Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, July 14, 2015 — Miracles come from unexpected places — “Let your saving help, O God, protect me”

Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin
Lectionary: 390


Reading 1 EX 2:1-15A

A certain man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman,
who conceived and bore a son.
Seeing that he was a goodly child, she hid him for three months.
When she could hide him no longer, she took a papyrus basket,
daubed it with bitumen and pitch,
and putting the child in it,
placed it among the reeds on the river bank.
His sister stationed herself at a distance
to find out what would happen to him.Pharaoh’s daughter came down to the river to bathe,
while her maids walked along the river bank.
Noticing the basket among the reeds, she sent her handmaid to fetch it.
On opening it, she looked, and lo, there was a baby boy, crying!
She was moved with pity for him and said,
“It is one of the Hebrews’ children.”
Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter,
“Shall I go and call one of the Hebrew women
to nurse the child for you?”
“Yes, do so,” she answered.
So the maiden went and called the child’s own mother.
Pharaoh’s daughter said to her,
“Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will repay you.”
The woman therefore took the child and nursed it.
When the child grew, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter,
who adopted him as her son and called him Moses;
for she said, “I drew him out of the water.”On one occasion, after Moses had grown up,
when he visited his kinsmen and witnessed their forced labor,
he saw an Egyptian striking a Hebrew, one of his own kinsmen.
Looking about and seeing no one,
he slew the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
The next day he went out again, and now two Hebrews were fighting!
So he asked the culprit,
“Why are you striking your fellow Hebrew?”
But the culprit replied,
“Who has appointed you ruler and judge over us?
Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?”
Then Moses became afraid and thought,
“The affair must certainly be known.”Pharaoh, too, heard of the affair and sought to put Moses to death.
But Moses fled from him and stayed in the land of Midian.

Responsorial Psalm PS 69:3, 14, 30-31, 33-34

R. (see 33) Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
I am sunk in the abysmal swamp
where there is no foothold;
I have reached the watery depths;
the flood overwhelms me.
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
But I pray to you, O LORD,
for the time of your favor, O God!
In your great kindness answer me
with your constant help.
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
But I am afflicted and in pain;
let your saving help, O God, protect me;
I will praise the name of God in song,
and I will glorify him with thanksgiving.
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
“See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.”
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.

