Prayer and Meditation for Monday, September 5, 2016 — “It is widely reported that there is immorality among you.” (How are we “moderns” so different from those in the Jesus’s time?)

Monday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 437

Reading 1 1 COR 5:1-8

Brothers and sisters:
It is widely reported that there is immorality among you,
and immorality of a kind not found even among pagans–
a man living with his father’s wife.
And you are inflated with pride.
Should you not rather have been sorrowful?
The one who did this deed should be expelled from your midst.
I, for my part, although absent in body but present in spirit,
have already, as if present,
pronounced judgment on the one who has committed this deed,
in the name of our Lord Jesus:
when you have gathered together and I am with you in spirit
with the power of the Lord Jesus,
you are to deliver this man to Satan
for the destruction of his flesh,
so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.Your boasting is not appropriate.
Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?
Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough,
inasmuch as you are unleavened.
For our Paschal Lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.
Therefore, let us celebrate the feast,
not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Responsorial Psalm PS 5:5-6, 7, 12

R. (9) Lead me in your justice, Lord.
For you, O God, delight not in wickedness;
no evil man remains with you;
the arrogant may not stand in your sight.
You hate all evildoers.
R. Lead me in your justice, Lord.
You destroy all who speak falsehood;
The bloodthirsty and the deceitful
the LORD abhors.
R. Lead me in your justice, Lord.
But let all who take refuge in you
be glad and exult forever.
Protect them, that you may be the joy
of those who love your name.
R. Lead me in your justice, Lord.

Alleluia JN 10:27

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Christ healing the man with a withered hand, Byzantine mosaic.

Gospel LK 6:6-11

On a certain sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught,
and there was a man there whose right hand was withered.
The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely
to see if he would cure on the sabbath
so that they might discover a reason to accuse him.
But he realized their intentions
and said to the man with the withered hand,
“Come up and stand before us.”
And he rose and stood there.
Then Jesus said to them,
“I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath
rather than to do evil,
to save life rather than to destroy it?”
Looking around at them all, he then said to him,
“Stretch out your hand.”
He did so and his hand was restored.
But they became enraged
and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.
First Thoughts From Peace and Freedom
Every Gospel story could have any one of us at its core.
We all suffer afflictions, diseases, sins and human failings.
The Gospels tell every one of us to come forward, stare Jesus in the eye, get to know Him and ask for His Divine Help.
I am the man with the “withered hand.” I am the Prodigal Son. The humility we need to come forward and seek forgiveness is the necessary first step in a new, adult conversion and a life lived in the pursuit of sanctity and holiness.
We renounce Satan and evil in our lives to allow God, to give him permission, to cast out all that we know has no justified place in our heart and soul. We need and seek reconciliation, forgiveness and a “Christ-like life.”
And what is it that we get in return? A new life, full of hope for eternity. We move away from anxiety and worry caused by our human limitations and weaknesses — and toward empowerment with spiritual energy that can only come from him.
Hundreds of scripture readings contain the words “do not be afraid.” Once we approach Jesus and know His way, we can follow without anxiety or fear or worry.
The Holy Spirit within us starts as a tiny flame, like the pilot light in a gas stove. When we lead the life of love that Jesus shows us, that flame grows in warmth and life from Him.
John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

Commentary on Luke 6:6-11 From Living Space

Immediately following the incident of plucking the grains in the cornfield, we have another confrontation with religious leaders also on a Sabbath day. This one is even nastier as it involves what is called in American police movies a “set up” or “entrapment”.

Jesus had gone into the local synagogue, as was his practice on the sabbath, and began to teach. Right in front of him was a man with a withered hand, no doubt something he was born with.

There were scribes and Pharisees in the congregation and, we are told, they “were watching him” to see whether he would heal the man on a Sabbath day so that they could accuse him of breaking the Law.

Medical work was forbidden on the Sabbath because it normally took time. Jesus, of course, healed with just a word but even if he did not, could one say that healing was against the spirit of the Sabbath? At the same time, it is also worth noting that the man was suffering from a chronic and probably non-painful disability. There was no need for him to be cured on the spot; it could easily have waited until the next day.

Christ Healing the Man with the Withered Hand, by Robert T. Barrett

That gives further point to Jesus’ argument. The poor man had clearly been “planted”. He was being used as bait for their sinister ends. For the Pharisees and their co-conspirators the man and his plight were secondary. They had to prove their point and he was seen as a useful tool.

