Prayer and Meditation for Friday, September 18, 2015 — Blessed are the poor in spirit — Gospel of Compassion — Are we preaching in word and demonstrating in practice the Gospels?

Friday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 447

Refugees stand behind a fence at the Hungarian border with Serbia near the town of Horgos on Sept. 16, 2015. Armend Nimani/AFP/Getty Images

Reading 1 1 TM 6:2C-12

Beloved:
Teach and urge these things.
Whoever teaches something different
and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ
and the religious teaching
is conceited, understanding nothing,
and has a morbid disposition for arguments and verbal disputes.
From these come envy, rivalry, insults, evil suspicions,
and mutual friction among people with corrupted minds,
who are deprived of the truth,
supposing religion to be a means of gain.
Indeed, religion with contentment is a great gain.
For we brought nothing into the world,
just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it.
If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that.
Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap
and into many foolish and harmful desires,
which plunge them into ruin and destruction.
For the love of money is the root of all evils,
and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith
and have pierced themselves with many pains.But you, man of God, avoid all this.
Instead, pursue righteousness, devotion,
faith, love, patience, and gentleness.
Compete well for the faith.
Lay hold of eternal life,
to which you were called when you made the noble confession
in the presence of many witnesses.

Responsorial Psalm PS 49:6-7, 8-10, 17-18, 19-20

R. Blessed the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!
Why should I fear in evil days
when my wicked ensnarers ring me round?
They trust in their wealth;
the abundance of their riches is their boast.
R. Blessed the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!
Yet in no way can a man redeem himself,
or pay his own ransom to God;
Too high is the price to redeem one’s life; he would never have enough
to remain alive always and not see destruction.
R. Blessed the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!
Fear not when a man grows rich,
when the wealth of his house becomes great,
For when he dies, he shall take none of it;
his wealth shall not follow him down.
R. Blessed the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!
Though in his lifetime he counted himself blessed,
“They will praise you for doing well for yourself,”
He shall join the circle of his forebears
who shall never more see light.
R. Blessed the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!

AlleluiaSEE MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 8:1-3

Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another,
preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God.
Accompanying him were the Twelve
and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities,
Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,
Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza,
Susanna, and many others
who provided for them out of their resources.
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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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What did Jesus mean when he was speaking about “poor in spirit”? Many seem to struggle with this question.
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We might think back upon the people that made the greatest impact in our lives. Often, for me, these are people  we might call “rich in spirit.” For years, I could feel when someone was rich in spirit and living the joy of the Christian life. Over time, I think I’ve developed a kind of sixth sense that tells me when someone is poor in spirit or “just doesn’t get it.”
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One of God’s greatest gifts to me is my wealth of Vietnamese friends, family members and fellow travelers who are rich in spirit. All are refugees, or were refugees at one time. Many lost everything, including their homes, all their worldly goods, and their nation. Many lost their rights as the Vietnam government became more communist and many lost their right to even practice their faith.
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Every one of these people has a story of pain and hardship. But almost universally, the Vietnamese we meet who  traveled as refugees to the U.S., Canada, Australia, Norway or some other place, are noticeably more happy, delighted to be in their new home nations, hard working and grateful to God.
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Their poverty and pain produced a transformational change in their inner spiritual nature. They are a miracle to behold.
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Sometimes, today, when we meet someone who is apparently constantly complaining and feeling sorry for him or her self, I think maybe they haven’t yet suffered enough.
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Because the people I know who have suffered a lot are some of the happiest, most peaceful people I have ever met!
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John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
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Vietnamese boat people wait for food in a Hong Kong refugee camp in a 1989
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Sebastiao Salgado, Boat People, Vietnam, 1995.
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Vietnamese boat people being picked up at sea by the U.S. Navy, 1982.
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Commentary on Luke 8:1-3 From Living Space

This passage follows immediately from yesterday’s about the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee. It is one of those summary passages describing in general terms the work of Jesus.

He is accompanied by the chosen Twelve, his co-operators in the preaching of the word and the establishing of the Kingdom. And it is precisely the Good News (the Gospel) about the Kingdom that they are preaching in word and demonstrating in practice.