Alleluia PS 95:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 11:20-24

Jesus began to reproach the towns
where most of his mighty deeds had been done,
since they had not repented.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
And as for you, Capernaum:Will you be exalted to heaven?
You will go down to the netherworld.
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom,
it would have remained until this day.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
Commentary on Matthew 11:20-24 From Living Space
After the apostolic discourse of chap 10, Matthew goes back to narrative.  In two passages preceding today’s Jesus reassures the disciples of John the Baptist that he is indeed the “one who is to come”, that is, the Messiah and Saviour-King.
This is followed by a passage where Jesus complains of those who close their minds to God’s word.  John the Baptist led the life of an ascetic in the wilderness and they did not listen to him.  Jesus socialised freely with all kinds of people and they accused him of being a glutton and a drunkard.
So today Jesus warns three towns where he spent much of his time: Chorazin, Bethsaida and especially Capernaum.  If Jesus had done in the pagan towns of Tyre and Sidon what he had down in these predominantly Israelite towns, they would have converted long ago. Even Sodom, the biblical image of the very worst in immorality, would have done better.
It is important for us to realise that, in today’s Gospel, Jesus is primarily speaking to us today.  If many non-Christians had been given the opportunities that we have received through our membership of the Christian community, they could very well be living much more generously than we do.  To what extent are we listening to God’s word?  How much of it do we try to understand?  And how much of it is reflected in our lifestyle?  Are we clearly and obviously followers of Christ and his Way?
Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
• The Discourse of the Mission occupies charter 10.  Chapters 11 and 12 describe the Mission which Jesus carried out and how he did it. The two chapters mention how the people adhered to him, doubted the evangelizing action of Jesus, or rejected it.
John the Baptist, who looked at Jesus with the eyes of the past, does not succeed in understanding him (Mt 11, 1-15). The people, who looked at Jesus out of interest, were not capable to understand him (Mt 11, 16-19). The great cities around the lake, which listened to the preaching of Jesus and saw his miracles, did not want to open themselves up to his message (this is the text of today’s Gospel) (Mt 11, 20-24). The wise and the doctors, who appreciated everything according to their own science, were not capable to understand the preaching of Jesus (Mt 11, 25). The Pharisees, who trusted only in the observance of the law, criticized Jesus (Mt 12, 1-8) and decided to kill him (Mt 12, 9-14).
They said that Jesus acted in the name of Beelzebul (Mt 12, 22-37). They wanted a proof in order to be able to believe in him (Mt 12, 38-45). Not even his relatives supported him (Mt 12, 46-50). Only the little ones and the simple people understood and accepted the Good News of the Kingdom (Mt 11, 25-30).  They followed him (Mt 12, 15-16) and saw in him the Servant announced by Isaiah (Mt 12, 17-21).
• This way of describing the missionary activity of Jesus was a clear warning for the disciples who together with Jesus walked through Galilee. They could not expect a reward or praise for the fact of being missionaries of Jesus. This warning is also valid for us who today read and meditate on this discourse of the Mission, because the Gospels were written for all times.  They invite us to confront the attitude that we have with Jesus with the attitude of the persons who appear in the Gospel and to ask ourselves if we are like John the Baptist (Mt 11, 1-15), like the people who were interested (Mt 11, 16-19), like the unbelieving cities (Mt 11, 20-24), like the doctors who thought they knew everything and understood nothing (Mt 11, 25), like the Pharisees who only knew how to criticize (Mt 12, 1-45) or like the simple people who went seeking for Jesus (Mt 12. 15) and that, with their wisdom, knew how to understand and accept the message of the Kingdom (Mt 11, 25-30).
• Matthew 11, 20: The word against the cities which did not receive him. The space in which Jesus moves during those three years of his missionary life was small; only a few square kilometres along the Sea of Galilee around the cities of Capernaum, Bethsaida and Chorazin. Only that!  So it was in this very reduced space where Jesus made the majority of his discourses and worked his miracles.  He came to save the whole of humanity, and almost did not get out of the limited space of his land.  Tragically, Jesus has to become aware that the people of those cities did not want to accept the message of the Kingdom and were not converted.
The cities become more rigid in their beliefs, traditions and customs and do not accept the invitation of Jesus to change life.
• Matthew 11, 21-24: Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum are worse than Tyre and Sidon. In the past, Tyre and Sidon, inflexible enemies of Israel, ill treated the People of God. Because of this they were cursed by the prophets. (Is 23, 1; Jr 25, 22; 47, 4; Ex 26, 3; 27, 2; 28, 2; Jl 4, 4; Am 1, 10). And now Jesus says that these cities, symbols of all evil, would have already been converted if in them had been worked all the miracles which were worked in Chorazin and Bethsaida.
The city of Sodom, the symbol of the worse perversion, was destroyed by the anger of God (Gn 18, 16 to 19, 29). And now Jesus says that Sodom would exist up until now, because it would have been converted if it had seen the miracles that Jesus worked in Capernaum. Today we still live this same paradox.  Many of us, who are Catholics since we were children, have many solid and firm convictions, so much so that nobody is capable of converting us. And in some places, Christianity, instead of being a source of change and of conversion, becomes the refuge of the most reactionary forces of the politics of the country.
Personal questions
• How do I place myself before the Good News of Jesus: like John the Baptist, like the interested people, like the doctors, like the Pharisees or like the simple and poor people?
• Do my city, my country deserve the warning of Jesus against Capernaum, Chorazion and Bethsaida?
Concluding Prayer
Great is Yahweh and most worthy of praise
in the city of our God, the holy mountain,
towering in beauty,
the joy of the whole world. (Ps 48,1-2)
Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

SCRIPTURE READINGS:  EX 2:1-15; MT 11:20-24

“Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida!  For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”  These words of Jesus must have been uttered from a wounded and sorrowful heart.  We can imagine how Jesus must have felt in His ministry.  St John captured it so poignantly when he wrote “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”  (Jn 1;11)  Jesus who loved His people so much and who came for them even instructed His disciples “not to go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans.  Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Mt 10:5f)

This ingratitude was similarly reflected in the case of the Hebrew who was bullying his fellowman.  When Moses tried to reconcile the rift between his two countrymen, instead of being seen as a peacemaker, the man who was in the wrong accused Moses of trying to control him.  In his vindictiveness, he exposed Moses for killing the Egyptian. This caused Moses to suffer the wrath of Pharaoh and as a result he had to flee from Egypt to take refuge in the land of Midian.  Again we have a case of returning evil for a good deed done.  Moses meant well for his countrymen but instead of being grateful to Moses, his countryman’s selfishness took the better part of him.

