15 March, Wednesday — One step, one degree at a time

Wednesday of the 3rd Week of Lent

Deu 4:1,5-9
Mt 5:17-19

“Keep them, observe them and they will demonstrate to the peoples your wisdom and understanding.”

I was blessed to have been called to serve and lead worship at the recently-concluded Prayer Experience Retreat (PER) held at our centre. Over the 3 days, there were many sharings by the retreatants after each prayer session and it is evident that God was working among them. Many stories of healing, of forgiveness and recollection of God’s presence throughout their life journeys, especially during the darkest, bleakest times spoke to our hearts and I myself recalled my encounter with Christ back in 2011 during my very own PER.

As always, on the final day during mass, the homily from the centre’s spiritual director, Fr Ben, touched on how each one was going to feel ‘going down the mountain’. After encountering Christ and getting the spiritual high, how were they going to cope with the realities of life upon going back home, and to the workplace? Admittedly, ‘keeping the laws’ is always a constant struggle for those of us who have made the choice to follow Jesus.

I can only say, from experience, that we need to take baby steps. And to be mindful that the changes will not happen overnight. No one does a 180 degree turn immediately. Just like in the game of golf, it is a matter of one degree at a time. Over the past 12 years since my PER (I myself am astonished at the period), I have faltered more than many times. But as I look back on my journey from my current perspective, the changes have been gradual and there have been many ‘turning points’ along the way. From my experience on the Camino de Santiago to the various pilgrimages I have made, from the difficulties and challenges I have faced at work and at home; and yes, even in ministry. These have helped keep me focused on the ‘narrow path’. In today’s gospel, Jesus reiterates that He has “come not to abolish but to complete them.”

While I am one who is generally compliant in many ways, I have also been known to circumvent rules where necessary in order to achieve a positive (or better) outcome. I sometimes attribute that to my time living overseas when things were a lot more ‘fluid and grey’. But when it comes to God’s teachings, there is no ‘wiggle room’. Of this, I have been reminded many times through bible verses or promptings during my sessions with my spiritual director or when doing the Sacrament of Reconciliation.   

Fr Ben said it plainly in his homily during PER, that God created us in His image and likeness and all He wants for us is to come clean each time we make a confession and to be ‘transfigured’ again. A retreatant shared about how he always offered up his minor sins in order to cover up his serious sins – like the rotten apple/fruit that sits at the bottom of our fruit drawer which we tend to cover up. If we are to demonstrate how our lives are changed or being formed more in God’s likeness, then we must not be afraid to clear our trays of the rotten fruit that dwells within.

Only then can we live up to the commandments and begin to be more observant of how, bit by bit, one degree at a time, we are slowly turning back to God.

Brothers and sisters, the process of turning back to God is a long and arduous one which cannot be done on our own strength. It is through prayer and sacrifice that we will be able to overcome the temptation and desire to go back to our old ways or continue on the ‘easy highway’. Have faith, take courage, and be prepared to get up each time we fall. Seek Him in the confessional so that we can dust ourselves off and walk forward confidently on our new path.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Abba Father, forgive us our transgressions and place in us a new heart each time we fall and sin. Give us the resilience to stay on the path you have made for us. It is not easy but with your graces and love, we will stay the course and be your light to the world.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for always being faithful to us and giving us the free will to choose our paths in life. Thank you for always being there for us when we stumble and thank you for always welcoming us back with open, loving arms in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.


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