Tag Archives: reconciliation

12 March, Thursday – Stubborn Reconciliation

12 March

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Jeremiah 17:5-10

The Lord says this:

‘A curse on the man who puts his trust in man,
who relies on things of flesh,
whose heart turns from the Lord.
He is like dry scrub in the wastelands:
if good comes, he has no eyes for it,
he settles in the parched places of the wilderness,
a salt land, uninhabited.

‘A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord,
with the Lord for his hope.
He is like a tree by the waterside
that thrusts its roots to the stream:
when the heat comes it feels no alarm,
its foliage stays green;
it has no worries in a year of drought,
and never ceases to bear fruit.

‘The heart is more devious than any other thing,
perverse too: who can pierce its secrets?
I, the Lord, search to the heart,
I probe the loins,
to give each man what his conduct
and his actions deserve.’

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Luke 16:19-31

Jesus said to the Pharisees: ‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

‘In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.” “My son,” Abraham replied “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”

‘The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too.” “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham “let them listen to them.” “Ah no, father Abraham,” said the rich man “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”’

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‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”

I would imagine that all of us have people in our lives that we find to be very stubborn and hard to deal with at times. Trying to get them to listen or acknowledge another viewpoint almost seems like a direct challenge to their sense of identity. It might show a sign of weakness that they’ve conceded to an opposing view and in no way would they ever want to be seen as being wrong or of having made a mistake. When a person’s heart is so hardened that they can no longer open themselves up to seeing reality for what it is – rather just forcibly fitting ideas, events and actions into their own world view… this creates alienation from others and eventually leads to difficulties in forming, developing and maintaining healthy relationships.

These people can be so frustrating to deal with that eventually it becomes better off to just drop it and move on. The issue becomes more severe when the “just drop it and move on” progresses beyond the topic of disagreement to the actual relationships with those whom we once were close to. The inability to find common ground and the refusal to acknowledge fault by either or both parties makes it exceptionally challenging to seek and grant forgiveness.

In the Gospel reading from today, Jesus illustrates to the Pharisees the dangers of their own stubbornness. They were given numerous signs and miracles, yet their hardened hearts did not allow them to hear the message nor accept the messenger for who He was, is and to be. Like the rich man in the parable – when his time came and he was ready to repent – it was too late. The rich man and his four brothers had already been given numerous teachings and time to seek out God for forgiveness. Yet, they chose to ignore these teachings and eventually had no relationship with Him.

I’ve written about the strained relationship I have with my brother in the past. Recently, things have gotten a little better. It’s been a long and slow path to recovery, but headed in the right direction. A few weeks ago, we saw each other as we both happened to be transiting through the same airport. A complete coincidence. Although the encounter was much shorter than I had hoped for (and the conversation was not as fluid as I would have wanted) it was certainly better than the frosty tensions in the past. God has been softening my heart and helping me to be less stubborn in how I’ve been handling this situation.

Brothers and sisters – our God is a God of reconciliation. He longs so much for a restored relationship with His people that He sent Jesus, His one and only son to die at the cross for our sins. Let us give praise and glory to Him for His great sacrifice.

(Today’s Oxygen by Steven Su is from our 2016 Archives)

Prayer – Heavenly Father – we pray for softened hearts and a desire for true reconciliation with the ones we’ve hurt and who’ve hurt us. Give us the humility to admit when we’re wrong and mend wounded relationships with those that we love.

Thanksgiving – Lord, we give thanks to You for the teachings of Moses and the prophets that You’ve sent to us. We thank you for the sacrifice of Jesus so that we through Your grace alone can we be reconciled with You.

9 March, Saturday – Spiritual Reset

9 Mar – Memorial for St. Frances of Rome, religious

St. Frances (1384-1440) was an aristocrat by birth. She married at the age of 12, and her marriage lasted 40 years. She was a mother of three before becoming a widow. She joined the Benedictines, and was the foundress of the “Oblates of the Tor de’ Specchi” (Collatines). She is said to have been guided by an archangel only she could see. She spent her life and fortune, both as a laywoman and a religious, in the service of the sick and the poor, including the founding of the first home in Rome for abandoned children. She dictated 97 “Visions”, in which she saw many of the pains of Hell.

