Tag Archives: forgiveness

18 August, Friday – Unteachable We

18 Aug

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Joshua 24:1-13

Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel together at Shechem; then he called the elders, leaders, judges and scribes of Israel, and they presented themselves before God. Then Joshua said to all the people:

  ‘The Lord, the God of Israel says this, “In ancient days your ancestors lived beyond the River – such was Terah the father of Abraham and of Nahor – and they served other gods. Then I brought your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan. I increased his descendants and gave him Isaac. To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. To Esau I gave the mountain country of Seir as his possession. Jacob and his sons went down into Egypt. Then I sent Moses and Aaron and plagued Egypt with the wonders that I worked there. So I brought you out of it. I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, and you came to the Sea; the Egyptians pursued your ancestors with chariots and horsemen as far as the Sea of Reeds. There they called to the Lord, and he spread a thick fog between you and the Egyptians, and made the sea go back on them and cover them. You saw with your own eyes the things I did in Egypt. Then for a long time you lived in the wilderness, until I brought you into the land of the Amorites who lived beyond the Jordan; they made war on you and I gave them into your hands; you took possession of their country because I destroyed them before you. Next, Balak son of Zippor the king of Moab arose to make war on Israel, and sent for Balaam son of Beor to come and curse you. But I would not listen to Balaam; instead, he had to bless you, and I saved you from his hand.

  ‘“When you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho, those who held Jericho fought against you, as did the Amorites and Perizzites, the Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, but I put them all into your power. I sent out hornets in front of you, which drove the two Amorite kings before you; this was not the work of your sword or your bow. I gave you a land where you never toiled, you live in towns you never built; you eat now from vineyards and olive-groves you never planted.”’

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Matthew 19:3-12

Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and to test him they said, ‘Is it against the Law for a man to divorce his wife on any pretext whatever?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that the creator from the beginning made them male and female and that he said: This is why a man must leave father and mother, and cling to his wife, and the two become one body? They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’

  They said to him, ‘Then why did Moses command that a writ of dismissal should be given in cases of divorce?’ ‘It was because you were so unteachable’ he said ‘that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but it was not like this from the beginning. Now I say this to you: the man who divorces his wife – I am not speaking of fornication – and marries another, is guilty of adultery.’

  The disciples said to him, ‘If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is not advisable to marry.’ But he replied, ‘It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted. There are eunuchs born that way from their mother’s womb, there are eunuchs made so by men and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’

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‘It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted.

The human race has been unteachable since the dawn of time. Ancient civilisations have been unteachable even as they developed in wisdom and technology – hence their extinction. The modern and post-modern society is just as unteachable today, as much as the agrarian and feudal and monastic societies were. Let’s break it down further: to this very day, we can be as stubbornly unteachable as our parents, grandparents, forefathers. The readings today remind us about how much mercy and redemption we are really in need of.

It is indeed a ‘hard teaching’ of the sin of divorce and adultery that the Pharisees confronted Jesus with in the gospel passage of Matthew today. They were trying to snare Jesus on the technicalities (of the Jewish Law) and see if his so-called teachings of justice and mercy were contradictory on this particular issue. We can see it so painfully true in our world today.

Jesus does not budge or become apologetic about the fundamental nature of man. He especially calls out the Pharisees on this sin of unteachability first and foremost as the basis on which Moses commanded a writ of dismissal be given in cases of divorce. It still is not right for a marriage to be dissolved and for a man to divorce his wife. For marriage is a covenant, a binding promise, representative of the covenant that God made with His Creation that He would always be with us. If God, despite our repeated betrayals and travesties against Him, can be unrelenting in His love, mercy, and desire to still be wedded and faithful in his promise of salvation to us, who are we to ungratefully demand to dispense with Him?

Only an unteachable and ungrateful generation would repeatedly deny receiving God’s goodness and mercy.

Yet, we know of other sins that came along when divorce remained illegal in the past. The sin of adultery and murder became the route which men and women took as the means to their desired ends. Wasn’t this what King David himself did? Indeed, as the disciples foolishly responded, ‘If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is not advisable to marry.’ This refrain is so heartlessly and callously repeated even today. Many people point to others’ failing, struggling, or difficult marriages, in blame: “This is the reason why I will not get married.” This is also why many children who grew up watching their parents fumble through their own marriages lose hope and vision of how a real Christ-like marriage could be.

Not even the Christian life is to be expected to be easy. What more a Christian marriage? But even more elemental than that, all relationships are messy, difficult, and trying endeavours! Whoever has never argued and been challenged to accountability by a really close friend before? If you had ever ditched a friendship because it is tough or deemed it unworthy because of pride and stubbornness, then humbly, we need to acknowledge that a marriage that binds two imperfect and wounded persons could be exponentially difficult.

