Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, August 31, 2016 — “Are you not merely men?” — “But you can be liberated from the power of evil spirits.”

Wednesday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 433

Reading 1 1 COR 3:1-9

Brothers and sisters,
I could not talk to you as spiritual people,
but as fleshly people, as infants in Christ.
I fed you milk, not solid food,
because you were unable to take it.
Indeed, you are still not able, even now,
for you are still of the flesh.
While there is jealousy and rivalry among you,
are you not of the flesh, and walking
according to the manner of man?
Whenever someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and another,
“I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely men?What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul?
Ministers through whom you became believers,
just as the Lord assigned each one.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.
Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything,
but only God, who causes the growth.
He who plants and he who waters are one,
and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor.
For we are God’s co-workers;
you are God’s field, God’s building.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:12-13, 14-15, 20-21

R. (12) Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
From heaven the LORD looks down;
he sees all mankind.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
From his fixed throne he beholds
all who dwell on the earth,
He who fashioned the heart of each,
he who knows all their works.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield,
For in him our hearts rejoice;
in his holy name we trust.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

Alleluia LK 4:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Lord sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor
and to proclaim liberty to captives.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 4:38-44

After Jesus left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon.
Simon’s mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever,
and they interceded with him about her.
He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her.
She got up immediately and waited on them.

At sunset, all who had people sick with various diseases
brought them to him.
He laid his hands on each of them and cured them.
And demons also came out from many, shouting, “You are the Son of God.”
But he rebuked them and did not allow them to speak
because they knew that he was the Christ.

At daybreak, Jesus left and went to a deserted place.
The crowds went looking for him, and when they came to him,
they tried to prevent him from leaving them.
But he said to them, “To the other towns also
I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God,
because for this purpose I have been sent.”
And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

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Art: Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law by John Bridges, 19th century.
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Commentary on Luke 4:38-44 From Living Space

After the scene in the synagogue where Jesus healed a man possessed by an evil spirit, he goes straight to Peter’s house. It was a sabbath day so Jesus could not move around or do any major activity. He seems to have used this house as his base when in Capernaum and that part of Galilee. (Jesus had “nowhere to lay his head”, no dwelling of his own, but it seems clear that he was not a streetsleeper. There were always people ready to offer him hospitality – a custom of the Middle East and a model for Christians of every age and place.)

Peter’s mother-in-law was in the grip of a fever and the disciples begged Jesus to do something for her. (We might remember that the first pope was married.) Jesus stood over her and, with a word, cured her. Immediately she got up and began to serve Jesus and his group.

There is a lesson here. Health and healing are not just for the individual. Her healing immediately restored her to the community and the duty of serving that community. (And not just because she was a woman! If it had been the father-in-law, the same would apply.) As long as we are in health our energies are meant to be directed to the building up of the community and not simply for our personal enjoyment.

“Now when the sun was setting” – we need to remember it was a sabbath. The sabbath went from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday (so Jesus could not be properly buried on the Friday evening when he died). According to the traditions, Jews could not travel more than two-thirds of a mile or carry any load. Only after sunset could the sick be brought to Jesus.

As soon as the sabbath was over, large numbers brought their sick to him. He “laid his hands on every one of them” and healed them all. As Jesus had announced in the synagogue at Nazareth, the Kingdom of God had arrived and was entering the lives of people, bringing them health and wholeness.

Many were also liberated from the power of evil spirits. These spirits shouted at Jesus “You are the Son of God”. As we mentioned earlier, by using Jesus’ title they hoped to exert control over him. It did not work, of course. Whether these were actual cases of possession or were psychological or moral disorders which made people behave in abnormal ways and perhaps ways harmful to themselves and others is not clear. But clearly the presence of the Kingdom is being felt.

At daybreak – Jesus had been working the whole night for the people – he went off into a quiet place. The desert is the place where God is to be found and very likely, as Mark tells us, Jesus went there to pray and to be alone. The people, who had seen what he did for them, wanted him to stay with them. Their attitude is in marked contrast to the people of Nazareth.

But he could and would not. “I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also; that is why I have been sent.” And so we are told that he was now preaching in the synagogues of Judea – in the south of the country, although the term may simply refer to the whole of Jewish territory.

No place could have a monopoly on his attentions. We need to attach ourselves to Jesus and keep close to him but we cannot cling to him in a way that prevents others from experiencing his healing touch.

