Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, July 11, 2017 — “I will not let you go until you bless me.”

Memorial of Saint Benedict, Abbot
Lectionary: 384

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A demoniac who could not speak was brought to Jesus, and when the demon was driven out the mute man spoke. The crowds were amazed…

Reading 1 GN 32:23-33

In the course of the night, Jacob arose, took his two wives,
with the two maidservants and his eleven children,
and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.
After he had taken them across the stream
and had brought over all his possessions,
Jacob was left there alone.
Then some man wrestled with him until the break of dawn.
When the man saw that he could not prevail over him,
he struck Jacob’s hip at its socket,
so that the hip socket was wrenched as they wrestled.
The man then said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”
The man asked, “What is your name?”
He answered, “Jacob.”
Then the man said,
“You shall no longer be spoken of as Jacob, but as Israel,
because you have contended with divine and human beings
and have prevailed.”
Jacob then asked him, “Do tell me your name, please.”
He answered, “Why should you want to know my name?”
With that, he bade him farewell.
Jacob named the place Peniel,
“Because I have seen God face to face,” he said,
“yet my life has been spared.”

At sunrise, as he left Penuel,
Jacob limped along because of his hip.
That is why, to this day, the children of Israel do not eat
the sciatic muscle that is on the hip socket,
inasmuch as Jacob’s hip socket was struck at the sciatic muscle.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 17:1B, 2-3, 6-7AB, 8B AND 15

R. (15a) In justice, I shall behold your face, O Lord.
Hear, O LORD, a just suit;
attend to my outcry;
hearken to my prayer from lips without deceit.
R. In justice, I shall behold your face, O Lord.
From you let my judgment come;
your eyes behold what is right.
Though you test my heart, searching it in the night,
though you try me with fire, you shall find no malice in me.
R. In justice, I shall behold your face, O Lord.
I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me; hear my word.
Show your wondrous mercies,
O savior of those who flee from their foes.
R. In justice, I shall behold your face, O Lord.
Hide me in the shadow of your wings.
I in justice shall behold your face;
on waking, I shall be content in your presence.
R. In justice, I shall behold your face, O Lord.

Alleluia  JN 10:14

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord;
I know my sheep, and mine know me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 9:32-38

A demoniac who could not speak was brought to Jesus,
and when the demon was driven out the mute man spoke.
The crowds were amazed and said,
“Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”
But the Pharisees said,
“He drives out demons by the prince of demons.”

Jesus went around to all the towns and villages,
teaching in their synagogues,
proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom,
and curing every disease and illness.
At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned,
like sheep without a shepherd.
Then he said to his disciples,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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11 JULY, 2017, Tuesday, 14th Week, Ordinary Time
DEALING WITH DISCOURAGEMENT WHEN DOING GOOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Gn 32:23-33Ps 16:1-3,6-8Mt 9:32-38 ]

Many of us out of generosity respond to the call for mercy.  We surrender our time and resources, but fail to be aware that when we serve the Lord even voluntarily, we must not expect that we will always be appreciated.  We think that everyone would be grateful to us for our generosity because we are not paid for our job.  This is often the attitude of those who offer their services to the Church.  In the face of opposition and challenges or disagreement, they react with disappointment and resentment.

In the gospel, Jesus faced the same challenges.  He was constantly being opposed by the Jewish leaders, the scribes and the Pharisees.  He was often accused of blasphemy, eating and drinking with sinners and now working with Satan.  Instead of being filled with wonder and amazement at the mercy of God, they maligned Jesus and cast doubts on the work of mercy He performed.  Their response was totally the opposite of the people’s. “And when the devil was cast out, the dumb man spoke and the people were amazed.  ‘Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel’ they said.  But the Pharisees said, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts out devils.’”

Why were the religious leaders not happy with Jesus, unlike the people who were filled with wonder?  They were self-sufficient and self-righteous.  They were not the needy of society and hence did not need Jesus.  Furthermore, Jesus was challenging their status quo, exposing their hypocrisy and the traditions of the day.  In a word, they felt threatened by the activities and teachings of Jesus and so they retaliated by seeking to discredit His work.  Hence, we should not be surprised that when we seek to do good and to improve the situation, we will face opposition because we will surely tread on the comfort and convenience of others.  Whenever, people’s security is threatened, they will defend their own interests.  This is only natural.  Most people put their interests, convenience and security before others.

