Posts Tagged ‘Cain and Abel’

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, February 18, 2017 — The Essential Role of Faith For Man — “Suddenly, looking around, the disciples no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.”

February 17, 2017

Saturday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 340

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The Transfiguration Jesus by James Tissot

Reading 1 HEB 11:1-7

Brothers and sisters:
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence of things not seen.
Because of it the ancients were well attested.
By faith we understand that the universe was ordered by the word of God,
so that what is visible came into being through the invisible.
By faith Abel offered to God a sacrifice greater than Cain’s.
Through this, he was attested to be righteous,
God bearing witness to his gifts,
and through this, though dead, he still speaks.
By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death,
and he was found no more because God had taken him.
Before he was taken up, he was attested to have pleased God.
But without faith it is impossible to please him,
for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists
and that he rewards those who seek him.
By faith Noah, warned about what was not yet seen,
with reverence built an ark for the salvation of his household.
Through this, he condemned the world
and inherited the righteousness that comes through faith.

Responsorial Psalm PS 145:2-3, 4-5, 10-11

R. (see 1) I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Generation after generation praises your works
and proclaims your might.
They speak of the splendor of your glorious majesty
and tell of your wondrous works.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.

AlleluiaMK 9:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The heavens were opened and the voice of the Father thundered:
This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 9:2-13

Jesus took Peter, James, and John
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses,
and they were conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents:
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
then from the cloud came a voice,
“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
Suddenly, looking around, the disciples no longer saw anyone
but Jesus alone with them.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,
except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept the matter to themselves,
questioning what rising from the dead meant.
Then they asked him,
“Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
He told them, “Elijah will indeed come first and restore all things,
yet how is it written regarding the Son of Man
that he must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt?
But I tell you that Elijah has come
and they did to him whatever they pleased,
as it is written of him.”

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Transfiguration of Jesus. Source – Orthodox Metropolitanate Of Singapore And South Asia
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Why Peters, James and John were Chosen Witnesses of the Transfiguration
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According to the explanation of St. John of Damascus, “the Lord took Peter in order to show that His testimony truly given to him will be affirmed by the testimony of the Father and that one should believe him in His words, that the heavenly Father revealed this testimony to him (Mt. 16:17). He took James as the one who before all the Apostles would die for Christ, to drink His cup and be baptized with His baptism (Acts 12:2). Finally, He took John, as the virgin and purest organ of Theology so that he, after having beheld the eternal glory of the Son of God, has thundered these words: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (Jn. 1:1). Besides this on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter who hadn’t yet spread the ideas about the suffering and death of his Teacher and Lord (Mt. 16:22), might mature in the truth of His glory, which forever remains inviolable despite all hostile efforts; James and John, awaiting the opening of the earthly kingdom of the Messiah and pursued the first places in this kingdom (Mk. 10:37), might behold the true majesty of Christ the Savior, surpassing every terrestrial power. The three disciples were under the law (Deut. 19:15) sufficient witnesses of the revelation of the glory of God and, according to the expression of St. Proclus, ‘in spirit personally represented all the others’.”
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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18 FEBRUARY, 2017, Saturday, 6th Week, Ordinary Time
FAITH AND VISIONS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ HEBREWS 11:1-7; MARK 9:2 -13  ]

If you have paid attention to the scripture readings, you would wonder why after taking a break from the letter to the Hebrews to focus on the Book of Genesis, we return to  the Letter to the Hebrews.  This is because this chapter sums up the faith of those characters mentioned in the book of Genesis.  Why is faith critical in the Christian Religion?  This is because faith entails trust in God’s love, fidelity to His promises and His omnipotence. “Now it is impossible to please God without faith, since anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and rewards those who try to find him.”  Without total trust in God, our human ego will become an obstacle for God to work in and through us.   Accordingly, the author declares that “only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen.”

And he added, “It was for faith that our ancestors were commended.”  Then he went about to describe the necessary faith in the creation of the world by God who brought all things into existence; the faith of Abel who “offered God a better sacrifice than Cain”; the faith of Enoch who “was taken up and did not have to experience death”; and the faith of Noah who was asked by God to build an Ark outside his house.  All of these who placed their faith in God were counted as righteous before God and were well rewarded.

