Tag Archives: forgiveness

30 October, Sunday – A forgiving God

30 October

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Wisdom 11:22-12:2

In your sight, Lord, the whole world is like a grain of dust that tips the scales,
like a drop of morning dew falling on the ground.
Yet you are merciful to all, because you can do all things
and overlook men’s sins so that they can repent.
Yes, you love all that exists, you hold nothing of what you have made in abhorrence,
for had you hated anything, you would not have formed it.
And how, had you not willed it, could a thing persist,
how be conserved if not called forth by you?
You spare all things because all things are yours, Lord, lover of life,
you whose imperishable spirit is in all.
Little by little, therefore, you correct those who offend,
you admonish and remind them of how they have sinned,
so that they may abstain from evil and trust in you, Lord.

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Thessalonians 1:11-2:2 

We pray continually that our God will make you worthy of his call, and by his power fulfil all your desires for goodness and complete all that you have been doing through faith; because in this way the name of our Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified in you and you in him, by the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

To turn now, brothers, to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we shall all be gathered round him: please do not get excited too soon or alarmed by any prediction or rumour or any letter claiming to come from us, implying that the Day of the Lord has already arrived.

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Luke 19:1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the town when a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance: he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. He was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him: ‘Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.’ And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully. They all complained when they saw what was happening. ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house’ they said. But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, ‘Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.’

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Today salvation has come to this house, because the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.

My friend once asked me why God permitted people who were evil to continue to live on in this world. He was praying for God to strike the evil person with cancer but I reminded him that God never intended for people to die in this manner. I don’t think I succeeded in convincing him but I believe the readings of today point to us what God desires of all of us who are his children. There is a common theme throughout the readings, which is the need to forgive others because this world we live in is temporary.

In the First Reading, we learn that the world is considered like dust to the Lord. This verse really struck me because it made me realise that all the work which we do and the actions we take are temporary. The resource of time which we own is sometimes not used wisely to glorify the name of God, but instead, we use it for our own profit. Indeed, this is something which will distract us from the purpose of our lives, which is to stay close to God and to remain faithful to him.

The story of Zacchaeus is a lesson for all of us. There is a prompting within our heart to go closer to God but how we choose to respond is the determining factor on whether Salvation will enter into our lives. Zacchaeus was open to the idea of Jesus coming into his life because he had experienced an inner conversion in his heart – a metanoia — which is Greek for a spiritual conversion of our hearts to be re-oriented towards God. All of us are called today to return to Jesus, to be open to the message he offers us.

The way of life which Jesus invites us to is radical and it will transform our lives. As we continue to serve in the vineyard of the Lord, let us remember the words of St Paul in the second reading — to ask God to complete within us the need what we have been doing in faith. Let our lives glorify Jesus who so loved us that He gave His life for us!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

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Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace to forgive our enemies.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who preach repentance.

22 October, Saturday – Repent in order to know Him

22 October – Memorial for St. John Paul II

Karol Józef Wojty?a was born in 1920 in Wadowice, Poland. After his ordination to the priesthood and theological studies in Rome, he returned to his homeland and resumed various pastoral and academic tasks. He became first auxiliary bishop and, in 1964, Archbishop of Kraków and took part in the Second Vatican Council. On 16 October 1978 he was elected pope and took the name John Paul II. His exceptional apostolic zeal, particularly for families, young people and the sick, led him to numerous pastoral visits throughout the world. Among the many fruits which he has left as a heritage to the Church are above all his rich Magisterium and the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church and for the Eastern Churches. In Rome on 2 April 2005, the eve of the Second Sunday of Easter (or of Divine Mercy), he departed peacefully in the Lord. He was canonized by Pope Francis on 27 April, the Second Sunday of Easter 2014.

– Universalis

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Ephesians 4:7-16

Each one of us has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it. It was said that he would:

When he ascended to the height, he captured prisoners,
he gave gifts to men.

When it says, ‘he ascended’, what can it mean if not that he descended right down to the lower regions of the earth? The one who rose higher than all the heavens to fill all things is none other than the one who descended. And to some, his gift was that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; so that the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ. In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.

