Archive for August, 2013

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, August 31, 2013 — Overcome Your Fears And Reach Out To Others

August 31, 2013

Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, 16th century painting.

Saturday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 430

Reading 1 1 Thes 4:9-11

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Brothers and sisters: On the subject of fraternal charity you have no need for anyone to write you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another. Indeed, you do this for all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Nevertheless we urge you, brothers and sisters, to progress even more, and to aspire to live a tranquil life, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your own hands, as we instructed you.
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Responsorial Psalm PS 98:1, 7-8, 9

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R. (9) The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice. Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done wondrous deeds; His right hand has won victory for him, his holy arm. R. The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice. Let the sea and what fills it resound, the world and those who dwell in it; Let the rivers clap their hands, the mountains shout with them for joy. R. The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice. Before the LORD, for he comes, for he comes to rule the earth; He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with equity. R. The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.
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Gospel Mt 25:14-30

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Jesus told his disciples this parable: “A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one– to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money. After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’”
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Homily By The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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A cursory reading of today’s scripture texts, especially the gospel, leads us to presume that the moral of the parable is about the importance of using our charisms and talents fully.  After all, what is wrong with the man who kept the talent? He was ironically the faithful servant in small things, for he knew precisely that his master was, “a hard man”, reaping where he has “not sown and gathering” where he has “not scattered”.  Isn’t that what most people do? Some keep their money in the house, for fear of the bank going bust, and even if they do keep it in the bank, they would only get a paltry return in interest payouts. Likewise, many are afraid to invest in other instruments, for fear of getting their fingers burnt.  In fact the first two men could be deemed to have taken too much risk. What if they had lost all their investments?  Would the master still praise and commend them?

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So if we wish to be faithful to the original intent of this parable we must interpret it in the light of the kingdom.  This requires that we interpret this parable firstly from the situation in the life of Jesus.  Among the rules for the correct interpretation of parables, the punch line is always the last line or the character of the story.  We must not interpret the parables in an allegorical manner if we want to understand the original intent. Who was the audience if not the Jews, especially the leaders? The target of this parable was directed at the Jewish leaders in particular, and the Jews, because they had kept the gift of God for themselves instead of sharing with the nations.  The Jews had excluded sinners and pagans from the kingdom.  By multiplying the laws and applying a legalistic observance of them, they not only protected their religion from being contaminated by others but they also excluded them.

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Thus the focus of the parable is not the profit made, but rather the attitude involved.  Truly, who is the one that is insecure and protective of this gift?  Thus Jesus was condemning the Jewish leaders who, like the servant, apparently thought they were doing the right thing by hiding the talent because of fear.  Take note of what he said, “Sir, I heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground.  Here it is; it was yours, you have it back”.

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When the master discovered how the fear of the servant in taking risks had led to complacency, he said, “You wicked and lazy servant!  So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered?  Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest.” The point is that the kingdom of God in the teaching of Jesus has a universalistic dimension. It is offered to all. Israel was meant to be an instrument of salvation for the nations.  Instead they kept the gift of the Covenant for themselves and excluded the Gentiles.  It is this exclusivity and the lack of courage to venture beyond their race and national boundary that was condemned.

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Applying the parable to the Christian community of the evangelist, Matthew, the primitive Jewish Christians could have fallen into the same trap of reserving Christ for themselves. We know that the early Church had difficulty reaching out to the Gentiles for fear of compromising their customs and traditions.  But for St Matthew, it was important that between then and the Second Coming of Christ, the Church must be in mission, for the text says:“A man on his way abroad summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them … Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them”.   She has the duty to extend the kingdom of God by proclaiming Christ to the whole world and not be exclusive in her attitude towards non-Jews. Again, this demands that she takes risks in reaching out to the nations.

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How do we apply this to our situation as Church today?  Aren’t we faced with the same problems?  We lack courage in taking risks in the proclamation of the gospel.  We are afraid, like the servant, of venturing to unknown territories.  Too often in the name of preserving the truth of our traditions, we are not willing to adapt the conventional ways of ministry and Church administration to the changing needs and situation of our times. Stifled at times by institutional preoccupations and internal politicking, Church leaders are always in danger of becoming inward-looking for fear of losing their status quo rather than be proactive in seizing the opportunities of the time.  When we are overly rigid with regard to liturgical rules or some outdated traditions, whether in terms of worship or institutional structures, we might find ourselves redundant in the world unless we are willing to adapt.  Isn’t it true that because of fear, some Church leaders, clerical or lay, stifle the energy and dynamism of our youths, forcing them to seek refuge or find involvement elsewhere simply because we are afraid to invest in them, or we discourage them from adopting new ways of proclaiming the Gospel to their contemporaries who are hungering for God?

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All of us who are in some ways custodians of the Good News are also afraid to take risks.  We are afraid to ask relevant questions or confront critical issues, reflecting on them seriously and finding new ways to tackle the new concerns.  Instead, we learn by memory or rote, without questioning and understanding the answers of the Church to the world’s problems.  Unless we are willing to risk our lives by asking and finding new ways to proclaim the gospel creatively, we too could stand condemned, like the lazy, or rather, complacent servant.  By simply giving external obedience to the rules of the Church and half convinced of the teachings of the Church, we cannot make true witnesses and teachers of the faith.

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However, there is a price to be paid for trying to play safe.  For the master said, “So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”  Indeed, by being protective of our interests, we will lose whatever little we might have.  A leader who is protective of his members and becomes cliquish and exclusive will eventually find that there are no new members to replace the old. By trying to hold on to their positions, they will find themselves redundant in the lives of their people.

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Indeed, even in daily life, in being overly prudent, we stand to lose what we are afraid to lose. So a person who is afraid to lose his money and keeps them in the bank instead of investing them, will discover that the interest earned cannot compensate for the rate of inflation and so in real terms, the value of his money has dwindled.  An overprotective parent will find his or her children growing up to be either rebellious or lacking in self-confidence. A leader who is afraid of his competitors and tries to put them down, or suppresses the talents of his subordinates, will only do himself a disfavour.  Rather than seeing our opponents as obstacles to our success, we must employ them and their differing outlook in life to arrive at a more holistic solution to tackling the challenges at hand.  Without venturing, we will lose whatever little we have.

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Conversely when we take risks, we are rewarded.  Truly, if the early Church did not take the risk of allowing Gentiles into the Church, Christianity would not have been a world-wide religion.  Vatican II also took risks in self-renewal and in reaching out to the world by updating her theology and pastoral approach.  What about the local Church and the organization you are leading?  Are you a proactive, visionary and courageous leader who is not afraid of change?  Are you ready to take the best of what we have in the world today and make use of them for the growth of the faith, instead of being myopic and lamenting the current trends of society?  Bemoaning and complaining is but a form of escapism.  In every danger lies an opportunity and every opportunity demands that we take risks.

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So let us take the exhortation of St Paul seriously, for he tells us to “go on making even greater progress and to make a point of living quietly, attending to your own business and earning your living, just as we told you to.”  Instead of spending our time being busybodies and worrying about what others should be doing, we should look inwards and be initiators, doing what we can for the kingdom, setting the example of being open-minded and taking calculated risks for the extension of the kingdom of God.  Truly, a Christian who dares not take risks simply does not trust in the power of the Lord to change the situation.  We must surrender our plans to the Lord.  Like St Paul, we must be ready to change our mindset and explore new avenues to proclaim the gospel.

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http://www.csctr.net/reflections/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites

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Reflection

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Today’s Gospel presents to us the parable of the talents. This parable was between two other parables: the Parable of the Ten virgins (Mt 25, 1-13) and the Parable of the final Judgment (Mt 25, 31-46).These three parables clarify and orientate persons concerning the coming of the Kingdom. The parable of the Ten Virgins insists on vigilance: the Kingdom may arrive at any moment. The Parable of the final Judgment says that in order to possess the Kingdom it is necessary to accept the little ones. The Parable of the talents orientates on what to do to make the Kingdom grow. It speaks of the gifts and the charisma which persons receive from God. Every person has qualities, knows something that he/she can teach others. Nobody is only a pupil, nobody is only a teacher. We all learn from one another.

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A key to understand the parable: one of the things which has greater influence on the life of the people is the idea which we have of God. Among the Jews who followed the Pharisees, some imagined that God was a severe judge, who treated persons according to the merit they had gained through the observance of the Law. That produced fear in the persons and prevented them from growing. And, especially, prevented them from opening a space within them, to receive and accept the new experience of God which Jesus communicated. In order to help these persons, Matthew tells the story of the talents.

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• Matthew 25, 14-15: The door of entrance in the parable. Jesus tells the story of a man, who before going abroad, entrusted his goods to his servants, giving them five, two and one talents, according to the capacity of each one. One talent was equal to 34 kg. of gold, which is not something small! In last instance, each one receives the same amount, because he receives “according to his capacity”. Anyone who has a big cup, receives a full cup. The man went on his journey, abroad where he remained for a long time. The story produces a certain moment of suspense. One does not know for what purpose the man entrusts his money to the servants; neither does one know the end.

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Matthew 25, 16-18: The way of acting of each one of the servants. The two first ones work and make the money produce a double amount. But the one who received one talent buried it so as not to lose it. It is a question of the goods of the Kingdom which are given to persons and to the communities according to their capacity. Everyone receives some good of the Kingdom, but not all respond in the same way!

