Saturday, February 24, 2018
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Moments

Forgiven? Forgiven!

The story is told that Heaven welcomes thousands of people every day. One day, there is a standstill at the gates of Heaven because many of those trying to get in are not qualified for entry. Traffic is not moving, and there is great anxiety as to what will happen next. Finally, there is an announcement: “Out of His goodness, compassion and mercy, God the Father has declared general amnesty!” The gates of Heaven are opened and there is great rejoicing and jubilation! (End of the story? Not quite. Read on.)

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In today’s Gospel (Lk. 7, 36-50), we hear the story of a simple woman who received from Jesus a general amnesty for all her sins. She did not say a word, but with her humility and tears, she showed her sorrow and repentance. Yes, they say little who love much. They say little who have been forgiven much. More than words, may we, who have been forgiven much, live grateful and meaningful lives.

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The sinful woman was forgiven, and as a result, she became happy and free. In one of our pilgrimages, we had as a group member a woman who was proud and showy, so possessed with her possessions, so to speak. But all that changed one morning when she lost all her money to a pickpocket. From that time on she became humble and obedient, joyful and free. Whereas before she was so uptight and fearful, all throughout our journey she was so peaceful and calm. When asked why, she said: “I have nothing to lose anymore. There is nothing that thieves can get from me!” Those who hit rock-bottom can finally make their way up. What is it that makes you fearful and not free?

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“Your sins are forgiven.” These are the most consoling words the sinful woman heard from Jesus. When was the last time you heard these words, and fully believed and gratefully acknowledged that you have really and truly been forgiven? There is no failure on God’s part. He forgives, He has forgiven, He will always forgive us. The failure is on our part because we often do not truly acknowledge our sins, do not fully repent, or if we do so, it is because of fear of punishment.

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“Your faith has saved you; go now in peace.” These are words so comforting and liberating from Jesus! Why do many of us not feel the peace and assurance that we have been forgiven? Is it because we often do not really forgive ourselves? Instead of listening to the Holy Spirit telling us to be grateful, we often listen more to the evil one telling us to doubt God’s love and to go on feeling guilty.

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What is the sequel to our general amnesty story? While everybody was rushing joyfully through the gates of Heaven, there was a group that refused to enter, saying that this was all so unfair because their good deeds and virtues on earth were not rewarded and were disregarded. Because they refused to go in, they were banned from entering Heaven. Why? Because they were still so selfish and self-righteous. Instead of rejoicing over the goodness and mercy of God for sinners, they were still so focused on their merits, expecting privileges because of their righteousness. Our journey to Heaven is not a race or a contest. The more, the better!

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Which one are you? A proud, unrepentant sinner—so full of alibis, rationalization, procrastination, and denial? Or a proud, self-righteous, condescending, holier-than-thou person? Whichever you are, the common denominator is the word “proud.” The lesson we all need to learn is: Whether sinner or saint, let us not be proud.

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In our journey to God’s heart, let us focus more on Him, and less on ourselves and others. Our journey will then become more peaceful and free. Let us not push or box out each other. Rather, let us help each other go on and get there. Pride is the single biggest and most effective tool of the evil one to distract us and destroy us. It was very effective when he first used it to tempt Adam and Eve. It still is, in the saints and sinners among us.

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I received this inspiring message from my sister, Bing, about a tribe in Africa that has a very unique way of dealing with “bad” people. The members of the tribe take the person to the center of the village and surround him for two days, telling him all the good things he has done. It is the belief of the tribe that each person is good, and that by affirmation, not by condemnation, “bad” people reconnect with their goodness and their authentic selves again.

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Think about this: “Your value in God’s eyes never changes no matter how many times you fail Him or how many mistakes you make; your value in His eyes remains exactly the same as a child He made; nothing you do will ever cause God to love you less.”

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A moment with the Lord:

Thank You, oh, loving and forgiving God, for giving us hope in spite of our failures and sins. Amen.

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