Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, June 21, 2017 — “God is able to make every grace abundant for you.” — “God loves a cheerful giver.”

Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious
Lectionary: 367

Image result for man prays, photos

Reading 1  2 COR 9:6-11

Brothers and sisters, consider this:
whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,
and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion,
for God loves a cheerful giver.
Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you,
so that in all things, always having all you need,
you may have an abundance for every good work.
As it is written:

He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.

The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food
will supply and multiply your seed
and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

You are being enriched in every way for all generosity,
which through us produces thanksgiving to God.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 112:1BC-2, 3-4, 9

R. (1b) Blessed the man who fears the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Blessed the man who fears the LORD,
who greatly delights in his commands.
His posterity shall be mighty upon the earth;
the upright generation shall be blessed.
R. Blessed the man who fears the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Wealth and riches shall be in his house;
his generosity shall endure forever.
Light shines through the darkness for the upright;
he is gracious and merciful and just.
R. Blessed the man who fears the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Lavishly he gives to the poor;
his generosity shall endure forever;
his horn shall be exalted in glory.
R. Blessed the man who fears the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia  JN 14:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him
and we will come to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 6:1-6, 16-18

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door,
and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to others to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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21 JUNE, 2017, Wednesday, 11th Week, Ordinary Time

PASSION AND MOTIVATION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 Cor 9:6-11; Ps 111:1-4,9; Mt 6:1-6. 16-18 ]

Happiness in life is dependent on the state of mind and heart more than the external realities.  In order to live happily and be fulfilled in life, we need to have a passion for something.  We need to be driven by some goals in life.  It is sad to see that many people live their lives without a purpose.  Instead of growing through life, they go through life like a blind man or a zombie.  They live without purpose, without any motivation.  For such people, they live a mediocre life, a life of boredom, of drudgery.  They are merely existing but not living.

Such is the case of the unmotivated child in school.  Many drag their feet to school each day as if it is a punishment.  They hate school and detest their books.   They only want to play computer games, hang out with friends and bum around.  This is the only thing that motivates them – pleasure!  They have no real motivation to sustain them and as a result waste their lives, achieving nothing great for themselves or for others.  On the contrary, those students who are motivated often do well in their studies without much coercion or pressure from their teachers or their parents.  They are resourceful and full of initiative.  Their life is always filled with activities and vibrancy.  They seem to have so many things to accomplish but so little time.

This is also true for a worker without passion in the office.  Many are there just to make a living.  They do not have any real passion for their work.  They are not interested nor believe in what they do.  It is just a job!   Their real interest is again pleasure.   They want to quickly get out of the office so that they can be with their friends or their loved ones.  Such workers cannot perform.  Life in the office is a misery.  Not only do they make their lives miserable but they cause others in the office to feel miserable too. They create problems for their colleagues and are often not cooperative and won’t go the extra mile. But a worker who is motivated is different.  He is proactive, resourceful, creative and takes pride in his work.  He is hardworking and passionate.

Again, it can happen to those who are retired without any meaningful retirement plan.  Many think that retirement from work is also retirement from life.  They spend their time sleeping, eating, drinking and enjoying themselves.  After some time, they fall into boredom because they discover that they are not wanted or useful anymore.  They find themselves living an animalistic life, a shallow lifestyle, without any growth in mind and spirit.  Worst of all, they become psychologically insecure and physically their health, body and mind deteriorate at a much faster rate.  In truth, one can never retire from work because it is work, especially meaningful work, that keeps us alive and healthy.

Hence, the question that is addressed today is, what is motivating us in our passion?  Happiness in life is found not so much in what we do but why we do what we do.  External performance cannot give us happiness.  This is because we are not giving ourselves wholeheartedly to what we do.  We are no better than robots.

There are two ways to be motivated;  either by love of self or love of God and others.  For those who are motivated by love of self, their only concern is what they can get out of it.  In other words, it is the question of reward – what do we get for doing what we do?  People are motivated by rewards.  Sometimes they are motivated by the stick!  They are afraid of punishment.   Is it wrong to be motivated by reward?   The question is not so much the reward but what kind of rewards are we seeking?