But then this call to faith in God seems to be in conflict with the visions that God also gives to man, as in today’s story of the transfiguration or the vision given to the unbelieving St Thomas after the resurrection of Jesus.  Hence the question is: does it mean that Jesus and the disciples were dispensed from faith, since faith implies believing without seeing?  On the surface it appears to be this way.  Yet, in truth, faith is presupposed before visions, and greater faith is required after visions.  How is this so?

Faith is a pre-requisite to being receptive to the signs that God gives to us.  Signs are not proofs.  There is no pure naked faith that is not supplied by some signs.  Otherwise we can fall into the danger of fideism, which is to believe without a reasonable basis for doing so.  Credulity is as dangerous as rationalism, the latter which demands that things must be proven beyond doubt before one would believe.  Credulity is not faith, but sloth and irresponsibility.  Rationalism is against faith, because one trusts only in one’s knowledge and wisdom.  One reduces the power and wisdom of God to his limited knowledge and wisdom.  Fideism is against faith because it fails to respect the gift of intellect given to man.

Truly, all the visions found in the Bible and our own visions remain at best signs to point us to a greater mystery, namely, God Himself.  At Jesus’ baptism, and once again at the Transfiguration, faith is required to perceive that what they saw and heard is from God.  It could be their imagination or even a hallucination and mass hypnotism.  So without faith, we can try to explain away any marvelous events that happen in this life.  And when confronted with the totally inexplicable, without faith, we can respond like many atheists do, that we will find the scientific answer one day.  But with faith, like the disciples, we will view these visions or works of wonders as means by which God elicits our response in faith and love.  With faith, we begin to see and hear more than what the person without faith could.

Nevertheless, visions cannot be substituted for faith. Vision presupposes faith, and once perceived, it calls for a greater contemplation on the mystery experience.  We can be sure that for Jesus and the disciples, after the revelation of the Father at Jesus’ baptism and at the Transfiguration, they continued to contemplate and draw out the deeper meaning of the vision that took place.  It is significant that Jesus purposely began His public mission after His baptism when He was anointed by the Holy Spirit, having experienced in a radical manner, Himself as the Son of the Father and the Suffering Servant of Yahweh in the Book of Isaiah.  In the same manner, it was after the Transfiguration that Jesus again resolutely took the road to Jerusalem, the place of His suffering and glory.

In truth, visions invite us to a deeper faith.  More often than not, after encountering a vision, things become even more confused.  That visions invite us to grow in faith can also be glimpsed from the reaction of the disciples.  “As they came down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean. And they put this question to him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah has to come first?’”  Indeed, understanding one’s vision takes time.

Vision does not clarify everything all at once, and clearly.  It is only a vehicle to make us deepen our faith further by ongoing study, contemplation and prayer.  One begins to ask more questions and seek clarification. Quite often, understanding the full significance of the vision might take years, if not a lifetime.  And if a vision commands us to act, it is even more daunting, as one is called to act by faith, not by sight.  Only because they asked and inquired further, seeking to understand their vision and grow in faith, did Jesus instruct them that “Elijah has come and they have treated him as they pleased, just as the scriptures say about him.’”  Even then, they could not understand what Jesus told them.  Otherwise, how do we explain the disciples’ abandonment of Jesus when He was arrested by the soldiers, or their disbelief when told of Jesus’ resurrection?   Similarly, Jesus, too, in spite of the Father’s affirmation of His Sonship and mission, had to endure the agony in the garden of Gethsemane and surrender in faith to the Father’s will.

Finally, those who have received visions are expected to have a greater faith by surrendering their lives to God. This was true of Abraham and all the prophets of the Old Testament when, after being called, they were asked to prophesy to the people of God at the risk of death.  So, too, the apostles, after encountering the Lord, were sent out to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth.  One can say that no one receives a vision just for himself or herself, but it is at the service of a mission which requires much faith, perseverance and endurance, because the mission entails suffering and even martyrdom.  Indeed, one can be certain that one has a real vision when the vision inspires him to give his life entirely to God who gave that message to him.  Unless vision is followed by action, that vision is placed in doubt.  In a nutshell, an authentic vision must manifest the fruits and actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his or her life.