Jesus, of course, is fully aware of what is going on. He speaks directly to the disabled man: “Rise up and stand out in the middle!” The command to “rise up” is already an indication of what is going to take place; the man is going to be given new life. Nor is there any secrecy. What Jesus is going to do is to be seen by all.

But first he puts a question to the whole congregation, scribes and Pharisees included: “Is it lawful on the sabbath day to do good, or to do evil? to save life or to destroy it?”

It is really an unanswerable question because the answer is so obvious. But it was not the way these Pharisees were thinking. Their question would be very different: “Is it right to obey the Law or to violate it?” For them the Law, even the letter of the Law, was paramount. There is an irony in Jesus’ question because Jesus is planning to bring healing into a man’s life while they were preparing to bring about his destruction. Who was really breaking the Sabbath?

Not so with Jesus. For him the Law was relative to the true and the good. No implementation of a law can offend the true and the good. And sometimes the following of the true and the good may have to go against the letter of the law. What is legal is not always moral. It can be immoral, that is, evil, to obey a law in certain circumstances. What is moral sometimes transcends the law and may even contradict the law.

Hearing no dissenting answer, Jesus says to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so. His arm was fully restored to normal.

The scribes and Pharisees were furious and began to plot against Jesus. Their plans had been brought to nought. They showed no pleasure that a crippled man had been made whole. Their interpretation of the law had been shown to be wanting and they had to get back at Jesus.

Such situations are by no means unknown in our Christian life and in our Church. We will run into situations where doing good may be in conflict with traditional regulations and legal formulae.

We will find ourselves in situations where contemporary Pharisees will try to put the Church into a straitjacket of narrow-mindedness and fundamentalism whether it involves our understanding of the Scripture or the liturgy or morality or something else. These are people who put the letter of the laws, regulations and rubrics before love. For them it is more important to observe the externals of rules than to be a loving person.


From Lectio Divina From The Carmelites

• Context: This passage presents Jesus who cures a man with a withered hand. Different from the context of chapters 3 and 4 in which Jesus is alone, now here he is surrounded by his disciples and the women who go around with him. Therefore, here we have Jesus always moving.
In the first stages of this journey the reader finds different ways of listening to the Word of Jesus on the part of those who follow him and which, definitively, it could be summarized in two experiences, which recall, in turn, two types of approaches: that of Peter (5,1-11) and that of the centurion (7,1-10). The first one encounters Jesus who invites him after the miraculous catch to become a fisherman of men; then he falls on his knees before Jesus: «Leave me, Lord, I am a sinful man” (5, 8).
The second one does not have any direct communication with Jesus: he has heard people speak very well about Jesus and he sends his envoys to ask for the cure of one of his servants who is dying; he is asking for something not for himself, but for a person who was a favourite of his.
The figure of Peter expresses the attitude of the one who, discovering himself a sinner, places all his acts under the influence of the Word of Jesus. The centurion, showing solicitude for the servant, learns to listen to God. Well, between these itineraries or attitudes which characterize the itinerant journey of Jesus, is placed the cure of the man who presents the withered hand. This event of the miracle takes place in a context of debate or controversy: the ears of corn picked on the Sabbath and on the act of curing on a Saturday, precisely the withered hand.
Between the two discussions there is the crucial role played by the Word of Jesus: “The Son of man is master of the Sabbath” (6, 5). Continuing with this passage we ask ourselves which is the sense of this withered hand? It is a symbol of the salvation of man who is taken back to the original moment, that of creation. The right hand, then, expresses human acting.
Jesus then, gives back to this day of the week, Saturday, the deepest significance: it is the day of joy, of the restoration and not of limitation. What Jesus shows is the Messianic Saturday and not the legalistic one: the cures that he does are signs of the Messianic times, of restoration, of the liberation of man.
• The dynamic of the miracle. Luke places before Jesus a man who has a withered hand, dry, paralyzed. Nobody is interested in asking for his cure and much less the one concerned. And just the same, the sickness was not only an individual problem but its effects have repercussion on the whole community. But in our account we do not have so much the problem of the sickness as that of the aspect that it was done on Saturday. Jesus is criticized because he cured on Saturday.
The difference with the Pharisees is in the fact that they on Saturday do not act on the basis of the commandment of love which is the essence of the Law. Jesus, after having ordered man to get in the middle of the assembly, formulates a decisive question: “Is it permitted on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil?” The space for the answer is restricted: to cure or not to cure, or rather, to cure or to destroy (v.9). Let us imagine the difficulty of the Pharisees: it is excluded that evil can be done on Saturday or lead man to damnation, and even less to cure because help was permitted only in case of extreme need.