Then we shall not be children any longer, or tossed one way and another and carried along by every wind of doctrine, at the mercy of all the tricks men play and their cleverness in practising deceit. If we live by the truth and in love, we shall grow in all ways into Christ, who is the head by whom the whole body is fitted and joined together, every joint adding its own strength, for each separate part to work according to its function. So the body grows until it has built itself up, in love.

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Luke 13:1-9

Some people arrived and told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices. At this he said to them, ‘Do you suppose these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell and killed them? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’

He told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to the man who looked after the vineyard, “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?” “Sir,” the man replied “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.”’

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‘…but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’

It seems to me as though today’s first reading is a combination of the readings from the previous few days. Knowing God, growing in faith, and becoming the image and likeness of God. Indeed, when we have fulfilled the above and grow to become the Perfect Man, who is Jesus, then surely we can be gifted to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.

But it is never that easy. Sin continues to knock at our door and causes us to fall often.

Fortunately for us, Jesus tells us today in the gospel, that unless we repent we will perish like the Galileans and the eighteen who were crushed under the weight of the tower of Siloam.

If we are willing to repent, God gives us the space and time to do it as in the parable of the fig tree. Even after being a barren fruit tree, the man who looked after it pleaded with the owner to leave it one year and allow him to tend to it.

Yes, God gives us the chance to grow and change our lives; yet we shouldn’t be taking our own sweet time to do it, because we do not know the hour the Son of Man is coming.

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. John Paul II. A great saint of our time. A great man who epitomises what it means to have faith in God. I recall his inaugural speech at the beginning of his pontificate where he exhorted the faithful three times to not be afraid to welcome Christ in our hearts and open the door wide for Him to enter.

Truly, if we take faith in following the Lord, we will get to know Him, love Him and serve Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Lee)

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Prayer: Father, show me the way to live a life that is worthy of Your calling. Help me never to turn away from You and reject Your love for me.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank You for always showing me Your love and mercy, even if I fall over and over again.

21 September, Wednesday – Follow Me

21 September – Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Matthew was the son of Alphaeus, and he lived at Capernaum on Lake Genesareth. He was a Roman tax collector, a position equated with collaboration with the enemy by those from whom he collected taxes. Jesus’ contemporaries were surprised to see the Christ with a traitor, but Jesus explained that he had come “not to call the just, but sinners”.

Matthew’s Gospel is given pride of place in the canon of the New Testament, and was written to convince Jewish readers that their anticipated Messiah had come in the person of Jesus. He preached among the Jews for 15 years; his audiences may have included the Jewish enclave in Ethiopia, and places in the East.

– Patron Saints Index

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Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13

I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.

Each one of us, however, has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it. To some, his gift was that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; so that the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ. In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.

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Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus was walking on he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

While he was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’

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He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.

Before he became one of the Twelve Apostles, St. Matthew worked as a tax collector in Capernaum. At the time, tax collectors were viewed negatively by the people, as evidenced in the Bible, particularly in today’s Gospel reading. When people saw Jesus sitting at the table with tax collectors, the Pharisees questioned this, lumping tax collectors with sinners. Because of his prior incarnation as a tax collector, St. Matthew is the patron saint of tax collectors, accountants and bankers.

Today’s world hasn’t changed much. Bankers are still viewed negatively: the “fat cats” of Wall Street and other major financial capitals in the world. Not long ago, people were up in arms over bankers who collected huge bonuses while the world experienced a global financial crisis. The Occupy Wall Street movement raised issues of inequality, both socially and economically, greed and corruption, in particular within the financial sector. The bankers’ lives of excess as portrayed in the media also added more fuel to the fire.

