Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 EPH 3:14-21
I kneel before the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory
to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self,
and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;
that you, rooted and grounded in love,
may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones
what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine,
by the power at work within us,
to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus
to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Responsorial Psalm PS 33:1-2, 4-5, 11-12, 18-19
Exult, you just, in the LORD;
praise from the upright is fitting.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten stringed lyre chant his praises.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
For upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever;
the design of his heart, through all generations.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
But see, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
Gospel PHIL 3:8-9
I consider all things so much rubbish
that I may gain Christ and be found in him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 12:49-53
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.
From now on a household of five will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
The Gospel today is taken from Saint Luke and points out to us that our usual image of Jesus as sweet and loving needs a bit of correction. Today Jesus tells us in His own words: Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.
This division comes about because Jesus teaches a clear message of love for God and for all others. Not all of us accept this message and allow it to form us. Instead we continue to those who love us in return, we continue help those who already have enough and we continue to see our own good in preference to the good of others. People who are stubborn and try to follow Jesus are often rejected as being rigid or too tough or even unrealistic. Surely in today’s political climate and cultural changes, a true Christian will be less and less acceptable. So many want to lessen the teachings of Jesus so that everyone will be happy, so that everyone will have the peace of no opposition.
Yet that kind of peace must be destroyed. Instead, the only peace that lasts comes from striving to do God’s will and to live in accordance with God’s words and God’s teachings in the Scriptures.
Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, August 14, 2016 — “Let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us.” — There is a profound positive meaning in suffering if we are willing to find and embrace it
Christians In Iraq Applaud Military Attack on Mosul — “There have been Christians here since the Bible was written” (Chaldean, Assyrian, Armenian and Syriac communities)
Eleven missionaries, including a 12-year-old boy, were slaughtered
The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) executed 12 Christians, including a 12-year-old boy, after they refused to abandon their faith and convert to Islam. The murders occurred on August 28, 2015 outside of Aleppo.
“In front of the team leader and relatives in the crowd, the Islamic extremists cut off the fingertips of the boy and severely beat him, telling his father they would stop the torture only if he, the father, returned to Islam,” revealed Christian Aid Mission. “When the team leader refused, relatives said, the ISIS militants also tortured and beat him and the two other ministry workers. The three men and the boy then met their deaths in crucifixion.”
The boy’s father was a “ministry team leader who planted nine churches.” One woman allegedly yelled “Jesus!” right before the terrorists beheaded her. Militants took eight aid workers, two of them females, to another village. They proceeded to rape the two females before they executed them.
“Villagers said some were praying in the name of Jesus, others said some were praying the Lord’s Prayer, and others said some of them lifted their heads to commend their spirits to Jesus,” described one source. “One of the women looked up and seemed to be almost smiling as she said, ‘Jesus!’”
The barbaric radical Islamic group has executed more than 11,000 people in “Iraq and Syria since its establishment of a self-proclaimed caliphate in June 2014.” ISIS captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in that month. For over 2,000 years, Christians and Muslims lived peacefully with each other. But when ISIS invaded, the Christians were told to either leave, convert, or pay a subjugation tax. They kidnapped the majority of the females to sell on their sex slave market while they slaughtered the males in front of their families.
“It is like going back 1,000 years seeing the barbarity that Christians are having to live under. I think we are dealing with a group which makes Nazism pale in comparison and I think they have lost all respect for human life,” explained Patrick Sookhdeo, founder of Barnabas Fund. “Crucifying these people is sending a message and they are using forms of killing which they believe have been sanctioned by Sharia law. For them what they are doing is perfectly normal and they don’t see a problem with it. It is that religious justification which is so appalling.”
In July 2014, Andrew White, the vicar of the only Anglican church in Iraq, told BBC Radio 4 that Christianity is coming to an end in the Middle Eastern country.
“Things are so desperate, our people are disappearing,” he said. “We have had people massacred, their heads chopped off. The Christians are in grave danger. There are literally Christians living in the desert and on the street. They have nowhere to go.”
“Are we seeing the end of Christianity?” he continued. “We are committed come what may, we will keep going to the end, but it looks as though the end could be very near.”