On her feast day, priests bless cars due to her patronage of cars and drivers. Frances certainly never drove, but legend says that when she went abroad at night, her guardian angel went before her lighting the road with a headlight-live lantern, keeping her safe in her travels.

Prayer to St. Frances
Dear Frances, you were an exemplary wife, ever faithful to your husband. After his death, you founded and governed the Congregation of Mount Olivet, revealing your great devotion to our Lord’s Passion. Your faith in Angels was rewarded by frequent visions of them. Please pray for Catholics in our day that they may be as dedicated to God as you were. Amen.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 58:9-14

The Lord says this:

If you do away with the yoke,
the clenched fist, the wicked word,
if you give your bread to the hungry,
and relief to the oppressed,
your light will rise in the darkness,
and your shadows become like noon.
The Lord will always guide you,
giving you relief in desert places.

He will give strength to your bones
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water
whose waters never run dry.

You will rebuild the ancient ruins,
build up on the old foundations.
You will be called ‘Breach-mender’,
‘Restorer of ruined houses.’

If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,
and doing business on the holy day,
if you call the Sabbath ‘Delightful’,
and the day sacred to the Lord ‘Honourable’,
if you honour it by abstaining from travel,
from doing business and from gossip,
then shall you find your happiness in the Lord
and I will lead you triumphant over the heights of the land.
I will feed you on the heritage of Jacob your father.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

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Luke 5:27-32

Jesus noticed a tax collector, Levi by name, sitting by the customs house, and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And leaving everything he got up and followed him.

In his honour Levi held a great reception in his house, and with them at table was a large gathering of tax collectors and others. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples and said, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus said to them in reply, ‘It is not those who are well who need the doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the virtuous, but sinners to repentance.’

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You will be like a spring whose waters never run dry

How wonderful and delightful to read of the promises of Christ in today’s first reading. He has made all these great and mighty plans for us, for me, imagine that! I want to be all those things He promised, full of life, strong and resourceful; filled with joy, happiness with endless possibilities. He has painted such a beautiful picture, that my heart yearns to live up to His promises.

I see this passage as an instruction manual — a clear step-by-step guide on how to attain this promise of His. It has also become clearer for me, what this season of Lent is all about. It is a purification process, ridding us of all the darkness that consumes us, a spiritual reset button. Not that we shouldn’t repent and return to God throughout the year, but the Church has given us this period to focus on cleansing ourselves so that we can rise again with our Lord on Easter Sunday, to fully live in His glory.

This has also given me a different perspective of the season — it is not about the doom and gloom of our sinful nature that we should focus on. Yes, we need to repent and do our part, however, in today’s gospel Jesus declared it is for you and me that He became man and walked this world, it is for our salvation that He came. So, yes we are sinful and we need saving, that’s a fact! Nevertheless, He is with us, by our side, there’s nothing to fear but, more importantly, we ought to cast our sight further, to that image and vision He has created us for, to claim that promise He has given; to be that spring whose waters never run dry!

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer – Dear Lord, how wonderful to be called to greatness, how delightful that, in you, we can be the light that rises in darkness. As we continue our Lenten observances, let us cast our sight a little further, while we mourn for our sinful ways, to see the promises you’ve made knowing we will rise again victoriously in you.

Thanksgiving – Thank you Father, for your promises and for the gift of this season, for the chance to re-examine our sinful ways, to have the opportunity to hit the reset button time and time again.

