October 23, 2022 – 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/102322.cfm)
Have you ever been judged because of what you have done before? Or because of a mistake or failure or sin that you have committed that people around you believed that you are hopeless and beyond redemption? It is truly devastating to be judged by people around us especially when we are “put in a box,” that, as if there is nothing more in us except our sins and failures in life.
Well, aside from being judged by others, each of us too can be the one who judge others because of their mistakes and failures in life. We could have played to be the righteous individuals who try scrutinize people searching for their faults and failures. We could be that mean person whose main intention is to bring other people down by shaming and gossiping their weaknesses in order to hide our own sins. This happens among our families, circle of friends, communities and our workplaces.
This Sunday, I would like you to listen first to one of the members of the Redemptorist Youth Ministry. Miss Kirsten Dañas will share her reflections tonight. And so, let us discover together how the Lord invites us. Let, us welcome Miss Kirsten.
Sharing of Miss Kirsten
Three years ago, I met this person, she was new to us, she was quiet and so respectful. As time goes by, I can see how genuine she was, that’s why it was not hard for us to treat her like our younger sister. We became good friends, we share stories, we have each other’s company, we let her feel that she always belongs to us. There was this moment when we were talking to our colleagues that she was always bragging about “Loyalty or being faithful” when it comes to a relationship. And yes, there was no second thought on that, we are on the same line when it comes to that part. I can see how she was as a girlfriend to her partner. They were together for like three years, her partner was a good man, anything she asked was being given to her. She was very lucky to have such a wonderful man, a-one-call-away-partner anyone could ever asked.
Months have passed, her partner got laid off from his job, I don’t know the whole reason behind it, but I saw in her eyes that she was also affected with that problem. Eventually, everything changed, I didn’t know why, but we noticed that she became closer with our co-worker whom she really didn’t like because of the past of this person whom she called “Babaero”.
At first, I thought, she was just longing for a brotherly love because that person also gave her everything she needed. Until such time, I never would have imagined that brotherly love turned into Cheating. Yes, she was cheating with her boyfriend that time. We were so disappointed with her, she was the one bragging about loyalty yet she ate all the words she said. We distanced ourselves from her as if she didn’t exist, to the point that we judged her, talking beyond her back about what she did, and even called her a “Gold Digger”, because that only started when her boyfriend can no longer support her needs.
I tried reaching out to her telling her to stop what she was doing. But, she chose to continue such actions. Though I was not expecting it, but this situation and her actions affected our working environment. Our workplace became toxic day by day until such a time that I felt I can no longer stand working there. I left that place without even talking to her or even saying good bye.
Yet, years have passed, I met this man, the reason behind my friend’s unfaithfulness. He told me everything, that what they did was wrong. They were together for almost a year, yet they realized also to end their relationship for some reasons. A shocking truth struck me actually, when that man told me something about her. That friend of mine was a victim of abuse and greed from her own family most especially from her own parents and brothers. They wanted her to get in touch with anyone as long as they can benefit with the money that their daughter can provide them. How selfish her parents are!
I was speechless that time. I realized, who am I to judge her that easily without knowing her story? Knowing all the truth, I felt so sad, I wanted to hug her and I wanted to say sorry for the judgment I made against her. I really didn’t know that she was pressured by her own family. She should have been protected and cherished in the first place yet she was used and betrayed by her own family.
I know that I can no longer take back all the things I did and said. But that circumstance made me realize a lot that indeed, it’s okay to feel down sometimes, it’s okay to feel sad, it’s okay to feel like giving up and it’s okay to have negative emotions. If ever we see someone who feels like this, let us embrace them, speak to them, listen first to their story, and allow them to open their heart. Most importantly, this calls me to be a non-judgmental person, to give my time and presence in order to accompany a friend. This will certainly bring significant and positive change in their lives.
Now, being in this ministry for more than a decade brings me closer to Jesus and I realized how the Lord has changed me to become a better person by accepting that I am also a sinner in need of forgiveness, and that my failures and mistakes are rooms for me to learn and grow.
She shared to us her experience that helped her to realize better about herself and her actions.
The Gospel story that we have heard today conveys this message to us. To become self-righteous only blinds us. Thinking highly too much of ourselves will even prevent us from asking God to show his mercy upon us because we already think that we do not need God’s mercy. Therefore, the self-righteous attitude of the Pharisee is basically a denial of God, a rejection of God’s mercy because he felt that he did not need it. Moreover, this attitude only leads us to build invisible walls that separate us from others.
Thus, we might still have that idea of condemning our brothers and sisters who are considered terrible sinners. We too might have that attitude of separating those people whom we consider as unclean for fear of being contaminated and be associated with them.
On this Sunday, Jesus invites us to rather look closely at ourselves and to examine better our intentions, thoughts and actions so that it may also lead us to recognize our failures and sins. This was the attitude of the Tax Collector and the very reason why he could not look up to heaven. When he saw himself, he felt disgusted for the sins and failures he had done against God and his neighbors. He must have cheated and corrupted a lot of money. However, looking at himself, he realized his need of mercy and the need to be converted. That same realization will hopefully lead us to also join the tax collector in praying, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
As the Lord defends us and shows us mercy, we are called to be more understanding to those who failed and sinned but not in the sense of condoning and tolerating such failures and sins. Thus, it is very important that as we exercise understanding, we also need to confront each other of our mistakes and failures. We are invited to be merciful rather than condemning.
Therefore, to both the righteous and the sinners, God does not condemn but God rather desires our healing, reconciliation and fullness of life for all.
This calls us, then, to see more in the person of our brothers and sisters, to stop our harsh judgments and condemnations, to stop our gossiping, image shaming, name-calling and bullying that only destroy the person of our brother or sister.
I would like to invite you then, to embrace a family member, or a relative or a friend whom we know have sinned against us so that reconciliation will also begin in us. In this way then, we will hopefully become witnesses of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Kabay pa.