I am sure many of us can feel with Jesus and Moses, for we too are often rejected by the very people whom we love.  We make sacrifices for them.  We try to provide them with whatever they need.  We go out of our way to help them in every way we can.  We give in to their demands, sometimes even when such requests are unreasonable.  And yet, in spite of all we do, what we receive in return is not just ingratitude but fault-finding as well, even when we are not obliged to do what we did for them.  What is even more discouraging is that for all the good we do, instead of becoming better persons, they become lazier, irresponsible, ungrateful and demanding.

The failure to respond to grace is the gist of today’s gospel.  The scripture readings invite us to consider the graces that we have received from God.  Like the Chosen People of God, we fail to take cognizance of the many wonderful graces we have received from Him with respect to our faith, life, health, material sufficiency, loved ones and friends.  Miracles are happening all around us every day and yet we are so blind to the wondrous works that God is doing for us and with us.  We fail to see these as signs from God, tokens of His love and mercy for us.

Instead, most of us take God and His graces for granted.  In Singapore, we are so fortunate in that there are ample avenues for those of us who are serious about deepening our faith.  We have the daily Eucharist celebrated at our parishes, and as if these are not near enough, we even have the Eucharist brought to the vicinity of our work place.  We have plenty of Adoration chapels open for us to pray in comfort.  There is even one, the Perpetual Adoration Chapel at CSC, which is open 24 hours throughout the year.  For those of us who are internet savvy, there are plenty of websites that offer scripture reflections for the day.  In terms of faith formation, we have talks, seminars and retreats in the parishes and our retreat houses.  And if we need community, there are neighbourhood groups and numerous movements and organizations to join, according to the charisms God has bestowed us with.  But how many of us avail of these resources?  More importantly, how many of us are making full use of the graces given to us so that we can deepen our faith and grow in charity for ourselves and for each other?

Not only do we take God and our faith for granted, we take our loved ones for granted as well.  It is ironical that we are more grateful to strangers and acquaintances who help us with small favours now and then, rather than to our friends and loved ones who spend much time and resources on us.  The love and kindness shown to us by our spouse and intimate friends seem to be something owed to us and not perceived as graces given to us.  When we take people for granted, especially those who are close to us, we do not grow in our love for them.  We are not appreciative because what is supposedly a gift from their goodness is seen as a right due to us.

Finally, most of us have received the blessings of God in vain.  God has blessed us with talents, wealth, health, career and success, yet we do not use our resources to help others, to contribute to the Church and society.  Instead of using what the Lord has blessed us with for the good of humanity, we use them only for ourselves.  Worse still are those who use their talents and resources for evil purposes, to manipulate others, to acquire more power and wealth for themselves.

If we have received the grace of God in vain, there will be serious repercussions. Jesus has this to say to us, “And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard on Judgment day with Tyre and Sidon as with you.  And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted as high as heaven?  You shall be thrown down to hell.  For if the miracles done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have been standing yet.  And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard as the land of Sodom on Judgement day as with you.” In warning them about the imminent judgment, He was not saying that God is a vindictive and merciless God.  On the contrary, Jesus was trying to express the lamentation of God who could not bear to see the self-destruction of His people.  The truth is that what we sow will be what we reap.  The disastrous consequences will be brought upon by ourselves.  For failing to use the graces of God responsibly and gratefully, we will cause ourselves and even our innocent loved ones to be destroyed by our sins.

Today, we are called to be responsible like Moses in the first reading.  It was by grace that Moses’ life was saved by Pharaoh’s daughter.  It was by grace that he was given all the privileges of being brought up in the palace, given a good education and upbringing.  We can be certain that Moses did not take all his blessings for granted.  He knew that it was his God who endowed him with all that he had and all that he was.  He also knew that what he had received was not meant for himself but for his people.  So when his fellow Hebrew was ill treated, he stood up for him, even to the extent of taking an Egyptian’s life while defending the rights of a slave!