20 November, Tuesday – Faith in Visit

20 November

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Apocalypse 3:1-6,14-22

I, John, heard the Lord saying to me: ‘Write to the angel of the church in Sardis and say, “Here is the message of the one who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: I know all about you: how you are reputed to be alive and yet are dead. Wake up; revive what little you have left: it is dying fast. So far I have failed to notice anything in the way you live that my God could possibly call perfect, and yet do you remember how eager you were. when you first heard the message? Hold on to that. Repent. If you do not wake up, I shall come to you like a thief, without telling you at what hour to expect me. There are a few in Sardis, it is true, who have kept their robes from being dirtied, and they are fit to come with me, dressed in white. Those who prove victorious will be dressed, like these, in white robes; I shall not blot their names out of the book of life, but acknowledge their names in the presence of my Father and his angels. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”

‘Write to the angel of the church in Laodicea and say, “Here is the message of the Amen, the faithful, the true witness, the ultimate source of God’s creation: I know all about you: how you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were one or the other, but since you are neither, but only lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth. You say to yourself, ‘I am rich, I have made a fortune, and have everything I want’, never realising that you are wretchedly and pitiably poor, and blind and naked too. I warn you, buy from me the gold that has been tested in the fire to make you really rich, and white robes to clothe you and cover your shameful nakedness, and eye ointment to put on your eyes so that you are able to see. I am the one who reproves and disciplines all those he loves: so repent in real earnest. Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in to share his meal, side by side with him. Those who prove victorious I will allow to share my throne, just as I was victorious myself and took my place with my Father on his throne. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”’

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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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He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house

For some reason, I seldom accept visitors at home. We are all busy and we cannot keep the house ‘visitor-friendly’. It has come to a point where there are no questions asked if I reject a request to be a host. It is as if people have already accepted that they cannot come to our place so easily.

But what if our visitor was not just a friend or a relative? What if it was Jesus who came knocking at our door? Honestly, I will be hesitant. It will be like saying, “Lord, I am unworthy that You should enter under my roof…”

In our Gospel, the chief tax collector named Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus among the crowd. However, he was too short, so he climbed a sycamore tree. When Jesus arrived at the place, He said, “Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.”  Zacchaeus was very happy to welcome Jesus to his home. The crowd was very judgmental that Jesus chose to stay at a sinner’s house. But Zacchaeus went on his feet and told Jesus, “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.” 

The attitude of Zacchaeus is admirable. He must have a deep desire to be intimate with the Lord. He welcomes Jesus joyfully. He is generous enough to give half his wealth and repay those he has wronged four times. I would say that though he has been branded as a sinner, he wants forgiveness for his sins. Can we imitate what Zacchaeus did? We must, even though it will not be very easy. Like Zacchaeus, we have our own sycamore tree to climb just to see Jesus. And a sycamore tree is a large tree. There will be people who will ridicule and judge us. But we must stand our ground and not falter. And if we really want to be closer to Jesus, we must give the best of us.

Going back to my own personal acceptance of Jesus in my home, I should not hesitate to welcome Jesus in my house. Whatever condition I am in, I must always be happy and joyfully accept Him. Christ has given the best of Him for us. He gave His life to save us from our sins. It is just proper to give my all for Him.

There may also be others who will be hesitant to accept Jesus because of their unworthiness. This is where reconciliation comes in. We repent and seek forgiveness for our sins.  Some may argue why the need for confession when we sin all over again. It is our way of cleansing our soul. Similar to our house or anything we own, we clean it again and again even though we know it will get dirty again and again. We try to keep our soul clean as it is a very great offering to Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, are we ready to accept Jesus in our home?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, please grant us the grace to increase our faith. Help us to grow a deeper relationship with You.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we thank You for forgiving us our sins.  Thank you for giving us the chance to encounter Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

28 May, Saturday – Relinquishing Control

28 May

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Jude 1:17,20-25

Remember, my dear friends, what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ told you to expect. But you, my dear friends, must use your most holy faith as your foundation and build on that, praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves within the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you eternal life. When there are some who have doubts reassure them; when there are some to be saved from the fire, pull them out; but there are others to whom you must be kind with great caution, keeping your distance even from outside clothing which is contaminated by vice.

Glory be to him who can keep you from falling and bring you safe to his glorious presence, innocent and happy. To God, the only God, who saves us through Jesus Christ our Lord, be the glory, majesty, authority and power, which he had before time began, now and for ever. Amen.