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Matthew 25, 19-23: Rendering an account of the first and the second servants, and response of the master. After a long time, the man returned. The first two servants say the same thing: “Sir, you entrusted me with five/two talents, here are five/two more that I have made”. And the master gives the same response: “Well done, good and trustworthy servant, you have shown you are trustworthy in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness”.

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Matthew 25, 24-25: Rendering of account of the third servant. The third servant comes and says: “Sir, I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you had not sown and gathering where you had not scattered, so I was afraid and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is!” In this phrase we have a mistaken idea of God which is criticized by Jesus. The servant considers God as a severe master. Before such a God, the human being is afraid and hides behind the exact and narrow-minded observance of the Law. The person thinks that acting in this way, the severity of the legislator will not punish him. In reality, such a person does not believe in God, but believes only in self and in the observance of the Law. This person closes up in self, separates herself from God and cannot be concerned about others. This person becomes incapable to grow and develop like a free person. This false image of God isolates the human being, kills the community, puts an end to joy and impoverishes life.

Matthew 25, 26-27: The response of the Master to the third servant. The response of the master is ironic. He says: “Wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered; you should have deposited my money with the bankers and on my return I would have got my money back with interest!” The third servant was not coherent with the severe image which he had of God. If he imagined that God was severe, he should have, at least, placed the money in the bank. Then, he is condemned not by God but by the mistaken idea that he had of God and which makes him more immature and fearful than what he should have been. It was not possible for him to be coherent with the erroneous image which he had of God, because fear dehumanized and paralyzed life.

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Matthew 25, 28-30: The last word of the Lord which clarifies the parable. The master orders to take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but anyone who has not, will be deprived even of what he has.” This is the key which clarifies everything. In reality, the talents, the “money of the master”, the goods of the Kingdom, are love, service, sharing. It is everything which helps the community to grow and reveals the presence of God. Anyone who closes himself in self out of fear of losing the little that he has, at the end will lose even the little that he has. But the person who does not think of self, and gives herself to others, grows and receives in turn, in an unexpected way, everything which she has given and even more. Anyone who loses his life will find it, and anyone who has the courage to lose his life will find it”.

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The different money of the Kingdom. There is no difference between those who have received more and those who have received less. All have their gift according to their capacity. What is important is that this gift be placed at the service of the Kingdom and make the goods of the Kingdom grow. These gifts are love, fraternal spirit, sharing. The principal key of the parable does not consist in making the talents render something, but rather in relating with God in a correct way. The two first servants ask for nothing, they do not seek their own good, they do not want things for themselves, they do not close up in self, they do not calculate. In the most natural way, almost without being aware and without seeking their own merit, they begin to work, in such a way that the gift received from God may render for God and for the Kingdom. The third servant is afraid, and because of this does nothing. According to the norms of the ancient law, he acts correctly. He responds to the exigencies. He loses nothing and gains nothing. And because of this he loses even what he had. The Kingdom is a risk. Anyone who does not want to run risks will lose the Kingdom!

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Personal questions

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In our community, do we try to know and value the gifts of each person? Is our community a place where persons are able to make known their talents and make them available to others? Sometimes, the gifts of some generate envy and competitiveness in others. How do we react?

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How is the following phrase to be understood: “For anyone who has will be given more and will have in abundance; but anyone who does not have will be taken away even what he has”?

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Concluding Prayer

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We are waiting for Yahweh; he is our help and our shield, for in him our heart rejoices, in his holy name we trust. (Ps 33,20-21)

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http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-matthew-2514-30

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Related:

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Art at the top of this page:

“Saint Paul Writing His Epistles.” By Valentin de Boulogne (circa 1600)

 

The apostle is sitting at a desk, with quill in hand which he dips into an inkwell, surrounded by books, manuscripts, and a note book, all of which he consults in composing his letter. The picture was produced approximately 150 years after the publication of the Gutenberg Bible. It is an unmistakable example of a reproduction of the media situation as it presented itself around 1600. Paul is a writer, who compares different texts–one of them being a printed text (presumably the Hebrew Bible)–in order to produce his own text. This is how the typographic imagination, a thoroughly literary, text-centered imagination, conceived of the composition of the Pauline letters: texts grow out of other texts! The only concession to the ancient setting is a scroll in the right corner of the table. It requires a strenuous act of historical imagination to remember that the Paul of the first century did not write but dictate his letters, that all his writings, including the most intricate theological argumentations in Galatians and Romans, were mentally composed, and that large segments of his arguments are structured in keeping with the conventions of Hellenistic-Jewish rhetoric. The painting succeeded in displacing Paul’s oral, rhetorical, scribal culture with the exclusively literary, textual, typographical media culture of the 16th century, and it did so around the same time when rhetoric was eliminated from the curriculum at most European universities.

http://payingattentiontothesky.com/2010/07/28/benedict
-xvi-on-saint-paul-and-the-doctrine-of-justification/

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, August 29, 2013 — Government corruption, rule of law, sex, murder: In 2,000 Years, How Far Have We Come Since The Death of John the Baptist?

August 29, 2013

Art: John Baptizes Jesus by Guido Reni

Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist Lectionary: 428/634

Reading 1 1 Thes 3:7-13

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We have been reassured about you, brothers and sisters, in our every distress and affliction, through your faith. For we now live, if you stand firm in the Lord.
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What thanksgiving, then, can we render to God for you, for all the joy we feel on your account before our God? Night and day we pray beyond measure to see you in person and to remedy the deficiencies of your faith. Now may God himself, our Father, and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.
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Responsorial Psalm PS 90:3-5a, 12-13, 14 and 17

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R. (14) Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy! You turn man back to dust, saying, “Return, O children of men.” For a thousand years in your sight are as yesterday, now that it is past, or as a watch of the night. R. Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy! Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart. Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants! R. Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy! Fill us at daybreak with your kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days. And may the gracious care of the LORD our God be ours; prosper the work of our hands for us! Prosper the work of our hands! R. Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!
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Salome Dancing Before King Herod circa 1887; Joslyn Art Museum
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Gospel Mk 6:17-29

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Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
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Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee.
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Herodias’ own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.” He even swore many things to her, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”
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The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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Today we commemorate the martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist. The Gospel gives a description of how John the Baptist was killed, without a process, during a banquet, victim of the corruption and arrogance of Herod and of his court.
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Mark 6, 17-20. The cause of the imprisonment and murdering of John. Herod was an employee of the Roman Empire, who commanded in Palestine since the year 63 before Christ. Caesar was the Emperor of Rome. He insisted above all, in an efficient administration which would provide revenue for the Empire and for him. The concern of Herod was his own promotion and his security. This is why he repressed any type of corruption. He liked to be called the benefactor of the people, but in reality he was a tyrant (cf. Lk 22, 25).
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Flavio Giuseppe, a writer of that time, informs that the reason for the imprisonment of John the Baptist was the fear that Herod had of a popular uprising or revolt. The denunciation of John the Baptist’s against the depraved morality of Herod (Mk 6, 18), was the drop which made the glass overflow, and John was imprisoned.
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Mark 6, 21-29: The plot of the murderer. The anniversary and banquet of the feast, with dancing and orgy were the occasion for the murdering of John. It was an environment in which the powerful of the kingdom met together and in which the alliances were formed. In the feast participated “the great of the court, two officials and two important persons from Galilee”. This was the environment in which the murdering of John the Baptist was decided. John, the prophet, was a living denunciation of that corrupt system, and this is why he was eliminated under the pretext of a personal vengeance. All this reveals the moral weakness of Herod. So much power accumulated in the hands of one man who had no control of self. In the enthusiasm of the feast, of the celebration and of wine, Herod makes a promise by oath to a young girl, a dancer. Superstitious as he was, he thought that he had to keep the promise made by oath. For Herod, the life of the subjects was worthless. This is how Mark gives an account of the fact as it happened and leaves the communities the task of drawing the conclusion.
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Between lines, the Gospel today gives much information on the time in which Jesus lived and on the way in which the power was exercised on the part of the powerful of that time. Galilee, the land of Jesus, was governed by Herod Antipas, the son of King Herod, the Great, from the year 4 before Christ until the year 39 after Christ, 43 years! During the whole time of the life of Jesus on earth there was no change of Government in Galilee! Herod was absolute lord of everything, and did not render an account to anyone, he did as he pleased. In him there was arrogance, lack of ethics, absolute power, without any control on the part of the people!
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Herod constructed a new capital, called Tiberiades. Seffori the ancient capital, was destroyed by the Romans in retaliation against the popular revolt. This happened when Jesus was about seven years old. Tiberiade, the new capital, was inaugurated thirteen years later, when Jesus was approximately 20 years old. The capital was given that name in order to please Tiberius, the Emperor of Rome. Tiberiade was a strange place in Galilee. That was the place where the king, “the great of the court”, the officials, the important people of Galilee lived (Mc 6, 21). The landowners, the soldiers, the policemen lived there and also the judges, who, many times were insensitive, and indifferent (Lk 18, 1-4). The taxes and tributes and the products of the people were channelled there. It was there that Herod held his orgies of death (Mk 6, 21-29).
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The Gospel does not say that Jesus entered the city. During the 43 years of the government of Herod, a class of officials, faithful to the project of the king, was created: the Scribes, the merchants, the landowners, the tax collectors on the market, the tax collectors or publicans, the militia, policemen, judges, promoters, local heads. The majority of these persons lived in the capital and enjoyed the privileges which Herod offered, for example exemption from taxes. Others lived in the villages. In every village or city there was a group of persons who supported the government. Several Scribes and Pharisees were bound to the system and to the politics of the Government. In the Gospels, the Pharisees appear together with the Herodians (Mk 3, 6; 8, 15; 12, 13), and this shows the existing alliance between the religious and the civil powers. The life of the people in the villages of Galilee was very controlled, both by the government and by religion. Much courage was necessary to begin something new, as John and Jesus did! It was the same thing as to attract on oneself the anger of the privileged ones, both those of the religious power as those of the civil power, both at local and state levels.
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Personal questions
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Do you know any persons who died victims of corruption and the dominion of the powerful? And here, among us, in our community and in the Church, are there some victims of authoritarianism or of the excess of power? Give an example.
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Superstition, corruption, cowardice marked the exercise of power of Herod. Compare this with the exercise of religious and civil power today, in the various levels both of society and of the Church.
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Concluding Prayer
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In you, Yahweh, I take refuge, I shall never be put to shame. In your saving justice rescue me, deliver me, listen to me and save me. (Ps 71,1-2)
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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, August 28, 2013 — God assigns us, God gives us the power, and God gets the credit.

