23 January, Sunday — Moving Forward in God’s Love

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Neh 8:2-6,8-10
1 Cor 12:12-30
Lk 1:1-4,4:14-21

Do not be sad: the joy of the Lord is your stronghold.

As we enter our third year of living with social restrictions in this time of pandemic, most of us probably feel tired by it all. Yet, we move on. It may be slow, but at least it is forward.

If there is one positive thing that has emerged from this, it is that it has offered me (and probably most of us) a chance for protracted self-reflection. It has got me thinking a good deal about life, my place in it, and my purpose moving forward.

When I think back of all that I have achieved in my life so far, I question what exactly it is that I have done that I could be proud of. I’m not looking for times of receiving awards or recognition, but moments of real achievement where I dared to dream that I could share with my children with pride. Moments where I believed in myself to be better than I thought I could be, and doing something that made a positive difference, or surmounting difficulties and emerging on the other side better for it. I want to show my children something that says “Look, I had faith in myself and struggled through the storm and I am all the better for it!” Sometimes, I feel like I have wasted a good part of my life being too scared or too lazy to seize the opportunities in front of me. Other days, I feel immense guilt for not being a better person, for saying or doing things that I would not have been proud of, or falling short of what I know I should have done. Sometimes, I ask “What is the point?” when I’ve fallen so far behind, yet each time when I feel helpless, I know that the only way is forward. Whether I do so or not is a choice. A choice that God has put in front of me — to stay stuck where I am in life as a person, or to suck it up, be brave and keep going.

The people in today’s reading in the book of Nehemiah must have felt somewhat similar — they were sad because Ezra had spoken and interpreted clearly what their conscience had been whispering to them. The truth that they had sinned and not acted according to God’s Word was laid before them, and they felt immense guilt that moved them to tears. But the truth also sets us free.

Once confronted by their shortcomings, there was no need to hide. The people’s tears were evidence enough of their sin and realisation of it. Now that we have the knowledge, what are we going to do with it? It is not God’s intention for us to remain in limbo, to feel guilt and shame for the rest of our lives. God’s intention is for us to live in joy with Him, to feel His joy, and the source of that joy is to be in His presence (Psalm 16:11). When we are right with God, we feel His presence within us. Our thoughts and actions are aligned with Him, there is harmony and peace in our being. We are not fighting against Him; we are working with Him. And when we work in tandem with God, wonderful things happen. He gives us a chance to correct our actions, a chance to turn back. A chance to do better, be better.

God wants us to be happy, He wants us to be right in our lives. Which is why today’s verse is so important to keep in the forefront of our minds: “Do not be sad, for the joy of the Lord is your stronghold.” This is what we need to move forward in our lives. Yes, we can feel guilt for our sins, but we must set aside the helplessness that often comes with guilt and shame. God wants to help fix the shortcomings in our lives, and that should fill us with great joy because that also means He is willing to forgive us and help us. Because when a person is down and broken, there is only so low one can go, and God recognises that. Let us be hopeful then that there is salvation yet for us and let the knowledge of that move us forward, slowly but surely. Be joyful for the second chances that God gives us. Be joyful that He loves us and wants us to remain in His love, and when we accept that, our joy will be complete (Jn 15:10-11).

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, You have always believed in me even when I stopped believing in myself. You encouraged me to strive on even when the odds were against me. You always wanted me to succeed even though I failed You and myself numerous times. Your faith in me is humbling, and I pray that I will one day be worthy of Your unflinching belief in me.

Thanksgiving: I give You thanks oh Lord, for the unending love You have for me. It propels me forward and raises me up on eagle’s wings. Thank you for the second chances and more, thank you for Your faith in me.

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