First Thought from Peace and Freedom
Some time ago, an older more learned member of the flock encouraged us to try just a few small live saving and life changing matters of routine.
The first one is this: to pray each day upon waking — to let God know, we know, He is responsible for all good things.
Now after years of trying different things, we start each day with this simple prayer:
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!
The second little life changer is this: each day, open and meditate upon some valuable spiritual topic. Again, after trying different things, I have a two pronged way to keep my spiritual life nourished. Each day, I open a small daily prayer and meditation book called “Twenty Four Hours a Day.” After years of just keeping this practice, we added here our on-line thoughts along with the daily scripture readings.
The longer we have successfully kept this small daily devotion, the more we see the scripture and our other spiritual readers coming into confluence or, if you will, synchronicity.
On April 19, the final line from the “Twenty Four Hours a Day” was:
“I pray that I may see beautiful horizons ahead on the upward way. I pray that I may keep going forward to the more abundant life.”
Today’s scripture lesson reinforces that notion.
“I came so that [you] might have life and have it more abundantly.”
Last week, at lunch, my Vietnamese Father smiled and said, “God wants us to be happy — and live life more abundantly.”
It seems, if we are seeking to hear the word of God, we find it repeatedly all around us.
If we aren’t seeking, we’ll never find.
“Your Life Does Not Belong to You.”
John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore (Homily Given in 2014)
As the Good Shepherd, Jesus is taking the place of God who is the Shepherd of Israel. This explains why St John had Jesus saying, “I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe: he will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture. …I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.’”
If indeed, we come to realize this truth, then like the Jews on “hearing this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, What must we do, brothers?” Peter responded, “You must repent and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Indeed, repentance and baptism is the consequence of recognizing Jesus as the Risen Lord and therefore our Good Shepherd and Saviour. To repent is to give up our old way of life and turn to Jesus our Good Shepherd who will lead us to greener pasture of life. Being baptised is to put on Christ and acquire the Spirit of Jesus given to us the moment we accept him. Truly, as St Peter urges the early Christians, “You had gone astray like sheep but now you have come back to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”
But the Good News that Jesus is our Good Shepherd leading us to new life is not simply given to us only. Salvation and fullness of life in Christ is a gift entrusted to us for the whole world. St Peter recognized the obligation to announce Him as the Gift of God for the world when he said, “the promise that was made is for you and your children, and for all those who are far away, for all those whom the Lord our God will call to himself.” Consequently, there is urgency for us proclaim Jesus as the Shepherd of life and love for the world.
But how can we as Christians powerfully proclaim Jesus as the Shepherd of life and the Saviour to the world unless we are strengthened and nurtured in our faith? For if we Catholics are truly His sheep, then as Jesus said, “the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice. They never follow a stranger but run away from him: they do not recognise the voice of strangers.”
The stark reality is that we are not hearing the voice of Jesus. Although we claim to be Catholics, many of us do not really know Jesus because the lives we live contradict our claims. Instead of listening to the voice of the Shepherd leading us to eternal life, we only hear the voice of the secular world, which is promoting a culture of death, egotism and materialism. We are even subscribing to the values promoted by the world, values that are short-lived and even contrary to what they claim to give. Many of these values are against the promotion of life. Abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research involving embryos and cloning are against life. Same sex union, homosexual behaviour, contraceptives, permissive sex, premarital sex are all against the culture of true love and against the unity of marriage and the family. Materialism and consumerism give people a false sense of satisfaction when their hearts and spirits remain thirsty.
Yes, the Church needs shepherds in order that our Catholics can bring Christ to the world, especially as Jesus said, “there are still many who have not yet heard of his voice.” Indeed, Pope John Paul II constantly reminded us that as Church, we need to be re-evangelized first so that we can be evangelizers in the world. We need to renew the faith and the spiritual life of our Catholics.
So what must we do? The Holy Father tells us that we must “put out into the deep!” We must reflect on the vocation to follow Christ and live out our baptismal life more faithfully and devoutly. We must strive to deepen our relationship with the Lord, hearing His voice especially by “cultivating a deep spirit of prayer nourished by a daily listening to the Word of God.”
