Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, June 17, 2017 — “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation.” — “Make good to the Lord all that you vow.”

Saturday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 364

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Chasing Light: An Exploration of the American Landscape, by Frank Lee Ruggles. Lightening Strike, Arches National Park, UT

Reading 1  2 COR 5:14-21

Brothers and sisters:
The love of Christ impels us,
once we have come to the conviction that one died for all;
therefore, all have died.
He indeed died for all,
so that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh;
even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh,
yet now we know him so no longer.
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.
And all this is from God,
who has reconciled us to himself through Christ
and given us the ministry of reconciliation,
namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
not counting their trespasses against them
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
So we are ambassadors for Christ,
as if God were appealing through us.
We implore you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God.
For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin,
so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12

R. (8a) The Lord is kind and merciful.
Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
He pardons all your iniquities,
he heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
he crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
He will not always chide,
nor does he keep his wrath forever.
Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our crimes.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

Alleluia  PS 119:36A, 29B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Incline my heart, O God, to your decrees;
and favor me with your law.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 5:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
Do not take a false oath,
but make good to the Lord all that you vow.

But I say to you, do not swear at all;
not by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
nor by the earth, for it is his footstool;
nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
Do not swear by your head,
for you cannot make a single hair white or black.
Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’
Anything more is from the Evil One.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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17 JUNE, 2017, Saturday, 11th Week, Ordinary Time
ADOLESCENTS IN FAITH

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 Cor 5:14-21Mk 5:33-37]

When St Paul says, “And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.”  Are we truly a new creation?  We are told that we are so, and feel like one especially after emerging from a retreat or after a special encounter with the Lord.  Yet the reality is that it does not take long for us to fall back into sin, much as we struggle against the temptation of the Evil One.  But more often than not, we succumb especially to the sin of the flesh and not just of the world.  As a consequence, we think that the conversion experience was merely a sentimental one.  It did not bring about the radical change of life that we hoped.

This desire for a radical change of lifestyle, living a perfect life of holiness, seems to be the demand of Jesus too for those who wish to follow Him.  In the gospel, He expected His disciples to live a life of integrity and holiness, without wavering or compromising.  He says, “All you need say is ‘Yes’ if you mean yes, ‘No’ if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.’”  A true Christian is one who is like Jesus who does not compromise the truth when it comes to both teaching and particularly living.  Jesus was a man who was faithful to Himself and to His Father even unto death.  No human being, not even the religious leaders and political leaders, could make Him do things against His conviction.   Jesus was truly a man of integrity.

The fact that we are required to take oath means to imply that we cannot be trusted.  Or rather, it is a recognition that we are weak.  We need the Oath to help us to be responsible to the truth and also to give our fellowmen assurance of our fidelity.  Yet we know that vows and promises are often broken in spite of the good intentions.  This becomes a great scandal especially when a solemn oath is broken.  This prompted Jesus to say, “You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord.  But I say this to you: do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is Gods throne; or by the earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great king.“  Of course, it would be the ideal to be and be known that we are men of our word.   However, the ideal remains the ideal.  We need structures and laws to help us reach the ideal.

The truth is that we are still on the way to the ideal; the perfection of Christian life will take a life-long process.  We must realize that the promise of being a new creation is a reality and yet a promise.  It is something we can experience already but only as a foretaste. Those times when we are able to live the life of Christ according to His gospel values, we are living out the new creation in us.  But there will also be times when we will fall back to our old ways, as the Old Adam keeps resurrecting, since the Church teaches that concupiscence remains even after our sins are forgiven.   That is why the growth to holiness is a matter of making progress and sometimes retrogressing.

Growth in holiness is likened to a young man in his adolescence.  Those who are in the stage of adolescence are often confused.  They are searching for their identity.  They are not exactly adults but they are no longer children.  They want independence and freedom.  At the same time, they do not know how to handle freedom very well.  Often they make a mess of things, of their own lives and of others’. Emotionally, they are confused as well, wanting to love but often confused as to what is love.  As a result, their friends and loved ones get hurt.  Sometimes, they are so contradictory in their lifestyle and their needs that they confuse the adults too.  They are going through identity crisis.

We, too, in our spiritual life will also go through this roller coaster as well.  This is the frustrating part of wanting to be good.  On one hand, we so desire to live the life of Christ.  We want to give our lives to the Lord.  On the other hand, we have our human needs for love, emotional and sexual needs; pleasure and physical needs.  After all, we are not pure spirit.  So there is a constant struggle of wanting to be disciplined and go beyond the earthly to the spiritual, yet to repress our desires is even worse than to admit them.  For what is repressed will surface in ways beyond our control when the situation permits it.  Denying our human needs will not heal us and make us whole.