On the other hand, the common people were in need.  As the gospel tells us, they “were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.”  They were seeking freedom, direction and meaning in life.   Many were sick with illnesses and some under demonic oppression.  Most of all, many felt God was far away or that they were unworthy to come to God.  But Jesus in His love and mercy revealed to them the face and compassion of God by His works of mercy and healing, especially reconciling sinners with God, assuring them that their sins were forgiven and that God had accepted them.  In Jesus they saw the face of God and found God.  For this reason, they were filled with wonder and delight, unlike the religious leaders. Jesus was their liberator.

How do we respond to our detractors and enemies?  Jesus did not spend time arguing with them.  He continued with His ministry regardless.  We read that “Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness.”  He did not give in to discouragement.  He simply ignored those who were not with Him.  Instead of focusing on His enemies, He focused on His mission and the poor and sick who needed Him.  Instead of wasting His energy on those whose minds were closed, He chose to focus on those who needed His services.  We must not allow such people and their negativism to discourage us or make us lose our focus.

Instead, we must return to the original intention of wanting to serve God and His people, especially the poor, sick and the lost.  Indeed, it was Jesus’ love for them that motivated Him.  It was His compassion for them that made Him persevere.  We read that “when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them.”  Compassion for the lonely, the sick, the depressed, the wayward and those under the bondage of the Evil One was what motivated Jesus in His ministry.  Consequently, if we give up when doing good just because there are some who oppose us, we need to search our real motives for service.  We may have hidden motives like the Pharisees, which makes us no better than them.  If our concern is not about our ego and self-interests, we would not allow such people to derail us from our goal of helping the poor.

Today, we can also learn from Jacob.  He was very focused in what he had been called to do.  He was very determined in spite of the difficulties he had to face.  In the first reading, he was fearful and nervous of Esau who was coming to meet him.  He had cheated him of his birthright and his blessings from Isaac twenty years ago.  So he was now worried for his safety and that of his family’s.   This explains why he sent them away to the other side of the river.  “He took them and sent them across the stream and sent all his possessions over too.”   He was humble too in seeking reconciliation and forgiveness.  He sent messengers along the way three times to meet Esau, bearing gifts from him before he finally met him.  He knew how to win his heart over by love and sincere expression of sorrow.  Jacob indeed was a very shrewd businessman.  Hence, he was very successful. Like him, in the face of opposition, we must be like Jacob in finding ways to circumvent difficult people in our lives, seek to win them over with humility, patience and compassion.

Secondly, we can learn from Jacob in his determination to earn God’s blessings for his future.  Initially, he thought his enemy was Esau whom he tried to appease.  But in truth his real enemy was God.  In a strange dream and incident, he found himself wrestling with God.  It appeared that the man did not want Jacob to cross the river.  In the process of the struggle, he injured the socket of the hip of Jacob so that his hip got dislocated.  Because of his persistence and insistence, he was given a new mission signified by a new name, Israel, the one who was strong against God.  Because of his perseverance, God too had confidence that he would be able to prevail against man as well.  God finally gave him His blessings.

So in our struggles to do good and in the face of opposition, we must continue to trust in the Lord and rely on His strength.  We too must seek His face. We must persevere in prayer when we want to seek God’s blessings.  Like the psalmist we pray, “Lord, in my justice I shall see your face. Guard me as the apple of your eye.  Hide me in the shadow of your wings. In my justice I shall see your face and be filled, when I awake, with the sight of your glory.”  We must pray for a purification of motives, “From you may my judgement come forth. Your eyes discern the truth. You search my heart, you visit me by night. You test me and you find in me no wrong.”  We must avoid falling into the sin of presumption because of our hidden sins.  We must not be weary of prayers.  This is the advice of the Lord, “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.”  We need to pray both for more labourers in His vineyard and also that we will be good labourers as well.