So it is with interest that one would question why Jesus called Matthew to follow him. Can a person perceived as greedy and in cahoots with the Romans be deemed worthy enough to follow the Messiah? Jesus rebukes the Pharisees and says, “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Jesus probably saw the flaws in Matthew, and perhaps Matthew might not have been perfect in character. But he was the perfect canvas for Jesus to paint on, to convert someone so mired in materialism, and that would not be any different from us today. We don’t even have to be a banker, or tax collector or accountant. Perhaps there is a certain sort of life that we are living, that we can’t let go of. Would we be in a position to put it down, leave everything and go when Jesus calls us?

Recall the story of the rich man who did everything that Jesus exhorted, and asked what more he could do. He went away depressed when Jesus told him to sell all his possessions and donate the proceeds to the needy (Mark 10:17-31), for this man was rich indeed. But Jesus has promised us eternal life for those who leave everything to follow him.

If we fear or second guess our ability to come whenever Jesus calls, let us doubt no further but say to ourselves, if St. Matthew could do it, and walk away from it all to a higher calling, then so can we.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Thanksgiving: St. Matthew, we pray to you not to let our lives be attached to the material things on earth that will pass in time. Help us train our eyes instead to a greater treasure in heaven, which Jesus has promised us.

Prayer: St. Matthew, thank you for being our shining example of will power and knowing what is worth following. As Jesus comes to call the sinners, pray for us that we will hear when he calls us too.

11 September, Sunday – Mercy Unto Us

11 September

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Exodus 32:7-11,13-14

The Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down now, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostatised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice. “Here is your God, Israel,” they have cried “who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘I can see how headstrong these people are! Leave me, now, my wrath shall blaze out against them and devour them; of you, however, I will make a great nation.’

But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘why should your wrath blaze out against this people of yours whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with arm outstretched and mighty hand? Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your servants to whom by your own self you swore and made this promise: “I will make your offspring as many as the stars of heaven, and all this land which I promised I will give to your descendants, and it shall be their heritage for ever.”’
So the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

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1 Timothy 1:12-17

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, and who judged me faithful enough to call me into his service even though I used to be a blasphemer and did all I could to injure and discredit the faith. Mercy, however, was shown me, because until I became a believer I had been acting in ignorance; and the grace of our Lord filled me with faith and with the love that is in Christ Jesus. Here is a saying that you can rely on and nobody should doubt: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I myself am the greatest of them; and if mercy has been shown to me, it is because Jesus Christ meant to make me the greatest evidence of his inexhaustible patience for all the other people who would later have to trust in him to come to eternal life. To the eternal King, the undying, invisible and only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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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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The Lord relented

Ever so often we see God in such a dictatorship kind of way. That we are being watched by Him, and there is this set of rules set out by God and the church talk about behaviours and the ‘Don’ts’ that are sinful in the eyes of God. We probably grew up thinking, we should not do this or that, otherwise, it is a great sin. Some of us might even think that we are condemned for life. In today’s readings and Gospel, the message is clear that God our Father is a merciful one and He listen to our plea.

The Church is currently celebrating the Jubilee Year of Mercy. In today’s readings, the Lord relented after Moses pleaded to God about saving His people from Egypt and despite their behaviour of worshipping a false god, that they be forgiven for their behaviour. In the Gospel, our loving God do not require great acts to gain back his trust and love, all He favour is a change of heart and us sinners be repentant for the wrong we did. It is essentially our behaviour towards others. We are called to be witnesses of Christ, because of what He has done for us. It is because we have lived in difficulty for Christ gave us the hope to live fully and be at peace. Therefore, we should be of a good example in character, to be merciful to those who have wronged us, to be able to forgive and be open to the many difficult situations in our world.

We will never know the reasons and stories behind others just by looking at them and judging their behaviours against ours. Be loving and kind to our neighbours, be patient and humble, and so we look unto others with an openness and Christ-like approach. It is actually very difficult to forgive and be merciful when I am in fit of anger, only over time, do I realise that if I am to behave just like how Jesus is, being the loving and merciful Father that He is, forgiving will make the surroundings better.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

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Thanksgiving: In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we pray for those who are in conflict, that a peaceful solution will come soon to resolve their issues.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for forgiving us the wrong that we have done, and continue to grace us with the behaviour that is like your son Jesus.

