Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, June 15, 2017 — “Let light shine out of darkness”

Thursday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 362

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Reading 1  2 COR 3:15—4:1, 3-6

Brothers and sisters:
To this day, whenever Moses is read,
a veil lies over the hearts of the children of Israel,
but whenever a person turns to the Lord the veil is removed.
Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is freedom.
All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory,
as from the Lord who is the Spirit.

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Therefore, since we have this ministry through the mercy shown us,
we are not discouraged.
And even though our Gospel is veiled,
it is veiled for those who are perishing,
in whose case the god of this age
has blinded the minds of the unbelievers,
so that they may not see the light of the Gospel
of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
For we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord,
and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus.
For God who said, Let light shine out of darkness,
has shone in our hearts to bring to light
the knowledge of the glory of God
on the face of Jesus Christ.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 85:9AB AND 10, 11-12, 13-14

R. (see 10b) The glory of the Lord will dwell in our land.
I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD–for he proclaims peace to his people.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.
R. The glory of the Lord will dwell in our land.
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
R. The glory of the Lord will dwell in our land.
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and salvation, along the way of his steps.
R. The glory of the Lord will dwell in our land.

Alleluia JN 13:34

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I give you a new commandment:
love one another as I have loved you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Art: Fiery Hell of Gehenna

Gospel  MT 5:20-26

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that
of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment,
and whoever says to his brother,
Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin,
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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15 JUNE, 2017, Thursday, 11th Week, Ordinary Time
REFLECTING THE GLORY OF GOD REQUIRES HOLINESS OF LIFE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 Cor 3:15-4:1.3-6; MT 5:20-26 ]

In the first reading, St Paul speaks of our calling to radiate like Moses the glory of God in our lives.  “It is the same God that said, ‘Let there be light shining out of darkness,’ who has shone in our minds to radiate the light of the knowledge of God’s glory, the glory on the face of Christ.”  All of us who have been privileged to come to encounter Christ have received the light.  It is an obligation to make Christ known to the world.  This is something that has been entrusted to us because we are recipients of God’s mercy in Christ. St Paul wrote, “Since we have by an act of mercy been entrusted with this work of administration, there is no weakening on our part.”   St Paul was conscious of what the Lord had done for him by calling him, a great sinner, to be an apostle of reconciliation.   Hence, he gave his whole life and applied all his energy and resources to announcing to all that Christ is their savior.

At the same time, St Paul was conscious that his vocation was not to proclaim himself but the Lord.  “For it is not ourselves that we are preaching, but Christ Jesus as the Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”  It is the Lord that we are called to manifest in our lives.  We are servants of our Lord.  Like St John the Baptist, he was conscious of his role as the forerunner of the Messiah; that he was only the voice, not the Word, the friend of the bridegroom, not the bridegroom.  Unfortunately, instead of directing people to the Lord, some of us in our ministry and in our lives either mislead them into sin and falsehood or attract them to ourselves.  We need to be always aware of these two temptations in witnessing to the Lord.  

In the same vein, this is also what the Lord is asking of us when He said, “If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.”  A deeper spiritual life entails that we perfect our virtues.  We must go beyond mere external observance to the spirit of the law.  Holiness is not an external observance of some rituals or laws but it is a matter of the heart.   In fact, even what we do does not count unless it comes from a pure and gracious heart.  As Jesus tells us, it is not sufficient simply not to kill, but even anger, which is the root of all killings, must be destroyed.  In no uncertain terms, Christ said, “anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother ‘Fool’ he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him ‘Renegade’ he will answer for it in hell fire.”  Failing to see the spirit of the laws is to have the veil cover our eyes.  Quite often, the veil of anger, revenge and hatred prevents us from seeing the goodness of God in others.

Hence, Jesus exhorts us to perfect our virtues.  Failing to do so will cost us our credibility and effectiveness as mediators and messengers of Christ.  We must strive to grow in holiness before we can be truly His evangelizers.  This explains why St John Paul II in his apostolic letter, “Novo Millennio Ineunte” wrote, “First of all, I have no hesitation in saying that all pastoral initiatives must be set in relation to holiness. Was this not the ultimate meaning of the Jubilee indulgence, as a special grace offered by Christ so that the life of every baptized person could be purified and deeply renewed?  It is my hope that, among those who have taken part in the Jubilee, many will have benefited from this grace, in full awareness of its demands.”  (NMI 30) 