How should we be disposed to vision?  A vision cannot be engineered by us.  That would be hallucination, as it lacks objective reality.  Vision, if ever given, is the sheer grace of God at work in us.  We can of course be disposed to vision by being docile to the Lord.  Of course, not all have great visions.  In many ways, all of us have our mini-transfiguration experiences, especially in prayer.  Through our intimacy with God, in listening and dialogue, we can encounter Him speaking to us, directing and through inspiration.  That is what the Father says to us when He told us, “This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.”  Like the Psalmist, if we ponder the wonders of God in our lives, we will encounter the majesty and glory of God.

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

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Lectio Divina From The Carmelites

Gospel Reading – Mark 9,2-13
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Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain on their own by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became brilliantly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus.
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Then Peter spoke to Jesus, ‘Rabbi,’ he said, ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say; they were so frightened.
And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.
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As they were coming down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean. And they put this question to him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’
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He said to them, ‘Elijah is indeed first coming to set everything right again; yet how is it that the scriptures say about the Son of man that he must suffer grievously and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come and they have treated him as they pleased, just as the scriptures say about him.’
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Reflection
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• Today’s Gospel speaks about two facts linked between them: the Transfiguration of Jesus and the question of the return of the Prophet Elijah. At that time people were waiting for the return of the Prophet Elijah.
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Today many people are waiting for the return of Jesus and write on the walls of the city: Jesus will return! They are not aware that Jesus has returned already and is present in our life. Some times as a sudden lightening, this presence of Jesus bursts into our life and enlightens it, transfiguring it.
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• The Transfiguration of Jesus takes place after the first announcement of the death of Jesus (Mk 8, 27-30). This announcement had disturbed or upset the mind of the disciples, especially of Peter (Mk 8, 31-33). They were among the poor, but their mind was lost in the ideology of government and of the religion of the time (Mk 8, 15). The Cross was an obstacle to believe in Jesus. The Transfiguration of Jesus will help the disciples to overcome the trauma of the Cross.
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• In the years 70’s when Mark wrote, the Cross continued to be a great impediment for the Jews, to accept Jesus as Messiah. They said: “The Cross is a scandal!” (1 Co 1, 23). One of the greatest efforts of the first Christians consisted in helping persons to perceive that the cross was neither a scandal, nor madness, but rather the expression of the power and the wisdom of God (1 Co 1, 22-31). Mark contributes to this. He uses the texts and the figure of the Old Testament to describe the Transfiguration. In this way he indicates that Jesus sees the realization of the prophecies and the Cross was a way toward Glory.
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• Mark 9, 2-4: Jesus changes appearance. Jesus goes up a high mountain. Luke says that he goes up to pray (Lk 9, 28). Up there, Jesus appears in the glory before Peter, James and John. Together with him appear Moses and Elijah. The high mountain evokes Mount Sinai, where in the past, God had manifested his will to the people, handing them the Law. The white clothes remind us of Moses with a radiant face when he spoke with God on the Mountain and received the Law (cfr. Ex 43, 29-35) Elijah and Moses, the two greatest authorities of the Old Testament, speak with Jesus. Moses represents the Law, Elijah, the prophecy. Luke informs on the conversation concerning the “exodus of Jesus”, that is, the Death of Jesus in Jerusalem (Lk 9, 31). It is then clear that the Old Testament, both the Law as well as the prophecy, already taught that for the Messiah Servant the way to glory had to go through the Cross!
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• Mark 9, 5-6: Peter is pleased, likes this, but he does not understand. Peter is pleased and he wants to keep this pleasant moment on the Mountain. He offers to build three tents. Mark says that Peter was afraid, without knowing what he was saying, and Luke adds that the disciples were sleepy (Lk 9, 32). They were like us: they had difficulty to understand the Cross!
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• Mark 9, 7-9: The voice from Heaven clarifies the facts. When Jesus was covered by the glory, a voice came from the cloud and said: This is my Son the Beloved! Listen to him! The expression: “Beloved Son” reminds us of the figure of the Messiah Servant, announced by the prophet Isaiah (cfr. Is 42, 1). The expression: “Listen to him!” reminds us of the prophecy which promised the coming of a new Moses (cf. Dt 18, 15). In Jesus, the prophecies of the Old Testament are being fulfilled. The disciples can no longer doubt. Jesus is truly the glorious Messiah whom they desired, but the way to the glory passes through the cross, according to what was announced by the prophecy of the Servant (Is 53, 3-9). The glory of the Transfiguration proves this. Moses and Elijah confirm it. The Father guarantees it. Jesus accepts it. At the end, Mark says that, after the vision, the disciples saw only Jesus and nobody else. From now on, Jesus is the only revelation of God for us! Jesus is alone, the key to understand all of the Old Testament.
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• Mark 9, 9-10: To know how to keep silence. Jesus asked the disciples to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of man had risen from the dead, but the disciples did not understand. In fact, they did not understand the meaning of the cross which links suffering to the resurrection. The Cross of Jesus is the proof that life is stronger than death.
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• Mark 9, 11-13: The return of the Prophet Elijah. The Prophet Malachi had announced that Elijah would return to prepare the path for the Messiah (Ml 3, 23-24): this same announcement is found in the Book of Ecclesiasticus/Ben Sira (Si 48, 10). And then, how could Jesus be the Messiah if Elijah had not yet returned? This is why the disciples asked: Why do the Scribes say that before Elijah has to come?” (9, 111). The response of Jesus is clear: “But I tell you Elijah has come and they have treated him as they pleased, just as the Scriptures say about him” (9, 13). Jesus was speaking about John the Baptist who was killed by Herod (Mt 17, 13).
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Personal questions
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• Has your faith in Jesus given you some moment of transfiguration and of intense joy? How do these moments of joy give you strength in times of difficulty?
• How can we transfigure today, our personal and family life as well as our community life?
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Concluding Prayer
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All goes well for one who lends generously,
who is honest in all his dealing;
for all time to come he will not stumble,
for all time to come the upright will be remembered. (Ps 112,5-6)
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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, February 16, 2015 — “I am the way and the truth and the life” says the Lord

