Posts Tagged ‘compassion’

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, May 14, 2018 — “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.”

May 13, 2018

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this….

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Feast of Saint Matthias, Apostle
Lectionary: 564

Reading 1 ACTS 1:15-17, 20-26

Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers and sisters
(there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons
in the one place).
He said, “My brothers and sisters,
the Scripture had to be fulfilled
which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand
through the mouth of David, concerning Judas,
who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus.
Judas was numbered among us
and was allotted a share in this ministry.
For it is written in the Book of Psalms:Let his encampment become desolate,
and may no one dwell in it.
and:
May another take his office.
Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men
who accompanied us the whole time
the Lord Jesus came and went among us,
beginning from the baptism of John
until the day on which he was taken up from us,
become with us a witness to his resurrection.”
So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas,
who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.
Then they prayed,
“You, Lord, who know the hearts of all,
show which one of these two you have chosen
to take the place in this apostolic ministry
from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.”
Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias,
and he was counted with the Eleven Apostles.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 113:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

R. (8) The Lord will give him a seat with the leaders of his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Praise, you servants of the LORD,
praise the name of the LORD.
Blessed be the name of the LORD
both now and forever.
R. The Lord will give him a seat with the leaders of his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
From the rising to the setting of the sun
is the name of the LORD to be praised.
High above all nations is the LORD;
above the heavens is his glory.
R. The Lord will give him a seat with the leaders of his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Who is like the LORD, our God, who is enthroned on high
and looks upon the heavens and the earth below?
R. The Lord will give him a seat with the leaders of his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He raises up the lowly from the dust;
from the dunghill he lifts up the poor
To seat them with princes,
with the princes of his own people.
R. The Lord will give him a seat with the leaders of his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaSEE JN 15:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I chose you from the world,
to go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 15:9-17

Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.”I have told you this so that my joy might be in you
and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.”*****************************************

These readings come up again and again in the post-Easter period:

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Fom the Monastery in The Desert, Abiquiu, NM
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My sisters and brothers,

The readings are all about love.  We must love one another because Jesus loves us.  We must recognize that anyone who does not love, cannot be of God.  It is not as important that we love God—rather, it is more important that God loves us.  God’s love includes even the Gentiles, the non-Jewish people.  And we can say that God love includes everyone.

The first reading today is from the Acts of the Apostles and gives us the account of how Saint Peter came to accept the non-Jewish people as believers, without requiring them to become Jews.  That fact that the Holy Spirit had come upon the non-Jewish believers convinced the Jewish believers that one could believe in Jesus Christ without being a Jew.

The second reading is from the First Letter of Saint John.  Again, we see how love must include everyone.  Where love is lacking, so also is God lacking.  True loves comes from being in Jesus Christ.  “God sent His Only Son into the world so that we might have life through Him.”  All of our life comes from Jesus and our life must be lived in Jesus.

The Gospel of Saint John today speaks of God’s love for us.  In the same way that the Father loves Jesus, His Son, so also Jesus loves us!  That is incredible.  We often do not think of God’s love for us as in any way being the same love that the Divine Persons have among themselves.  Somehow we often see ourselves as less.  The whole Christian tradition tells us, however, that Jesus became man, human, so that we might share in His Divinity.  What an incredible life we have!  Even when we sin, that life is still within us.  We are created to share in the Divinity of Jesus.

Although nothing is said in today’s readings, we are all aware that to share in Christ is to follow Him by living the way that He lived.  So God gives us a path of life.  Not everything is good and not everything is holy.  There are actions and ways of thinking and ways of speaking that take us away from this incredible gift of Divine Life.

Far too often today, everything is seen as good as long as it makes me happy and feel good.  This is not the way of the Lord Jesus.  Love in the Gospel is not a feeling about another person, but a choice to seek the good of the other person even if I must sacrifice my own good.  This is the way of the Lord Jesus.

We actually have the power to live that way once we recognize God’s love for us and His choice to share His life with us.  Our power, our virtue, our goodness, our capacity to love—all come from the Lord Jesus.  He is risen indeed, alleluia!

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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14 MAY, 2018, Monday, St Matthias, Apostle

MISSION IN COMMUNION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ACTS 1:15-1720-26JOHN 15:9-17]

What is evangelization?  Right from the outset, Catholics should not be engaged in proselytization, which is to make converts.  Worse still, if we coerce and pressurize others to convert to Catholicism.  Rather, evangelization is the proclamation of the Good News.  What is this Good News that we are called to share with those who are interested?  Namely this, to share in our intimacy with the Trinitarian God.  This was what St John wrote,  “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life -the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete.”  (1 Jn 1:1-4)  In these words, St John tells us that communion is mission.