For those of us who are motivated by love of self, the fundamental motive is power.  This will for power is expressed in seeking rewards that range from material goods to ambition.  The lowest rung of motivation is wealth and pleasure.  Wealth of course is a form of power.  It gives us control over our lives and even that of others.  That is why, as St Paul said in the first reading, some do not give because they are afraid to be deprived of what they have and so lose their security and control.  Others give because they hope to get more in return.  It is a kind of investment.  This is particularly true for those who make use of religion and worship of God for monetary gain and material prosperity.

There are others who are not so much motivated by money but by status, prestige and recognition. This is the criticism of Jesus against the Jewish religious leaders.  They fasted, gave alms and prayed for the wrong reasons.  These external performances were merely for people to see so that they could be praised and exalted.  They did not perform them out of inner conviction but to get publicity and approval.  Indeed, there are many who do all sorts of good works and services for the Church and the community because they want the world to see and honor them.  Indeed, some are more concerned about leaving a legacy for themselves than for others.

For those of us who seek such materialistic and worldly rewards, Jesus says, this is just what you get. Three times, He said, “I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward.” St Paul also said, “Do not forget: thin sowing means thin reaping; the more you sow, the more you reap.” The truth is that such rewards cannot give us real happiness.  They make us more insecure and unfulfilled.  Living a life of pleasure will reduce us to the life of an animal and we lose appreciation of our self-worth and most of all, meaning and purpose in life.  For those who seek power and recognition, they are always insecure because they are dependent on what people say or think of them.  They lack the inner freedom to live their lives joyfully.

So what makes us truly happy in life?  Ironically, we must be motivated in order to live passionately.  However, this is true for those of us seeking material gains.  For a Christian, his giving is not motivated by external factors.  If there is any motivation at all, it comes from within and often unconsciously. This explains why Jesus said, “when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your alms-giving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.”   In other words, we give because the love of God in our heart that overflows to others.  Such giving is not compelled by fear or force but by love. Such a person gives without knowing that he is giving because giving and loving is part of his nature.  This is the way God gives.  God cannot but give because He is love.  This giving is without motivation because it flows from within our hearts.  When a person is able to give without motivation, he has become identified with love itself.

Hence, St Paul tells us that happiness comes from giving from our heart.  “Each one should give what he has decided in his own mind, not grudgingly or because he is made to, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  Giving should never be made under compulsion because neither the giver nor the recipient is happy in the end.  No one is happy to receive anything from someone who gives grudgingly.  Giving should come from a heart of love.  We give because we want to and desire to.  When we are motivated by service of others, we forget about ourselves.

What, then, are the rewards that we will be blessed with?  It is the joy of giving.  When we give from our heart and help those in need, there is a joy that cannot be described. In loving and helping others, we actually love ourselves as well.  To know that we have brought joy and hope to someone makes us feel that we have not lived our life in vain.  This is a most satisfying reward that money and power cannot buy.  Indeed, the best way to love ourselves is to love oneself in others.  The poor are sent by God to give us love.  So anyone who gives, shares in the joy of God.

Secondly, the reward of doing good is that you will be able to do even more.  This is what St Paul said, “The one who provides seed for the sower and bread for the food will provide you with all the seed you want and make the harvest of your good deeds a larger one, and, made richer in every way, you will be able to do all the generous things which, through us, are the cause of thanksgiving to God.”  When we do good and serve our fellowmen, God will bless us with more resources to bless others.  When we give, we will be blessed with love and a greater capacity to love.  The more we love, the bigger we grow in magnanimity.  The happiness of a man is dependent on how big his heart is.  We become a channel of grace to others.  And as we serve others in greater ways, the greater is our joy.

Thirdly, the Lord will bless us in return, not because we expect to receive any blessings but because love attracts love.  Hence, St Paul says, “There is no limit to the blessings which God can send you – he will make sure that you will always have all you need for yourselves in every possible circumstance, and still have something to spare for all sorts of good works.”   We are blessed with friends as well because when we love others, it is natural that people will respond in love as well. Those who have no friends are those who only love and care for themselves.  Most of all, we will be rich in God because we become more and more like Him.  Those who love will see God in the poor and in turn will find deep joy and peace.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore 
 
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Commentary on Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 from Living Space

We move today to a different theme, namely, the way in which we are to pay our worship to God.