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Mark 11:27-33

Jesus and his disciples came to Jerusalem, and as Jesus was walking in the Temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, ‘What authority have you for acting like this? Or who gave you authority to do these things?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I will ask you a question, only one; answer me and I will tell you my authority for acting like this. John’s baptism: did it come from heaven, or from man? Answer me that.’ And they argued it out this way among themselves: ‘If we say from heaven, he will say, “Then why did you refuse to believe him?” But dare we say from man?’ – they had the people to fear, for everyone held that John was a real prophet. So their reply to Jesus was, ‘We do not know.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Nor will I tell you my authority for acting like this.’

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Who gave you authority?

Today, I went for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When I was done with my confession, the priest began to speak and minister to me. This has happened to me several times. As I was listening to what the priest was saying, one side of me accepted what he spoke of obediently, but another side of me questioned if he was speaking to me as an ordinary person, as the priest who knew me so well. Or was he speaking in the person of Jesus Christ who is so loving and forgiving. Who was he to tell me to forgive and let go of things of the past? How would he know or understand exactly how I felt at the time when the sin was committed?

On another occasion, over Sunday lunch, my brother and I were having a conversation about a situation that was bothering me. The conversation got a little bit intense. He had touched on a very sensitive but real part of me that I refused to acknowledge for a long time. He hit a raw nerve. I started to ‘fight back’, tears streaming down my face. My own reaction surprised both of us. I felt the anger and frustration well up within me. How could he be so ‘judgemental’ and all-knowing about how I felt? In truth, he was right. But I simply refused to acknowledge what he said. Yet, he is my brother and he knows me well.

In today’s gospel reading, the scribes and the Pharisees questioned Jesus’ authority to act and teach as he did. Our Lord showed his jurisdiction over the sacred institution of the temple by closing it down. He drove out the merchants, those who bought and sold the animals, overturning the tables of the moneychangers and prohibiting men bringing in fresh supplies of wood and water and clothes. The Pharisees were extremely upset with Jesus – because this very act undermined their authority and was a threat to their source of power. Jesus’ closing down all commercial activity at the temple also hampered monies flowing into the temple and into their own pockets. They sensed the political threat and set out to test Jesus in the hope of eroding his popularity with the people. They were working for themselves to fuel their own power, and not doing the work or will of God.

For us believers today, we seek to exercise our authority not for political power or commercial gain. But do we question Jesus’ authority just because He did not answer our prayers the way we wanted him to? Do we question Him and His ways just because the answers (or lack of) did not go the way we hoped for? Do we feel cornered like the Pharisees when given a choice we did not like?

Brothers and sisters, God has engraved us on the palms of His hands. Does He not know us better than we know ourselves? Will we relinquish our human desire to take control and give Him authority over our lives?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord of our lives, because of Jesus, we know that we can come to you in faith and trust. Whatever we have, we give it to you today. Help us to fully surrender and give you full control and authority over our lives. What we have is Yours.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your faithfulness and mercy. As we read your word today, align our ways with Your ways and tune our hearts to sing your praise.

Monday, 28 Jul – Long Have I Waited For You

28 Jul 

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Jeremiah 13:1-11

The Lord said this to me, ‘Go and buy a linen loincloth and put it round your waist. But do not dip it in water.’ And so, as the Lord had ordered, I bought a loincloth and put it round my waist. A second time the word of the Lord was spoken to me, ‘Take the loincloth that you have bought and are wearing round your waist; up! Go to the Euphrates and hide it in a hole in the rock.’ So I went and hid it near the Euphrates as the Lord had ordered me. Many days afterwards the Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go to the Euphrates and fetch the loincloth I ordered you to hide there.’ So I went to the Euphrates, and I searched, and I took the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. The loincloth was spoilt, good for nothing. Then the word of the Lord was addressed to me, Thus says the Lord: In the same way I will spoil the arrogance of Judah and Jerusalem. This evil people who refuse to listen to my words, who follow the dictates of their own hard hearts, who have followed alien gods, and served them and worshipped them, let them become like this loincloth, good for nothing. For just as a loincloth clings to a man’s waist, so I had intended the whole House of Judah to cling to me – it is the Lord who speaks – to be my people, my glory, my honour and my boast. But they have not listened.’