If our mission is communion, then it must be accomplished in communion.  For this reason, the Lord speaks of the need to be in communion with Him, with each other and with the legitimate authority of the Church.  “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Remain in my love.”

Being in intimacy with the Lord is the foundation of mission.  Unless the Lord has loved us, there is no mission.  We can only share what we have received.  The authority of mission rests on the fact that we are sent.  We do not send ourselves.   Jesus made this clear when He said, “You did not choose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last.”  Indeed, the source of Jesus’ mission springs from His intimacy with His Father.  The Father loves the Son, and experiencing the Father’s love, the Lord shares this love with us.

Although Jesus is our Lord and we are His servants, He chose to call us, friends.  He said, “You are my friends, if you do what I command you. I shall not call you servants anymore, because a servant does not know his master’s business; I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father.”  Jesus desires to share His life and love with us, especially His intimacy with His Father.  To share our intimacy with the one we love with someone else is the highest form of love, just as parents share their love for each other with their children.  To invite someone into our family circle is a great honour and an expression of trust and communion.

What does it mean to be in intimacy with the Lord?  It means keeping His commandments.  Jesus said, “If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”   Following the commandments of our Lord is to share in His life, to think and act like Him.  Only when the love of Jesus is in our hearts, can we be rightly motivated to follow the commandments, not as something extraneous to us but because they are the wisdom of God in helping us to live a life of joy.  Hence, Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete.”

Being in intimacy with the Lord also entails that we have walked with Jesus.  This was the most important criterion when the apostles were choosing from among the disciples someone who could replace Judas to be in the college of apostles.  St Peter said, “We must therefore choose someone who has been with us the whole time that the Lord Jesus was travelling round with us, someone who was with us right from the time when John was baptising until the day when he was taken up from us – and he can act with us as a witness to his resurrection.”  Truly, unless we have walked with Jesus and seen Him at work in the lives of our fellowmen, we cannot bear witness to Him.  We witness to what we see and hear.   If there is a lack of credible witnesses for Christ today, it is because Catholics do not know the Lord intimately and have not walked with Him in the lives of our fellowmen.

Of course, the most important form of intimacy is that of prayer.  That was how the apostles spoke to the Lord and sought guidance in making important decisions.  In the selection of Matthias, they did not simply use their human logic and judgement but entrusted everything to the Lord in prayer.  “Having nominated two candidates, Joseph known as Barsabbas, whose surname was Joseph, whose surname was Justus, and Matthias, they prayed, ‘Lord, you can read everyone’s heart; show us therefore which of these two you have chosen to take over this ministry and apostolate, which Judas abandoned to go to his proper place.’ They then drew lots for them, and as the lot fell to Matthias, he was listed as one of the twelve apostles.”   The apostles would talk to the Lord as their friend and master whenever they met with challenges or difficulties.  Their strong feeling of the Risen Lord in their lives kept them going in times of trial and persecution.

Secondly, we are called to be in communion with fellow Christians.  The Lord said, “This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you. A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.”  Just as Jesus laid down His life for us, as Christians we are called to lay down our lives for each other.   Being in communion with our fellow Catholics is a necessary sign and fruit of our communion with the Lord.  We always love those whom our loved ones love.  If we love Jesus, we will also love those whom He loves.  Catholics often are individualistic.  They come to attend church services but they do not know their fellow Catholics.  They are alone in their faith and because they do not experience the love of Christ in their community, their faith is nominal because they cannot identify with the Body of Christ, but remain detached and alienated from them.

Without loving each other, our witnessing to the Lord would be a real contradiction.  This explains why our mission has not been effective because church leaders and members are always squabbling and fighting among themselves, causing division in the church.  We can preach eloquently and cite the scriptures, but if we lack love and communion among ourselves, we are counter-witnessing because no one will believe that we are the disciples of Jesus.  Jesus’ warning should serve as a guide to fruition in our ministry.  “I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last; and then the Father will give you anything you ask him in my name. What I command you is to love one another.”  The lack of sincere love among Christians is the biggest scandal of Christianity and the primary obstacle to the proclamation of the Good News.

