23 October, Saturday — Equally sinful; equally loved

Oct 23 – Memorial for St. John Capistrano, Priest

St. John (1386–1456) was the son of a former German knight. His father died when John was still young. He studied law at the University of Perugia, and became a lawyer in Naples, Italy. He was the reforming governor of Perugia under King Landislas of Naples. When war broke out between Perugia and Malatesta in 1416, John tried to broker a peace but instead, his opponents ignored the truce, and John became a prisoner of war.

During his imprisonment, he came to the decision to change vocations. He had married just before the war, but his marriage was never consummated and, with his bride’s permission, it was annulled. He became a Franciscan at Perugia on 4 October 1416 and was a fellow student with St. James of the Marshes, and a disciple of St. Bernadine of Siena. He was a noted preacher while still a deacon, beginning his work in 1420.

He was an itinerant priest throughout Italy, Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Russia, preaching to tens of thousands. He established communities of Franciscan renewal, and was reported to heal by making the Sign of the Cross over a sick person. He wrote extensively, mainly against the heresies of the day.

After the fall of Constantinople, he preached Crusade against the Muslim Turks. At the age of 70, he was commissioned by Pope Callistus II to lead it, and marched off at the head of 70,000 Christian soldiers. He won the great battle of Belgrade in the summer of 1456. He died in the field a few months later, but his army delivered Europe from the Muslims.

– Patron Saint Index

Rm 8:1-11
Lk 13:1-9

No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did!

The past few weeks have been especially tough for me, as I struggle with an increasingly heavy workload – one that is exacerbated by frictions at home. There are days when I wonder: how did things become so bad? Why is it that no matter how hard I work or how much I cook and clean, the work and housework is never done? Worse yet, why is more constantly asked of me, when there is so precious little left even for myself?

It was during a spare moment that I had, while meditating on the rosary, that it occurred to me that perhaps I have spent too much time thinking about myself. Did Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane ask why He had to suffer more than others? Did Mary at Calvary ask why she had to experience so much more pain than other mothers? No. They simply got on with it and did what God the Father required of them.

In today’s gospel, Jesus points out the equality that we all face as sinners. No one sinner is more sinful than another. We are all equally sinful. Yet at the same time, we are all offered an equal chance at redemption and salvation. All we need to do is to repent, for if we do not repent, we will all perish as all the other unrepentant sinners did. Jesus is, of course, speaking of a spiritual death, a death that is brought upon ourselves in our wilful disobedience of God and in our inflated sense of self-worth.

We are all equally sinful and equally loved in the eyes of God. Like the gardener in the gospel, our Lord continues to wait for us year after year, so that we may repent and bear true spiritual fruit in His garden. This is of course easier said than done. Repentance requires daily effort and a constant humbling (and even denial) of the self. As we slog in the fields of corporate toil and scrabble for cold loose change in our daily existence, let us not forget to work hard too at our repentance and spiritual purification.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, we ask for Your forgiveness, for the sins that we have committed and for those that we may commit in the future. We pray that You will grant us the strength, fortitude and humility to continue denying our sinful nature and seeking Your holy sanctification instead.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for His patience and love. Even as we continue to stumble and fall, He awaits us with arms outstretched.

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