February 15, 2015

Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 335

Art: The Pharisees Question Jesus (Les pharisiens questionnent Jésus) by Tissot

Reading 1 Gn 4:1-15, 25

The man had relations with his wife Eve,
and she conceived and bore Cain, saying,
“I have produced a man with the help of the LORD.”
Next she bore his brother Abel.
Abel became a keeper of flocks, and Cain a tiller of the soil.
In the course of time Cain brought an offering to the LORD
from the fruit of the soil,
while Abel, for his part,
brought one of the best firstlings of his flock.
The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering,
but on Cain and his offering he did not.
Cain greatly resented this and was crestfallen.
So the LORD said to Cain:
“Why are you so resentful and crestfallen.
If you do well, you can hold up your head;
but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door:
his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.”
Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out in the field.”
When they were in the field,
Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Then the LORD asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
He answered, “I do not know.
Am I my brother’s keeper?”
The LORD then said: “What have you done!
Listen: your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil!
Therefore you shall be banned from the soil
that opened its mouth to receive
your brother’s blood from your hand.
If you till the soil, it shall no longer give you its produce.
You shall become a restless wanderer on the earth.”
Cain said to the LORD: “My punishment is too great to bear.
Since you have now banished me from the soil,
and I must avoid your presence
and become a restless wanderer on the earth,
anyone may kill me at sight.”
“Not so!” the LORD said to him.
“If anyone kills Cain, Cain shall be avenged sevenfold.”
So the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest anyone should kill him at sight.Adam again had relations with his wife,
and she gave birth to a son whom she called Seth.
“God has granted me more offspring in place of Abel,” she said,
“because Cain slew him.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 50:1 and 8, 16bc-17, 20-21

R. (14a) Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
God the LORD has spoken and summoned the earth,
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
“Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you,
for your burnt offerings are before me always.”
R. Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
“Why do you recite my statutes,
and profess my covenant with your mouth
Though you hate discipline
and cast my words behind you?”
R. Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
“You sit speaking against your brother;
against your mother’s son you spread rumors.
When you do these things, shall I be deaf to it?
Or do you think that I am like yourself?
I will correct you by drawing them up before your eyes.”
R. Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.

Alleluia Jn 14:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the way and the truth and the life, says the Lord;
no one comes to the Father except through me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 8:11-13

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus,
seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.
He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said,
“Why does this generation seek a sign?
Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
Then he left them, got into the boat again,
and went off to the other shore.
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Commentary on Mark 8:11-13 from Living Space

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The Pharisees, disturbed by what Jesus is saying and doing, demand some ‘heavenly’ sign to indicate that his authority comes from God. He refuses to acquiesce to their request. They will not get a sign on their terms.