We bear in mind the words of encouragement from St Paul when he wrote, “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.  If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.  So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.  So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.”   (Gal 6:7-10)  So let us all do what we can and surrender our good works to the grace of God.  Mother Teresa reminds us that we are called to be faithful to our vocation and calling, not successful.  God is the one who will see to that; it is not our problem.

 

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

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Commentary on Matthew 9:32-38 From Living Space

We come today to the end of the section (chaps 8-9) recounting ten miracles of Jesus. The last single miracle described is that of a man whose deafness is arises from his being possessed by a demon. It follows immediately the cure of two blind men, a story which we did not read and which is told again by Matthew in chap. 20. It seems to correspond to the healing of the blind man Bartimaeus in Mark (chap. 10), although there are significant differences.

The man is brought to Jesus by the people. Jesus drives out the demon and the man immediately is able to speak. There is a double reaction. The people are astounded: “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel!” The implications of Jesus’ divine origins are very clear. On the other hand, Pharisees were saying, “It is through the prince of devils that he casts out devils.” Elsewhere Jesus will show the absurd illogicality of that charge.

Stories of blindness, deafness and dumbness in the Gospel always have a deeper meaning. Far more serious than physical blindness, deafness and dumbness are being spiritually blind, deaf and dumb. The Pharisees in the Gospel represent such people and we see it happening in this story. They are blind because they cannot see or do not want to see God at work in Jesus; they are deaf because they do not hear or do not want to understand what he says. And they are also dumb because they cannot speak the words of life that Jesus gives them.

The very same can happen to each one of us. Let us pray today to be able to see clearly, to understand what God says to us and to be able to share it with others.

This section of Matthew concludes with a general description or summary of what Jesus was doing. He was going through all the towns and villages of Galilee; he was teaching in synagogues; he was proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom; and he was healing all kinds of diseases and sickness.

But, behind all that he does, is his deep compassion for the needs of the people. He sees them harassed and dejected, wandering and aimless like sheep without a guiding shepherd – a familiar image in the Old Testament (cf. Ezekiel 34). Then, looking at his disciples, he says, “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.” Jesus cannot do it all on his own. In fact, he will hardly step outside the boundaries of Palestine. He needs many helpers.

Image result for harvest, Vietnam, photos

Today, the situation has not changed. The harvest is as big as ever; people are as lost and rudderless as they have ever been in spite of the great strides in knowledge we have made. Where are the labourers? They are not just the bishops, priests, religious brothers and sisters. That is a very narrow concept of labourers. Every single baptised person is called, in some way, to be a harvester, to help people find and experience the truth and love that God gives in Jesus. Every single person, in that sense and it is a very real sense, has a vocation, a call to serve and to build the Kingdom.

What and where and with whom is my vocation?

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2143g/

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 Vietnam Harvest Scene

Related:

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First Thought From Peace and Freedom

People often ask, “So why do Catholics still go to Mass? Why does anyone still practice any Faith?

The most simple answer is: “Peace.”

The second answer might be: “Faith.”

The third?

“Because it works.”

“Because God is more important than anything to me — even more important than my family, my job, my accomplishments, my cool car, my opioids…”

Our world not only seems to be, it is, a maelstrom of anxiety and fear.

Whenever I meet someone who is calm and useful, even when a building is burning down, or someone is on death’s doorstep, I ask them how they remain so calm.

A surprising number say, “God.”

Father Robert Spitzer wrote in his recent book, “The Light Shines Out in The Darkness, Transforming Suffering Through Faith,” that “fear and anxiety are essentially negative and destructive.”

So why does the world seem jammed with people who are depressed, fearful or filled with anxiety?

Because they have no faith.

Jesus, more than anyone else, teaches mankind to avoid fear and anxiety. In fact, “Do not be afraid” may be the most frequently used phrase in the entire New Testament.

When the angel comes to Mary, he says, “Do not be afraid.”