On the contrary, it is our task as his disciples to see that as many as possible come to know and experience his love, his compassion and his healing.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2224g/

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A Procession of the Damned- Study for the Damned in Dante’s Inferno. By George Romney

Related:

Father Robert Barron says, “Jesus Christ was either the most important person ever to walk on the face of the earth or he was a liar and a fraud.”
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Fr. Robert Barron
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So there’s our choice.
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And for me I would have to deny all the apostles and all the followers of Jesus throughout the history of man to not believe in Jesus.
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I would have to say that Michelangelo was insane, Thomas Aquinas was a fool, and all the saints, and popes, and all the followers ever were just flat wrong.
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I would have to declare, if I choose not to follow Christ, that I am smarter and better informed that John the Baptist, John the Apostle, and the Apostle Thomas who traveled all the way to what is now India to spread the Word of God after Jesus Rose From The Dead.
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I can’t do that.
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Jesus’ impact on man, on mankind, is so profound that he cannot be denied — even in this “all knowing” Internet and technology Age.
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Jesus is not just the main thing. He is the only thing.
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Jesus is our  Raison d’être.
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I can either be a follower with conviction or face conviction and hell after the Court of Real Justice in Heaven!
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No. I have faced conviction and hell already.
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I choose life and conviction to Jesus and His Father — with the help and intercession of the Holy Spirit.
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John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
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Related:

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!

Thomas Merton

Shortly after he converted to Catholicism in the late 1930s, Thomas Merton was walking the streets of New York with his friend, Robert Lax. Lax was Jewish, and he asked Merton what he wanted to be, now that he was Catholic.

“I don’t know,” Merton replied, adding simply that he thought maybe he wanted to be a good Catholic.

Lax stopped him in his tracks.

“What you should say,” he told him, “is that you want to be a saint!”

Merton was dumbfounded.

“How do you expect me to become a saint?,” Merton asked him.

Lax said: “All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one.Don’t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you will consent to let him do it? All you have to do is desire it.”…

Thomas Merton knew his friend was right.

Merton, of course, would go on to become one of the great spiritual thinkers and writers of the last century.

His friend Bob Lax would later convert to Catholicism himself — and begin his own journey to try and be a saint.

But the words Lax spoke ring down through the decades to all of us today. Because they speak so simply and profoundly to our calling as Catholic Christians.

 

Thomas Merton said: You should want to be a saint.

You should want to be a saint. And to be one, all you need is to want to be one.

Of course, if you only want to be a run-of-the-mill, average Christian, that’s probably all you’ll ever be. Every one can do just enough to get by. It’s not hard.

But many of us are challenged to do more….

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Real Men Pray

Jeremiah Denton
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My creed for life is the Apostles’ Creed. My code of conduct is de-rived from the Ten Commandments and Jesus’ command to “love God, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” As an American naval officer, I derived motivation to serve my nation because of my love for my country. I also believe that Americans have a special justification to love their country derived from a love of God. America was founded as “one nation under God.” Our founding fathers deliberately based their experiment in democracy upon the premise that the compassion and the self-discipline required for the success of a democracy can only come from citizens who believe strongly in God.

Due to our nation’s founding premise, I found it easy to serve in a profession that protected our land. My generation helped to protect and ensure the survival of our nation against Fascism and Soviet Communism. Now our greatest enemy is the threat that would do away with America’s belief in the founding premise, its founding thesis.

If we continue to increase our forgetfulness of God’s ultimate significance, then America will not survive. I strive for the ultimate significant success —heaven—by loving and serving God, country and family.
THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS

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To those who are non-Catholics among the readers, let me preface the story with an explanation of the Roman Catholic devotion to “The Sacred Heart of Jesus.” Jesus, of course, has both a human and divine nature and took on a human body, and all natural characteristics of a human when he was on earth. His brain and sensory system enabled him to think and feel as a human being. His divine nature rendered him a sinless soul but he felt the temptations of a human being, and all the physical pains, pleasures, sights, and emotions of a human being. Thus the immensity of his suffering for our salvation is more palpably understood and appreciated by us. It is a Catholic tradition to regard his heart as the center, the symbol of his own humanity, the “source” of his human compassion and his love as he felt it and showed it on earth.

The love resulting in the miracle of Cana is one example of what could be attributed to his Sacred Heart. We feel we can “get to him” better, if you will, by appealing to that copiously loving heart. I had adopted that devotion and frequently uttered the prayer, “Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in Thee,” which was the standard prayer of that de-votion. I said it frequently, at least every night in prison.

Okay, with that said, let’s go back to 1967, about two years after I was shot down. Those years were probably the worst in terms of suffering for me. For a considerable portion of that time I had served as senior of-ficer for all the American POWs, responsible for issuing orders defining specific lines of resistance on unexpected challenges which arose, repre-senting our complaints about out treatment to our captors, and generally feeling responsible for our morale and performance of duty. Simply being a POW involved plenty of stress, long periods of physical and mental suf-fering. but for those finding themselves senior over an isolated group of POWs there was extra pressure.