The irony, of course, is that Jesus’ whole life is a sign, a sign of God’s loving presence among us. In Mark, the ordinary people can see this clearly. Only the leaders and – in Mark – Jesus’ own disciples are slow to learn.

In the immediately foregoing passage Jesus has just fed 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread and a few fish. The signs are there in abundance but the Pharisees cannot see because they do not want to see. Their blindness is a central theme to this part of Mark, as we shall see.

We too need to be aware of our own blindness and our failure to see the ‘signs’ of God’s love operating in our everyday lives.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2062g/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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13: The Pharisees ask for a sign from s Gospel narrates a discussion of the Pharisees with Jesus. Jesus also, as it happened with Moses in the Old Testament, had fed the hungry people in the desert, by multiplying the bread (Mk 8, 1-10). This is a sign that he presented himself before the people as a new Moses. But the Pharisees were not capable to perceive the meaning of the multiplication of the loaves. They had , probably feeling disgust and sadness before so much blindness. And he concludes He left them and went toward the other side of the lake. It is not worthwhile to show a beautiful picture to one who does not want to open the eyes. Anyone who closes the eyes cannot see!
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The danger of dominating ideology. He we can clearly perceive how the Mk 8, 15), the dominating ideology of the time, made persons lose their capacity to analyze events objectively. This yeast  came from far and had taken profound roots in the life of the people. It went so far as to contaminate the mentality of the disciples and manifested itself in many ways. With the formation which Jesus gave them, he tried to uproot this .
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The following are some examples of this fraternal help which Jesus gave to his disciples. a) The mentality of a closed group. On a certain day a person not belonging to the community used the name of Jesus to drive out We have forbidden this because he Mk 9, 38). John thought he had the monopoly on Jesus and wanted to prevent others to use the name of Jesus to do good. John wanted a Elected People, the Do not stop him! Anyone who is not against 40).
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The mentality of a group which considers itself superior to others. Certain times, the Samaritans did not want to offer May Lk 9, 54). They thought that because they were with Jesus, everyone had to welcome him, to accept him. They thought they had God on their side to defend him. It was the yeast of the Jesus turned and Lk 9, 55).
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The competitive mentality of and of prestige. The disciples discussed among themselves about the first place (Mk 9, 33-34). It was the yeast of class and of competitiveness, which characterized the official religion and the society of the Roman Empire. It was already getting into the small community around Jesus. Jesus reacts and orders to have a contrary Mk 9, 35).
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d) The mentality of those who marginalize the little ones. The disciples scolded little children. It was the yeast of the mentality of that time, according to which children did not count and should be disciplined by adults. Mk 10, 14).
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Anyone who does not welcome the Lk 18, 17).
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As it happened in the time of Jesus, today also the Neo liberal mentality of the dominating ideology arises once again and appears even in the life of the community and of the family. The prayerful reading of the Gospel, made in community, can help to change in us the vision of things and to deepen in us conversion and the fidelity which Jesus asks from us.
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For Personal Confrontation

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Before the alternative: to have faith in Jesus or to ask for a sign from heaven, the Pharisees want a sign from heaven.  They were not capable to believe in Jesus. The same thing happens to me. What have I chosen?
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The yeast of the Pharisees prevented the disciples to perceive the presence of the Kingdom in Jesus. Have some remains of this yeast of the Pharisees remained in me?
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Concluding Prayer
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Lord, you are generous and act generously, teach me your  will. (Ps 119,68)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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SINCERITY IN ASKING FOR SIGNS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: GENESIS 4:1-15, 25; MARK 8:11 – 13
http://www.universalis.com/20150216/mass.htm

Is it wrong to ask for a sign to verify a claim?  Should not faith be credible?  So why should one be faulted for asking for a sign?  Even God seeks signs of love and adoration from us!  Aren’t the offerings of Cain and Abel signs of their love for God, or the lack of it?  Yet, it seems Jesus was upset that the Pharisees “demanded of him a sign from heaven, to test him. And with a sigh that came straight from the heart he said, ‘Why does this generation demand a sign? I tell you solemnly, no sign shall be given to this generation.’”  On the surface, they were being prudent in demanding for a sign, otherwise they could be accused of being gullible.