What is noteworthy here – and it is unique to Luke – is the mention of many women also travelling in the company of Jesus. Some of them were women who had been healed of evil spirits. One is mentioned by name, Mary of Magdala, from whom seven evil spirits had been exorcised. The number seven is not to be taken literally but indicates the woman had formerly been in a seriously immoral state. She appears very prominently in John’s gospel as someone very close to Jesus and he describes her as the first witness of the Resurrection. It is possible, too, that the “sinful woman” in the house of Simon the Pharisee was also in the group.

Some of the other women seem to be of more ample means and higher social rank. One of them was Joanna, the wife of King Herod’s steward. They helped Jesus and his disciples with their material needs. Once again, Jesus is not embarrassed to travel in the company of these women; nor are they uncomfortable in his.

We see here two roles being played by followers of Jesus. On the one hand are the apostles whose function it is to proclaim the Gospel and establish the Kingdom by word and deed, by preaching and by the example of the communal and shared life they are leading.

The other role is that of disciples who are materially better off and who support the work of proclaiming the Gospel by providing for the material and other needs of the evangelisers.

Both roles are complementary and both, taken together, form the evangelising work of the Church.

A good example are the Sisters of Mother Teresa who would never be able to take care of the destitute dying without the generous help of many benefactors. And the same for many other voluntary groups involved in looking after the disadvantaged.

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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• In today’s Gospel we have the continuation of yesterday’s episode which spoke about the surprising attitude of Jesus with regard to women, when he defends the woman, who was known in the town as a sinner, against the criticism of the Pharisee. Now at the beginning of chapter 8, Luke describes Jesus who goes through the villages and towns of Galilee and the novelty is that he was not only accompanied by the disciples, but also by the women disciples.
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• Luke 8, 1: The Twelve who follow Jesus. In one phrase alone, Luke describes the situation: Jesus goes through towns and villages preaching and proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God and the Twelve are with him. The expression “to follow Jesus” (cf. Mk 1, 18; 15, 41) indicates the condition of the disciple who follows the Master, twenty-four hours a day, trying to imitate his example and to participate in his destiny.
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• Luke 8, 2-3: The women follow Jesus. What surprises is that at the side of the men there are also women “together with Jesus”. Luke places both the men and the women disciples at the same level because all of them follow Jesus. Luke has also kept some of the names of some of these women disciples: Mary Magdalene, born in the town of Magdala. She had been cured, and delivered from seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, steward of Herod Antipa, who was Governor of Galilee; Suzanne and several others. It is said that they “served Jesus with their own goods” Jesus allows a group of women “to follow” him (Lk 8, 2-3; 23, 49; Mk 15, 41).
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The Gospel of Mark when speaking about the women at the moment of Jesus’ death says: “There were some women who were observing at a distance and among them Mary of Magdala, Mary, the mother of James the younger and Joset, and Salome, who followed him and served him when he was still in Galilee, and many others who had gone up with him to Jerusalem (Mk 15, 40-41). Mark defines their attitude with three words: to follow, to serve, to go up to Jerusalem. The first Christians did not draw up a list of these women disciples who followed Jesus as they had done with the twelve disciples. But in the pages of the Gospel of Luke the name of seven of these women disciples are mentioned: Mary Magdalene, Jeanna, wife of Chuza, Suzanne (Lk 8, 3), Martha and Mary (Lk 10, 38), Mary, the mother of James (Lk 24, 10) and Anna, the prophetess (Lk 2, 36), who was eighty-four years old.
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Number eighty-four is seven times twelve: the perfect age! The later Ecclesiastical tradition does not value this fact about the discipleship of women with the same importance with which it values the following of Jesus on the part of men. It is a sin!
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The Gospel of Luke has always been considered as the Gospel of women. In fact, Luke is the Evangelist who presents the largest number of episodes in which he underlines the relationship of Jesus with the women, and the novelty is not only in the presence of the women around Jesus, but also and, above all, in the attitude of Jesus in relation to them. Jesus touches them and allows them to touch him without fear of being contaminated (Lk 7, 39; 8, 44-45.54). This was different from the teachers of that time, Jesus accepts women who follow him and who are his disciples (Lk 8, 2-3; 10, 39).
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The liberating force of God, which acts in Jesus, allows women to raise and to assume their dignity (Lk 13, 13). Jesus is sensitive to the suffering of the widow and is in solidarity with her sorrow (Lk 7, 13). The work of the woman who prepares the meal is considered by Jesus like a sign of the Kingdom (Lk 13, 20-21). The insistent widow who struggles for her rights is considered the model of prayer (Lk 18, 1-8), and the poor widow who shares the little that she has with others is the model of dedication and donation (Lk 21, 1-4). At a time when the witness of women is not accepted as something valid, Jesus accepts women and considers them witnesses of his death (Lk 23, 49), of his burial (Lk 22, 55-56) and of his resurrection (Lk 24, 1-11. 22-24).
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Personal questions
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• How is woman considered in your community, in your country, in your Church?
• Compare the attitude of our Church with the attitude of Jesus.
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Concluding Prayer
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God, examine me and know my heart,
test me and know my concerns.
Make sure that I am not on my way to ruin,
and guide me on the road of eternity. (Ps 139,23-24)
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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SCRIPTURE READINGS: 1 TIM 6:2-12; LK 8:1-3