Jesus’ teaching is based on the three basic acts of religion expected of a devout Jew – almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. In each case, Jesus warns his disciples not to indulge in any form of ostentation so as to attract the admiration of others.

He presents exaggerated images of how we should not do things in the way of ostentatious hypocrites. He speaks about people who blow trumpets in the streets to draw the attention of everyone when they give alms to the poor. He speaks about hypocrites who say their prayers in the most conspicuous places so that people will marvel at how holy they are. He speaks about people putting on gloomy and drawn looks so that everyone will know that they are fasting. In fact, Jews were only expected to fast on one day in the year, namely, on the Day of Atonement but the practice of regular fasting had become more common in Jesus’ time.

All this, Jesus says, is no worship of God but a kind of self-advertisement. Such people, he says, get their reward, namely, the admiration of the onlooker but it is not the reward that comes from acts of genuine worship.

When his disciples pray or fast or give alms they should do it in such a way that their actions will be directed entirely to God and not to themselves. We do remember earlier in the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus said that people should be able to see the good works of his disciples but then the purpose was not that they would be praised but that people would be led to glorify God.

As a rider to this passage we should point out that Jesus’ recommendation that we pray in private where only God can see us is not to be interpreted as meaning that it is not necessary for us to take part in forms of community prayer, which Jesus himself would have done whenever he attended the synagogue or went to the Temple. It would be a gross misreading of this text to argue, as people sometimes are heard to do, that it is not necessary to attend Sunday Mass because “I can pray equally well in the privacy of my home”. To speak in such a way is to misunderstand completely the essentially communal nature of the Eucharistic celebration.

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http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2114g/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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10 FEBRUARY 2016, Ash Wednesday (Last Year)
MERCY IS ONLY GIVEN TO THOSE WHO ARE CONTRITE OF HEART

SCRIPTURE READINGS: Joel 2:12-18; 2 Cor 5:20 – 6:2; Mt 6:1-6, 16-18In the first reading, the prophet, Joel was predicting the downfall of Judah and the impending judgement of God if they did not repent.  They would have to face the punishment of God, suffering the plague of locusts which would devastate the whole Kingdom.  On another level, this prophecy also hints at the invading enemy that would eventually take over Judah unless the people repented and be united in the Lord.  This, too, was the call of St Paul when he exhorted his people, “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 he says: At the favourable time, I have listened to you; on the day of salvation I came to your help. Well, now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation.”

We are in the Jubilee Year of Mercy. This is the same call of Pope Francis.  God is merciful to us.  He is the Lord of compassion.  As Joel said, “he is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, and ready to relent.” St Paul begs us “not to neglect the grace of God that you have received.”  The season of Lent, which begins with the celebration of Ash Wednesday, is a time of grace.  God wants to renew His love and mercy for us.  He does not want us to harm ourselves.   The call to repentance is not to take away our joy and our happiness and freedom.  Rather, it is to give us true joy, lasting happiness and true freedom from our sins, follies and hurts.  The mercy and compassion of God is readily available to all who come to Him as the prophet says, “Who knows if he will not turn again, will not relent, will not leave a blessing as he passes, oblation and libation  for the Lord your God? … Then the Lord, jealous on behalf of his land, took pity on his people.”

However, to receive His mercy, we must come back to Him with a sincere and contrite heart.  This is what the prophet was telling his people. “Now, now – it is the Lord who speaks – come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning. Let your hearts be broken not your garments torn, turn to the Lord your God again.”  The call to enter into the mercy of God is preceded by repentance of heart.   It calls for true sorrow for our sins and for living a life that hurts us and our loved ones.  Sin always is a lack of love and causes sorrow and misery.  We all know that because of our greed, lust, anger, negligence and sloth, we have caused others to suffer.  Thus, as Joel reminds us, we need to lament sincerely for our wrong doings.  “Between vestibule and altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, lament. Let them say, ‘Spare your people, Lord! Do not make your heritage a thing of shame, a byword for the nations, “Where is their God?”‘