The Pharisees feel provoked and this causes aggressiveness in them. But it is evident that the intention of Jesus in curing on Saturday is for the good of man and in the first place, for the one who is sick. This motivation of love invites us to reflect on our behaviour and to found it on that of Jesus who saves. Jesus is not only attentive to cure the sick person but is interested also in the cure of his enemies: to cure them from their distorted attitude in their observance of the Law; to observe Saturday without freeing their neighbour from their misery and sickness is not in accordance with the will of God. According to the Evangelist, the function of Saturday is to do good, to save, like Jesus has done during his earthly life.


Personal questions
• Do you feel involved in the words of Jesus: how do you commit yourself in your service to life? Do you know how to create the necessary conditions so that others may live better?
• Do you know how to place at the centre of your attention and of your commitment every person and all their requirements?
Concluding Prayer
Joy for all who take refuge in you,
endless songs of gladness!
You shelter them, they rejoice in you,
those who love your name. (Ps 5,11)


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!




Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
05 SEPTEMBER 2016, Monday, 23rd Week of Ordinary Time
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1 COR 5:1-8; PS 5:5-7, 12; LK 6:6-11 ]

In the responsorial psalm, we read that sin and holiness are totally incompatible in the eyes of God.  This explains why the Scribes and Pharisees sought to keep the laws faithfully because they wanted to be true to the Covenant.  Indeed, the word “Pharisee” means to be separated from the world.   They held fast to the laws dearly and they strove to keep them as meticulously as possible.  Unfortunately, it could lead to legalism.

In the first reading too, we read of the scandal in the Christian community of Corinth.  St Paul was furious that the community tolerated the scandal and failed to take action against the man who committed the sexual impropriety, probably by sleeping with his step-mother, as Paul named her as the “father’s wife.”  We can appreciate the situation in Corinth because the pagans in those days were free with sexual practices.  There was no inkling of chastity or fidelity.  It was common in pagan culture to indulge in sexual immorality.  Such practices contradict not just the gospel values but were forbidden by the Law of Moses.  (cf Lev 18:8)  It was a shock to St Paul that the community could tolerate the scandal as if nothing had happened.

In St Paul’s view, that person should be excommunicated. He wrote, “A man who does a thing like that ought to have been expelled from the community.”  Was St Paul rather too harsh in recommending the measure that should be taken?  The truth is that the Church is called to be a sign of holiness in the world.  If the members are living double lives and failing to live up to what the gospel commands us, then we would lose credibility as a Church.  If we are not a redeemed people, no one would believe that Jesus is our redeemer.   So it is important that Christians must observe a life of discipline and in accordance with the teachings of our Lord.

Secondly, he warned that if no action was taken, then the consequences would be grave.  By not taking action and demanding discipline among the Christians, then others would follow suit and eventually, the whole community would be infected by the sin.  Others who see that their actions are overlooked might also be tempted to do likewise because they would think that they can get away with it and still remain within the community.  Living a double life not only does no one any good, but it would be a counter witness to the gospel and a scandal to the Church.

Indeed, the Catholic Church was once very strict with regard to the observance of the Church laws.  We used to have many laws governing the reception of the sacraments, the celebration of the liturgy and of laws on morality.  Failure to observe them meticulously would constitute a sin e.g. coming late for Mass, not observing the fast for Holy Communion, eating meat on Fridays, etc.   Now the laws are simplified and no longer observed at times even.  For some, the Church has become rather complacent and too lax.

Indeed, the traditionalists feel the Church has made too many compromises and the hierarchy have failed to uphold the laws and the necessary discipline of the members.  These could involve major to minor issues.  With respect to the liturgy, many are disturbed by the sloppy and improper attire for those who come for the Eucharist.  Many have no reverence for the Eucharist and even receive communion when in serious sin.  Even in marriage and sexual morality, they perceive the Church to be weak in insisting on the traditional teachings of the Church, such as that concerning the use of contraceptives, abortion, indissolubility of marriage and even mixed marriages.  Last of all, the Church seems to even tolerate same sex unions.  Above all, the Church welcomes such sinners without requiring them to change their ways or penalizing them for their misconduct.