When Jesus summons the apostle to walk on the water, he says, “Do not be afraid.” (Mt 14:27)

When on Easter morning, the first people arrive at the empty tomb, they are met by someone they don’t recognize, and he says, “Do not be afraid.” (Matthew 28: 5)

So how do we start our own project to rid ourselves of fear?

The answer is: Have faith. Find faith. Pray. Develop your spirituality in every way shape and form you can find.

Fortunately, people have been doing this since BEFORE FACEBOOK was discovered. Before TV. In fact, people have been developing their spirituality for thousands of years.

There is no greater treasure trove of resources about Christ and his teaching than any other single topic. More teachings by and about Jesus than the IT world, the NFL, or nuclear physics.

So in summary, it’s pretty common in our world today to see people consumed with fear and anxiety. But we also know how to fix this — without psychiatrists, prescription medicines, electro-shock and whatever anyone might try. Billions of people ask God for help, pray and work on their spiritual life daily.

This is at the core of the greatest addiction recovery method ever known: Alcoholics Anonymous.

See:

But often, reading and seeking God — two of the best things we can do to develop our spirituality — are the last two things men and women today choose to try.

“Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love cast out fear…. He who fears is not perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18)

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5 (NLT)

Peace I leave with youmy peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14: 27)

Do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul… (Matthew 10: 28-31)

This little gem was a prayer in the Mass for centuries:

“Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, And grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety As we wait in joyful hope For the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ…”

John Francis Carey

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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 Reflection
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• Today’s Gospel presents two facts: (1) the cure of a possessed dumb person (Mt 9, 32-34) and (2) a summary of the activity of Jesus (Mt 9, 35-38).  These two episodes end the narrative part of chapters 8 and 9 of the Gospel of Matthew in which the Evangelist seeks to indicate how Jesus put into practice the teachings given in the Sermon on the Mountain (Mt 5 and 7).  In chapter 10, the meditation which begins in the Gospel of tomorrow, we see the second great discourse of Jesus: The Discourse of the Mission (Mt 10, 1-42).
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• Matthew 9, 32-33a: The cure of a dumb.   In one only verse Matthew describes the arrival of the possessed person before Jesus, the expulsion of the demon and the attitude of Jesus, which in the fourth Gospel there is the attention and affection of Jesus with sick persons.
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The illnesses were many, social security non existent. The illnesses were not only deficiencies of the body: deafness, blindness, paralysis, leprosy and so many other sicknesses. In fact, these illnesses were nothing else than a manifestation of a much deeper and vast evil which undermined the health of persons, and that is the total abandonment and the depressing and inhuman state in which they were obliged to live. The activity and the cures of Jesus were directed not only against physical sickness, but also and above all against this greater evil of material and spiritual abandonment, in which people were obliged to live the few years of life. Then, in addition to the economic exploitation which stole half of the family stipend, the official religion of that time, instead of helping people to find strength in God, to resist and have hope, taught that sickness was a punishment from God for sin. This increased in them the sentiment of exclusion and condemnation.  Jesus did all the contrary.
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The acceptance full of tenderness of Jesus and the cure of the sick form part of the effort to knit together again the human relationship among persons and to re-establish community and fraternal living in the villages of Galilee, his land. Matthew 9, 33b-34: The twofold interpretation of the cure of the dumb man. Before the cure of the possessed dumb man, the reaction of the people is one of admiration and of gratitude: “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel!”  The reaction of the Pharisee is one of mistrust and malice: “It is through the prince of devils that he driver out devils!”  They were not able to deny the facts which cause admiration in the people, the only way which the Pharisees find to neutralize the influence of Jesus before the people is to attribute the expulsion to the power of the evil one. Mark presents an extensive argument of Jesus to demonstrate the lack of coherence and the malice of the interpretation given by the Pharisees (Mk 3, 22-27).  Matthew does not present any response of Jesus to the interpretation of the Pharisees, because when malice is evident, truth shines by itself.
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• Matthew 9, 35: Tireless, Jesus goes through the villages. The description of the tireless activity of Jesus is beautiful, in which emerges the double concern to which we referred: the acceptance full of tenderness and the cure of the sick: “Jesus went through all the towns, teaching in their Synagogues, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and all kinds of illness”. In the previous chapters, Matthew had already referred several times to this itinerant activity of Jesus in the villages and towns of Galilee (Mt 4, 23-24; 8, 16).
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• Matthew 9, 36: The compassion of Jesus. “Seeing the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd”. Those who should be shepherds were not shepherds; they did not take care of the flock. Jesus tries to be the shepherd (Jn 10,11-14). In this, Matthew sees the realization of the Prophecy of the Servant of Yahweh, who took upon himself our sickness, and bore our infirmities” (Mt 8, 17 and Is 53, 4). As it was for Jesus, the great concern of the Servant was “to find a word of comfort for those who were discouraged”. (Is 50, 4).  Jesus shows the same compassion toward the abandoned crowd, on the occasion of the multiplication of the loaves: they are like sheep without a shepherd (Mt 15, 32). The Gospel of Matthew has a constant concern in revealing to the converted Jews of the communities of Galilee and of Syria that Jesus is the Messiah announced by the Prophets.  For this reason, frequently, he shows that in Jesus’ activity the prophecies are fulfilled (cf. Mt 1, 23; 2, 5.15.17. 23; 3, 3; 4, 14-16; etc.).
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• Matthew 9, 37-38: The harvest is rich, but the labourers are few. Jesus transmits to the disciples the concern and the compassion which are within him: “The harvest is rich, but the labourers are few! Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers to his harvest!”
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Personal questions
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• Compassion for the tired and hungry crowds. In the history of humanity, there have never been so many tired and hungry people as today. Television diffuses the facts, but does not offer any responses. De we, Christians, succeed to have the same compassion of Jesus and to communicate it to others?
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• The goodness of Jesus toward the poor disturbed the Pharisees. They have recourse to malice to neutralize the discomfort caused by Jesus.  Are there many good attitudes in the persons who disturb me? How do I interpret them: with pleasant admiration as the crowds or with malice as the Pharisees?
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Concluding Prayer
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Sing to him, make music for him,
recount all his wonders!
Glory in his holy name,
let the hearts that seek Yahweh rejoice! (Ps 105,2-3)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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05 JULY 2016, Tuesday, 14th Week in Ordinary Time
A MATTER OF THE HEART

