of year and on the same day on which the pagans had originally profaned it. The whole people fell prostrate in adoration, praising to the skies him who had made them so successful. For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar, joyfully offering holocausts, communion sacrifices and thanksgivings. They ornamented the front of the Temple with crowns and bosses of gold, repaired the gates and the storerooms and fitted them with doors. There was no end to the rejoicing among the people, and the reproach of the pagans was lifted from them. Judas, with his brothers and the whole assembly of Israel, made it a law that the days of the dedication of the altar should be celebrated yearly at the proper season, for eight days beginning on the twenty-fifth of the month Chislev, with rejoicing and gladness.

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Luke 19:45-48

Jesus went into the Temple and began driving out those who were selling. ‘According to scripture,’ he said ‘my house will be a house of prayer. But you have turned it into a robbers’ den.’

He taught in the Temple every day. The chief priests and the scribes, with the support of the leading citizens, tried to do away with him, but they did not see how they could carry this out because the people as a whole hung on his words.

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“My house will be a house of prayer. But you have turned it into a robbers’ den.”

The readings of today talk about purity. In the first reading, Judas and his brothers purified the sanctuary and dedicated it to God, while Jesus, in the Gospel of today, drove out the money changers and merchants who had made the Temple their place of commerce. Thereafter, He taught there every day, according the respect that should be accorded the Temple.

In the Letter to Corinthians, the Apostle Paul reminds us that our bodies belong to God, and that we were purchased at a price; through Jesus’ crucifixion.

I think about the times that as a child of God, I have not lived my life as one. I have committed sins, spread gossip and behaved in ways unbecoming of a Christian. And yet, God has given us a way back to Him, and the Church through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Just like the sanctuary and the Temple, we need to constantly rededicate ourselves to God, and to do it as often as we need to. Often, we allow the shame of our sins to stop us from doing so, despite the fact that is precisely what we need.

May we constantly keep our eyes on God and remember to return to him in contrition. We are in constant need for renewal and rededication.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, please take away our shame and allow the Holy Spirit to prompt us to return to You in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for Your constant love and patience. We praise You and thank You for Your gift of forgiveness.

13 November, Monday – Forgiveness

13 November 2017

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Wisdom 1:1-7

Love virtue, you who are judges on earth,
let honesty prompt your thinking about the Lord,
seek him in simplicity of heart;
since he is to be found by those who do not put him to the test,
he shows himself to those who do not distrust him.
But selfish intentions divorce from God;
and Omnipotence, put to the test, confounds the foolish.
No, Wisdom will never make its way into a crafty soul
nor stay in a body that is in debt to sin;
the holy spirit of instruction shuns deceit,
it stands aloof from reckless purposes,
is taken aback when iniquity appears.

Wisdom is a spirit, a friend to man,
though she will not pardon the words of a blasphemer,
since God sees into the innermost parts of him,
truly observes his heart,
and listens to his tongue.
The spirit of the Lord, indeed, fills the whole world,
and that which holds all things together knows every word that is said.

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Luke 17:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Obstacles are sure to come, but alas for the one who provides them! It would be better for him to be thrown into the Sea with a millstone put round his neck than that he should lead astray a single one of these little ones. Watch yourselves!

If your brother does something wrong, reprove him and, if he is sorry, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times a day and seven times comes back to you and says, “I am sorry,” you must forgive him.’

The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ The Lord replied, ‘Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you.’

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And if he wrongs you seven times in one day, and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I’m sorry’, you should forgive him

Forgiveness can take you by surprise – especially if you’re the one who is being forgiven. Some years ago, my partner and I took a hiatus from each other. During this time, I started seeing someone who, on paper, looked like he was the perfect match. Let’s call him K. We were both Malaysians. We had gone to school together. We had both lived abroad extensively. We came from a similar background, with a similar middle class upbringing. K was offered the opportunity to come out to Asia, to take on a role in China, which made him geographically available. It was all too good to be true. My partner and I discussed it and our view was that I should explore it, seeing as K would fulfill what I would never be able to have with him if I stayed – a chance to have children and a shared cultural background. So I wasted the better part of a year, trying to convince myself that this was the right thing because on paper, K and I looked so good together.

I know now that what ‘looks good on paper’ doesn’t necessarily translate to real life. K as it turned out, was someone who believed in being economical with the truth. In addition, he had a fairly casual understanding of the concept of fidelity. We did not last, unsurprisingly. The last I heard of K, he was living the ‘young, upwardly mobile, single man’s dream’ – except that K is now, no longer a single man and is technically married to the Chinese woman he cheated on me with. Nowhere ‘on paper’ did it ever say that K was the cheat that he turned out to be. My partner took me back after I ended things with K. There were few questions asked. When I finally did broach the subject, he simply said, “I could never have given you that, but you needed to see if it was right for you. It was not. Now we move on”.

Forgiveness can take you by surprise, especially if the transgression is something that you would yourself, struggle to forgive. I will never fully comprehend how much I hurt my partner as he’s a man of few words. I am deeply appreciative of the love and generosity he has for me, and am humbled because I’m not sure if I would have done the same in his place. Despite my flaws and all the mistakes I’ve made, God still blessed me with him. I sometimes think he came into my life to remind me daily to be a better person, to try to be the ‘good woman’ to his ‘good man’.

No one understands forgiveness like the repentant sinner. God sends us husbands and wives, as tangible evidence of the Redeemer’s tremendous love and sacrifice for us, while we were sinners. When we look into the eyes of our beloved, the tenderness we see is His reflection gazing back, affirming to us that we are loved despite ourselves. I give thanks daily for the wonderful man that God has blessed me with, someone to remind me that while I was a sinner, He blessed me with His forgiveness, His love and His understanding. It is not lost on me, how lucky and undeserving I am.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all couples going through relationship strife. Whatever the quarrel, may they find the forgiveness within themselves to say ‘I love you, it’s ok, let’s move on’.

Thanksgiving: I give thanks for my partner who opened my eyes to the power of forgiveness. I give thanks that God has blessed me with someone to remind me daily to be a better person.