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Matthew 13:31-35

Jesus put another parable before the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.’

He told them another parable, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.’

In all this Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables; indeed, he would never speak to them except in parables. This was to fulfil the prophecy:

I will speak to you in parables
and expound things hidden since the foundation of the world.

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For just as a loincloth clings to a man’s waist, so I had intended the whole House of Judah to cling to me.

Have you ever had the experience of storing a leather good for a really long time, even almost forgetting about it? When you finally do remember to take it out for use, it has become a complete wreck. The surface of the leather has grown stiff from unuse. In fact, even though at first it looks usable, cracks are revealed and even starts to peel or disintegrate after some handling. It is now damaged and becomes completely useless.

Initially, the first reading from the prophet Jeremiah today struck me as extremely peculiar. God certainly had a strange set of instructions for him. God always seems to ask His prophets to do ridiculous and counter-intuitive acts! In those days, linen was regarded as the material fit for priestly garments. Jeremiah was to buy a brand new piece of loincloth (or undergarment) and wear it without washing. We are not told how long Jeremiah was supposed to wear this linen undergarment without ever dipping it in water to clean it. But he obeyed. The second time God spoke to him, God instructed him to take this soiled piece of undergarment and hide it in a rock near the River Euphrates. Totally bizarre. The significance of these instructions was not revealed until the third time when God spoke and told Jeremiah to retrieve the soiled linen wear. Imagine Jeremiah’s bewilderment and disgust upon finding that dirty rag: ‘The loincloth was spoilt, good for nothing’ (Jer 13:10).

God’s peculiar instructions belied a profound lesson for Jeremiah about the people he was tasked to lead and instruct. Jeremiah would know that the loincloth was the closest piece of garment a man needed to wear, a clothing that clings to his skin in the most intimate of bodily regions. This clothing, God reveals, represents God’s relationship with His people, Israel. However, after repeat use, it was soiled. It was left unwashed and unpurified by the cleaning of water – then hidden away in some dark, dank, hole of a rock. The dirt, grime, and stains were not cleansed. Over time, trapped with the stale dampness of the river waters, this intimate piece of undergarment began to rot.

This was the reality that God was trying to illustrate to His people – do not hide yourselves and your dark ways away from my living cleansing waters, away from the light of my truth and glory, the mercy and redemption I wish to purify you with. Love is relationship – and God is Love.

The healing mercy made available by the Sacrament of Reconciliation was again impressed upon my heart recently when I finally plucked up my courage after struggling with God for so long. How many times I have been humbled to realise my foolishness in keeping myself away from meeting Christ with a heart of contrition, and receiving His healing absolution! I always fight the promptings when my spirit is encrusted with pride and self-righteousness. Yet each time I run to sit at His feet, just to pour out my heart to Him, I am never ever left wanting. He listens, He understands, He forgives. I am readily received back into my Father’s arms.

Come back to me with all your heart
Don’t let fear keep us apart
Trees do bend though straight and tall
So must we to others call

Long have I waited for
Your coming home to me
And living deeply our new life

The wilderness will lead you
To the place where I will speak
Integrity and justice
With tenderness
You shall know.

Do you miss His voice of tenderness, His loving embrace? If you are feeling an echoing coldness in your heart today, don’t keep yourself away from the Lord anymore. Jesus wants to take you up and bring you into Our Heavenly Father’s arms. His love abounds most abundantly when we are broken. It is precisely between these cracks that His light can shine through – and our relationship with the Lord is mended and made new again.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: I want to come back to you with all my heart Lord. Help me overcome this inertia of pride and fear which stumbles me even further, I know that Your perfect love drives out all my fear.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for our priests who tirelessly and generously bring us the mercy and redemption of Christ in the Confessional. They are not here to judge us, they are doctors bringing Christ’s healing graces to us.