August 27, 2013

File:Tiffany Window of St Augustine - Lightner Museum.jpg

Tiffany Window of St Augustine — Lightner Museum

Memorial of Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church Lectionary: 427

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustine_of_Hippo

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Reading 1 1 Thes 2:9-13

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You recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the Gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers. As you know, we treated each one of you as a father treats his children, exhorting and encouraging you and insisting that you walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into his Kingdom and glory.

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And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.

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Responsorial Psalm PS 139:7-8, 9-10, 11-12ab

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R. (1) You have searched me and you know me, Lord. Where can I go from your spirit? From your presence where can I flee? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I sink to the nether world, you are present there. R. You have searched me and you know me, Lord. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I settle at the farthest limits of the sea, Even there your hand shall guide me, and your right hand hold me fast. R. You have searched me and you know me, Lord. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light”– For you darkness itself is not dark, and night shines as the day. R. You have searched me and you know me, Lord.
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Gospel Mt 23:27-32

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Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.
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. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what your ancestors measured out!”
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Homily Ideas
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The Thessalonians were witnesses of the zealous labors of the disciples, and now the Apostles thank God for the generous response to their preaching on the part of the converts at Thessalonica. They received the Gospel through the disciples, but they recognized it as the “word of God” Himself, and this word or divine message produced the fruits of faith in their lives.
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The disciples worked tirelessly to spread the Good News, the Gospels, the fact that the Savior had redeemed us.
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Paul shows us all of the followers of Jesus Christ are “Insisting that you walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into his Kingdom and glory.”
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I can almost hear the disciples saying :”Go the extra mile.” But do not be surprised when our work in God’s name is so often “toil and drudgery.”
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Matthew 23:27-32 warns us not to be really good on the outside  and not so great on the inside, “like whitewashed tombs.” This is an often repeated Gospel warning about unity of self: we cannot live as two people or serve two masters. The outside has to match the inside.  “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance….” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). I like to say, “Just get today right.” Work in God’s name in his vineyard in the work he assigns — without complaint but also without too much bragging or personal satisfaction. God assigns us, God gives us the power, and God gets the credit. The outcome is up to HIM! Often times I do not understand the point of God’s work for me on this day until much later. So we have to learn to toil like the disciples and accept the drudgery gladly. God will reveal why later!
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John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
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Homily By The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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There are many Catholics who sincerely desire to serve God and to grow in holiness but they feel torn between doing church work and secular work; between being involved in mundane activities and religious work.   Many Catholics labour under the false notion that secular work is not religious work.  Hence, many fervent Catholics look forward to early retirement so that they can serve in the Church full time or give themselves to Catholic charitable organizations.  Quite often, we hear remarks that they have made enough money, so now is pay-back time to the Lord.

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On the other hand, we have many Catholics who are involved in Church work.  They think that just because they are engaged in Church activities, like being in the choir, lectors or wardens, they are therefore to be considered as doing God’s work.  Behind this thinking therefore is that because they have rendered services to the Church, they could be better assured of a place in heaven because at least they have something to report to the Lord when it comes to judgment day.   Yet, such thinking is always false.

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So what then is the difference between secular work and religious work? 

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The first difference lies in the nature of the work itself.  Church work implies those activities that are related to the operations of the Church, including her ancillary activities of outreach and service to the community.  Of course, in a more specific way, we refer to those activities that are connected with the liturgy and catechesis.  It would also include all other activities that are connected directly with the Church or the Catholic religion, like those in bible cell groups, neighbourhood groups, organizations and movements.

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Secular work gives us the connotation that it belongs to the world.  In other words, it is concerned with things that are profane versus sacred, material versus spiritual, earthly versus the transcendent.  Secular work therefore would include all human activities, whether in the social, political or economic spheres.  It would include all daily human activities, our work, household chores, looking after the sick, teaching our children and living as a family.  In a word, it concerns the development of this world and of humanity.

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However, secular need not necessarily be distinguished from religious work.  Similarly, Church work need not be identified with religious work. Thus, the real question confronting us today is not so much the difference between secular and Church work but between secular/Church work and religious work.

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All secular work when done with the intention to glorify God is religious work.  This is what the responsorial psalm says.  “O where can I go from your spirit, or where can I flee from your face? If I climb the heavens, you are there.  If I lie in the grave, you are there. If I take the wings of the dawn and dwell at the sea’s furthest end, even there your hand would lead me, your right hand would hold me fast.”  The Lord is present in the whole of creation.  God invites us to be His co-creators of this earth.  The world is filled with the glory of God.  When secular work is done with a conscious desire to bring glory to God and to develop humanity and creation, it must be considered as truly religious work.  All human and secular work, when sanctified and consecrated to the Lord, are religious work.  That is why, the Liturgy of the Hours seek to consecrate the whole day and its activities to the lord.

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Conversely, even Church work is not religious work when it is done without the desire to glorify God.  Today, many Catholics are active in Church ministries but many are serving for the wrong reasons.  Some are there simply because of friends.  Others serve in order to feel important and admired.  Many serve out of guilt for fear that God will punish them otherwise.  Then there are others who serve hoping that by serving God and the Church, God will bless and protect them.  However, when we serve with the wrong motives like the Jewish leaders, then the most “sacred” form of religious work, like distributing Holy Communion, serving as lectors, funeral ministers, etc are not religious work.  It is “religious work” in terms of the work itself but certainly, it does not sanctify the person performing it.

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Indeed, Jesus condemned the Jewish leaders for being hypocritical by appearing to be doing religious work when it was for their glory and self-interests.   They simply wanted to look good before the eyes of men.   True religious work must not be like “whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of corruption.” True religious work must come from pure motives of love and sincere desire to honour and worship God.   Truly, quite often, people are scandalized by so called religious people, whether those of the collar or the habit, or active Church workers, because their behaviour and conduct do not agree with what they preach and teach.  They live a double life and are not sincere in helping people.  It is a matter of creating a good impression.

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In contrast we have St Paul who is the exemplar of a Christian who combines secular work with Church work.  We read in the first reading that he worked and slaved day and night to pay for his own expenses “so as not to be a burden on any one of you while we were proclaiming God’s Good News to you.”  His way of sanctifying God was to earn his keep and at the same time, by witnessing to God’s life in Him by living a life of love, justice and truth.  St Monica, whose feast we celebrated yesterday, was one who lived in Christ whilst in this world, allowing God to be praised in both her faith and works.  So by living a good and holy life even without being involved in Church work, we are really doing religious work.

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However, the highest degree of religious work is not working for God but allowing God to work in and through us.   Scripture everywhere reminds us that it is not we who work for God but God who works for us.  “A king is not saved by his army, nor a warrior preserved by his strength. A vain hope for safety is the horse; despite its power it cannot save.” (Ps 33:16f)  St Paul wrote, “Another reason why we constantly thank God for you is that as soon as you heard the message that we brought you as God’s message, you accepted it for what it really is, God’s message and not some human thinking; and it is still a living power among you who believe it.”  So it is not enough to be doing the work for God.  What is more important is to allow God to work in and through us as St Paul did.  He allowed God to manifest His power in His weakness.  “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Cor 4:7)  He also said, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:9f)

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Nevertheless, secular work in the arena of the laity proclaiming Christ in the world does not forbid or exclude them from being involved in Church related activities and functions.  On the contrary, it is necessary that Catholics who are involved in secular work and mundane activities find strength from their union with the Catholic community through some form of contact and fellowship, especially in study, prayer and worship.  Otherwise, they would be left without sufficient formation in their doctrinal and spiritual life and be without the support of fellow Catholics when they are serving in the world.  The danger is that Catholics who are so involved in secular work, whether in politics, commerce, social work or even in non-governmental agencies often become too worldly in their approach to life, charity, justice and truth.  The values of the world often run contrary to the values of the gospel.  Without being infused with faith, we cannot suffuse the world with the presence of Christ, His love and compassionate presence.