St Paul, the great missionary of Christ, today advised Timothy, a pastor of his flock on what it entails to be a good minister.  He squarely pointed out the abuses of religious ministry.  Indeed, as he highlighted, there is great profit in religion.  This is something very real even for us today.

How often have religious leaders and those of us serving in Church ministries exploited religion for our own personal and material advancement?  This is particularly tempting for those who have charismatic gifts, like preaching and healing, where they can attract big crowds.  The danger is that adulation and popularity can give one tremendous power and influence over the audience. They can make people do things not so much for the kingdom of God or the spread of the gospel but for their own material benefit or ego.  Indeed, even if we do not seek material gain, quite often we unconsciously seek power, control and recognition.  Some even manipulate, take advantage and abuse those under their charge sexually. We want people to worship us and be led to us rather than be led to God.

Some religious leaders are known to even hypnotize their followers into parting with all their money for their causes, or even to enrich their personal coffers by promising them healing. Often we hear preaching that promises that those who give (supposedly to Jesus) will receive back from the Lord, a hundred fold.  Religion thus becomes a kind of investment!  The motives of the members in such cases are not spiritual either:  it is not peace, unity, love and joy they seek, but success in their business, work and investments.  By indulging ourselves in this way, not only do we cheat the people but we also bring about our own ruin and destruction.  We have short-changed them.  Money is not everything.  St Paul exhorts Timothy and all involved in Church ministry: “People who long to be rich are a prey to temptation; they get trapped into all sorts of foolish and dangerous ambitions which eventually plunge them into ruin and destruction.  ‘The love of money is the root of all evils’ and there are some who, pursuing it, have wandered away from the faith, and so given their souls any number of fatal wounds.”  Health and self-sufficiency are also not everything.  A good life is more than just material and physical blessings on earth but rather the blessings that come from the Holy Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal 5:22f)

The psalmist reminds us of the stark truth of the gospel message.  The response is a quotation from the first of the eight beatitudes preached by Jesus when He said, “Blessed the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!”  The psalmist cautions us against trusting ourselves and this world:Why should I fear in evil days when my wicked ensnarers ring me round? They trust in their wealth; the abundance of their riches is their boast. Yet in no way can a man redeem himself, or pay his own ransom to God; Too high is the price to redeem one’s life; he would never have enough to remain alive always and not see destruction.”  Again the psalmist says, “ Fear not when a man grows rich, when the wealth of his house becomes great,  For when he dies, he shall take none of it; his wealth shall not follow him down. Though in his lifetime he counted himself blessed, “They will praise you for doing well for yourself,” He shall join the circle of his forebears who shall never more see light.”  So let us not deceive ourselves or allow those teachers who preach the prosperity gospel to mislead us into focusing on the selfish, individualist and worldly needs rather than the values Jesus taught us in the Beatitudes, which are the values of the Kingdom.  These are totally at variant with the promise of worldly gains. (Cf Mt 5:3-11)

Truly, the ministry is full of temptations and if we are not careful, what we begin with good intentions may end up with self-gratification.  What then must we do to ensure that our ministry is a true continuation of the ministry of Jesus? The key to overcome temptations of every sort is contentment.  Unless we are contented with ourselves and with our lives, we will always be seeking for more and more.  This is very true on the most mundane level of life, namely, our material needs.  When we feel that we do not have enough money or material things, then we begin to hanker after them.   When we do, then we begin to discriminate people.  We serve them with ulterior motives.  We do not serve them with unconditional and genuine love.  But we love and serve them only because we can get things or favours from them.