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ HOS 8:4-7, 11-13; MT 9:32-37 ]

We all know how painful it is when we are misunderstood, especially when we mean well.  We get very hurt and discouraged when people impute dubious motives in what we do, or even suggest that we have done something wrong or that we are benefiting from it.  We can imagine how Jesus would have felt when His opponents accused Him of casting out devils “through the prince of devils.” Indeed, His enemies never had anything good to say about Him, regardless of what He said or did.  They always had an axe to grind and were always finding fault with Him, watching Him and waiting to catch Him making a mistake.  We too have many people like that in our lives, even in Church ministry.  It pains us to know that even our so called brothers and sisters in Christ are attacking us and slandering us and reputation when we are serving the Church, often at our own expense and time.

In contrast, we read that the common people, those who needed assistance and divine intervention, were the ones who were moved by the compassion and the healing power of our Lord.  They were amazed and remarked, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”  So on one hand, the hierarchy and the established institution frowned upon the work of Jesus and sought to remove Him, whereas the people saw Him as their Saviour and deliverer.  Such contrasting reactions all go to show that it is not a matter of logic or even fact, because the fact is that people were healed and those possessed were delivered.  But it is a matter of the heart.  We do not see things as they are but we see things as we are.  This is shaped by our past experiences, needs and situation in life.  For those who are self-sufficient and secure in their own world, they would not need Jesus to help them.  They feel they can manage on their own.  So the reaction is one of skepticism and even hostility.  However one day, when they are desperate, because either they or their loved ones are terminally ill, then they will turn to the Lord for mercy and for miracles.