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http://www.csctr.net/reflections/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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These two last ‘Alas for you…’ which Jesus pronounced against the doctors of the law and the Pharisees of his time, take again and strengthen, the same theme of the two ‘Alas for you…’ of the Gospel of yesterday. Jesus criticizes the lack of coherence between the word and the practice, between what is interior and what is exterior. • Matthew 23, 27-28: The seventh, ‘Alas for you…¡ against those who are like whitewashed tombs. You appear upright on the outside, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness”. The image of “whitewashed sepulchres” speaks for itself and needs no commentaries. Jesus condemns those who have the fictitious appearance of upright persons, but who interiorly are the total negation of what they want to appear outside.
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Matthew 23, 29-32: The eighth ‘Alas for you…’ against those who build the sepulchres of the prophets and decorate the tombs of the upright, but do not imitate them. The doctors and the Pharisees said: “We would never have joined in shedding the blood of the prophets, had we lived in our ancestors’ day”. And Jesus concludes saying: The persons who speak like this “confess that they are children of those who killed the prophets”, then they say “Our fathers”.
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And Jesus ends saying:” Very well then, finish off the work that your ancestors began!” In fact, at that moment they had already decided to kill Jesus. In this way they were finishing off the work of their ancestors.
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Personal questions
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Still two other expressions, ‘Alas for you…’ but two reasons for being criticized severely by Jesus. Which of these is in me?
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Which image of myself do I try to present to others? Does it correspond, in fact, to what I am before God?
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Concluding Prayer
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How blessed are all who fear Yahweh, who walk in his ways! Your own labours will yield you a living, happy and prosperous will you be. (Ps 128,1-2)
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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, August 27, 2013 — Memorial of St. Monica, Recovered Alcoholic

August 27, 2013

Memorial of St. Monica (see information at the bottom of this article)

Reading 1 1 Thes 2:1-8

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You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our reception among you was not without effect. Rather, after we had suffered and been insolently treated, as you know, in Philippi, we drew courage through our God to speak to you the Gospel of God with much struggle. Our exhortation was not from delusion or impure motives, nor did it work through deception. But as we were judged worthy by God to be entrusted with the Gospel, that is how we speak, not as trying to please men, but rather God, who judges our hearts. Nor, indeed, did we ever appear with flattering speech, as you know, or with a pretext for greed–God is witness– nor did we seek praise from men, either from you or from others, although we were able to impose our weight as Apostles of Christ. Rather, we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the Gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us.Saint Monica

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Responsorial Psalm PS 139:1-3, 4-6

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R. (1) You have searched me and you know me, Lord. O LORD, you have probed me and you know me; you know when I sit and when I stand; you understand my thoughts from afar. My journeys and my rest you scrutinize, with all my ways you are familiar. R. You have searched me and you know me, Lord. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know the whole of it. Behind me and before, you hem me in and rest your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; too lofty for me to attain. R. You have searched me and you know me, Lord.

Gospel Mt 23:23-26

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Jesus said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. But these you should have done, without neglecting the others. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!
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“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.”
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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The Gospel today presents two other times that this expression was used: ‘Alas for you…’ when Jesus speaks against the religious leaders of his time. The two ‘Alas for you…’ of today denounce the lack of coherence between word and attitude, between exterior and interior. Today we continue our reflection which we begun yesterday.
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Matthew 23, 23-24: The fifth ‘Alas for you…’ against those who insist on the observance and forget mercy. You pay your tithe of mint and dill and cummin and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law: justice, mercy and fidelity”. This fifth ‘Alas for you…’ of Jesus is against the religious leaders of that time and can be repeated against many religious of the following century even up to our time. Many times, in the name of Jesus, we  insist on details and we forget mercy. For example, Jansenism reduces lived faith to something arid, insisting on the observance and penance which led people away from the way of love. The Carmelite Sister Teresa of Lisieux grew in the Jansenism environment which marked France at the end of the XIX century.
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Beginning from a personal painful experience, she knew how to recover the gratuity of love of God, a force which should animate the observance of the norms from within; because without love, the observance makes an idol of
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Matthew 23, 25-26: The sixth ‘Alas for you…’ against those who clean things on the outside and are dirty inside. “You clean the outside of the cup and dish and leave the inside full of extortion and intemperance. In the Sermon on the Mountain, Jesus criticises those who observe the letter of the Law and transgress the spirit of the Law. He says: “You have heard how it was said to our ancestors, You shall not kill, and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say to you anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court. Anyone who calls his brother ‘Fool’ will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and anyone who calls him ‘Traitor’ will answer for it in hell fire.
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You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery, but I say this to you, if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5, 21-22. 27-28).
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It is not sufficient to observe the letter of the Law. It is not sufficient not to kill, not to rob, not to commit adultery, not to swear in order to be faithful to what God asks of us. The one who observes fully the Law of God is the one who, besides observing the letter, goes deeply to the root and pulls out from within “the desires of extortion and intemperance” which may lead to murder, theft, and adultery. The fullness of the law is realized in the practice of love.
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Homily By The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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The message of today’s scripture readings can be summarized in just one word: sincerity.  How sincere we are with ourselves will determine how sincere we are with others.  The lack of sincerity with ourselves not only deceives others but we ultimately deceive ourselves. By being insincere with ourselves, we hurt ourselves much more than we hurt others.  A person who is not sincere with himself is not one with himself.  If we are not integrated, we become divided within and this is where the real source of division begins.  When a person is divided within himself, that inner division is then manifested in his division with others and with God.  That is why Jesus pronounced them as woes to us.  Why are they woes to us more than to others?

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Firstly, when we are concerned with the trivials of the laws, it is but our way of escaping the reality of the situation. Many of us Catholics, for example, are more concerned about whether we attend Mass on Sundays, and that we make it before the gospel reading is over, or that we abstain from meat on Fridays, than whether we are practising justice and charity towards our fellow human beings. There are also those who are supposedly active in Church ministry, or are involved in works of charity, yet, they neglect their very own elderly, or are oblivious to those closest to them who need love, assistance and an understanding ear.   We can save the whole world, but if we cannot even save those who are so near to us, then we have truly failed.  In a word, what is the use of observing the details of the laws when we do not make ourselves more loving and just people?  Instead, we might begin to think that we are so righteous when we are not.  That is why it is a tragedy and a woe.

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Secondly, when we are more concerned with the externals than the interior disposition, we know that we are not who we claim to be.  We might be civil and polite to others, but deep within, we know that our motives are not sincere.  Such insincerity cannot but make us hate ourselves.  And to know that we have deceived others makes us even angrier with ourselves, because we know that we are merely putting up a show.  And because we are concerned with externals, we become slaves to others.  We have lost our inner and outer freedom.  Whereas for a person who is true to himself, his internal disposition will manifest itself accordingly in the external behavior.  His goodness will simply flow from his heart.  He does not even need to think about how to be good.  And because his goodness comes from within, his good works will be truly selfless and liberating.

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Today, in the first reading, we have the example of St Paul.  He is truly one of the most sincere men in the bible.  Indeed, from his writings and his works, we can deduce that St Paul was not only true to himself, but he was truly a genuine person. He was not ashamed of his mistakes and his weaknesses, but he was ever conscious of God’s grace and blessings.  In all his letters, we can feel that this man always spoke from the depths of his heart, in utter concern and love for his fellow human beings.  He wrote to them in affective tones, “Like a mother feeding and looking after her own children, we felt so devoted and protective towards you, and had come to love you so much, that we were eager to hand over to you not only the Good News but our whole lives as well.”  Truly, St Paul demonstrated his sincerity in love not merely in words but by his life; protecting the people of God through his many personal sacrifices and even at the cost of his own life.

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He proved his sincerity not just by doing loving things for his people but especially in his trials and sufferings.  He wrote, “We had, as you know, been given rough treatment and been grossly insulted at Philippi, and it was our God who gave us the courage to proclaim his Good News to you in the face of great opposition.”  Sincerity in love at the end of the day is to be expressed not only in doing good, but in our willingness to suffer with and for the people we love; even to the extent of suffering in their place, like Jesus’ vicarious sacrifice on the cross. This is the crux of our sincerity and commitment in love.

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Thirdly, St Paul reminds us that the hallmark of sincerity is thorough honesty in words, and especially in intention.  In his letter to the Thessalonians regarding his purpose and motive for his visit, he wrote in no uncertain terms: “we have not taken to preaching because we are deluded, or immoral, or trying to deceive anyone; it was God who decided that we were fit to be entrusted with the Good News.” St Paul’s ministry was carried out selflessly and in good faith, believing that God had appointed him for the task of sharing the Good News.  He was simply carrying out the work, because it was God who entrusted him with this office. For this reason, he said, “when we are speaking, we are not trying to please men but God, who can read our inmost thoughts”.  In all things, his focus was simply to do God’s will, always remembering that he had been sent. In all his preaching and ministry, he came as an ambassador of Christ, never in his own capacity.