So if we feel that we have not been gracious and responsible for the graces we have received, let us repent from such an attitude.  As Jesus rightly said, if only others had received what we have received, they would have changed so much for the better than us.  Aren’t we better than Jesus’ contemporaries?  Like the Chosen People of God, we were slaves like them in Egypt.  They were nobody.  Yet God had chosen them, a motley crowd of slaves, to be His own people.  He chose them not because they were wise and powerful but because they were sinners and slaves.  God too has blessed us, for without His blessings, we would not be where we are today.  Let us repent of our selfish and heartless attitudes towards His love for us and the love mediated to us by the people in our lives.  Otherwise, we will only live to regret when these blessings are taken away from us.



St. Kateri Found Faith Here

Visits to Sites Special to the New Saint

Kateri Tekakwitha — to be canonized on Oct. 21 — called the area of Auriesville, N.Y., home for most of her life.

For the last 127 years, so does the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs (National Shrine of North American Martyrs,

It was on the grounds of this shrine that three Jesuit missionaries from France — Father Isaac Jogues and his companions, René Goupil and John Lalande — became the first North American martyrs to shed their blood for the faith. (Their feast day is Oct. 19.)

They came to bring Christ to the Indian tribes in Auriesville, then known as the Mohawk village of Ossernenon, and were martyred in 1646.

Ten years later, Kateri Tekakwitha was born on these grounds to an Algonquin mother and a Mohawk chief.

Visitors come to find spiritual peace at this shrine in upstate New York, 40 miles west of Albany. The beautiful Mohawk River Valley curves gently along the gateway to the Adirondack Mountains.

From the shrine’s heights over the valley, the sweeping panorama is magnificent. It must look much the same as it did to the first organized pilgrimage in 1885. That year, the first Mass was celebrated here on Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption and the anniversary of Father Jogues being brought to this location as a captive.

So many pilgrims came to visit that when the three martyrs were canonized in 1930, the current church — the third one here — had to be built. It was finished in 1931 and called the “Coliseum.” The name purposely recalls the early Christian martyrs.

One of the first circular churches in this country, the Coliseum seats 6,500. With standing room, it holds 10,000. Spacious as it is, it has rustic warmth.

It should be filled on Oct. 21 as the shrine celebrates the canonization in Rome of Kateri with a 2pm Mass.

The Coliseum abounds in symbolism: 12 aisles and 12 seating sections represent the apostles; 72 doors represent the 72 disciples Jesus sent out to share the Gospel; and three tiers in the ceiling and roof recall the Holy Trinity.

To evoke the area’s heritage, the stockade walls are the reredos for the altars and represent the palisades of Ossernenon. One altar is dedicated to Kateri.

The Coliseum is quite a contrast to the original 1885 chapel, which remains on the grounds and is so tiny that pilgrims had to stand outside during Masses. The second chapel, from 1894, was renovated a century later and now includes the Chapel of Kateri Tekakwitha, where weekday Masses are offered.

Outdoors, devotional sites are plentiful. A statue of St. Joseph the Worker stands in a lovely garden right outside of the Coliseum.

Farther along, a statue grouping memorializes St. Isaac Jogues carving the name of Jesus on trees as two Mohawk children bow their heads at the Holy Name. And a large statue of the Sacred Heart overlooks the Mohawk River, beckoning travelers and pilgrims to come to the shrine.

Our Lady of Fatima also watches over the river and sweeping panorama. The statue by American sculptor Frederick Shrady is from the same mold as the original that’s located in the Vatican Gardens.

Another testament to early Indian converts is “Theresa’s Rosary,” named after a 13-year-old Huron girl who was captured with Father Jogues. She was forbidden to pray but did so under her captors’ noses by forming a rosary on the ground with stones.

Several other statuary shrines are short strolls from each other on the lovely 400-acre park-like grounds, which are covered with seasonal flowers and a profusion of trees. A prominent one is the lovely marble statue of Kateri, the “Lily of the Mohawks.”