10 September, Saturday – Live out your beliefs

10 September 

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1 Corinthians 10:14-22

My dear brothers, you must keep clear of idolatry. I say to you as sensible people: judge for yourselves what I am saying. The blessing-cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ. The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in this one loaf. Look at the other Israel, the race, where those who eat the sacrifices are in communion with the altar. Does this mean that the food sacrificed to idols has a real value, or that the idol itself is real? Not at all. It simply means that the sacrifices that they offer they sacrifice to demons who are not God. I have no desire to see you in communion with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot take your share at the table of the Lord and at the table of demons. Do we want to make the Lord angry; are we stronger than he is?

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Luke 6:43-49

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit, nor again a rotten tree that produces sound fruit. For every tree can be told by its own fruit: people do not pick figs from thorns, nor gather grapes from brambles. A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart; a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness. For a man’s words flow out of what fills his heart.

‘Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord” and not do what I say?

‘Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and acts on them – I will show you what he is like. He is like the man who when he built his house dug, and dug deep, and laid the foundations on rock; when the river was in flood it bore down on that house but could not shake it, it was so well built. But the one who listens and does nothing is like the man who built his house on soil, with no foundations: as soon as the river bore down on it, it collapsed; and what a ruin that house became!’

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Why do you call me “Lord, Lord,” and not do what I tell you?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that there is no point constantly calling him “Lord”, the person we obey, if we do not actually do what he asks. And one of the things he asks of us is to scrape away the shaky, sinful layers in our lives. The very layers that built up over time when we became complacent of our salvation. When we unintentionally decided that having faith is enough. Actual action would not be required and all sin would be immediately deemed ‘null and void’ just because we believe in God. No repentance necessary.

It won’t be easy to shovel away the dirt and loose sand before we hit the hard rock to build our house on but when the storms of life come, all that cleaning would have been worth it because our faith is strong enough to weather it out.

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘Actions speak louder than words’, and nothing can be closer to the truth. The gospel also tells us that our actions are the fruits we produce. Not our knowledge of the Word. We can easily memorise the whole Bible (okay, maybe not THAT easily but you get the picture) but Jesus calls us to live out what we learn and believe in.

What we do is a reflection of what we believe in. It is these actions which actually demonstrate our Christian faith and belief. Do we forgive when we are wronged? Do we offer food to the beggar on the street? Do we hold the door open for the person behind us? Do we do everything the Lord has asked us to do?

Sure, people may form a first impression of us based on what we say but it is our actions that leave the lasting impression. It’s not just enough to do but we need to do with a willing heart. That is the mark of genuine belief – that everything we do is based on our belief that is so deeply anchored in our hearts, it’s second nature. Even our attitude is a testament to our faith in God.

My brothers and sisters, a good heart will produce good thoughts, that brings about good deeds, and good deeds are meant to be shared with everyone. This is how we show the world the Word of God. Like the song goes, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Rebecca Grace)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the strength and willpower to scrub away our sinful nature, no matter how abrasive it is. Keep us strong dear Lord as we focus on filling our lives with good deeds while removing our harmful actions in our everyday lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the times You have picked us back up and took back our repentant selves each and every time we fell into sin.

9 September, Friday – Forgive before judging

9 September – Memorial for St. Peter Claver, Priest

He was born in Catalonia and studied at the University of Barcelona. He became a Jesuit; and while he was studying philosophy in Mallorca, the door-keeper of the college, Alfonso Rodríguez, saw that his true vocation was to evangelize the New World, and encouraged him to fulfil that vocation. (Rodríguez was later canonized on the same day as Peter Claver himself).

He arrived in Cartagena, in what is now Colombia, in 1610, and after his ordination six years later he became ‘the slave of the Negroes forever’, labouring on their behalf for 33 years, attending to both their spiritual and material needs. The slave trade was repeatedly condemned by the Popes; but it was too profitable to be stopped and on the whole the local church hierarchy kept quiet about it, much as they did in North America in the 19th century.