This is what the Lord is also reminding us in today’s gospel of the dangers of external display without a corresponding change of heart.  Rending our garments is not sufficient to receive God’s grace.  Receiving ashes on our foreheads alone does not make us holy.  Indeed, we can even perform the three pillars of the Lenten exercises, namely, prayer, fasting and almsgiving, and yet it will not do us any good.  He told the disciples, “Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven.”   Indeed, we must not do things to impress others because it shows the lack of genuine sorrow and love.  That we want people’s attention means that we only reinforce the sin of pride and egotism in us.   Perhaps, we can cheat the world by appearing to be good but certainly not for long because they will see through us.  We can pray seven times a day, fast and give alms, but when they see our lifestyles, the way we talk and act, they will immediately know that we are hypocrites.  Even if the world cannot see, God sees through us and He knows that our heart is not for Him but for ourselves.

How, then, can we develop a contrite and sincere heart of repentance?  Firstly, we need to pray.  But as Jesus advised us, “when you pray go to your private room and, when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.”  This is not to say that we should not join in community prayers, but we need time to be alone with the Lord, meditating and contemplating on His Word, doing a thorough examen every day, examining where we have failed to love God and give glory to Him; and when we have failed to recognize Him in our daily life.  Without self-awareness through prayer, we cannot grow in holiness.  I believe that many people are hardly aware of their true selves.  They sincerely think that they are quite holy and very good but they are blind to their faults and defensive when their weaknesses are highlighted.  As a result, they never grow in virtues and in holiness.  Although they can pray the whole day, be active in church, teach and preach the Word of God, yet their lives are anything but that of the life of Christ, lacking in generosity and compassion.  We must pray with the psalmist, “My offences truly I know them; my sin is always before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned; what is evil in your sight I have done.”

Secondly, we need to fast.  This is by no means an easy exercise.  For some, they are not able to fast because they will feel giddy and unable to work or do anything.  Yet, if we fast according to our ability, since fasting has different degrees, from forgoing food altogether to fasting on bread and water, or half-meals, we can reap some graces from this exercise.  It teaches us to discipline the body so that we can discipline our mind and spirit.   It helps us to identify with the pain and suffering of Christ so that we can appreciate His sufferings more and how much He loves us. “For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God.”  Fasting is also a sure way to express our deep sincerity in desiring the grace of conversion and holiness.  Anyone who is willing to pay a price for what he wants dearly will find it.   Success is not for the faint hearted, so too is holiness!  Above all, fasting reminds us to depend on God alone as Jesus said, “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt 4:4)

Thirdly, to grow in sincerity of heart, we need to give alms.  Helping the poor, reaching out to them, attending to the sick, feeling and empathizing with the wounded and the weak; being with the distress and broken hearted, help us to share the joy and mercy of God who comes to be with us.   In giving alms, we learn to appreciate what we have and the sufferings of humanity so that we will go beyond our suffering.  The reason why we complain so much is because each one of us magnifies our sufferings, privation and woes as if our crosses are the biggest and the most difficult in this world.  There are many more who are suffering, so we are not alone.  Through reaching out to the poor and suffering in all its different dimensions, we become grateful and more willing to share what we have with others.  By so doing, we become compassionate, loving and able to let go of our own pains and our things as well.

For us as Catholics, we are fortunate that we need not take this journey alone.  The whole Church, together with the catechumens preparing for their baptism, is going through this journey.   When we travel together, finding support and encouragement from each other, we can better enter into this state of repentance and prayer.  This was why Joel urged the whole nation to repent and fast together.  He said, “Sound a trumpet in Zion! Order a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, call the people together, summon the community, assemble the elders, gather the children, even the infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his bedroom and the bride her alcove. Between vestibule and altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, lament.”  This is the same call of the Church today as we begin the season of Lent.   During Mass, at the imposition of ashes, the priests says, “Repent and believe in the gospel” or “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”  Truly, let us realize the shortness of life.  Let us not deprive ourselves of the grace of God that has been given to us.  Let us receive God’s mercy as we enter into the spirit of Lent, the spirit of repentance through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore 
 
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One Response to “Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, June 21, 2017 — “God is able to make every grace abundant for you.” — “God loves a cheerful giver.””

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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