So what must we do to ensure that we are not obstacles to people who are seeking the Lord?  We need to turn to the Lord so that we are clear of our motives and our love for Him.  St Paul wrote, “Even today, whenever Moses is read, the veil is over the minds of the Israelites.  It will not be removed until they turn to the Lord.  Now this Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we, with our unveiled faces reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord, all grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image that we reflect, this is the work of the Lord who is Spirit.”  Only when we are filled with the Spirit of Christ can we then radiate the presence of Christ in our lives.  Unless the love of God lives in us, we will not be able to radiate the goodness and peace of God in us.  Truly, we know someone is a man of God not so much by what he says but by his demeanor, his way of speaking and his dealing with others.  When we observe the humility, sincerity and genuineness of St Teresa of Calcutta, all can recognize her as one.

This calls for a greater contemplation on the face of our Lord.  Yes, if we contemplate on the face of the Lord, then we will find the light of God shining in our lives.  We will live the life of true freedom from blindness and sin.  By meditating on the gospel, we will come to know the truth about ourselves.  Again, St John Paul II invites us to set our gaze firmly on the face of the Lord.  He wrote,  “And is it not the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make his face shine also before the generations of the new millennium? Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated his face.”  To contemplate on the face of Christ would require us to search the scriptures and meditate on the life, passion, death and resurrection of our Lord. “The contemplation of Christ’s face cannot fail to be inspired by all that we are told about him in Sacred Scripture, which from beginning to end is permeated by his mystery, prefigured in a veiled way in the Old Testament and revealed fully in the New, so that Saint Jerome can vigorously affirm: ‘Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”  (NMI 17)

Finally, there is a warning  as well for those of us who fail to deepen our virtues.  The Lord said, “Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison.  I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.”  This is truly good advice from the Lord.   If we do not take our sins seriously, even the “small sins” will become big eventually and we have no way to deal with them.  The trouble with many of us is that we feel that because we do not commit serious and scandalous sins, we therefore are “holy”.  But we do not realize that a person will eventually become numb to his weaknesses and imperfections.

So it is important that we deal with a problem before it becomes hardened.  When that happens, we will become like those who are blinded by their pride and ego.  This is what St Paul also said about those who reject the light.  “If our gospel does not penetrate the veil, then the veil is on those who are not on the way to salvation; the unbelievers whose minds the god of this world has blinded, to stop them seeing the light shed by the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”  So whilst we still can recognize our superficiality in our spiritual life and virtues, we must take action immediately to rectify it.  We must confess our sins, acknowledge our hypocrisy and turn to the Lord for forgiveness.  Just like the two men who had a quarrel and were on the way to court for a settlement, we must preempt such a situation by resolving our quarrels or differences before the Day of Judgment.  So too let us turn to the Lord in contemplation so that we truly discover our real self and, exposed to the light, we can grow in true humility, in love and in truth.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Lectio Divina From The Carmelites

God of mercy and compassion,
you challenge us to be responsible
for the good and the evil we do
and you call us to conversion.
God, help us to face ourselves
that we may not use flimsy excuses
for covering up our wrongs.
Make us honest with ourselves,
and aware that we can always count on Jesus Christ
to be our guide and strength on the road to you,
now and for ever.

Reflection

The text of today’s Gospel forms part of a broader or more extensive whole: Mt 5, 20 up to Mt 5, 48. In these passages Matthew tells us how Jesus interprets and explains the Law of God. Five times he repeats the phrase: “You have heard how it was said to our ancestors, in truth I tell you!” (Mt 5, 21. 27. 33.38. 43). Before, he had said: “Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; no, I have come not to abolish, but to complete them” (Mt 5, 17). The attitude of Jesus before the Law is, at the same time, one of breaking and of continuity. He breaks away from the erroneous interpretations, but maintains firm the objective which the Law should attain: the practice of a greater justice, which is Love.