He brought fresh food to the slave-ships as they arrived, instructed the slaves and baptized them in the faith, followed their progress and kept track of them even when they were sent to the mines and plantations, defending them as well as he could from oppressive slave-owners. He organized teams of catechists who spoke the many languages spoken by the slaves. He worked in hospitals also, looking after lepers among others, and in prisons.

Naturally he made himself unpopular by his work: as his superior said, ‘unfortunately for himself he is a Catalan, pig-headed and difficult’. Opposition came from both within the Church and outside it, but there were always exceptions. For instance, while many fashionable ladies refused to enter his city churches because they had been profaned by the presence of the blacks, a few, such as Doña Isabel de Urbina, became his strong and lifelong supporters.

At the end of his life he fell ill with a degenerative disease and for four years he was treated neglectfully and brutally by the servant whose task it was to look after him. He did not complain but accepted his sufferings as a penance for his sins.

– Universalis

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1 Corinthians 9:16-19,22-27

I do not boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty which has been laid on me; I should be punished if I did not preach it! If I had chosen this work myself, I might have been paid for it, but as I have not, it is a responsibility which has been put into my hands. Do you know what my reward is? It is this in my preaching, to be able to offer the Good News free, and not insist on the rights which the gospel gives me.

So though I am not a slave of any man I have made myself the slave of everyone so as to win as many as I could. For the weak I made myself weak. I made myself all things to all men in order to save some at any cost; and I still do this, for the sake of the gospel, to have a share in its blessings.

All the runners at the stadium are trying to win, but only one of them gets the prize. You must run in the same way, meaning to win. All the fighters at the games go into strict training; they do this just to win a wreath that will wither away, but we do it for a wreath that will never wither. That is how I run, intent on winning; that is how I fight, not beating the air. I treat my body hard and make it obey me, for, having been an announcer myself, I should not want to be disqualified.

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Luke 6:39-42

Jesus told a parable to the disciples, ‘Can one blind man guide another? Surely both will fall into a pit? The disciple is not superior to his teacher; the fully trained disciple will always be like his teacher. Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,” when you cannot see the plank in your own? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter that is in your brother’s eye.’

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You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

Raise your hand if you have ever been quick to pass judgement on someone without knowing the full extent of the situation. How about if you’ve delayed (or denied) forgiving someone because you firmly believe they’re in the wrong? Even if you know deep in your heart that you’re not a saint either.

It’s easy isn’t it? To criticize someone when they slip-up. Yet, how many of us are willing to look at our own shortcomings and criticise those instead? Theoretically, I would gladly say, “Of course, I am willing to take a look at myself and fix what’s wrong.” In practice however, I would never do it, or would do it extremely grudgingly and maybe once in 20 blue moons. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking along these lines.

I couldn’t make it to World Youth Day this year but someone I know posted on Facebook the words of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle in the days leading up to it. “If we deny our wounds, we will inflict wounds on other people,” he told the crowd gathered in front of him.

If you think about it, this holds true for everyone. How can we even attempt to ‘fix’ someone else if we are broken ourselves? Yes, we as Christians are called to evangelise and shine the light towards God. But that in no way means hand them a book of instructions that we have yet to read and apply ourselves.

Jesus calls us to walk the talk in today’s Gospel and walk the talk, we must. So, let us try to practice forgiving each other, no matter how big or small the mistake. We may sometimes forget the wrong years down the road but the other person may never forget that they were never forgiven.

Remember, our journey towards God is not meant to be easy because changing is never easy. Lots of scraping and chiselling is needed to form a statue out of a block.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Rebecca Grace)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the strength to forgive and forget the same way You do for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people you’ve placed in our lives and the ways they have unintentionally hurt us. We know that this is Your way of teaching us to be more understanding and forgiving. Just as You are.