Indeed, the Holy Father wrote, “whoever opens his heart to Christ will not only understand the mystery of his own existence, but also that of his own vocation; he will bear the abundant fruit of grace. The first fruit will be his growth in holiness, which begins with the gift of Baptism and continues even to the fullness of perfect love. Living the gospel … the Christian becomes always increasingly capable of loving in the way that Christ loved. He will commit himself to persevering in unity with his brothers within the communion of the Church and he will place himself at the service of the new evangelization to proclaim and bear witness to the wonderful truth of the saving love of God.”
For the young people, to “put out into the deep” means to “listen attentively to the teachings of Christ, fix your eyes on his face, and persevere in listening to his Word. Allow him to focus your search and your aspirations, all your ideals and the desires of your heart.” Perhaps if you listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd in you, you might come to realize that He is calling you to a priestly or religious life, to share with him the task of bringing abundant life to all. Do not think that you are not called. The Lord will not leave the harvest and his flock unattended. He has sent the labourers but unfortunately many are unable to hear his voice today and if they have heard, they lack the courage to respond generously.
As for parents and Christian educators, catechists, you must never forget that “God has entrusted to you the peculiar task of guiding young people on the path to holiness.” At the same time, for vocations to take root, you must be an example of generous fidelity to Christ. Without living an authentic Christian life and giving a Christian ambience, our young people will not be able to hear the voice of the Shepherd calling. Indeed, only when “adult Christians show themselves capable of revealing the face of Christ through their own words and example,” could young people “be more ready to welcome His demanding message, stamped as it is with the mystery of the Cross.”
Thus, as parents and educators, you must “encourage them to ‘put out into the deep’ without hesitation, responding eagerly to the invitation of the Lord.” It is true that not all are called to the consecrated life or ministerial priesthood. It is not for us to decide or impose a priestly or religious vocation on them. It is a calling from the Lord and our task is to make it possible for them to discern their path and calling in life. Whether they are called to family life or other vocations in life, it is but the one vocation of love common to all but lived out differently.
Yes, let us hear the words of Jesus to Peter again, “Put out into the deep.” Let us hearken to the words of Mary who said to us in Cana, “Do whatever he tells you”. Only by responding to our calling in life, be it a priestly or religious calling or otherwise, can we find real peace, happiness and fulfillment.
– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/11-may-2014-4th-sunday-of-easter-world-day-of-prayer-for-vocations/#sthash.e8CjRwXk.dpuf
Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
Homily for April 27, 2015
SHEPHERDS MUST LISTEN TO THE VOICE OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD
SCRIPTURE READINGS: ACTS 11:1-18; JOHN 10:1-10
Regardless of who we are, we are all shepherds in our own ways, whether at work, at home or in the Church. All leaders, in their respective capacities, are all called to a shepherding role. To be good leaders, we must endeavour to be shepherds after the heart of Christ, our Good Shepherd. It is not even enough to aspire for leadership; we must earnestly seek all means to make this dream of ours a reality.
For this to happen, it is essential to listen to His voice speaking to us. Jesus makes it clear that, “The sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice. They never follow a stranger but run away from him: they do not recognise the voice of strangers.” So the question is: are we hearing Him clearly enough? Are we sufficiently intimate with Jesus to recognize His voice amidst our activities? Or have the voices of the world, our friends, our enjoyments, our academic pursuits and even apostolic zeal prevented us from hearing His voice? There is a real danger that we might not be listening to Him sufficiently.
If we have not listened to Him and we pretend to be His shepherds, are we not guilty of being thieves and brigands? Why is that so? Jesus said, “I am the gate of the sheepfold. All others who have come are thieves and brigands; but the sheep took no notice of them. I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe: he will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture.” How can we be shepherds when we do not have the heart of the Shepherd, His mind and will? By shepherding those under us with the counterfeit values of the world, we lead those under our care away from truth and from God. We steal them away from Jesus because we are often misguided, and thus we kill them.
In contrast, in the first reading, we have Peter who listened attentively to the voice of the Lord. He must be a man of prayer, otherwise he would not have been so sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit, who showed him a vision of the animals and wild beasts, which God declared all to be clean, when he was at prayer. He recounted thus, “I fell into a trance as I was praying and had a vision of something like a big sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners.” Again, St Peter underscored that when the three men from Caesarea were outside his house to fetch him to meet the Centurion Cornelius, it was the Spirit who told him “to have no hesitation about going back with them”. On this basis and prompting, he went with them to Cornelius’ house.