The context of the timeframe of the incident I am about to relate was in the middle of the four years of intense mistreatment: mid 1967. Robbie Risner, then I, then Jim Stockdale had served as Senior Ranking Officer, (SRO), in that sequence since October 1965 when torture began. At this particular point in time, they were both isolated, and I was trying to act as SRO again in a camp called “Las Vegas” where most of the POWs were being kept. Vegas was like a hotel with fairly small cells, most of them were sharing common walls with one or two other cells.

Many of us had been moved to Vegas from the “zoo” where there were separate buildings, perhaps eight, holding a total of upwards of 100 prisoners. This arrangement permitted the North Vietnamese to erect bamboo walls cutting off visual contact between the buildings, and this greatly impeded audio contact because the walls limited maximum range of sound. The guards could use the walls to hide behind and catch people in one building trying to communicate with one another. Torture was al-ways bestowed on POWs caught communicating, along with other un-pleasant measures intended to intimidate the man from communicating in the future. This rendered communications difficult compared to the Vegas situation. We had been doing pretty well with tapping on the walls at Vegas for a number of months, but then the purge came that caused Stockdale’s temporary isolation, and I inherited the sack.

To inhibit and virtually prevent me from communicating as SRO, they stationed a guard in a chair at the door of my cell. At all times, his chair was leaned back against the door and the back of his head rested against the door. The acoustics were such that he could easily hear any tap, no matter how soft. Communications and prayer were by far the biggest factors supporting our morale and performance of duty.

At that time morale was low for three reasons: First, for a number of months, torture was being applied more intensely because the war was being intensified, the enemy was in an ugly mood and we knew prisoners were being promptly and severely tortured. We could hear their screams from a distance in another part of the prison complex. Also a purge among those POWs who had been in captivity longer was underway in an effort to break our chain of command and destroy our will to resist. Second, the news about the war which we were receiving was such that it was becoming evident that it was extremely unlikely the POWs would be released in any reasonable or early timeframe, and the conclusions that we would never be released were floating around in our minds. Third, com-munication was almost nil.

I was intensely frustrated and chagrined at my lack of ability to com-municate. Though I would have never admitted it, I was also of the belief that the U.S. was beginning to experience a growing anti-war movement. This sentiment would not likely improve our victory chances or any escala-tion of the scope and intensity of the U.S. offensive campaign which I and most others felt was necessary. Less importantly but of considerable effect on us, the end of the war did indeed seem further away, and release less certain.

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The screams of the prisoners in torture did not help my morale. During this phase I was enjoying the company of Jim Mulligan, my occasional cellmate. At this point in time, Jim was sleeping in the upper bunk. It was midday, siesta time, and the screams occasionally broke the normal silence for that time of day. I was praying, as usual, that God’s will be done, but that I hoped His will would include, among other things, improving our present situation because I was in leg irons and a guard was looking right at me.

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I prayed especially that He would let me come up with a means of communications that could be effectively used even when I was unable to move. Finally, as my last prayer, with special earnestness, I uttered the words, “Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in Thee.” In only a few seconds, I clearly heard an incredibly kind, dignified but commanding voice, which was taken by me to be the voice of Jesus Himself. The voice said clearly and rather slowly, “Say, Sacred Heart of Jesus, I give myself to you.” I was almost knocked down with a wave of awe upon hearing the voice. It was the most real and the most amazing thing that ever happened to me.

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The speaker of those words, of course, was not only assuring me of having heard my prayer, but had instructed me to deliver it in the future with new wording and meaning. I was not to say I merely trusted Him, but transcending that, I was to GIVE MYSELF, (all of me, all of my concerns) not just to THEE, as to a formal, omnipo-tent other type of suprem being, but to give myself to YOU, the familiar designation of a friend or a brother. And the tone and inflection of the voice conveyed the same mood of brotherly familiarity and assurance. It may sound kooky, but I know it happened, and I know it was real, more than I know my name is what it is, or that my wife is really my wife. For what it is worth, I can assure you that for me the prayer has worked.

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A few months later at a camp called Alcatraz where eleven of us were iso-lated for over two years, I did have a brainstorm which permitted me todevise the reliable, undetectable communications method for which I had specifically prayed. In many other painful situations, the prayer has since brought relief to me and to others who used it after I confided to them about the prayer.

http://www.agatheringofeagles.com/stories/prisoners-of-hope-a-gathering-of-eagles/jeremiah-denton-former-senator-alabama

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Sometimes people say they had a terrible father so they cannot relate to “God the Father” or the “Our Father.” Scott Hahn addresses this difficulty in his book “Understanding Our Father” which is also a good read for fathers of every age.

Sometimes Catholics say they left the Church because of the priest sexual abuse of children scandal. I like to ask them, if some doctors were accuses of malpractice, would you never again go to a doctor? Would you never again go into a hospital?

Every time I go into a church I say, “Jesus I am here for you. Maybe in spite of the pastor…”

JFC, Peace and Freedom

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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