When, then, is it justifiable to ask for a sign? The bottom line is whether we are honestly seeking clarification, or whether our question springs from a hostile heart.  Are we simply testing God out of arrogance, as the Pharisees did, or sincerely seeking a confirmation from the Lord?  If our minds are closed, like those of the Jewish religious leaders, then no matter what the person says, no answer would satisfy.  But if we are humble and open, then asking for signs would not only be right but also prudent, as in the case of Mary when she sought confirmation from the angel after accepting his message in faith.  Her stance was in contrast to Zechariah’s. He doubted the angel’s message and was thus punished.

Indeed, in the first reading, if Cain’s offering was rejected, it was not because he was offering farm produce when God desired animals as sacrifice.  Nay, it was because of his insincerity.  He was not giving the best to God.  As for Abel, he gave the best to God and his offering was accepted.

Hence St Augustine tells us that we must first believe, so that we will understand.  Only those who believe can understand much more than those who seek to believe only after they have understood.  The predisposition of the former accords the benefit of the doubt to the bearer of the message. This predisposition of openness is important, for if we were prejudiced from the outset, it would prevent us from being able to perceive the deeper truths.  Trying to understand without believing will block us from availing of, and being available to, all that is revealed.

Indeed, with regard to the Church’s teaching, as far as doctrines are concerned, the Church says that we must submit our intellect and will to the teachings of the Church. If the theologian has some disagreement, he must first accept the Church’s teachings in good faith, and then later try to understand the Church’s point of view.  Without such a disposition, he would not be able to put on the mind of the Church, but instead allows his position to obstruct him from understanding the truth. This is the presupposition for dialogue.  If not, it will only lead to confrontation.   Indeed, it is this spirit of the yeast, that negative spirit, which Jesus will speak about in tomorrow’s gospel.

Why are we not open to faith?  Cain, like the Jewish leaders, was proud, jealous and insecure.  In contrast, Abel was humble, and instead of being angry with God, he cried out to God for justice, even when he was unjustly killed.  He offered his life to God, instead of taking revenge and resorting to violence.  Clearly, Abel was a man of deep faith in God due to his humility, whereas Cain was selfish and cut off from God.

As a consequence, all sins, especially the sin of injustice against fellowmen, spring from our rejection of God’s love. This causes our relationship with our fellowmen to rupture.  In the same way too, like Abel, it was jealousy that finally killed Jesus.  The failure to love and be in dialogue with God will lead to resentment against our fellowmen.  Hence, when God asked Cain where his brother, Abel, was, he replied, “‘I do not know’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s guardian?’”

In the context of community living, we must extend further how faith in God is also related to faith in our fellowmen.  In the first reading, the author warns us, “Why are you angry and downcast? If you are well disposed, ought you not to lift up your head? But if you are ill disposed, is not sin at the door like a crouching beast hungering for you, which you must master?”   Yes, we must be watchful, lest we allow our pride and jealousy to destroy our relationship with our fellow brothers and sisters.

In the same vein, because we are brothers and sisters, we must watch over each other, so that we can help each other to grow; not watch each other to see when they fall.  Watching over each other is different from watching each other.  For example, keeping an eye on our colleagues at work in case they discredit us, is watching each other.  Yes, we must not treat each other with suspicion and attribute negative motives to their actions without clarification.  Only with enemies should we be suspicious, but not with our friends.

Disharmony is caused oftentimes because we read the signs from our perspective; which is one of suspicion, fear and jealousy.  When we remove these obstacles, then we can approach our brothers and sisters with objectivity and calmness to seek clarification, so that we can appreciate them better.   Indeed, so often, signs are misconstrued, not only from the person who gave them, but quite often, because of our subjective and often prejudiced interpretation of the signs.

Hence, we must be sincere and open in reading and asking for clarification of the signs from our brothers and sisters.  Sometimes, their actions and signs could be misunderstood. We must thus dialogue and seek for clarification, not with the intention to condemn or judge, but to understand the person. Charity demands that we seek explanation before we make any judgment.  In this way, we promote communion and mutual understanding.

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/reflections/#sthash.VZY5psK3.dpuf

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