What is important to realize is that God does not expect us to achieve perfection overnight.  St Paul wrote, “From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh.”  God is patient with us.  He allows us to make mistakes so that we can learn and grow.  Grace does not destroy nature.  Even in sin, grace is operative.  That is why St Paul says, “Where sin increases, grace abounds all the more.”  (Rom 5:20)  Life is itself is a pedagogy.  Through mistakes and failures, we learn to grow and become wiser and disciplined.  Again, the letter to the Hebrews tells us that the Lord disciplines those whom He loves. “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”  (Heb 12:5-6; cf. Prov 3:11-12)  Even Jesus, we read in Hebrews, learnt obedience through suffering.  “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”  (Heb 5:8-9)

Secondly, we must remember that perfection in life is solely the work of God’s grace, not our efforts.  It is Christ who makes us perfect, not by our own merits.  So we must not fall into pride because of impatience.  Rather, in our endeavor to grow in integrity and holiness, we must simply rely on His grace.

And when we fall into sin, let us not be discouraged.  Precisely, the invitation to be reconciled is always given to us.  St Paul says, “In other words, God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, not holding men’s faults against them, and he has entrusted to us the news that they are reconciled.”  Let us turn to the Lord whenever we fail and know that He is there ready to forgive us and raise us up to walk in the right path again.  Like the psalmist, we are called to remember that the Lord is compassion and love. “The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy. It is he who forgives all your guilt, who heals every one of your ills, who redeems your life from the grave, who crowns you with love and compassion. His wrath will come to an end; he will not be angry forever. He does not treat us according to our sins nor repay us according to our faults.”   So it is with this confidence in His everlasting and unconditional love and mercy, that we can gradually heal our brokenness.

Although justification and holiness is pure grace, we on our part must cooperate with His grace as much as we can.  We must never go to the extreme of cheapening the cost of grace that Jesus won for us.  We must not take His grace for granted, as St Paul also warns us, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Rom 6:1-2)   So let us take courage and be full of hope.  We must not allow the devil to make us fall into despair just because we have not yet arrived at the fullness of a holy life. “So we are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is:  be reconciled to God.  For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God.”

In humility, we turn to the Lord so that encouraged by His love alone, we too can choose to die with Him and for Him.  “The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves but for him who died and was raised to life for them.”


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
 
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Commentary on Matthew 5:33-37 By Living Space

Sermon on the Mount (cont’d):

Today’s third example of Jesus’ “filling out” the meaning of the Law is based on the instruction, “You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord.” In the book of Numbers we read: “If a man makes a vow to Yahweh or takes a formal pledge under oath, he must not break his word: whatever he promises by word of mouth he must do” (Numbers 3:30).

Jesus goes far beyond this requirement. He simply tells us to stop making oaths altogether. The true follower of Christ does not need to take oaths or to swear on anything, however sacred, to guarantee the truth of his words. “All you need say is ‘Yes’ if you mean ‘Yes’, ‘No’ if you mean ‘No’.”

The Christian should be a person of known integrity. He can be taken at his word and no further guarantee is required. It is nice to be known as such a person. Truth should be our second name.

Sometimes, of course, people may not be entitled to the whole truth. In fact, honour may require us even to sacrifice our life rather than reveal something that might put another person in danger but we should never be guilty of positively deceiving another.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2107g/

 

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection• In today’s Gospel, Jesus rereads the commandment: “Do not commit perjury”. And here also he surpasses the letter, concerning the spirit of the law and seeks to indicate the last objective of this commandment: to attain total transparency in the relationship among persons. Here we can apply what we said concerning the two commandments “Do not kill” and “Do not commit adultery”. It is a question of a new way of interpreting and setting into practice the law of Moses, starting from the new experience of God Father/Mother which Jesus has brought to us. He rereads the law beginning with the intention which God had in proclaiming it centuries ago on Mount Sinai.

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Matthew 5, 33: It was said to our ancestors: you must not swear. The Law of the Old Testament said: “Do not commit perjury” And it added that the person should swear for the Lord (cf. Nb 20, 2). In the prayer of the Psalms it is said that “one can go up to the Mountain of Yahweh and reach the holy place, if he does not have innocent hands and a pure heart, and does not confide in idols, nor swears in order to deceive”(Ps 24, 4)..The same thing is said in diverse other points of the Old Testament (Ecl 5, 3-4), because one must be able to trust the words of others. In order to favour this reciprocal trust, tradition had invented the help of the oath. In order to strengthen one’s own word, the person would swear for someone or for something which was greater than he and who could punish him if he did not fulfil what he had promised.

