Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, December 14, 2013 — “In the evening of your life you will be judged by your love”

 

Saint John of the Cross by Francisco de Zurbarán, 1656

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

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08480a.htm

Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church Lectionary: 186

Reading 1 Sir 48:1-4, 9-11

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In those days, like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah whose words were as a flaming furnace. Their staff of bread he shattered, in his zeal he reduced them to straits; By the Lord’s word he shut up the heavens and three times brought down fire. How awesome are you, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Whose glory is equal to yours? You were taken aloft in a whirlwind of fire, in a chariot with fiery horses. You were destined, it is written, in time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD, To turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons, and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob. Blessed is he who shall have seen you and who falls asleep in your friendship.
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Responsorial Psalm PS 80:2ac and 3b, 15-16, 18-19

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R. (4) Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved. O shepherd of Israel, hearken, From your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth. Rouse your power. R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved. Once again, O LORD of hosts, look down from heaven, and see; Take care of this vine, and protect what your right hand has planted the son of man whom you yourself made strong. R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved. May your help be with the man of your right hand, with the son of man whom you yourself made strong. Then we will no more withdraw from you; give us new life, and we will call upon your name. R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
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Gospel Mt 17:9a, 10-13

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As they were coming down from the mountain, the disciples asked Jesus, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He said in reply, “Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased. So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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St. Francis of Assisi (1181 — 1226) and St. John of the Cross (1542 — 1591) are often depicted carrying a skull.
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St. Francis himself seems to tell why he carries a skull in his work “The Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon.”

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Toward the end of the canticle Francis says “be praised, my Lord, for Sister Death,” and he sees in Sister Death the priestess of God because it’s the one that takes us to Him, the one that brings us into the fullness with Him. So for him, death is to be embraced because it is the one who takes us to the Lord.”

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http://www.tucsonnewsnow.com/story/21647451/st-francis-of-assisi
-sometimes-depicted-with-skull-rather-than-birds

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To me the skull represents the importance of our life here on earth. Each day counts — and at the end of each day we are closer to death, and therefore to God!

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Liturgy: Saturday, December 14, 2013
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r-john-of-the-cross1.jpg

Saint John was born, probably in 1540, in Fontiveros, near Avila in Spain. His father died when he was very young and he had to move with his mother from one place to another, while he tried as best he could to continue his education and, at the same time, to earn a living. In Medina in 1563 he was clothed in the Carmelite habit and, after a year’s novitiate, was given permission to follow the unmitigated Carmelite Rule.

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He was ordained priest in 1567, after studying philosophy and theology at Salamanca, and, in the same year, he met Saint Teresa of Jesus who, a little while before, had obtained permission from the Prior General Rossi to found two communities of contemplative Carmelite Friars (later called the Discalced) in order that they might help the communities of nuns that she had established. A year later – during which he travelled with Teresa – on the 28th November 1568, John became part of the first group of Reformed Carmelites at Duruelo, changing his name from John of St. Matthias to John of the Cross.

He occupied many different positions within the Reform. From 1572 to 1577 he was general confessor for the monastery of the Incarnation in Avila (not then reformed but where Saint Teresa was Prioress). In carrying out his duties, he became involved in an unpleasant dispute within the monastery, a dispute for which he was considered in some way responsible. As a result, he was seized and spent about eight months imprisoned in the Carmelite house in Toledo, from where he escaped in August 1578. During his time in prison, he composed many of his poems for which, later on, he wrote commentaries in his celebrated spiritual masterpieces.

After Toledo, he was appointed superior in a succession of houses, until, in 1591, the Vicar General, Nicolas Doria, (the Reform having, by this time, gained a certain autonomy) dismissed him from all his positions. In the final years of his life, this was not the only “trial” which came to him who had given everything to the Reform, but he bore all his trials as a saint.

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He died between the 13th and 14th December 1591 in Ubeda, aged 49 years.

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He communicated his spirituality essentially by word of mouth and it was only written down as a result of persistent requests. The central theme of his teaching, which has made him renowned both within and without the Catholic Church, concerned the union through grace of man with God, through Jesus Christ: he described a spiritual journey from the very beginning up to the most sublime level, which consists of the stages of the purgative way, the illuminative way and the unitive way or, in other words, the stages for beginners, for the proficient and for those who are close to perfection.