With such people, there is no reason to argue with them.  Jesus did not react much to their negativities.  He was clear of what He was doing.  He did not spend much time arguing with them or getting discouraged by such hurtful remarks.  Rather, we read that He continued to make “a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness.”  Jesus did not stop doing good just because some people were not happy with Him or tried to discredit His ministry.  We, too, must be like Jesus and not react to destructive people by withdrawing, but continue the good works we are doing.  Not all people will appreciate us but those who need our services and our help will be grateful.  We serve those who desire to have our services.  To resign from ministry just because of some false allegations would not be the best thing to do.

Of course, we need to examine our motives and consider the criticisms of our detractors.  Sometimes, they could be right as we could be blind in self-awareness.  The truth is always difficult to accept because we do not like to be told that we are not good enough.  Rejection of our works is often taken as a rejection of the person.  We become discouraged and fall into despair.  So when we are criticized, we must immediately bring such criticisms into prayer and to see whether the comments of our critics are true.  Truth has different degrees.  By entering into ourselves and examining the truth of the criticisms of our enemies with humility, we might be able to learn something from them.  The mud that they sling at us could very well be the means by which we are refined, polished and purified. So let us make good use of our critics for our growth.  Discard the criticisms however if they are not true.

In the case of Jesus, He was a man of great compassion.  He always acted out of mercy and empathy for those who are suffering.  He did not perform miracles for show or to prove Himself.  He always acted spontaneously in response to a need, regardless of the situation.  Whether it was a fellow Jew who asked Him for help, to heal or to raise someone from the dead; or even from a non-Jew, He would help without worrying whether He had broken the ritual laws.  Even when the ear of the slave of the high priest was cut off by Peter, His immediate reaction was to heal the man (Luke 22:51).  Hence, we can feel with the Lord for His people.  “And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.’”

We too must be motivated not by power, glory, honour and status but simply by the sufferings of our people.   Why are we in the ministry?  Are we motivated because many are living aimless lives in this world, without direction, purpose and meaning?  If so, then we are called to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord so that we can give meaning to their lives.  Some of us might be motivated by the sufferings of humanity.  Hence, we are involved in social ministry, whether serving those who are physically sick, materially poor or those who are lonely or emotionally hurt.  Different people are called to different ministries, depending on what moves us.  This explains why personal contact with those who are suffering would often touch the hearts of people.  When we see the poor being deprived of basic needs and those who are going through much emotional pains and struggles, our hearts go out to them.  The natural response of the human heart is to heal and to help them.  What we do not see with our eyes or touch with our hands, we are not easily moved.  Hence, the invitation to do charitable works and give to the poor is not based on logic but on moving the hearts of people to give out of their abundance.

In the first reading, the prophet Hosea delivered God’s judgement on the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  In contrast, they were not motivated by truth but by pride and selfish reasons.  They erected their own sanctuaries so that their people would not have to go down to Jerusalem to worship.  They appointed their own kings and even adapted their faith by importing the pagan worship and practices. By so doing, the leaders, both political and religious, misled the people and caused them to sin against the Lord.  They were not sincere in wanting to worship the Lord or obey the laws of the Lord.  “Ephraim has built altar after altar, they have only served him as occasion for sin.  Were I to write out the thousand precepts of my law for him, they would be paid no more attention than those of a stranger.”  At the end of the day, it was not because the leaders wanted God to be worshipped or the laws to be observed; they established their own political and religious systems purely for political and selfish motives.

Similarly, the religious leaders too could not accept Jesus not because His teachings were at odds with some of their teachings.  Granted that for some of them so steeped in their faith, they were not able to accommodate any different interpretations of the Laws other than their own.  But for some, it was not just the religious institution that was at stake but their status quo was being challenged.  If they were to agree with Jesus, they would have to abandon their ways of doing things and change the way they see religions.  It would have meant the loss of prestige, position and power.

So in the light of Christ’s example, we certainly must respond to His call to join Him in the harvest.  We cannot remain indifferent and waste our time squabbling over petty issues, rules and laws.  This is not to say that policies and rules are not important but they are meant for efficiency, transparency, accountability and unity.  My fear is that we spend so much time debating over all these when the real work of proclaiming the Good News, bringing people to know Jesus in worship and in prayer; in teaching and study of the faith; and most of all, reaching out to the poor and suffering are neglected and become secondary.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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