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For the same reason too, he was not concerned with pleasing men but to do his work.  He said, “You know very well, and we can swear if before God, that never at any time have our speeches been simply flattery, or a cover for trying to get money.”   If he had no fear of men, it was because he spoke from the depths of his heart.  He did not use any modern technique to impress his audience.  Sincerity is not a matter of technique or making impressions, because sooner or later, people will discover the real us and how empty we are within.  His purity of intention caused him to speak what was closest to his heart.  It is said that when anything is spoken from the heart, it always touches people’s lives, because we all have the same heart that suffer, love, desire and feel, regardless whether we are professionals, of status, or simply an ordinary man.

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Truly, if only we seek to bring about our own interior conversion first, rather than focus on externals and creating impressions, mesmerizing people with sweet words and profound thoughts, we would have changed more lives, as in the case of Blessed Mother Teresa.  She met great leaders on earth and with great confidence, not because she was highly educated or gave eloquent speeches, but in her sincerity she also spoke from the depths of her heart.  The consequence is that she changed lives and brought many people to tears and conversion.  Thus, we can apply the words of St Paul to her, “You know yourselves, my brothers, that our visit to you has not proved ineffectual.”

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Truly, sincere people never have to use their authority or position to get things done.  Their moral authority is rooted in their sincerity and purity of heart.  That was the case of St Paul when he said, “nor have we ever looked for any special honour from men, either from you or anybody else, when we could have imposed ourselves on you with full weight, as apostles of Christ.”  The people knew that St Paul never used or exercised his office of apostleship for his self-interests.  He was not out to seek glory from God but for the sake of giving glory to God.  Accordingly, in spite of his success in ministry and his prominent position in the early Church, he remained unassuming towards all, regardless of their position and office. Again he wrote, “Instead, we were unassuming.”

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What is the secret of St Paul’s purity of intention in all that he said and did?  It was his love for the Lord.  He only wanted to please God. He knew that God sees all things, as the Psalmist declares:  “O Lord, you have probed me and you know me; you know when I sit and when I stand; you understand my thoughts from afar. My journeys and my rest you scrutinize, with all my ways you are familiar. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know the whole of it. Behind me and before, you hem me in and rest your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; too lofty for me to attain. You have searched me and you know me, Lord.”   Indeed, to seek to please God alone is nothing else but to be true to Him alone; to be true to self, doing all things for Him.  Such a person is truly liberated and is at peace within himself.  Only a person who is truly sincere with God can be sincere with self and can find lasting happiness.  This accounts for why St Paul was such an authentic person and unafraid of anyone, not even his enemies.  He knew that God would stand by him always.

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http://www.csctr.net/reflections/

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SAINT MONICA: Raised in a Christian family, she was given in marriage to a bad-tempered, adulterous pagan named Patricius. Mother of two, one of whom is Saint Augustine of Hippo whose writings about her are the primary source of our information about Monica. She prayed constantly for the conversion of her husband (who converted on his death bed), and of her son (who converted after a wild life). Spiritual student of Saint Ambrose of Milan. Reformed alcoholic..

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From Serge Lancel’s Augustine

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Before devoting himself entirely to Mother Church, as he approached the age of forty, Augustine had had a concubine for about fifteen years, for whom he had been very fond and who had given him a son; then, at the same time as a fleeting engagement, a second short-lived liaison.  But only one woman really counted in his life, and that was his natural mother, Monica.

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As we may guess from reading a few pages of Book XI of the Confessions, Patricius had taken a wife in Thagaste from a milieu close to his own.  He had married Monica, as his would describe it in a phrase borrowed from Virgil, “in the fullness of her nubility”, which means that he had not married a child, a practice that was in any case more rare then in Agrica that in Rome itself.  The couple had three children, in what order we do not know: a girl, who remains anonymous to us, but who, once widowed, would later become the superior of a community of nuns, and two boys, Augustine and Navigius, whom we shall find with his brother in Italy, at Cassiciacum, then at Ostia at their dying mother’s bedside.  …

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So Monica had been born into a Christian family and was, as we would say today, a practicing believer.  The religious practices of Christians at that time, in North Africa, sometimes included aspects that would be surprising to us, such as the custom of taking offerings of food to the tombs of martyrs, for agapes that only too often degenerated into orgies; an obvious survival of the pagan festival of the Parentalia.  Of course, Monica did not indulge in those excesses.  If the baskets she brought to the cemetery contained, besides gruel and bread, a pitcher of unadulterated wine, when the time came to share libations with other faithful, she herself would take only a tiny amount, diluted with water, sipped from a goblet in front of every tomb visited.  Was this sobriety a memory of some experience in her early youth?  Augustine tells this story which he says he heard from the lady hersself.  Raised in temperance by an old serving-woman who enjoyed the complete trust of Monica’s parents, she had fallen into a bad habit.  Well-behaved girl that she was, she was sent to the cellar to fetch wine from the cask, but before using the goblet she had brought to fill the carafe she would just wet her lips with the wine, not because she liked it, says Augustine, but out of childish mischief.  But gradually she had acquired a taste for it, to the point where she was drinking entire goblets of it with great gusto.  Fortunately she had cured herself of this incipient liking for drink in a burst of pride: the maidservant who accompanied her to the cellar, having fallen out one day with her young mistresss, insultingly called he a “little wine bibber”.  Stung to the quick, Monica had immediately stopped her habit.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Monica

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Understanding Depression, Isolation, Our Own Ageing, and Anxiety

August 26, 2013

Families should be given state funding to care for their elderly relatives at home, a group of Conservative MPs has said.

Photo: ALAMY

I have become a student of our growing ageing population — a fact of life that most of us in the “mainstream” take little time to ponder.

Who, when on the fast track of life, wants to spend time with older people?

By John Francis Carey

Not many. In America, those with enough income actually hire “care givers” to be with the aged. We wouldn’t want to get our hearts involved too much with Grand Ma. Time is money.

But this lack of interaction with those ahead of us on the conveyor belt of life leads to other difficulties: most of us have no idea how to get old. The old people most of us have, like our parents and grandparents, are folks many of us can’t stand much beyond an hour or two at Christmas. And those short visits are just long enough to keep us from getting cut out of the will.

Advertising aimed at older men and women is particularly troubling: a constant barrage of ideas for law suits (you worked with asbestos?), financial security (William Devane bought gold), increased monthly income (former senator Fred Thompson explain the merits of reverse mortgages), help services (“I have fallen and can’t get up”) and health products ( we are happy to know that Joe Theismann can now sleep through the night without having to pee).

Oh goodie! I can’t wait to get older.

The bottom line or root cause of all of this is anxiety. Anxiety can be defined as an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, often accompanied by nervous behavior.

Anxiety, in much of the United States today, is just a normal mode of life, often treated with a handful of medications, Psychiatry, psycho-analysis, psychology, and even electro-shock (Electroconvulsive therapy or ECT).

But wait: Did God make us so badly that anxiety is a natural feeling? And if so, why aren’t we born with a handful of anti-anxiety medications and a note on how and when to take them?

When I started to ask medical professionals this very question, the response I heard most commonly went something like this: “You are assuming there is some form of god.”

Bingo! Because many of us have spent even less time trying to find and get to know God than we have spent with our aged relatives, our lives are incomplete.

Our lives are disordered.

Or at least they can be….

Trying to chase away depression and anxiety with depressants is often a

path toward the greater risk of addiction and death.

If we find ourselves or others living in a constant state of anxiety or depression — maybe it is because we are not leading the life our maker had in mind for us.

For many on the planet today, our lives are disordered because we are constantly in denial of God  — or we just have the wrong God altogether.

I could be wrong, but if all these terrorists and suicide bombers on our earth today end up in the same afterlife as me —  I’ll demand a refund! I am pretty sure the suicide bombers are using some God that mine doesn’t embrace!

Psychiatry is the medical specialty devoted to the study, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders.

Aristotle wrote, “Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.”

Living in society, in community, has been an accepted, in fact, THE accepted normal state of life for thousands of years.

Saint Augustine famously defined sin as the state of being “incurvatus in se” (caved in on oneself). He believed our gross divergence from the natural order often caused us to place far too much value on self — and not enough upon the other — or God.

I have a friend that often repeats the refrain: “The antidote to fear is faith.”

Many believe that. In fact, I have come to believe even more in God while trying to be of assistance to so many of our fellow citizens who are positively sure they need a constant, daily flow of anti-depression drugs — even as they continue to isolate and refuse to investigate any possibility of a spiritual path.

Without God: man is disordered.

So more on that later. Now we have to go to church!

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

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Because of this news item we have sworn off crime, graffiti and electro-shock:

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A few older neighbors of mine have become reclusive lately with has prompted us to explore the consequences we might expect from this behavior….(One article below)

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What Isolation is Likely To Do To The Human Mind

In the 1950s, university researchers put volunteers in tiny rooms and deprived them of sensory input. The results were shocking.

—By

October 18, 2012 (First published in 2008)

The experiences of prisoners held in solitary confinement—the despair, the disorientation, the hallucinations—are well documented, but laboratory observations of isolated human subjects and the profound effects of extreme confinement are exceedingly rare, in part because such experiments might have trouble getting past institutional review boards these days. But that wasn’t the case during the ’50s, when Donald O. Hebb, a professor of psychology at Montreal’s McGill University, set out to study how sensory isolation affects human cognition.

