25 February, Saturday — Repentance

Today we welcome Andrew Sia, who grew up Catholic since birth. For him, weekly Sunday mass and Christmas was about spending time in church.

Then at age 27, he was asked to convert to become a Baptist in order to marry his Protestant girlfriend. Standing before Mother Mary’s altar in the Church of St Francis Xavier (SFX), he knew that being Catholic was not negotiable. So he started life in Hong Kong as a bachelor. Returning to Singapore a year later, he found his Catholic wife in SFX and got married the next year. Marriage introduced Andrew to the music ministry. He plays the violin and has been active with many choir engagements for more than 25 years. Andrew has also actively pursued bible knowledge through BAT (Bible Adventure Team) ministry for the last 15 years. He now speaks and promotes the Catholic faith fearlessly.

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Is 58:9-214
Lk 5:27-32

“I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance.”

Today is my maiden scripture reflection for Oxygen. I will remember the date — February 25.

There are two scripture passages that have always vexed me. Writing this requires me to confront one of them (stated above). Perhaps, I will finally be at peace.

But first, the readings of the day (i.e. Isaiah 58:9-14 and Luke 5:27-32) show God’s pleading call to sinners. With mercy and compassion, he welcomes those who acknowledge their sins, seek forgiveness and follow his commandments.

This is clearly reflected in Isaiah’s passage. “You shall call, and the Lord will answer, you shall cry and he will answer.”With sincere repentance and pleading for God’s help, the reformed sinner will be “like a watered garden, like a spring of water. He will be tasked to lead others back to God to “raise up a new foundation of many generations” and he will “take delight in the Lord”.

Luke’s gospel reinforces this message to change our heart. It tells of the famous episode where Matthew, the despised tax collector, wholeheartedly embraces Jesus when he said, “Follow me”. Despite fierce criticisms from the Pharisees, Jesus retorts, “Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”.          

The conversion of Matthew was so complete that he became one of the 12 apostles and the author of the FIRST gospel book in the New Testament. The many lessons from this episode include the following points:

1. God’s irresistible grace is joined to the calling of Jesus for those who will listen.
2. Jesus is the divine, merciful and compassionate physician. He will heal your soul.
3. When your neighbour stumbles through sin, we should not criticize. Instead, we must help.
4. “Follow Me” means not to pursue perishable gains and earthly riches (the ways of the world).
5. Aim for heavenly riches and eternal life in Christ.

So why then, does Matthew’s story of hope vex me? One word — Righteousness.

Jesus said this with clear negative connotations. He highlighted the selfishness and pride of the Pharisees for good reason. However, I would always wonder about Christians who are righteous in the ‘right’ way. They love God and practice their faith well. It seems there is less scripture ‘support’ or encouragement to be good.

Logically then, we can live a culture of society today with values that contradicts Christian beliefs. Eventually, we will still be forgiven…like Matthew.

Fortunately, writing this reflection has made me read Isaiah’s passage deeply. Three points come to mind:

1. We repent of our sins so that we can lead others back to God.
2. Our focus should not be on ourselves, but on doing God’s will.
3. Doing God’s will bring immense joy to our lives. So repent, ASAP.

Brothers and sisters, I think I am less vexed now.      

(Today’s OXYGEN by Andrew Sia)

Prayer: Father, send the Holy Spirit to teach us how to pray for repentance and the strength to do your will.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, you have risen and saved us. You are the cause of our joy.

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