1 March, Monday — The continual struggle to be merciful

Monday of the 2nd Week of Lent

Dan 9:4-10
Lk 6:36-38

Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.

Today’s first reading from the book of Daniel is an eloquent prayer for God to forgive his people who have rebelled and sinned against him. I found it a reassuring reminder of our Lord’s infinite mercy for all who repent and turn back to Him — until I got to the Gospel, where Jesus, as part of His Sermon on the Mount, tells his audience to “Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.”

These words, as well as the concise but powerful verses which follow them, have always given me a sinking feeling because they are almost impossible to carry out. Even if I do manage to avoid (or at least think I avoid) the temptation to judge or criticise on one occasion, I will almost certainly encounter another situation where I don’t; and it can sometimes get pretty discouraging to realise how similar my Lenten resolutions are every year. (I have yet to decide on my 2021 ones at the time of my writing this reflection, though I can predict with certainty that I will not be able to fully carry them out throughout the season.)     

But perhaps this process of continuous trying is part of the Lenten experience, as we take stock of our spiritual state and work on how we may have wandered far from God. Even the obstacles and challenges we face as we embark on fasting/prayer/almsgiving/something else can serve as important reminders of our weaknesses and imperfections, as well as our complete reliance on God’s grace and mercy.

Then how can we approach yet another Lent, yet another round of attempting to change and repent at a deeper level? While reading up for today’s reflection I came across a speech given by Pope Francis in 2016 (hyperlink: http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2016/documents/papa-francesco_20160921_udienza-generale.html ), where he reassuringly referred to Jesus’ call for us to be merciful as a ‘life commitment’. Our Holy Father also broadened my perspective on forgiveness by explaining that, “This pillar of forgiveness shows us the gratuitousness of the love of God, who loved us first. Judging and condemning a brother who sins is wrong. Not because we do not want to recognize sin, but because condemning the sinner breaks the bond of fraternity with him and spurns the mercy of God, who does not want to renounce any of his children.” He also stressed that it was important for us to be generous, since “God gives far beyond our merits, but He will be even more generous with those who have been generous on earth.”

This made me realise how God has been immensely merciful and generous with all of us because He wants to strengthen our relationship with Him. Can this realisation permeate our attempts at Lenten resolutions and bring us to a better understanding of how we can slowly but surely reflect our Lord’s compassion and generosity to others?   

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jaclyn Lam)

Prayer: Lord, forgive us for the times we have been quick to judge and criticise. Grant us the humility to recognise our flaws and the grace to accept others as they are and understand where they are coming from.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord, for loving us first. We are grateful for your boundless mercy and generosity, especially in continually granting us the chance to return to You during Lent.

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