Hebb had previously examined the effects of visual deprivation in rats as a doctoral candidate at Harvard University. In 1951, he secured a $10,000 grant from the Canadian Defence Research Board to expand his research to human subjects. The results were dramatic. Depriving a man of sensory input, he soon discovered, will break him in a matter of days.

Hebb’s experiments went well beyond the level of isolation prisoners typically experience in solitary. He offered male graduate students $20 a day—excellent pay for the time—to stay in small chambers containing little more than a bed. “It would be a bit more than a meter wide and a couple of meters long, probably enough for a table or something,” recalls Peter Milner, one of Hebb’s former graduate students who is now an emeritus psychology professor at McGill.

At the time, Milner was working on another project for Hebb, but he saw the sensory deprivation rooms firsthand. “They were given food by human beings, and also when they needed to use the washrooms and things they would be escorted there by other human beings. So they weren’t completely alone,” Milner says. He recalls watching as the subjects were led down the hall to the bathroom clad in frosted-over goggles. “They wore goggles and earphones and [there was] some sort of noise, just white noise, from a loudspeaker,” he says.

Prone in their isolation rooms, the volunteers also wore gloves and cardboard tubes over their arms to limit their sense of touch. A U-shaped pillow covered their ears and the hum of an air conditioner further obscured outside noise. “According to his theory, the brain would deteriorate if it didn’t have a continuous stream of sensory input,” Milner told me. “It was really just a test of this theory, which in any case didn’t really hold together much, although these sensory deprivation experiments tended to support it.”

Hebb had reportedly hoped to observe his subjects for six weeks. As it turned out, the majority lasted no more than a few days in isolation—and none more than a week. “Most of the subjects had planned to think about their work: Some intended to review their studies, some to plan term papers, and one thought he would organize a lecture he had to deliver,” wrote Woodburn Heron, one of Hebb’s collaborators, in “The Pathology of Boredom,” a 1957 Scientific American article describing the experiments. “Nearly all of them reported that the most striking thing about the experience was that they were unable to think clearly about anything for any length of time and that their thought processes seemed to be affected in other ways.”

A series of cognitive tests showed that the volunteers’ mental faculties were, in fact, temporarily impaired. While in isolation, for instance, the subjects were played tapes arguing that supernatural phenomena, including ghosts and poltergeists, were real; when interviewed later, they proved amenable to such beliefs. They performed poorly on grade-school tasks involving simple arithmetic, word associations, and pattern recognition. They also experienced extreme restlessness, childish emotional responses, and vivid hallucinations. “The subjects had little control over the content” of their visions, Heron wrote. “One man could see nothing but dogs, another nothing but eyeglasses of various types, and so on.”

Nor were their hallucinations merely visual: One volunteer repeatedly heard a music box playing; another heard a full choir accompanying his vision of the sun rising over a church. “One had a feeling of being hit in the arm by pellets fired from a miniature rocket ship he saw; another reaching out to touch a doorknob in his vision felt an electric shock,” Heron wrote.

Inspired by Hebb’s work, D. Ewen Cameron, head of McGill’s psychiatry department during the 1950s, began employing sensory deprivation as part of a technique called “psychic driving,” his unsuccessful attempt to “reprogram” the minds of mentally ill patients, some of whom later sued Cameron, according to Milner. In 1956, Cameron wrote in the American Journal of Psychiatry that he would hypnotize his schizophrenic patients “under stimulant drugs and after prolonged psychological isolation.”

Cameron’s experiments were torture, Milner told me, because unlike Hebb’s volunteers, Cameron’s subjects were entirely under his control. “They were sick people,” he says. “They came to him because they had a mental illness, and his job was to cure them. If they had been day patients they would have not bothered to come back. But because they were hospitalized there wasn’t much the patient could do. Hebb thought it was not only stupid, but rather wicked. And he was right.”

Hebb’s work wasn’t driven entirely by academic curiosity. There was a concern during the 1950s that the Soviets were using sensory deprivation to brainwash Canadian POWs in Korea, and the McGill researchers viewed their own work—some of which the Canadian government forbid Hebb from publishing—as an attempt to understand sensory deprivation so that some sort of defense might be devised against it. Yet this type of knowledge was famously put to use as part of the Bush-era program of “enhanced interrogation” (a.k.a. torture) of US detainees. As The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer has reported, psychologists versed in techniques of “Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape”—a military program wherein soldiers were exposed to extreme conditions, including isolation, that they might encounter as POWs—were enlisted to advise interrogators at Guantanamo Bay. According to Mayer’s sources, they essentially “tried to reverse-engineer” SERE techniques to extract information from enemy combatants.

In any case, there’s a big difference between voluntary isolation, however extreme, and the situation in which thousands of American prisoners find themselves today—stuck in tiny cells for an indefinite length of time with minimal human contact and no clear process by which they might earn their way out. “The really scary thing,” noted Sara Shourd, one of three Americans taken captive by Iranian forces in 2009, in a recent interview with Mother JonesJames Ridgeway, “is that the US government and many governments were very critical of Iran for holding me in solitary for 13 and a halfmonths, but when I got out I was shocked to find that the US had more people in solitary confinement than any other country—and in this country it is used routinely as an administrative practice, not as a very last resort.”

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Isolation is not a cure for mental disorders. It is a cause. If you isolate, even at home, your home will turn into your own little prison and your mind will be disordered before you know it. IF YOU EVER know it. Man needs God and the community of man. TV and the Internet won’t take the place of healthy social interaction and a relationship with God….

Related:

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, August 26, 2013

August 26, 2013

Monday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 425

Reading 1 1 Thes 1:1-5, 8b-10

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Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the Church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: grace to you and peace.
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We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father, knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God, how you were chosen. For our Gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction. You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake. In every place your faith in God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves openly declare about us what sort of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to await his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath.
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Responsorial Psalm PS 149:1b-2, 3-4, 5-6a and 9b

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R. (see 4a) The Lord takes delight in his people. or: R. Alleluia. Sing to the LORD a new song of praise in the assembly of the faithful. Let Israel be glad in their maker, let the children of Zion rejoice in their king. R. The Lord takes delight in his people. or: R. Alleluia. Let them praise his name in the festive dance, let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp. For the LORD loves his people, and he adorns the lowly with victory. R. The Lord takes delight in his people. or: R. Alleluia. Let the faithful exult in glory; let them sing for joy upon their couches; Let the high praises of God be in their throats. This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia! R. The Lord takes delight in his people. or: R. Alleluia.

Gospel Mt 23:13-22

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Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves.
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“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’ Blind fools, which is greater, the gold, or the temple that made the gold sacred?
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And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’ You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it; one who swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it; one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who is seated on it.”
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Homily By The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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Where do you stand in your faith?  Is your faith more like that of the scribes and Pharisees or that of the early Christians in Thessalonica?   The answer to this question determines our happiness in this life and hereafter for the warning of Jesus is this, “Alas for you … you hypocrites!  You who shut up the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to.”

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What then is wrong with the so called faith of the scribes and Pharisees?  Their faith was merely an intellectual and legalistic faith.   Perhaps, it would not even be right to call it faith!  More correctly, their faith was a religion in so far as one uses religion to fulfill one’s selfish interests.  In the first place, their faith in God was based on merit.  They did not believe in grace.  They believed one can earn his place in the eyes of God.  The corollary of this is that even when they obeyed the laws of God or when they performed good works, it was done more out of selfish interests than out of pure love for God and for others, since such works were done simply to accumulate merits.   For those who were less authentic, good works were not motivated by love but by egoism or at most, by fear of rejection.

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This explains why they sought ways to circumvent the laws by rationalizing them or finding loopholes in the laws so that they could break them without being faulted.  Religion then became like a game of rules.  Observe the rules and you will be saved.  The spirit of the laws is forgotten.

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Conversely, one can observe the laws so strictly without taking into the peculiar circumstances that it becomes ludicrous and even unjust.  This is how civil lawyers try to get their clients out of trouble.  So long as they can circumvent the letter of the law, they are not guilty.  That is why, at times, one wonders how just the laws are as it depends on whether one engages a good legal counsel to fight the case. A good lawyer can often go round the law to get us out of trouble.  So it is not just a matter of whether one is guilty or innocent, but about having someone present our case convincingly before the judge who is obliged to judge based on the facts presented within the limits of the laws.

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Jesus exposed their insincerity in the way they fulfilled the Laws. He cited the ludicrous attempts of the Jews to avoid any obligation to their promises made to God by splitting hairs over when a promise would be considered valid.  When Moses gave them the Laws, it was meant to help them to live a life of love and harmony. If observing the law makes us less loving, then the purpose of the law is defeated.  Laws are not observed for laws’ sake but for the service of love.   Otherwise, such observance of the law is mere hypocrisy.

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If Jesus’ words appeared to be harsh, it was not spoken in anger but in compassion for them, for as religious leaders, not only were they misleading their flock, but they would also miss out on the life of the kingdom.  We must not be misled into thinking that Jesus’ reprimand of the scribes and Pharisees lacked love.  On the contrary, at the end of the same chapter of the gospel we read Jesus lamenting, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.  Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Mt 23:37-39)

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For Jesus, everything is done in the name of love and for love.