6 September, Tuesday – The Myth of Sinlessness

6 September

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1 Corinthians 6:1-11

How dare one of your members take up a complaint against another in the law courts of the unjust instead of before the saints? As you know, it is the saints who are to ‘judge the world’; and if the world is to be judged by you, how can you be unfit to judge trifling cases? Since we are also to judge angels, it follows that we can judge matters of everyday life; but when you have had cases of that kind, the people you appointed to try them were not even respected in the Church. You should be ashamed: is there really not one reliable man among you to settle differences between brothers and so one brother brings a court case against another in front of unbelievers? It is bad enough for you to have lawsuits at all against one another: oughtn’t you to let yourselves be wronged, and let yourselves be cheated? But you are doing the wronging and the cheating, and to your own brothers.

You know perfectly well that people who do wrong will not inherit the kingdom of God: people of immoral lives, idolaters, adulterers, catamites, sodomites, thieves, usurers, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers will never inherit the kingdom of God. These are the sort of people some of you were once, but now you have been washed clean, and sanctified, and justified through the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and through the Spirit of our God.

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Luke 6:12-19

Jesus went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God. When day came he summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them; he called them ‘apostles’: Simon whom he called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.

He then came down with them and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. People tormented by unclean spirits were also cured, and everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all.

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because power came forth from him and healed them all.

Today, like most days, I found myself struggling with my (relatively new-found) faith. It is no secret that the bible offers hard lessons for all of us. As an introvert, I have spent many parties looking (with great envy) at the way that everyone seems able to socialise so easily. For the young man that I was then, I was particularly struck by how easily other guys could win the affection and attention of young women.

As an older man, I find it easy to look at the shenanigans of today’s youth, judging them as debauchery and hedonism. Yet we have been taught over and over again that we should not judge, that we should ‘let he who is sinless cast the first stone’. Yes, none of us is free from sin. Indeed, the more that we believe in our alleged sinlessness, the more we have already sinned. Not having sinned in appearance does not guarantee any sort of interior moral purity.

That is a lesson that I have learned the hard way. As a socially awkward yet precocious youth, I have often found myself judging far too easily. Such tendencies do not go away, even after one has outgrown adolescence. As a consequence, I have found myself constantly stepping on others’ toes. Worse yet, I find myself becoming bitter. The first reading says: do not be deceived.

The deception lies in the belief that we are ‘okay’, that those idolators, adulterers and thieves found in the bible must be referring to somebody else. But it is with the less-than-friendly admonition of a friend or even the loss of one that the truth becomes painfully true — that we have sinned without realising it ourselves. But the second reading also shows Jesus going out to heal everyone. Yes, everyone.

Regardless of whether you have sinned or not, or how serious those sins are, Jesus wants to heal all of us. And as the first reading also reminds us, we are now washed clean and sanctified, despite being sinners before. But this healing cannot come to us, if we do not humble ourselves and ask for it.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we continue to pray for your forgiveness and love. For all the times we have sinned knowingly or unknowingly, we pray for your spiritual healing.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for the daily reminders and signs of our own weaknesses.

5 August, Friday – This Cruel Marketplace

5 August – Memorial for Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome

First raised at the order of Pope Liberius in the mid-fourth century, the Liberian Basilica was rebuilt by Pope Sixtus III shortly after the Council of Ephesus affirmed Mary’s title as Mother of God in 431. Rededicated at that time to the Mother of God, St. Mary Major is the largest church in the world honouring God through Mary.

St. Mary Major is one of the four Roman basilicas known as patriarchal cathedrals in memory of the first centres of the Church. This basilica represents the See of Antioch, where Mary is supposed to have spent most of her life.

http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/SaintOfDay/default.asp?id=1098

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Nahum 2:1,3,3:1-3,6-7

See, over the mountains the messenger hurries!
‘Peace!’ he proclaims.
Judah, celebrate your feasts,
carry out your vows,
for Belial will never pass through you again;
he is utterly annihilated.
Yes, the Lord is restoring the vineyard of Jacob
and the vineyard of Israel.
For the plunderers had plundered them,
they had broken off their branches.