We can be certain that Peter had the courage to do so, only because of the vision and the prompting he received from the Holy Spirit. Indeed, without listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, St Peter, a Jew, would not take the risk of being made spiritually unclean by visiting Cornelius. Non-Jews were considered profane and unclean, and thus Jews were forbidden to mix with people of another race or to visit them. This also explains why the three men stood outside the house; they knew the sensitivity of the Jews.
But what happened to Peter also happened to Cornelius. For in the Acts, we are told that Cornelius sent his men to fetch Peter because he was directed by an angel to bring him to his house, so as to listen to what he had to say. He too had a vision when he was at prayer. He “suddenly saw a man in front of him in shining robes saying to him, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been accepted as a sacrifice in the sight of God.’” It is significant that it was at the ninth hour when this event took place, because this was the hour that the veil of the Temple was torn right down the middle, and when Jesus cried out, “Father into your hands I commit my Spirit” (Lk 23:44-46). Yes, it was that hour when He poured forth His Spirit on the world.
Finally, we read that when Peter was still speaking to them, the Holy Spirit came down on all the listeners. Peter and the rest of the Jewish Christians “were all astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit should be poured out on the pagans too since they could hear them speaking strange languages and proclaiming the greatness of God.” As a result, Peter said, “Could anyone refuse the water of baptism to these people, now they have received the Holy Spirit just as much as we have?”
Unlike the apostles, we are no longer sensitive to the Holy Spirit, so much so, we no longer hear the intimate voice of Jesus speaking to us. We have lost the Spirit of discernment because we cannot distinguish the voice of the master from the voice of the world, and the voice of the Holy Spirit from our own human spirit. This explains why we are often lacking in wisdom in leading our people. Instead of boosting their faith, we weaken their faith by indirectly leading them away from God. Instead of promoting the values of the gospel and the Church, we begin to think and act like the rest of the secular world.
We must encourage prayers, devotions, conversion experience, love for the Eucharist and frequent use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Why? Because this is the way in which the Holy Spirit is given to us; especially in and through the sacraments, besides praise and worship, as in the case of Cornelius. Yes, the Holy Spirit is given to all freely, but we must make use of the means available to us. As Acts told us, the Holy Spirit was given through the preaching of Peter. This was completed with the Sacrament of Baptism, when they were incorporated into the Body of Christ.
The Late Pope John Paul II once told the ordinands, “Each one of you will become a good shepherd with Jesus’ help, ready even to give your life for him if it is necessary.” But, “to be worthy ministers you will have to unceasingly nourish yourselves by the Eucharist, the source and summit of Christian life … Draw near to the altar, your daily school of sanctity, of communion with Jesus, the way of entering into his sentiments; draw near to the altar to renew the sacrifice of the cross, you will discover the richness and tenderness of the divine master’s love more and more … He is the one who is calling you today to a more intimate friendship with him … If you will listen to him with docility, if you will follow him faithfully, you will learn how to translate his love and passion for the salvation of souls into everyday life.” Furthermore, the Holy Father assured them, that they will have “the certainty that Christ will not abandon you and that no obstacle can stand in the way of his universal design of salvation be for you a reason for constant consolation – even on the difficult days – and indestructible hope.”
When leaders lack holiness, the people too cannot grow in holiness. At the root of it all, we ourselves need conversion, which we are not fully aware of. Because of a tepid prayer life, we do not realize our sinfulness and the need for a real conversion of heart. I truly believe that when we put our prayer life in order, everything will be put right. We need to intensify our prayer life and our relationship with the Lord. Put Him first in our life, and the rest will follow.
Let us therefore be faithful to the grace we have received. Listen to His voice daily through the Word of God, and especially when we adore Him before the Eucharist. It is necessary to be empowered in the ministry by the Holy Spirit, who gives us the qualification we need to be His servants. He will speak in and through us, from our heart, a heart that has become one with Jesus. If Jesus is truly the Good Shepherd after His Father, it is because, as He said in the gospel, “the Father and I are one”.