Pilgrims are always reminded this is holy ground. The moving Calvary scene marks the place where Isaac Jogues and René Goupil preached about God and prayed rosaries. Near it is the newer René Goupil Memorial Chapel.

In the holy, historic “Ravine” is the oldest statue on the grounds, which presents Our Lady of Martyrs.

A wide path curves downward into this expansive clearing encircled by forested walls. Somewhere within the Ravine is the unmarked grave where, in 1642, Father Jogues buried René Goupil. Because the saint lies somewhere here, this place is a natural reliquary. A statue depicts René making the sign of the cross over the head of a Native American boy kneeling at his feet.

The hallowed beauty of the place beckons prayer, where the faithful also can pause to reflect at other shrines. At one, the figure of Jesus reposes in the sepulcher. The stone grotto dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes is another of a number of places throughout the shrine’s grounds where our Blessed Mother is honored and venerated in special ways and titles.

Fittingly, too, near the Coliseum, the faithful can meditate on the Seven Sorrows of Mary in another outdoor setting with new circular mosaics from Vatican City.

The shrine grounds offer much more, including a candle shrine, visitor’s center, cafeteria and two museums.

Surely the new saint will be drawing many pilgrims who have never been to the shrine before. Among them will be Kateri Lang, named after the holy Indian maiden.

“I’m confident and hopeful that soon I can go and make a small pilgrimage there,” says the recent graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.

A fitting Oct. 21 visit would be to walk where Kateri walked and recall her final words: “Jesus — Mary — I love you.” These words resound everywhere and in every place at this beautiful shrine.

St. Kateri — and the North American martyrs — pray for us!

Joseph Pronechen is the

Register’s staff writer.

The Life and Faith of the ‘Lily of the Mohawks’

St. Kateri’s mother, father and baby brother died of smallpox, an illness brought by the European settlers.

At the age of 4, Kateri also came down with smallpox, but survived. However, her face was left with pockmarks, and her vision was affected. She was adopted by her father’s family.

When Kateri walked, she held out both of her arms in front of her to compensate for her poor eyesight. As a result, her adoptive father gave her the name “Tekakwitha,” which means “she pushes with her hands.”

At the age of 20, Kateri was baptized after receiving instructions in the Catholic faith from a Jesuit missionary. She was given the baptized name of “Kateri,” which is “Catherine” in the Mohawk language.

She was one of the first Mohawk Indians to respond to the Gospel message brought by the Jesuit missionaries.

But her life wasn’t all happy post-conversion: She was harassed by her own people for her beliefs. When Kateri refused to work on Sundays, her family refused to give her food.

In order to practice her faith openly, in July 1677, she escaped with the assistance of two friends. They fled 200 miles to the Catholic mission of St. Francis Xavier in the village of Kahnawake, on the northern shores of the St. Lawrence River, near present-day Montreal. The Christian community was known as “The Praying Indians.”

On one occasion, Kateri traveled to Ville-Marie, which is now Montreal. While there, Kateri and her widowed friend Therese met European Catholic religious sisters who ran a hospital. Inspired by the sisters’ example, Kateri, Therese and another devout friend asked their Jesuit spiritual directors for permission to found a religious community for Native American women on a nearby island. The Jesuits believed that it would be dangerous for the women to live alone and considered them too immature in the faith to form a religious community.

However, Kateri was allowed to take a private vow of perpetual virginity on March 25, 1679, the feast of the Annunciation. From that point on, Kateri strove to live like a nun within her own home. She lived a life of austerity and practiced many penances. For example, during the winter months, she would walk barefoot on the ice while praying the Rosary.

Kateri died at the age of 24. She was buried on Holy Thursday, April 18, 1680. French tradesmen, impressed with her radiant beauty, made a coffin for her. Her body has since been exhumed and placed within a sealed marble tomb at St. Francis Xavier Mission.

Pope John Paul II beatified Kateri in 1980.

Because Blessed Kateri was baptized at the Mohawk Indian village on the north shore of the Mohawk River, it was decided that should be the site of her national shrine, where she lived for 10 years, between the ages of 10 and 20. Coming to the Fonda, N.Y., National Kateri Shrine ( and reflecting on her life where she lived so long ago is a special experience, too — the faith of the “Lily of the Mohawks” is still very much alive here.

— Joseph Albino
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