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Similarly, we have the exemplary and lively faith of the Thessalonians.  These Christians knew little about their faith, for we will read later how they misunderstood the second coming of Christ.  However, they were people docile to the Spirit, open to the Word of God and sincere in living out the gospel life.  St Paul was full of admiration for them when he wrote how he constantly thanked God for how they “have shown (their) faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The faith of the Thessalonians was not simply an intellectual faith, but a faith that acts.  In the first place, St Paul commended them, “We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen, because when we brought the Good News to you, it came to you not only as words, but as power and as the Holy Spirit and as utter conviction.” In other words, they surrendered in obedience to the preaching of the apostles and accepted their words as from God in faith.  This was demonstrated in the way they broke with idolatry, the worship of false gods.  They might not be schooled in theology and scriptures, but in their simplicity, they accepted the teaching of the apostles as the Word of God.

Secondly, this faith in God was demonstrated in right living, as St Paul praised them saying, “You observed the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction” and how “When you were converted to God and became servants of the real, living God.”   In other words, they became servants of God and of each other in animated charity.   Theirs was not simply faith in God but for this faith to be real and true it must issue in love.  This was what they did.  They put their faith into action by works of charity.

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Thirdly, this faith was a faith that lived in hope, for they were waiting in hope for the coming of Jesus to save them from retribution.  The early Christians were so full of faith that in their simplicity, they thought that the Second Coming was near.  They were willing to abandon everything for the hope that was before them.  Faith, therefore, is the basis of hope.  Without faith, hope would be weak and be reduced to mere wishful thinking.  A firm hope must be rooted in faith and our faith is not in oneself but in God who alone can restore the world and redeem us.  Because of the surety of the hope before them, they could continue to love and give themselves to others even when they had to suffer for Christ.

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What about us?  Is our faith animated by charity and strengthened by hope?  Or do we give up easily and become disillusioned in times of difficulties and trials?  We must evaluate our faith seriously today.  Has my faith in God grown each day?  Do I trust in God more and more in living out my vocation in life?  Is this faith expressed in a growing charity manifested in generosity, kindness and compassion both for the poor, the marginalized and for members of the community?  Is our faith lived beyond this world and do we have a persevering hope in Jesus, especially in those moments when we face crises in our faith or in our struggles to be faithful in carrying our daily cross after Jesus?  Most of all, have we become more sensitive to sin in our lives so that we can grow in holiness and charity?

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As St Paul said, “We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen.”  Indeed, the key to a real living faith is to know that we are loved by the Lord and chosen by Him.  Only when we have experienced His love can we then in turn be empowered to love and continue to hope in Him, especially when trials come into our lives.   Yes, only this kind of faith can save us.  We can love God more and more when we know that He loves us because faith is the foundation of love and also the basis for the augmentation of love.  When we open ourselves to someone in faith, love will soon develop.  As we love, we learn to trust a person even more.  So faith and love accompanies each other and strengthens each other.  A legalistic faith will only make us self-righteous and unable to love freely from our hearts.  Let us pray that the faith of the Thessalonians will also be ours as we open our lives to Him in faith.

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Written by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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http://www.csctr.net/reflections/.

 

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Conversion: Finding The Guidance From God (You Have Mail Waiting)

August 25, 2013

File:Colosseum in Rome, Italy - April 2007.jpg

Man has struggled for thousands of years….

Over the last few years I have been blessed with several “spiritual masters” or guides in my journey toward more faith.

My old Vietnamese Spiritual Father often comments upon people he has seen or sees developing much stronger faith. He always calls the revitalization of lives a “conversion.”

The most memorable conversion in the scripture is undoubtedly the startling dismounting of St. Paul on the road to Damascus.

But throughout Christian history there have been many other stories of dramatic conversion.

St. Augustine tells his own conversion story in the “Confessions” – a story that has become perhaps the most significant conversion story in Christian history.

Augustine’s experience speaks to a difficulty many encounter when contemplating a conversion to Christ.

By John Francis Carey

Augustine first concluded intellectually that the way of Jesus Christ was the best way for man to lead his life — yet he was unable to part with so many wonderful attractions of his pre-Christian existence.

Like many of us: Augustine loved his “wine, women and song.”

“The way of the savior attracted me greatly,” he wrote,  “but I was reluctant to pass through the straight and narrow gate…I loved the beauty of your house but I was tightly bound by the love of women…I was weak and chose the easier way, and for this single reason my whole life was one of inner turbulence and listless indecision. I had found the pearl of great price; but I hesitated to sell all that I had to buy it.”

After a monumental struggle – not unlike Jacob wrestling with the Angel – Augustine hears the voice of a child chanting over and over again “take up and read…I snatched up the apostle’s book, opened it and read the paragraph on which my eyes first fell…At that moment there was infused in my heart the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away.”

In mid-life, when I was faced with total defeat by my own worldly ways, several suggested I “pick up and read” St. Augustine’s “Confessions” myself.

When I stumbled upon Augustine praying what some have come to call “The Not Yet Prayer,” I was delighted to find out many of the saints before us were not too much different from modern man in the 21st Century.

With his live-in girl friend pregnant and while living in his mother’s house, Augustine prayed, “Lord grant me chastity and continence — but not yet.”

Ah, “The Not Yet Prayer” — my all time favorite!

Recently, in my own ministry, I heard a younger man tortured by his desires of the flesh cry out, “I want a spiritual life — but I still want to be a big shot!”

As Hamlet said, “There’s the rub.”

His “Big Shot Prayer” is almost identical to Augustine’s “Not Yet Prayer.”

We have to reach  out toward Christ all the way. But not all the way in one day!

“Time takes time” as they say. We start by reaching out toward God. Prayer and meditation often leads to greater understanding, the alleviation of anxiety, and a sense of peace.

But don’t stop there! We want the “whole enchilada.” We want, and need, many of us, what my old Vietnamese friend calls “a conversion.”

St. Augustine writes:

Our Lord’s words teach us that though we labor among the many distractions of this world, we should have but one goal. For we are but travelers on a journey without as yet a fixed abode; we are on our way, not yet in our native land; we are in a state of longing, not yet of enjoyment. But let us continue on our way, and continue without sloth or respite, so that we may ultimately arrive at our destination.

Any person at any time in life can experience a conversion or a re-awakening.

But why do it?

“There’s the rub” AGAIN!

Well, eternal life of course.

But before that: don’t we all want peace in this world? Peace in our hearts? What Bishop Fulton Sheen called “Peace of Soul”?

Many can’t get peace because they are always “peaced off” at somebody or something!

“John is on a spiritual path but he’s no saint….”

Experts say it matters little what we follow while seeking  God — as long as we keep seeking Him and His will for us…..

So that means we need a housecleaning. For Catholics that means a really in-depth confession of our own. But nobody has to be Catholic to clean up their spiritual house — their soul.

Alcoholics in A.A. call this phase the Third and Fourth Step. That’s simply part of confession and housecleaning for people too proud to go into Church!

Every one of us, on our Odyssey through life, has experienced regrettable episodes.

In Homer’s Odyssey, years of travail are the story of the journey:

A storm sent by Zeus sweeps them along for nine days before bringing them to the land of the Lotus-eaters, where the natives give some of Odysseus’s men the intoxicating fruit of the lotus. As soon as they eat this fruit, they lose all thoughts of home and long for nothing more than to stay there eating more fruit. Only by dragging his men back to the ship and locking them up can Odysseus get them off the island.

Even our brother in the ancient world succumbed to temptation!

What we really want — what we really seek — is some spiritual energy or power just like that experienced by so many saints before us!

I want whatever drove St. Francis of Assisi to hear the voice of God.  I want what “The Little Flower” Saint Thérèse of Lisieux found.

Just last week, Pope Emeritus Benedict, when asked how he decided upon retirement — the first pope to resign in hundreds of years said, “God told me to do it.”

I want that. I want a personal relationship with God just like the one Pope Benedict has!  I want to know what to do during the rest of my life. I want to know God’s plan for me!

And what’s the daily pay off? I sleep great (no worries). I help out others. I don’t need medications or electroshock or snake oil or any of a zillion other cures and self-help techniques.

People have been asking for God’s help for more than 2,000 years. And it works. I just don’t believe yoga, zumba dance or the Dalai Lama is going to get me where I need to go.

I am pretty sure, for most of us, we need a little more than a “Happy Meal.”

We may need “The Bread of Life.” “The Lamb of God.”

I have a friend who actually went all the way up to a Himalayan monastery in his search for inner peace. He came back in a week, ending that chapter in his journey by saying, “It sure is cold up there!”

“There’s the rub.”

After my Vietnamese friend said one day, “You’ve had a conversion,” what seemed like  several messengers from God came into my life. One said “Cherish what you have.” Another said, “We have everything we need.” And finally a priest said to me:

“Now that you are finally on the right track, you can’t turn your back on the Crucified Christ, can you?”

I hope not. I need God. I need my higher power. I need the community of saints and the community of others seeking God.

The world has become a dangerous place.

Maybe it has always been dangerous. But now we seem to have drugs all around, practitioners of every kind of human behavior at one’s fingertips through the Internet, and God only knows what else.

And it seems like half the world is driven by some “religion” of blowing people up.

I am pretty sure I need never go over to that team.

Ready for your own conversion? “Pick up and read.”