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Things continue to be like this up to the present time. Whether in the Church or in society, there are some moments and occasions which demand a solemn oath on the part of persons. In last instance, the oath is the expression of the conviction according to which nobody can trust completely the word of the other.

• Matthew 5, 34-36: But I say to you: do not swear. Jesus wants to heal this deficiency. It is not sufficient “not to swear”. He goes beyond and affirms: “But I say to you: do not swear at all: either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by earth, since that is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is ‘Yes if you mean yes, ‘No’ if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the Evil One”.

They would swear for heaven and for earth, for the city of Jerusalem, for their own head. Jesus shows that all that is medicine which does not cure the pain and suffering of the lack of transparency in the relationship among persons. Which is the solution which he proposes?

• Matthew 5, 37: Let your speech be yes, yes; no, no. The solution which God proposes is the following: Let your speech be yes, yes; no, no; anything more than this comes from the Evil One”. He proposes a radical and total honesty. Nothing more. Anything more that you say comes from the Evil One. Here again, we are confronted with an objective which will always remain in our mind and which we will never succeed in fulfilling it completely.

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It is another expression of the new ideal of justice which Jesus proposes: “to be perfect like the Heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5, 48). Jesus uproots any attempt to create in myself the conviction that I am saved because I observe the law. Nobody can merit God’s grace. Because otherwise it would not be a grace. We observe the Law, not in order to merit salvation, but in order to thank with all our heart, for the immense gratuitous goodness of God who accepts us, and saves us without any merit on our part.

Personal questions

• How do I observe the law?

• Have I experienced some time in my life the gratuitous goodness of God?

Concluding Prayer

I bless Yahweh who is my counsellor,
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep Yahweh before me always,
for with him at my right hand, nothing can shake me.
(Ps 16,7-8)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-matthew-533-37

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience.”
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St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.” Padre Pio said, “If you’re worried, PRAY. Once you are praying, why worry?
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Psychologists tell us to stay out of “the wreckage of the past.” Many of us regret events in the past over and over and over again — contributing to low self esteem and even, in extreme cases, self loathing and suicide. Psychologists also warn of the natural human tendency to fear the unknown future. This kind of anxiety does no good to anyone and leads many to over-reliance on anti-depressants and other harmful practices.
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We Go With God. We stay “yoked” to him. We stay in community and part of the team. We stay in the boat of life in our journey and we row! God is with us.
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We always have confession, the Eucharist and a loving family in the Church.
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No matter what we think our problems are, we always have an all loving and all forgiving Father.
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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!
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One can never do justice to telling the story of Padre Pio except to say, I think about him every day. He taught me: “If you are worried: pray.  Once you are praying, you can stop your worry.” Padre Pio had the stigmata.

“Pray, pray to the Lord with me, because the whole world needs prayer. And every day, when your heart especially feels the loneliness of life, pray. Pray to the Lord, because even God needs our prayers.”

– St. Pio of Pietrelcina
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“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”
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– St. Pio of  Pietrelcina
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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11 JUNE 2016, Saturday, St Barnabas, Apostle
FAITH AS THE KEY TO A POSITIVE APPROACH TO LIFE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 11:21-26. 13:1-3; MT 10:7-13 ]The name.  “Barnabas means a person of encouragement. Indeed, he was a positive person.  He was receptive and open to all possibilities.  He was not an insecure person.  So when he arrived at Antioch and saw the development of the Church, he was very positive towards them.  “There he could see for himself that God had given grace, and this pleased him, and he urged them all to remain faithful to the Lord with heartfelt devotion.” He had only words of encouragement, not condemnation.  He was not looking at the faults and weaknesses of the Christian community, of which we can be sure, was not perfect.  Antioch was the third largest city after Rome and Alexandria.  It was a pagan city, known for immoral activities and commerce.  Instead he worked with them.Barnabas was receptive to people who were different from him.  He was a man who fostered unity.  He was able to accommodate people with different talents, strengths and weaknesses.  He did not come with certain rules to impose on them.  He brought out the best in them and encouraged them further.  Indeed, he was able to bring together Jews and Gentiles, who were non-believers and many did not even have faith in God, together.  Through his preaching and pastoring, he brought all of them together, united by a common love for the Lord, not by race, language or culture.  Significantly, it was here that they were called Christians, since the Christian faith no longer was the domain only of the Jewish Christians.