Woe to the city soaked in blood,
full of lies,
stuffed with booty,
whose plunderings know no end!
The crack of the whip!
The rumble of wheels!
Galloping horse,
jolting chariot,
charging cavalry,
flash of swords,
gleam of spears…
a mass of wounded,
hosts of dead,
countless corpses;
they stumble over the dead.
I am going to pelt you with filth,
shame you, make you a public show.
And all who look on you will turn their backs on you and say,
‘Nineveh is a ruin.’
Could anyone pity her?
Where can I find anyone to comfort her?

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Matthew 16:24-28

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?

‘For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and, when he does, he will reward each one according to his behaviour. I tell you solemnly, there are some of these standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming with his kingdom.’

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What has a man to offer in exchange for his life?

The world is a marketplace. This description is too cruelly realistic for us to be content with it. What do I mean? The ‘marketplace’ is an arena of commercial dealings, trades, transactions. So what? Some may say it is a fact and this is just what is necessary. We need to trade and cut deals. We need to maximise profit, minimise loss. I’ve got to keep my job. Money talks. Business is not charity. “Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness. I am kind to everyone, but when someone is unkind to me, weak is not what you are going to remember about me.” This quote, attributed to big-time 19th century New York gangster Al Capone, pretty much paints today’s reality in the world of trade and industry.

The grave problem here is, the terms and objects of transactions are more than inanimate commodities. For some parts of the world, and in some societies, people are the goods and services. Yes, we cannot turn a blind eye to this. Prostitution, slavery, child labour, sweatshop industries, exploitation of wages/lives/trust/hope of refugees and the common man… these today are the ills of our world. In the words of Pope Francis, “This is terrorism too.”

The first reading from the Book of Nahum gives us a clue about the extent of man’s igornance, sin, and indifference to sin.

Woe to the city soaked in blood,
full of lies,
stuffed with booty,
whose plunderings know no end!
…a mass of wounded,
hosts of dead,
countless corpses;
they stumble over the dead.

Isn’t this image so real even today? Stories of garment factories in India who have utter disregard for fire regulations cause hundreds of their workers to perish by fire. Captains of the South Korean MV Sewol Ferry who told their passengers, numbering hundreds and with school children onboard, to stay in their cabins as the ferry capsizes – just so they themselves could escape in the limited numbers of lifeboats. Thousands of migrant construction workers (from India, Nepal, and elsewhere) who die from extreme working conditions in Qatar in the frantic infrastructure construction surrounding the 2022 World Cup stadium. These are but some examples of how our cities are indeed soaked in blood.

I do not have the answer for such clearly complex and wicked problems – so many actors and layers of decision-making are at play here. However, Jesus poses the ultimate question: “What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?” At the end of the day, it boils down to each individual and our personal encounter with Christ who hangs before us on the Cross, asking: “Do you choose me? If you want to be a follower of mine, will you renounce yourself and take up your cross and follow me?”

Are there any big and small decisions you face today that Jesus is asking you to surrender and obey Him? Are there any seemingly banal choices that we make each day which may seem insignificant, but are actually grounded in ethical and moral dimensions? Let us pause and confront this heartless and maddening marketplace for what it is. The Lord is calling us out of our distractions/obsessions/compulsions – to ponder and cherish the dignity of each human life formed in His divine image. How shall we honour our Heavenly Father? What is God revealing to you at this moment? Truly, when it comes down to our last breath, nothing we own in this world can be used for barter with God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: May our hearts be open today to receive the correction that Jesus lovingly points out. There is nothing beyond His forgiveness. He has the message of true and eternal life.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, for loving me while I was still a sinner mired in my own chaos and ignorance. Lift me up with Your mercy and help me bring glory to You with my life and my choices.

4 August, Thursday – I Want to Know Your Heart

4 August – Memorial for St. John Mary Vianney, Priest

In his youth, John Mary Vianney (1786-1859) taught other children their prayers and catechism. As a priest, was assigned to a parish which suffered from very lax attendance. He began visiting his parishioners, especially the sick and poor, spent days in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, did penance for his parishioners, and led his people by example. Crowds came to hear him preach, and to make their reconciliation because of his reputation with penitents.