The baseline for living in peace and harmony in community, family, and marriage, is to pray for a heart of humility and teachability. From this point, we can hope to transform and transfigure our worldview, modus operandi, and expectations towards our relationships and the holy and worthy task of loving someone and learning to be loved. Yes, Jesus does teach that there is mercy regardless for those who have endured the painful process of divorce. All of us intuitively and ultimately deeply seek a covenantal promise of love that will never be broken. It has been written in our DNA. The question is, how teachable are we in the practice of loving another person? The next question is, how teachable are we in the follow-up to making mistakes and failing to live up to our promises? May we remember: We love because He first loved us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: A wedding is for a day, but a marriage is for a lifetime on earth, and can be our passport to eternity. May we pray to God for a heart of teachability in this journey of learning to love another person, and to remain in love.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your unending mercy to me. For giving me countless second chances. Help me never to take it for granted and spurn your love.

17 August, Thursday – Cut and Run

17 Aug

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Joshua 3:7-11,13-17

The Lord said to Joshua, ‘This very day I will begin to make you a great man in the eyes of all Israel, to let them be sure that I am going to be with you even as I was with Moses. As for you, give this order to the priests carrying the ark of the covenant: “When you have reached the brink of the waters of the Jordan, you are to stand still in the Jordan itself”.’ Then Joshua said to the Israelites, ‘Come closer and hear the words of the Lord your God.’ Joshua said, ‘By this you shall know that a living God is with you and without a doubt will expel the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Hivite, the Perizzite, the Girgashite, the Amorite and the Jebusite. Look, the ark of the Lord,’ the Lord of the whole earth, is about to cross the Jordan at your head. As soon as the priests with the ark of the Lord, the Lord of the whole earth, have set their feet in the waters of the Jordan, the upper waters of the Jordan flowing down will be stopped in their course and stand still in one mass.’

  Accordingly, when the people struck camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carried the ark of the covenant in front of the people. As soon as the bearers of the ark reached the Jordan and the feet of the priests who carried it touched the waters (the Jordan overflows the whole length of its banks throughout the harvest season) the upper waters stood still and made one heap over a wide space – from Adam to the fortress of Zarethan – while those flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah, that is, the Salt Sea, stopped running altogether. The people crossed opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood still on dry ground in mid-Jordan, and all Israel continued to cross dry-shod till the whole nation had finished its crossing of the river.

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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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Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me?

I think we become less forgiving as we grow older. I find I have less patience now when friends let me down and am more ready to ‘cut and run’ than when I was a twenty-something. This is ironic because it’s in my adulthood that I have grown more aware of His grace.

Our best intentions unravel when it comes to living our faith; forgiveness is my biggest stumbling block. I find I have the tendency to ‘measure up’ the hurts and wounds afflicted on me and keep a mental score of what ‘I am owed’. Like the proverbial evil servant in today’s gospel, that mental ledger is meticulously maintained and diligently populated by the wounds of yesteryear and the names of those who had inflicted them.

But there’s no room for math in His House. He did no math with us, so it is hypocritical of us to work sums with those He sends our way. We end up hurting ourselves when instead of forgiving, we ‘cut and run’. Our relationships have no depth when we ‘cut and run’; we become fair weather friends when we ‘cut and run’. We don’t build bonds when we ‘cut and run’. I’ve always struggled to make friends. I know now that it is because I am constantly fleeing difficult situations. I used to think it was that I didn’t like confrontation, but that’s a lame excuse for not having the tenacity to stick with things.

I’m so grateful that while I’ve been busy ‘cutting and running’, God has never ‘cut and run’ with me. He has persevered and never held back on His forgiveness, never held back on His blessings. And while not all my prayers have been answered, He has granted the prayers that have mattered.

I’m humbled by today’s gospel. It is not easy to look so clearly at a reflection of yourself. I see myself in the evil servant, always a recipient of forgiveness, not often a giver of it, and am overwhelmed by His unending mercies. I give thanks He has never ‘cut and run’ with me.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer : We pray for the self awareness to see our own weaknesses and forgive, instead of judging and punishing others for the wounds they inflict on us.

Thanksgiving : We give thanks for the never ending mercies He extends us.

1 Aug, Tuesday – Repent And Reconcile

Aug 1 – Memorial for St. Alphonsus Liguori, bishop, religious founder, doctor

Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) vowed early to never to waste a moment of his life, and lived that way for over 90 years. As a lawyer, he had his own practice by age 21, and was a leading lawyer in Naples. He never attended court without having attended Mass first.