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As Saint John says – in order to arrive at the All which is God, it is necessary that man should give all of himself, not like a slave but inspired by love. Saint John’s most celebrated aphorisms were: “In the evening of your life you will be judged by your love” and, “Where there is no love, put love and then you will find love”. Canonized by Pope Benedict XIII on 27th December 1726, he was proclaimed a doctor of the Church by Pius XI on 24th August 1926.

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Reflection
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The disciples have just seen Moses and Elijah before Jesus in the Transfiguration on the mountain (Mt 17, 3). In general, people believed that Elijah had to return to prepare the coming of the Kingdom. Prophet Malachi said: “Look, I shall send you the prophet Elijah before the great and awesome Day of Yahweh comes. He will reconcile parents to their children and children to their parents, to forestall my putting the country under the curse of destruction!” (Mal 3, 23-24; cf. Eccl. 48, 10). The disciples want to know: What does the teaching of the Doctors of the Law mean, when they say that Elijah has to come before?” Because Jesus, the Messiah, was already there, had already arrived, and Elijah had not come as yet. Which is the value of this teaching of the return of
Elijah?

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Jesus answers: “Elijah has already come and they have not recognized him; rather, they have treated him as they have wanted. In the same way, they will also make the Son of Man suffer”. Then the Disciples understood that Jesus was speaking of John the Baptist.
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In that situation of Roman domination which disintegrated the clan and the familiar living together, people expected that Elijah would return to reconstruct the community: to reconcile the parents to their children and the children to their parents. This was the great hope of the people. Today also, the neo-liberal system of communism disintegrates the families and promotes the masses which destroy life.
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To reconstruct and remake the social fabric and the community living of the families is dangerous because it undermines the basis of the system of domination. This is why John the Baptist was killed. He had a project to reform
human living together (cf. Lk 3, 7-14). He carried out the mission of Elijah (Lk 1, 17). This is why he was killed.

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Jesus continues the same mission of John: to reconstruct the life in community. Because God is Father, we are all brothers and sisters. Jesus joins together two loves: love toward God and love toward neighbour and makes them visible in the form of living together. This is why, like John, he was put to death. This is why Jesus, the Son of Man, will be condemned to death.

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Personal questions

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Placing myself in the position of the disciples: does the ideology of consumerism have power over me?
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Placing myself in the position of Jesus: Do I have the force to react and to create a new human way of living together?

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Concluding Prayer

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May your help be with
the man of your right hand,
with the son of man whom you yourself made
strong.
Then we will no more withdraw from you;
give us new life, and we
will call upon your name. (Ps 80)

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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To appreciate today’s gospel reading, we must first appreciate the person of the prophet Elijah.  He is one of the two greatest prophets of the Old Testament, the other being Moses.   The latter was seen more as a symbol of the Law since it was through him that God gave the Law to Israel.  Elijah was considered to be the unparalleled prophet Israel had ever seen.  Appropriately, just before the death of Jesus, both Moses and Elijah, one representing the Law and the other the Prophets, appeared in the transfiguration scene with the transfigured Jesus in His glory.  They were seen talking to Him.

As the prophet of all times, he was remembered as the one who was zealous for the purity of the faith of Israel. He was fearless in preserving the pristine faith of Israel, even if it meant going against the King of Israel.  Indeed, he was sent “to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children, and to restore the tribes of Jacob.”  So much so, he was persecuted by Queen Jezebel who was a pagan queen and responsible for introducing pagan practices in the kingdom.  His prayers were efficacious and through him, miracles were wrought.   The author of the book of Sirach recounts him as one who “arose like a fire”, his word flaring like a torch.  It was he who brought famine on them, and who decimated them in his zeal. “By the word of the Lord, he shut up the heavens. He also, three times, brought down fire. How glorious you were in your miracles, Elijah! Has anyone reason to boast as you have?” Finally, he ended his magnificent career with a glorious ending when he was “taken up in the whirlwind of fire, in a chariot with fiery horses.”

It was within this context that the Jews believed that before the Messiah comes, Elijah will come again.  That is why after having witnessed the Transfiguration and on coming down from the mountain, the disciples asked Jesus, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah has to come first?”  The reply of Jesus implied that He was the Messiah that they were expecting when He said, “True, Elijah is to come to see that everything is once more as it should be; however, I tell you that Elijah has come already and they did not recognise him but treated him as they pleased; and the Son of Man will suffer similarly at their hands.”   And we have the footnote supplied by the evangelist when he wrote, “the disciples understood then that he had been speaking of John the Baptist.”