Christians have spoken out about the treatment they endured from ISIS. They said ISIS destroyed churches and statues of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, and raised the black flag in Mary’s place. Terrorists robbed the Christians at checkpoints, taking the earrings women were wearing.
“There is not a single Christian family left in Mosul,” said Bashar Nasih Behnam, who left with his two children. “The last one was a disabled Christian woman. She stayed because she could not get out. They came to her and said you have to get out and if you don’t we will cut off your head with a sword. That was the last family.”
Christians in the Middle East continue to be persecuted.
The Christians’ bodies were then hung on crosses and left as a warning to anyone who dares turn from Islam.
Patrick Sookhdeo, the founder of humanitarian aid group Barnabas Fund, claims ISIS’ actions take Christians back 1,000 years, then claimed the terrorist group makes Nazis look tame.
“Crucifying these people is sending a message and they are using forms of killing which they believe have been sanctioned by Sharia law,” Sookhdeo stated.
“For them what they are doing is perfectly normal and they don’t see a problem with it. It is that religious justification which is so appalling.”
Christians are fast becoming extinct in the Middle East as ISIS spreads its message of intolerance.
We pray for the martyrs who refused to turn from you,
even in the midst of barbaric cruelty.
We pray comfort for their grieving families
and faith for Christians everywhere who love Your Name despite dangers around them.
We pray for peace, Lord,
and for Your grace, change and love.
Turn the horrors to Your glory, God,
and protect our brothers and sisters in the Middle East.
Please grant them all blessing after blessing.
Thank you, Lord, for your loving mercies.
Who could have predicted that in 2016 so many new Christian Martyrs would be with us?
French priesr Father Jacques Hamel was killed in his church by Islamic State murderers while saying Mass, July 26, 2016
In the gospel Jesus says, “Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” These words of Jesus seem to contradict that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. In the letter of St Paul to the Ephesians he says that Jesus “is the peace between us, and had made the two into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart …. he came to bring the good news of peace, peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near at hand.” How could we then think of Jesus bringing about division among us? What a paradoxical way for Jesus to speak about His mission.
In order to understand why He conceived His mission in this manner, we must know the nature of His mission. “Jesus said, ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!” In these very words of Jesus, we see the context of His mission. Baptism was that moment when He received the mission from the Father. He described His mission in terms of fire and baptism, both of which speak of cleansing and purification. Fire is also a symbol of love. So both fire and baptism symbolize the purifying work of Jesus. He had come to purify the world of sin, selfishness, injustices, falsehood and evil. Jesus’ coming is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Malachi when he said, “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.” (Mal 3:1-3) The mission of Jesus therefore entailed bringing about the fire of purifying love. As such, inevitably, His presence, His message and actions would bring about division because men will be forced to choose Him and His Kingdom or Satan and his kingdom. There is no question of being neutral in the face of this choice we have to make when confronted by the truth of Jesus.
Indeed, when we speak of the purifying fire of love, we speak of justice and truth. Love entails justice. Love also entails truth. The reason why there is no real love and peace in the world is because the love of the world perpetuates injustice, falsehoods and deceit. Love, in the understanding of the world, is to say nice things about each other even if they are wrong. Hypocrisy and falsehood is often masqueraded as love. The world claims that what they are promoting is love. Euthanasia is done out of love for the sick, elderly and those whose lives do not seem to have value anymore. Abortion is done in the name of love because they do not want the unwanted child to suffer. Causal sex is promoted in the name of love since both can enjoy each other. Stem cell research involving embryos is done for the sake of humanity. Divorce is advocated in the name of love so that the couple can carry on with their lives.
But is this really done for love or simply for the love of oneself? It is a selfish love of self; not of the other. Euthanasia is practiced not because we do not want the elderly and sick to suffer any more but because we do not want them to be a nuisance and a hindrance to our freedom to do what we want. Everyone wants to live. Love does not want separation regardless of the person’s condition. Whether it is the patient or the caregivers, if we love, we want to be with our loved ones forever. Euthanasia is practiced because of the bankruptcy of love. Abortion too is not for the sake of the unwanted baby but so that those who conceived the baby can continue to live their lives without any commitment and responsibility. Every child that is conceived in the womb of the mother desires to be loved and accepted. Killing an innocent and helpless baby is not love. Free sex is not love either, because love is more than mere pleasure gain from the body. Unless there is love, sex is cheap. Sex merely for pleasure degrades the person and his or her body, turning it to a thing to be used, manipulated and discarded. Sex and the body are sacred because they are the means to express intimacy and love. Hence, true love requires truth and justice.