He was open to new talents and took risks in trusting people and delegating his work.  He was clear that he was not working for his kingdom but Christ’s.  He saw the need of the Christians to undergo more formation in the faith.  It was a new community and so fragile.   So he took the risk of bringing Paul to work with him.   Paul was a very talented person and had a mind of his own.  Yet, Barnabas did not feel intimidated by him.  With humility, eventually, he allowed Paul to take the lead.  He was not envious when Paul eventually superseded him in preaching and in the mission.  Instead, he gave way to Paul to lead the mission to the Gentiles.  Besides grooming Paul to take over the mission from him, he, with Paul, also groomed leaders for the Christian community.   We read that “in the church at Antioch the following were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.”

So great a man was Barnabas!  His receptive attitude allowed him to influence the life of the community.  We read later that the community was generous like him, outgoing, and when they heard from the prophets that their mother church in Jerusalem was going through a financial crisis because of a famine, they spontaneously made a collection to be sent there.  We can be sure that the early Christians imbibed his positive approach to the work of mission.    When they were praying one day, and “offering worship to the Lord and keeping a fast, the Holy Spirit said, ‘I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them.’ So it was that after fasting and prayer they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”  Barnabas was proactive and missionary minded.  He listened to the community when they received the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  Whatever he did, it was always as a community.   He did not act as if he knew everything.  But he listened and worked in union with the rest of the community.  This man, Barnabas, was truly selfless.  He did not care about his security or comfort.  He was not interested in the limelight or in power or glory.

What about us?  Are we positive in outlook like Barnabas?  Are we open and receptive to others and to the will of God?  Are we those leaders that bring the best out of others, especially those working with us and for us?  Are we affirming and encouraging, especially to those people around us?  Are we willing to let go of our position and power so that others who could do the job better be given the position?  Why is it that some people are always negative about others and putting them down?  Why is it that many Church leaders are not willing to step down for others to take over?  Although we say that we want to serve Christ and extend the kingdom, in truth, it is about our security, our interests and our comfort.  When a leader is not empowering and when a leader is unable to let go of controlling others, he stifles the community and eventually the good members will leave because their talents are not recognized.

If people are inward-looking and clinging on to power and recognition, it is because they are afraid to let go. They want security.  If people are insecure, it is because they never have enough, whether of love or things.  If people are envious of others, it is because they don’t see their own gifts which God has blessed them with.  If people see others as a threat, it is because they are afraid to lose their power and wealth and recognition.  Hence, they need to be defensive and prove themselves to be good enough all the time. Insecurity ultimately springs from the lack of love and the lack of appreciation and gratitude for what they have received.   We cannot give what we have not got!  This is the fundamental axiom of life.  We can only give what we have received from God.

But the irony is that we have received.  This is what Jesus said, “As you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils. You have received without charge, give without charge.”  If we have received freely, we too must give freely as well.  God’s gifts are never for us to keep but to share and give them away.  So why are we still so inward-looking and protective of our own interests?  He gives but not all are ready to give in return.  This is the crux of the problem.  We are not ready to give what the Lord has given to us.   Why?  Because we lack faith and trust in the Lord’s providence and power!  How to overcome insecurity if not to trust in God, having a deep faith in Him and be filled with His Holy Spirit?  This was the case of St Barnabas.  He was described as “a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith.”

Like Barnabas, we are called to be open to the grace of God who comes to us in different ways and especially in situations we think are negative.  Like the early Church, the persecutions that took place when seen in the light of faith became golden opportunities to spread the gospel.  When the early Christians were persecuted, they fled as far as Cyprus and Antioch.  Indeed, Barnabas showed himself to be a man who was ready to move whenever and wherever the Lord sent Him.  He did not intend to stay put in a particular place.  He went wherever he was needed.

Indeed, this is the kind of attitude the Lord asks of us. “Whatever town or village you go into, ask for someone trustworthy and stay with him until you leave. As you enter his house, salute it, and if the house deserves it, let your peace descend upon it; if it does not, let your peace come back to you.”   We are called to depend totally on the Lord.  The responsorial psalm makes it clear that it is the work of God.   “Sing a new song to the Lord for he has worked wonders. His right hand and his holy arm have brought salvation.  The Lord has made known his salvation; has shown his justice to the nations. He has remembered his truth and love for the house of Israel.”   We must be receptive to His Spirit at work in our lives.  With God on our side, we can accomplish everything in and through Him.  He makes all things possible.

Only those who rely on Gods grace see the need for fasting and prayer.  Those who rely on themselves hardly pray.  This is how we differentiate between those who have faith in God and those who trust only in themselves. Barnabas and the early disciples grounded their mission in prayer.  They never did anything without discernment, prayer and fasting.  So, too, if we want to allow God to work in and through us, let us be available to the Lord through prayer and fasting.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
 
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One Response to “Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, June 17, 2017 — “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation.” — “Make good to the Lord all that you vow.””

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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