As he matured and learned more of the world, he liked it less, and finally felt a call to religious life. He was ordained at age 29. As preacher and home missioner around Naples, St. Alphonsus was noted for his simple, clear, direct style of preaching, and his gentle, understanding way in the confessional. He was often opposed by Church officials for a perceived laxity toward sinners, and by government officials who opposed anything religious. He founded the Redemptoristines women’s order and the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists).

As bishop, St. Alphonsus worked to reform the clergy and revitalise the faithful in a diocese with a bad reputation. The royal government threatened to disband his Redemptorists, claiming that they were covertly carrying on the work of the Jesuits, who had been suppressed. Calling on his knowledge of the Congregation, his background in theology, and his skills as a lawyer, St. Alphonsus defended the Redemptorists so well that they obtained the king’s approval.

– Patron Saint Index

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Exodus 33:7-11, 34:5-9, 28

Moses used to take the Tent and pitch it outside the camp, at some distance from the camp. He called it the Tent of Meeting. Anyone who had to consult the Lord would go out to the Tent of Meeting, outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the Tent, all the people would rise. Every man would stand at the door of his tent and watch Moses until he reached the Tent; the pillar of cloud would come down and station itself at the entrance to the Tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. When they saw the pillar of cloud stationed at the entrance to the Tent, all the people would rise and bow low, each at the door of his tent. The Lord would speak with Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would turn back to the camp, but the young man who was his servant, Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the Tent.

And the Lord descended in the form of a cloud, and Moses stood with him there.

He called on the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness; for thousands he maintains his kindness, forgives faults, transgression, sin; yet he lets nothing go unchecked, punishing the father’s fault in the sons and in the grandsons to the third and fourth generation.’ And Moses bowed down to the ground at once and worshipped. ‘If I have indeed won your favour, Lord,’ he said ‘let my Lord come with us, I beg. True, they are a headstrong people, but forgive us our faults and our sins, and adopt us as your heritage.’

Moses stayed there with the Lord for forty days and forty nights, eating and drinking nothing. He inscribed on the tablets the words of the Covenant – the Ten Words.

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Matthew 13:36-43

Leaving the crowds, Jesus went to the house; and his disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain the parable about the darnel in the field to us.’ He said in reply, ‘The sower of the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed is the subjects of the kingdom; the darnel, the subjects of the evil one; the enemy who sowed them, the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the angels. Well then, just as the darnel is gathered up and burnt in the fire, so it will be at the end of time. The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that provoke offences and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. Then the virtuous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Listen, anyone who has ears!’

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Forgive us our faults and our sins

It certainly has been a while since my last confession. I feel that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is undervalued and has never been emphasized enough in our faith journey. Perhaps it is just me not being disciplined in fulfilling the Sacrament, only to be reminded of it and going for penitential services a week before Good Friday and Christmas. However, this was not so when I was in primary and secondary school. I may not have gone for reconciliation every Sunday before mass, but I am rather certain that I might have gone at least five times a year.

Our God is one who is kind, compassionate and filled with tenderness. He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for our sins, giving man the salvation as promised. How have we behaved then, in the manner of our faith? Have we been praying fervently? Do we spend quiet time with our Lord each day, giving thanks at the end of the day? Before we reach out to ask from the Father, do we first ask for mercy for the wrongs that we have committed? Are we the weed? Or the wheat? Our Father allows evil to dwell among the good until the day of judgment. This as I see it, is to allow our sinful hearts to be able to reconcile with Him before that very day, so we become wheat that angels gather for the Kingdom of Heaven.

As we journey through the week, and get into the grind of our work and activities, let us not forget our merciful Father who is always there for us to speak with. He is available to us all the time, and that we are wary of the faults that we make, asking for forgiveness so that we reflect the love of our Lord Jesus to those whom we encounter during the week.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Forgive me Lord for I have sinned. For your merciful heart protects and loves us just like a child, that our sins be forgiven, as we pray deeply, guiding us to be repentant.

Thanksgiving: We are so grateful for your big heart, for embracing us with so much love, O Jesus.

6 July, Thursday – Love till it hurts

6 July – Memorial for St. Maria Goretti, Virgin & Martyr

Maria Goretti (1890-1902) was a beautiful and pious farm girl, one of six children of Luigi Goretti and Assunta Carlini. In 1896 the family moved to Ferriere di Conca. Soon after, Maria’s father died of malaria, and the family was forced to move onto the Serenelli farm to survive.

In 1902, at the age of 12, Maria was attacked by 19-year-old farm hand Alessandro Serenelli. He tried to rape the girl who fought, yelled that it was a sin, and that he would go to hell. He tried to choke her into submission, then stabbed her 14 times. She survived in hospital for two days, forgave her attacker, asked God’s forgiveness of him, and died holding a crucifix and medal of Our Lady. She is counted as a martyr.