Indeed, the whole purpose of Christ’s message is to help us in purifying our love for God. In a special way, it means that we need to be purified of our motive for serving the Lord. It is good to examine ourselves deeply why many of us are serving in Church or voluntary organizations. Do we really do it for the love of God and His people? In truth, if we are not afraid to confront the real motives of what we do, we will find that our motives are less than noble. We join Church activities mostly because of what we can get out of it. Often those who volunteer to serve the Lord never ask what the Lord wants of them but what they like to do. So I join the choir because I like to sing; not because I love God and I see my contribution as a means to evangelize. Some join Church organizations because their friends are there; others because of the benefits of being members, etc. It is necessary therefore for us to always examine ourselves and be more conscious of the motives of what we do and why we do. Spiritual maturity requires that we reflect deeper into the reasons for what we have been doing or not doing. Through a conscious awareness of our struggles and achievements, our weaknesses and strengths, hopefully we be clearer as to which areas of our lives need to be sanctified further.
Undoubtedly, the purifying fire of love is painful due to the purification process. Many of us are unable to accept criticisms from others. When we are corrected by others, how often do we immediately react to defend ourselves? Our ego makes us defensive and even retaliatory. We are too proud to accept correction and we feel hurt when we receive a negative comment. That is why the Christian message is not welcome in the world. Today, the world is divided because of Christianity! We speak out against the current relativistic, materialistic and individualistic trends in the world. Not surprisingly, among all religions most hated by the world is Catholicism because we act as the moral spokesman for the world in condemning abortion, bioethical immorality, same sex union, etc. The world likes to find fault with us and seeks to discredit the Church and her religious leaders so that we cannot speak with credibility. News Media tend to report negative things that come out of the Church but positive issues are not given publicity because they are “boring.” For instance, the so- called Vatican-leak by the Pope’s Butler was given so much coverage but nothing about the Year of Faith, which had greater ramifications.
On the other hand, because purification is a difficult process and people need time to absorb the truth, it is important that we also speak the truth but do so with love. Consequently, any correction must be carried out as a service of love and for the sake of truth and justice. It must not be used, or even seen as an instrument, to destroy the person but rather to purify, to correct and to build the person up. It is important to search ourselves when we correct others. Do we seek to point out people’s mistakes and errors in order to feel good about ourselves and to humiliate people; or we do sincerely highlight their mistakes to help them to become better for their own good and not ours? If we are truly correcting purely out of love for the person, then our correction will be done with compassion and sensitivity and always with dignity. When we are harsh in our criticisms of others, most of the time, they spring from anger, vindictiveness and pride. If there are no self-interests involved, we would have been detached in offering fraternal correction to others. In the case of Jesus, even when He was harsh with the religious leaders, it was done out of love for them, never out of spite or revenge.
Let us therefore pray that we have the humility to accept criticisms positively, even if we disagree with the judgment passed on us. As long as we understand and see the judgment as a judgment in love, accepting correction should not be too difficult. More often than not, pride blinds us from seeing others’ appraisal of us as God’s means to purify us in love. Hence, in the first reading, St Paul exhorts us to found our love in His love, “Out of his infinite glory, may he give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; until, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God.”
Love conquers all. Without the love of God in us, we cannot render compassionate and yet truthful judgment without fear or favour; and for those being judged, we cannot be open and humble to accept the corrections given. But for those of us who understand the power of God’s love, then indeed, St Paul says, “Glory be to him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine; glory be to him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever.” Truly, in the final analysis, only God’s love in us can change us and transform us into integrated people and in the same love, keep us all united in love for each other, helping us each to grow in holiness and perfection in love and truth.
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