• Matthew 5, 20: An uprightness which surpasses that of the Pharisees. This first verse presents the general key of everything which follows in Matthew 5, 20-48. The word Justice never appears in the Gospel of Mark, and it appears seven times in that of Matthew (Mt 3, 15; 5, 6.10.20; 6, 1.33; 21, 32). This has something to do with the situation of the communities for which Mark wrote. The religious ideal of the Jews of the time was “to be just before God”. The Pharisees taught: “Persons attain justice before God when they succeed to observe all the norms of the law in all its details!” This teaching generated a legalistic oppression and caused great anguish in persons, because it was very difficult to be able to observe all the norms (cfr. Rm 7, 21-24). This is why Matthew takes the words of Jesus on justice to show that it has to surpass the justice of the Pharisees (Mt, 5, 20). According to Jesus, justice does not come from what I do for God observing the law, but rather from what God does for me, accepting me as his son, as his daughter. The new ideal which Jesus proposes is the following: “Therefore, be perfect as perfect is your Heavenly Father!” (Mt 5, 48). That means: You will be just before God when you try to accept and forgive persons as God accepts and pardons me, in spite of my defects and sins.

• By means of these five very concrete examples, Jesus shows us what to do in order to attain this greater justice which surpasses the justice of the Scribes and the Pharisees. As we can see, today’s Gospel takes the example of the new interpretation of the fifth commandment: You shall not kill! Jesus has revealed what God wanted when he gave this commandment to Moses.

• Matthew 5, 21-22: The law says: You shall not kill!” (Ex 20, 13). In order to observe fully this commandment it is not sufficient to avoid murdering. It is necessary to uproot from within everything which, in one way or another, can lead to murder, for example, anger, hatred, the desire to revenge, insult, and exploitation, etc.

• Matthew 5, 23-24. The perfect worship which God wants. In order to be accepted by God and to remain united to him, it is necessary to reconcile oneself with the brother, the sister. Before the destruction of the Temple, in the year 70, when the Christian Jews participated in the pilgrimages in Jerusalem to present their offerings at the altar and to pay their promises, they always remembered this phrase of Jesus. In the year 80, at the time when Matthew wrote, the Temple and the Altar no longer existed. They had been destroyed by the Romans. The community and the communitarian celebration became the Temple and the Altar of God.

• Matthew 5, 25-26: To reconcile oneself. One of the points on which the Gospel of Matthew exists the most is reconciliation. That indicates that in the communities of that time, there were many tensions among the radical groups with diverse tendencies and sometimes even opposed ones. Nobody wanted to cede before the other. There was no dialogue. Matthew enlightens this situation with the words of Jesus on reconciliation which request acceptance and understanding. Because the only sin that God does not forgive is our lack of pardon toward others (Mt 6, 14). That is why, try to reconcile yourself before it is too late!

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-matthew-520-26

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From:

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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RECONCILIATION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ EZEKIEL 18:21-28; MT 5:20-26 ]

Are you at peace?  Why is there no peace?  The root of our unhappiness is division.  Externally, this division is manifested in our estranged relationship with our fellowmen.  Spiritually, it is manifested in the absence of God in our lives.  Personally, this division is rooted within ourselves.  In other words, the absence of inner peace and joy springs from the lack of integrity.  This is what the prophet said, “he shall live because of the integrity he has practiced.”   So our misery comes from the fact that we live contradictory lives.  We are confused ourselves and as a consequence, the inner division within us is expressed in our lack of understanding, charity and justice in our dealings with our fellowmen.

Indeed, finding inner peace and joy is the basis for anyone who truly wants to live.   Otherwise, such a life is as good as a living death. This is what Ezekiel tells us.  Death is the result of our own doing, our own sinfulness and not because of God.  Sin, which is anti-love, brings about death.  God wants us to live.  Many of us might be physically alive but are really dead because there is no love in our lives.  We substitute love with power and pleasure.  Without love, we are not alive.

How then can we find ourselves?  Finding ourselves is what integrity is all about.  The antidote to integrity is reconciliation.  That is why the gospel speaks on the theme of reconciliation, which is fundamental to Lent.  In the second reading of Ash Wednesday, Paul tells us “Be Reconciled.”  And so we are called to be reconciled with God, within ourselves and with others.   How can this reconciliation be brought about so that we can live more integrated lives?

In the first place, we need to acknowledge our sins, our lack of integrity.  This is what Ezekiel is calling us to do.  Without recognizing that we lack integrity in the way we live, we cannot speak of any reconciliation. “If the wicked man renounces all the sins he has committed, respects my laws and is law-abiding and honest, he will certainly live; he will not die. But if the upright man renounces his integrity, commits sin, copies the wicked man and practices every kind of filth … All the integrity he has practiced shall be forgotten … and for this he shall die.”  So before we can speak of reconciliation, we must first be ready to renounce our sins.  So long as we are not humble and courageous or desire to do so, we cannot begin the path to integrity.   Reconciliation, or coming to terms with oneself, is the first step to integrity.