While in prison for his crime, Alessandro had a vision of Maria. He saw a garden where a young girl, dressed in white, gathered lilies. She smiled, came near him, and encouraged him to accept an armful of lilies. As he took them, each lily transformed into a still white flame. Maria then disappeared. This vision of Maria led to Alessandro’s conversion, and he latter testified at her cause for beatification.

– Patron Saint Index

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Genesis 22:1-19

God put Abraham to the test. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he called. ‘Here I am’ he replied. ‘Take your son,’ God said ‘your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will point out to you.’

Rising early next morning Abraham saddled his ass and took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. He chopped wood for the burnt offering and started on his journey to the place God had pointed out to him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. Then Abraham said to his servants, ‘Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there; we will worship and come back to you.’

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering, loaded it on Isaac, and carried in his own hands the fire and the knife. Then the two of them set out together. Isaac spoke to his father Abraham, ‘Father’ he said. ‘Yes, my son’ he replied. ‘Look,’ he said ‘here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered, ‘My son, God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.’ Then the two of them went on together.

When they arrived at the place God had pointed out to him, Abraham built an altar there, and arranged the wood. Then he bound his son Isaac and put him on the altar on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son.

But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he said. ‘I am here’ he replied. ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy’ the angel said. ‘Do not harm him, for now I know you fear God. You have not refused me your son, your only son.’ Then looking up, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. Abraham took the ram and offered it as a burnt-offering in place of his son. Abraham called this place ‘The Lord Provides’, and hence the saying today: On the mountain the Lord provides.

The angel of the Lord called Abraham a second time from heaven. ‘I swear by my own self – it is the Lord who speaks – because you have done this, because you have not refused me your son, your only son, I will shower blessings on you, I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants shall gain possession of the gates of their enemies. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.’

Abraham went back to his servants, and together they set out for Beersheba, and he settled in Beersheba.

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Matthew 9:1-8

Jesus got in the boat, crossed the water and came to his own town. Then some people appeared, bringing him a paralytic stretched out on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, ‘Courage, my child, your sins are forgiven.’ And at this some scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’ Knowing what was in their minds Jesus said, ‘Why do you have such wicked thoughts in your hearts? Now, which of these is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ – he said to the paralytic – ‘get up, and pick up your bed and go off home.’ And the man got up and went home. A feeling of awe came over the crowd when they saw this, and they praised God for giving such power to men.

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Your sins are forgiven

I recently attended a weekday mass where the priest preached about love. Love your neighbour as you would love yourself. That’s a hard one to follow in our Christian faith. It’s so easy to love those who are likable, but for those who are less likable, obeying that commandment is tough. The priest went on to challenge us – to love till it hurts.

I have been struggling to love a friend of mine. I do love this friend to the point that I would do almost anything for her. Until she did something that hurt me tremendously. My love moved from anger, to sadness to immense pain. I felt very sad and disappointed and asked God, why should I love this person when she continues to hurt me so? Why can’t I simply forget her, move on and never think of her again? Truth is, I still do love her but the pain is still so real. And she has never been out of my mind, no matter how hard I push the thoughts away. Love till it hurts.

As I read today’s first reading, my heart goes out to poor Abraham. As if giving up and sending away Hagar and Ishmael wasn’t enough. Today, God is asking him to make a burnt sacrifice of his son, Isaac whom he loved. And Abraham, in obedience and with much pain did as God asked of him. He loved God so much that he would give up the very person he loved. Can you and I do this? Tough.

Today’s gospel reading shows Jesus and his ability to be a living form of God’s immense love for us. Seeing their faith, Jesus said ‘Courage, my child, your sins are forgiven.’ The paralytics’ friends (or were they merely acquaintances) loved the man enough to bring him to Jesus, so that he could be healed. Jesus, saw that beyond just the physical healing, the man needed to be forgiven for his sins too. His immense love for us gives us complete healing both spiritually, emotionally and physically so that we can live our lives in true peace and freedom.

Today, let us ask for God’s grace to fill our hearts with His love, so that we can love and forgive those who have hurt us. Can we lift them up in prayer and ask God to bless them and heal us?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, we pray for the grace to follow your commandment. To love others as we love ourselves. We empty ourselves of anger, unforgiveness, jealousy and pride. Fill us with your love overflowing. So that we may truly be like you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for healing our hurts and forgiving our sins. Many times we fall short and are so underserving of your love. Yet you said “Courage, my child, your sins are forgiven.” Thank you, Jesus.

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.