He has been declared patron saint for all priests.

– Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 31:31-34 

See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel (and the House of Judah), but not a covenant like the one I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant of mine, so I had to show them who was master. It is the Lord who speaks. No, this is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel when those days arrive – it is the Lord who speaks. Deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I will be their God and they shall be my people. There will be no further need for neighbour to try to teach neighbour, or brother to say to brother, ‘Learn to know the Lord!’ No, they will all know me, the least no less than the greatest – it is the Lord who speaks – since I will forgive their iniquity and never call their sin to mind.

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Matthew 16:13-23

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’ Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

From that time Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. ‘Heaven preserve you, Lord;’ he said ‘this must not happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

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They will all know me, the least no less than the greatest.

How do you love someone? The slow-learner in me realises more and more these days, that the paramount way to love someone is to know them. To know someone – not in a casual, cursory, or comfortable way – but in a way that communicates love, is to intently and intensely listen. Without judgement.

We hear it often today — trite phrases like “deep down we all want to be known/to be recognised/to be valued.” But how, and why? It is not easy. Because to love someone, however imperfectly, is to seek to know them in their moments of light and dark – and try to receive them in their progress of growth. Paradoxically, as much as we all try to avoid our own darkness, there is a deep craving within each of us, to have someone see us fully and yet continue to choose us and to choose to love us. It is this unconditional decision by someone to love us (not indulgently), that ultimately liberates us to receive and accept our own imperfection. It bestows both courage and detemination to keep on growing. This kind of thorough, deep, and authentic knowledge of others/ourself redeems us. Do you recall a time when you received the forgiveness and tender love of a parent, sibling, friend, or lover – in spite of the pain you inflicted upon them? The kind of wrong that you would not forgive, had it been done to you? And yet – you experienced mercy… how did you feel?

Though you may have initially felt undeserving, did you eventually experience a lightness of being – a deep sense of liberation and peace? The antidote to personal and spiritual stagnation is a contrite heart.

This is the heart of our Father in Heaven. The prophet Jeremiah recounts the trespasses that the ancestors of Israel committed against God by breaking the covenant He made with them. Although God brought to bear His holy anger upon the peoples, He renews a new covenant of Love with them – “deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts… I will be their God and they shall be my people.” God forgives our iniquities and calls upon our sins no more.

As I reflect on the Responsorial Psalm today (Ps. 50), the Psalmist reminds me to constantly cry out to God to “Create a clean heart in me, O God.” It is a necessary reminder, because the Gospel passage reveals clearly that while I may proclaim to love Jesus-the-man and to know Him (as Simon Peter did) in one moment; I actually do not really KNOW Christ-the-Saviour and the extent of His mission and sacrifice. This is why Jesus rebuked Peter: “You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.”

This is the depth to which God knows me, and the lack of knowledge of my Father in Heaven. But I am assured – I cannot earn, nor study, nor pledge my way to Heaven. For this relationship rests not solely on my efforts, but on the love and grace of my Lord, and my willingness to keep on confessing my weakness, seeking restoration, praying without ceasing, and dying to my self in all my human wiles.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the ageless covenant, designed by God, that actively administers the healing salve of His mercy and restoration to us. God chose to use Jesus to carry out His plan of salvation. And Jesus chose the repentant Saint Peter to loose us from the chains of sin with ‘keys of the kingdom of heaven.’ In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we pray: “[Jesus] You are the visible face of the invisible Father, of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy: let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified. You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error: let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.” (excerpt from Pope Francis’ Prayer for the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy).

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, create in me a clean heart. Help me to extend mercy to myself and to my neighbour. Teach me to also practice mercy to your ministers, our priests, who themselves are clothed in the same human weaknesses I have. We are all equally in need of Your grace and love.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for revealing Your heart of love to me Lord. Thank You for always listening to my heart, even when I do not speak to You. This day and more often, help me to listen closely to Your heartbeat and draw closer to You.