So the question is:  have we indeed become more immune to sin?  Has the Church become less holy today?  Is the Church losing credibility and its prophetic role in a secular and materialistic world?  From the judgment of the traditionalists, indeed, this is the case.  Less and less people are going for the sacrament of reconciliation, the faith is not lived religiously, and the gospel values are not followed.  This also has caused some quarters of the Church to return to its roots.  Interestingly, the more conservative and traditional religious congregations and institutes seem to be attracting more vocations than those who have given up their traditions, e.g. the habits, the radical observance of the evangelical counsels, and the liturgy.  More significantly, those who join them or are returning to the traditions of the Church are young people.  They feel that the established religious congregations have watered down the radical values of the gospel.  They are no longer attractive and a sign of contradiction to the world.  When our Church and religious orders become too secular, they lose their attractiveness to those who desire to live the gospel radically.  This phenomenon is something for the Church to reckon with.  What sign are we giving to our times?  How is it to be interpreted?

At the other end of the spectrum, we have the liberals who feel that the Church is not doing enough to show compassion for sinners, especially those caught in divorce, the use of contraceptives or those who seek same sex union.  They want the Church to approve what the bible condemns; failure to do so shows that the Church is out of sync with the modern times.   They accuse the Church of being too legalistic and unrealistic in today’s world.  Most of all, because such practices are disapproved by the Church, those who are on the wrong side of the laws feel unworthy to come to Church, for they are made to feel like hypocrites, rejects and traitors to the Church.

Who is right and who is wrong?  The truth is that both are not wrong.   If we are too lax in our discipline, then the Church will fall into permissiveness.   Most of all, St Paul warns us that if we do not deal with the problems head-on, the disease will spread to the rest.  The lack of discipline among the members will lead the Church to decadence. The younger ones will learn all the bad examples.  If an organization were to do well, it needs to set a high benchmark for its members to reach.  By admitting sinners into our community, we will also suffer the loss of credibility.  When we compromise the truth, the Church loses its differentiating factor from the rest of the society.  We become counter-witness.  Perhaps, this could explain why the more conservative orders and institutes that seek to be faithful to the traditional teaching of the Church are drawing more of our young people to join them.  It could be an indication that there is a thirst for greater authenticity and fidelity to the truth.

On the other hand, if we follow the way of St Paul without qualifications and that of the Jewish religious leaders, then that failure to realize that there is a real difference between the law of gradualness and the gradualness of the law.  The latter speaks of the necessity for us to grow in authenticity and in the truth.  The former rejects the notion that the Church possesses the truth and like the world, we have not found the truth and thus our doctrines can change and are not binding for all time.  No one can live the gospel fully overnight.  Even St Peter was given time to love Jesus with a human love before he could love Him with a godly love.  The gospel truth remains a goal and our destiny.  Furthermore, if we separate ourselves from sinners and cut them off completely, we might never be able to reach out to them and bring them back to the fold.  It must be realized that when St Paul spoke of the need to excommunicate them, it was not an action taken out of revenge but out of love, in the hope that the errant member would see the seriousness of his sin and seek repentance of heart.  Worst of all, such separation only makes us self-righteous, thinking that we are the saved ones.

In the gospel, Jesus was not against the observance of the laws.  But He was against a slavish observance of the laws, more out of pride than love for God.  Healing the man with the withered hand on a Sabbath was an exception. The Sabbath Law was meant to celebrate life by insisting that human beings must take a break from work and making money so that they could have time for God and for the family.  Thus, the healing of the withered man was for the sake of saving a life and those connected with the man.  In no way did Jesus intend to break the law but in this instance by breaking the law, He kept the law.  Not to do so would actually have gone against the law, since the law was given for our good.  That is why we need prudence to decide when to break the law for a greater good, which is for the protection of life and for the salvation of our souls.  The virtue of prudence enables us to determine when we should apply the law and when we should excuse ourselves because of compassion.  It is significant that with the Pharisees, the Scribes and the priests, Jesus was rather harsh and direct without mincing His words.  But with the lay and ordinary sinners, He was always full of compassion, gentleness and forgiveness. So let us pray for prudence and a discerning heart of compassion.


Written by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore.






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