As we come to the end of the second week of Advent and as Christmas draws nearer, John the Baptist becomes more prominent, for he is seen as the precursor of the Lord.  As a true and distinguished prophet like Elijah, he preached salvation through repentance to his people.  Like Elijah, he had no fear of man, not even King Herod and his wife, Herodias.  He spoke the truth and did not mince his words.  Sanctified at birth in the womb of Elizabeth by Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, he was intimately one with the Lord.  He lived in the desert in total dependence on the Lord, surviving on locusts and wild honey.  He knew his mission as a messenger of the Lord.  Regardless of what others thought of him, even as the Messiah, he declared in no uncertain terms that he was only the voice of the Lord crying out in the desert, not the Word of God.  His mission was to prepare the way for the Lord.  He was the bride waiting for the bridegroom.  Once the Messiah came, he faded away from the scene, for his job was done since his master must increase and he must decrease.  Truly, at his preaching, many repented for fear of the punishment waiting for them.

Unfortunately, many did not take heed, especially the Jewish leaders.  It was not that they could not recognize Christ as the Messiah; they were simply not ready to accept Christ for fear of losing their status quo.  Their pride and self-righteousness hindered them from hearing the call to repentance.  They repeated the same mistake of their forefathers who murdered the prophets.   Hence, when Jesus came, they rejected Him.  They were hostile to Jesus and sought to destroy Him as He was becoming too popular.  Most of all, Jesus was upsetting their status quo and challenging the institutions of the day, especially the customs that kept the people poor and marginalized.

Christ our Messiah is coming soon.  Have we paved the way to receive our Lord and Saviour?  Are we any better than the Israelites and the Jews?  Do we treat the messengers of God any better than the Israelites and the Jews?  Have we also turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the messengers of God calling us to repentance and conversion?

Who are these messengers of God that He has sent along our way to invite us to true repentance of heart so that the Lord can come into our lives?  They could be our priests who preach the Word to us and counsel us.  They could be our friends or even family members and colleagues.  Are we receptive to their advice?  Sometimes, God’s Word comes through a sharing or an email or even when we read the newspaper.  So what is preventing us from listening to them?  Why are we so blind that we do not see and so deaf that we do not hear?

Is it pride or fear? More often than not, regardless of whether we consider ourselves active in the Church ministry or even good Catholics, we tend to fall into the sin of pride, like the Pharisees and the Scribes.  Many of us think too highly of ourselves.  We do not see our blindness, like the Jewish leaders.  We tend to perceive ourselves as holy and devout Catholics, and that others are sinners.  The very fact that we tend to condemn others and pass judgement on them shows our spiritual pride.  Most of all, we cannot bear to hear that we need conversion or that we do not know about God or that our spiritual life is weak and inadequate.  Indeed, those of us who are holding Church positions often fall into the same trap of the Pharisees and the Scribes.  This explains why Jesus reserved all the harsh criticisms for the Jewish leaders but demonstrated compassion and gentleness to sinners.

Of course, there are many of us who are still too attached to the world.  We are engrossed with the pleasures of life, our ambition, and our pursuits.  We do not resist the temptation of the Evil One, the Flesh and the World.  We fail to realize that the Devil is tempting us to sin and to turn away from the Lord.  Because we lack discernment, we cannot tell the difference between right and wrong.  At any rate, we prefer to listen to the Evil One who tempts us to commit sins of the flesh and follow the pursuit of the world, striving for glory, power, status and wealth.

Finally, if we are not receptive to the prophets of God, most likely, it is because our ignorance causes us to resist changing our comfortable status quo for fear that we lose power and control over others and compromise our self-interests.  Many of us are afraid to give up our sins for fear that we might lose our friends or the little joys we have.  We prefer to remain where we are in spite of the fact that we are not really happy either.  It is just like those living in irregular relationships.  They are caught in a bind.  They are afraid to let go on one hand but on the other hand, they are not at peace either.

So we must pray for the grace of conversion and repentance.  Like the psalmist, we pray for wisdom, enlightenment and strength.  We too must cry like the psalmist, “O shepherd of Israel, hear us, shine forth from your cherubim throne. O Lord, rouse up your might, O Lord, come to our help.  God of hosts, turn again, we implore, look down from heaven and see. Visit this vine and protect it, the vine your right hand has planted.  Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.”    As Penitential services will be held soon in most parishes, let us prepare ourselves well for a meaningful celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation by making time for prayer, entering into ourselves so that we can surrender those areas of sin and wounds for the Lord to heal us.   

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

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