Secondly, we need to be reconciled with our neighbours, especially our brothers and sisters, as Jesus taught in the gospel.  We cannot have peace within ourselves if we continue to hold grudges against those who have hurt us; or when we know that someone holds grudges against us.  We may pretend that we are not bothered.  But the fact is that they do bother us.  Whenever we think of them, or we come across them, or when our memories surface, then we cannot but feel hurt all over again.  The wound never really heals; only buried.  Deep in our unconscious, the heart is dis-eased.  It is sick and wounded because when we are separated from others, especially those who are closest to us, we cannot but feel empty and lost.  One of the greatest regrets in life is that we were never able to make peace with people whom we had quarrels or misunderstandings.  When the relationship is not properly healed or closed, whenever memories of them come to mind, we would feel sad and kind of regret.  Worse still, if by the time we want to be reconciled, and that person is no longer around, because of death or simply loss of contact, then we would have to live with the guilt we carry in our hearts till death.  To know that you have never really been forgiven or that the person is still hurting because you have not forgiven, is a memory that you would not like to burden yourself with.

Whatever the case, if we are not at peace with our fellowmen, we cannot be at peace with God either.  This is because God reaches out to us through our fellowmen.  The way to experience God’s love is through others.  So long as we are not healed, we tend to withdraw from others.  When someone has betrayed our trust, our conclusion is that no one else can be trusted anymore; more so if that person is closest to us or is a representative of an institution, as in the case of those who are hurt by priests and religious leaders.  No one can hurt us most than our brothers and sisters as Jesus specifically singled them out in the gospel.  Aren’t the biggest pain in our hearts those inflicted by our loved ones?  Family feuds, quarrels and misunderstandings are often carried in our hearts for years and even generations.  The most difficult people to forgive or ask for forgiveness from are our loved ones, especially when we have been badly hurt.  Those who have been so badly wounded by religious leaders have either left the Church or never got involved again in ministry, because they are afraid to get hurt again.  By so doing, they are depriving themselves of ways in which God wants to reach out to us.  We put obstacles in the paths of God.

Understandably we can appreciate why Jesus is adamant about the need to be first reconciled with our brother before we can even present the gift at the altar.  Furthermore, Jesus speaks of the last penny to be paid.  That is to say, so long as we do not make peace with those who have hurt us, we will remain their slaves, since memories of them will always make us feel pain, ache and anger.  Our enemies whom we do not set free ironically are the ones whom we have given power to weigh us down emotionally and spiritually. We can never let these sore feelings go until we are reconciled with them; only then are we set free.

But how can we find the grace to acknowledge our sins, forgive ourselves and forgive others or ask for forgiveness?  Not without God’s grace.  The capacity to forgive others presupposes that we have forgiven ourselves.  And we can forgive ourselves only when we have received God’s forgiveness. Today’s assurance of the prophet about God’s forgiveness therefore must be the starting point of reconciliation and the path to integrity.  The Lord says, “Am I likely to take pleasure in the death of a wicked man – it is the Lord who speaks – and not prefer to see him renounce his wickedness and live?  … When the sinner renounces sin to become law-abiding and honest, he deserves to live. He has chosen to renounce all his previous sins, he shall certainly live; he shall not die.”  The psalmist says, “If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand? But with you is forgiveness, that you may be revered.”  God does not ask us to forgive others without first forgiving us.  Forgiving our brothers and sisters is at times simply impossible, especially when we have suffered so much humiliation, pain, loss of property and even physical injury.  God forgives us not once, but again and again.  He only wants us to repent so that we will live.

Let us therefore turn to the Lord during this time of Lent to ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten us in our ignorance and to lead us to experience His love.  With the healing love from Him, we can then find the strength to let go and let God take over.  The gospel today, when read within a Christian context, suggests that we let the Eucharist be the source of that love and the path to reconciliation, since from that we receive love and healing by the Lord. We want to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters so that this union with Him is perfected in our reconciliation and union with them. “If you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering.”  Our desire to receive the Lord in the Eucharist will be the motivation for asking for forgiveness for our sins; and the Eucharist will give us the strength to be reconciled with our brothers. The Eucharist truly, then, is the source of unity and love with God, ourselves and with others.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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One Response to “Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, June 15, 2017 — “Let light shine out of darkness””

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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