Here’s my prayer for those in search of a conversion:

God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!

Related:

The Holy Spirit in Our Lives:

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c3a2.htm

Psalm 123:

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1801123.htm

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Related:

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, August 25, 2013

August 24, 2013

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 123

Reading 1 Is 66:18-21

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Thus says the LORD: I know their works and their thoughts, and I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory. I will set a sign among them; from them I will send fugitives to the nations: to Tarshish, Put and Lud, Mosoch, Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have never heard of my fame, or seen my glory; and they shall proclaim my glory among the nations. They shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations as an offering to the LORD, on horses and in chariots, in carts, upon mules and dromedaries, to Jerusalem, my holy mountain, says the LORD, just as the Israelites bring their offering to the house of the LORD in clean vessels. Some of these I will take as priests and Levites, says the LORD.
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Responsorial Psalm Ps 117:1, 2

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R. (Mk 16:15) Go out to all the world and tell the Good News. or: R. Alleluia. Praise the LORD all you nations; glorify him, all you peoples! R. Go out to all the world and tell the Good News. or: R. Alleluia. For steadfast is his kindness toward us, and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever. R. Go out to all the world and tell the Good News. or: R. Alleluia.
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Reading 2 Heb 12:5-7, 11-13

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Brothers and sisters, You have forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as children: “My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.” Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons.  For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline? At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.

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So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees.  Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.

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Gospel Lk 13:22-30

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Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from. And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’ And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
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Homily From The Abbot
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My sisters and brothers in Christ,

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This Sunday we hear of the mystery of God’s love for all peoples.  There is a mystery of God’s love for each one of us personally and there is a mystery of His love for all peoples and nations.  God’s love goes to all.  God calls all.  God invites all to know His love and to walk in His ways.  Blessed be God.
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The first reading is from the Prophet Isaiah.  God often sends difficult words through prophets.  God wants His people to know that nations of every language will come and see His glory.  The role of the Chosen People is to draw all peoples to the Lord, not to keep God’s love just for themselves.  This is the role of the Church today:  to draw all peoples to God and to His love.
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The Letter to the Hebrews continues this same teaching:  Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.  The discipline given to us is to evangelize, to spread the word of God.  This discipline will inevitably bring us suffering.  We must proclaim God’s love and invite all others to know of God’s love, even if it brings us ridicule and tiredness.  Far too often we would rather life our own way.  God challenges us to know His love and to proclaim Him love to others.
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Today the Gospel of Luke reminds us that it is not only knowing the Lord that counts.  We must try to do His will in our lives.  It is not enough to go to Church and to associate with good people.  We must work to do the good, all the while that we recognize that salvation is a gift of God.
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Truly, whether we are first or last is of no importance, but let us be there with the Lord.  Let us not put our attention to being first or last.  Let us put our attention on knowing and loving the Lord and trying to do His will in our lives.  Let us invite everyone to the banquet of God’s love and mercy.
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We are all called to be prophets.  We have been given the Word of God to proclaim to the nations and we must not rest until we have proclaimed God’s Word.  We will suffer as we proclaim the word.  We may have to put up with ridicule.  We may have to spend more time that we want to in speaking of God.  We may find our friends thinking that we are overly pious.  Whatever suffering comes to us, we can accept it for the sake of the Kingdom of God.  We don’t have to think about how many will be saved but only about our own faithfulness to all that God is asking of us.
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In all of this, we will find mercy and comfort and be able to give glory to the Lord!
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50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington — Would He Applaud Our Current State of American Life? We think not….

August 24, 2013

 By Michael Shank

This month, Washington – and the world – commemorates the 50th  Anniversary of Martin  Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington. While Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s progressive  dreaming of a world where racial and economic equality is commonplace may have  been radical then, and still remains out of reach for millions now, his most  radical thinking – and what would still get him in trouble with federal  authorities to this day – is his messaging on nonviolence and its implications  for U.S. foreign policy.

 

King’s message, at the time, was supported by similar  messaging about the importance of peace by President John F. Kennedy, at an American  University commencement address on June 10, 1963, and by Robert F. Kennedy  and his “menace of violence” speech, delivered on April 5, 1968,  at the City Club of Cleveland.  If their ideas were implemented today,  they would radically reform the way America engages Afghanistan, Pakistan,  Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Mali and Somalia, the country  from which I returned this week.

A more genuine commemorating of Martin Luther King, Jr.,  then, would be willing to countenance his core commitment to nonviolence and to  carry it forward.   On Saturday, August 24, 2013, the National Action  Network and Communities Without Boundaries  International will revisit Martin Luther King Jr.’s righteous stomping  ground in front of the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall and call for a  National Action to Realize the Dream. The time to act is now.

Read it all:

http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/world-report/20
13/08/15/fulfilling-martin-luther-kings-vision-by-ending-americas-wars

Michael Shank, Ph.D., is the director of foreign policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

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With all due respect to Dr. Shank and Communities Without Borders International, if memory serves, not too long ago the world was a troubled place but not an inferno. Sectarian violence, Muslims killing Muslims, African Americans killing each other and their White fellow man, have changed everything since “Nine Eleven.”

President Obama can’t even get along with Republicans let alone Vladimir Putin.

By John Francis Carey

We think that even Martin Luther King Jr. would be disappointed at the current of the state of the world today. And we can lionize him all we want — but the best minds on the earth today got us to where we are today.

Most of us do not live on a happy, health and safe earth any more. Everyone needs to take personal responsibility for his or her own actions.

Frankly, I am a John F. Kennedy Democrat.

“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

Photo: Just about everyone seated close to President John F. Kennedy during his inaugural address is dead. So too, his words seem dead: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

America has become a nation of entitlements, handouts, food stamps, and “freebies.” Our economy isn’t healthy but our biggest public debate seems to be about how we can give more federal money away through Obamacare.

Why are we not talking about jobs, prosperity and the economy?

I think JFK, MLK and all our other liberal saints would be disgusted the way out nation has been going — and what we’ve become.

We better take corrective action soon because China isn’t going to wait for American leadership….

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

In this June 17, 2013 file photo, President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin get up to leave after their meeting in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. (Evan Vucci, File/ Associated Press )

 
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The attack at Benghazi on September 11, 2012 ignited a global anti-American protest by Muslims. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the attack was because of a video insulting to Muslims. Until we can speak the truth in America, we cannot face and fix our problems.
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Photo: Protesters destroy an American flag pulled down from the U.S. embassy in Cairo September 11, 2012. (Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)
Chancey Luna (left) and James Edwards were charged with first-degree murder after they allegedly shot and killed Christopher Lane as he was jogging near his girlfriend’s home.

James Edwards via Facebook

Chancey Luna (left) and James Edwards  were charged with first-degree murder after they allegedly shot and killed  Christopher Lane as he was jogging near his girlfriend’s home.

Photo: Syrian men in Arbeen town, an eastern suburb of Damascus, Syria, were among  more than 200 killed in what two pro-opposition groups claimed was a “poisonous  gas.” August 2013.

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After  the Boston Marathon bombing, President Obama went to Boston for a service and met Cardinal  Seán O’Malley and several others who discussed America’s Culture of death.

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Obama and O'Malley

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Boston Cardinal Seán O’Malley greets Barack Obama

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President Barak Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Diane Patrick, Angela Menino and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino

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“God’s love will have last word. God has not forsaken Boston,” said Rev Miranda.

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100 Million Christians “At Risk” From Islamist Violence

August 24, 2013

As  Egypt’s Islamists blame Christians for the ouster of Mohammed Morsi,  anti-Christian violence has reached epidemic levels, with an estimated 82 churches across Egypt  attacked and heavily damaged by Morsi supporters in a mere 48  hours.

By Noah Beck
American Thinker

Unfortunately,  the persecution of Christians is nothing new in Egypt or other Muslim-majority  countries.  But thanks to the mainstream media, few Westerners understand  the true scale or nature of the horrors involved.

As  you read this, Christians around the world are being murdered, raped, plundered,  abducted, forcibly converted to Islam, or otherwise oppressed by Muslims.   Christians in Muslim-majority areas are some of the most vulnerable and  horribly oppressed people on Earth; they live at the mercy of the mob and  receive little or no protection from the police or other government  institutions.

The  reach of this silent tragedy is sweeping — a global religious genocide on “slow  burn” with occasional conflagrations that make it into the mainstream  media.  There are an estimated 100  million persecuted Christians.

This  massive crime is documented in shocking and painstaking detail in Raymond  Ibrahim’s new book Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on  Christians.  The book is required reading for anyone who cares  about religious freedom, human rights, and/or the survival of Christians in  their ancestral lands.

In Crucified  Again, Ibrahim methodically presents overwhelming evidence of Muslim  persecution of Christians (documented with about 700 footnotes).  His  exhaustive, scholarly, and compelling study uses many news and historical  sources, and statements by contemporary Muslim clerics.  The evidentiary  details are far too numerous to summarize here, but a few examples stand  out.

 

Noah  Beck is the author of The Last Israelis, an  apocalyptic novel about Iranian nukes and an Israeli submarine with a diverse  crew, including a Christian Israeli.

Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/20
13/08/christians_on_the_front_lines_of_muslim_v
iolence.html#ixzz2csXkLWuJ

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