What Paul says about material things applies to other areas as well. Thus, if a Church leader has low self-esteem, he becomes very insecure in his relationship with others; he begins to seek affirmation and popularity.  If a leader lacks authentic self-love, then he makes use of others, his fellow ministry members, counselees, parishioners and others whom he serves, to fill the lack in his life.  If he is not careful, he will fall into activism.  But activism is not ministry because the former springs from emptiness whereas the latter springs from an overflowing love.

For this reason, what is most essential before ministry can take place is contentment. The classical axiom: we cannot give what we have not got remains very true.  To be contented means that we are full – full in love, full in joy and in meaning.  In other words, as Paul says, we are sufficient.  And we must really believe not just in our heads but deep in our hearts, that we have more than we need to be happy in life.  St Paul says, that “if we have food and clothing, we have all that we need.”  This is very true.  Perhaps, we can add one more, shelter as well.  But beyond food, clothing and shelter, there is nothing that we really must have to be happy.  Everything else is a bonus and a luxury.  Now, a person who is contented need not therefore not look to others and to things to be happy and fulfilled in his life.  Consequently, he will never be tempted by them and will not make use of people to achieve his desires.

Jesus is our model.  Consider the way He carried out His ministry in the gospel.  The evangelist remarked, “Jesus made his way through towns and villages preaching, and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God.“  He was certainly not hoarding money or seeking to build a kingdom for Himself and His disciples, or accumulating anything for Himself.  They were living a simple life in faith and in trust.  And God sent people like the women, some who were rich and influential to help them.  But Jesus certainly did not promise us riches and freedom from suffering on earth.  The women must have been so inspired by the detachment of Jesus that they too gave up their luxurious lifestyle and accompanied Jesus in His journey, serving Him quietly, generously out of their own resources.

So, if today we want to find contentment and live a life of detachment from the world, we must strengthen our relationship with Jesus, just as the women did. It is important to take note that the women who attended to Jesus and assisted Him out of their own resources were people who had been touched by the Lord in a very personal way.  They had experienced His liberating love and some have been cured of evil spirits and maladies.  We too, as disciples of Jesus, must cultivate a personal relationship with Him.  Unless we experience His liberating love and are cured of the evil spirits of lust, attachment, greed and jealousy in our lives, we will not be able to be contented in life.  But when we experience His love, then we know that our sufficiency is in Jesus.  In Christ, we are not lacking in anything. Only when we come to this level of experience, will we be able to carry out our ministerial responsibilities with unconditional love.

Yes, let us heed the advice of Paul.  We must flee from this lack of sufficiency in our lives.  Instead, we must seek integrity, piety, faith and love.  As St Paul urges all religious leaders, “You must aim to be saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle.  Fight the good fight of the faith and win for yourself the eternal life to which you were called when you made your profession and spoke up for the truth in front of many witnesses.”  This is possible for all those who love Jesus and allow themselves to be loved by Him.  In the final analysis, therefore, ministers who are not intimate with Jesus will fill up their emptiness with the things of the world; they will bring harm to themselves and those people they serve.  But ministers who are filled with the love of Jesus have more than sufficient and therefore have abundance of love to share with others.  Such ministers of God will do themselves and others good.

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A migrant holds a banner as he participates in a peaceful protest in front of the Hungarian border gate near the village of Horgos, Serbia, September 17, 2015. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov
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Survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan march during a religious procession in Tolosa on the eastern Philippine island of Leyte on November 18, 2013 over one week after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the area. The United Nations estimates that 13 million people were affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan with around 1.9 million losing their homes. AFP PHOTO / Philippe Lopez (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
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One Response to “Prayer and Meditation for Friday, September 18, 2015 — Blessed are the poor in spirit — Gospel of Compassion — Are we preaching in word and demonstrating in practice the Gospels?”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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