Finally, to be in communion with the Lord means that we must be in communion with the hierarchy of the Church, the leaders.  It is significant that in the first reading we read that the first thing they did when they assembled was to name another disciple to be among the Twelve.  St Peter as the leader among the apostles said, “Brothers, the passage of scripture has to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit, speaking through David, foretells the fate of Judas, who offered himself as a guide to the men who arrested Jesus – after having been one of our number and actually sharing this ministry of ours. Now in the Book of Psalms it says: Let someone else take his office.”  This means that our faith must be in continuity with the faith of the apostles and those who have been chosen to succeed them.  This is what the apostolic succession means and why it is a criterion that if our faith is of the apostolic faith, we must be able to trace our faith to that of the apostles and their successors.  For us, Catholics, we believe that our faith is preserved through the authoritative teaching of the Magisterium, that is the Holy Father together with the College of Bishops.   Only by keeping our faith as taught by Christ’s chosen successors, can we be sure that our faith is truly in continuity with that of the apostles as handed down to us.

Of course, for those who exercise leadership in the Church, it means that we too need to be in close intimacy with the Lord so that we can discern wisely and rightly the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  The sadness and real tragedy of the Church today is that our leaders, bishops, priests, religious or lay leaders, are not taking their spiritual life and prayer life seriously. In place of intimacy with the Lord, leaders spend more time planning, preparing and laboring in the vineyard.  When that happens, they become selfish, reactive, irritable, ambitious and worldly in their service to the Lord.  Today, we need to pray for our church leaders, that they too walk in intimacy with the Lord in prayer, in love and in obedience to His commandments so that they can inspire and help the Church to grow in faith and be the face of God’s mercy and compassion to the world.

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Holy Thursday, March 29, 2018 — “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”

March 28, 2018

Holy Thursday – Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Lectionary: 39

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Art: Last Supper 1895-96, By Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret

Reading 1 EX 12:1-8, 11-14

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,
“This month shall stand at the head of your calendar;
you shall reckon it the first month of the year.
Tell the whole community of Israel:
On the tenth of this month every one of your families
must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household.
If a family is too small for a whole lamb,
it shall join the nearest household in procuring one
and shall share in the lamb
in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it.
The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish.
You may take it from either the sheep or the goats.
You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month,
and then, with the whole assembly of Israel present,
it shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight.
They shall take some of its blood
and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel
of every house in which they partake of the lamb.
That same night they shall eat its roasted flesh
with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.”This is how you are to eat it:
with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand,
you shall eat like those who are in flight.
It is the Passover of the LORD.
For on this same night I will go through Egypt,
striking down every firstborn of the land, both man and beast,
and executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt—I, the LORD!
But the blood will mark the houses where you are.
Seeing the blood, I will pass over you;
thus, when I strike the land of Egypt,
no destructive blow will come upon you.”This day shall be a memorial feast for you,
which all your generations shall celebrate
with pilgrimage to the LORD, as a perpetual institution.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 116:12-13, 15-16BC, 17-18.

R.. (cf. 1 Cor 10:16) Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
R.. Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;
you have loosed my bonds.
R.. Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people.
R.. Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.

Reading II 1 COR 11:23-26

Brothers and sisters:
I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over,
took bread, and, after he had given thanks,
broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.

Verse Before The Gospel  JN 13:34

I give you a new commandment, says the Lord:
love one another as I have loved you.

Gospel  JN 13:1-15

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come
to pass from this world to the Father.
He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.
The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over.
So, during supper,
fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power
and that he had come from God and was returning to God,
he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.
He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet
and dry them with the towel around his waist.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,
“Master, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“What I am doing, you do not understand now,
but you will understand later.”
Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered him,
“Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”
Simon Peter said to him,
“Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”
Jesus said to him,
“Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed,
for he is clean all over;
so you are clean, but not all.”
For he knew who would betray him;
for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”So when he had washed their feet
and put his garments back on and reclined at table again,
he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?
You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.
If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet,
you ought to wash one another’s feet.
I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
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Related:
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Seach for:
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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24 MARCH 2016, Maundy Thursday
DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ EX 12: 1-8, 11-14; 1 COR 11: 23-26; JOHN 13: 1-15 ]

We are celebrating the Jubilee Year of mercy.  Our beloved Holy Father, Pope Francis, is truly a prophet and emissary of mercy.  No pope has spoken so much on the theme of mercy than Pope Francis.  This is understandable because Pope Francis has been a pastor all his life.   He has been very much in contact with those who are marginalized, the poor, the suffering and the oppressed.  It is not surprising, therefore, that he has taken upon himself to change a time immemorial tradition where the washing of feet at the Last Supper was only allowed for men and, at Papal services, only for priests.  Until then, the emphasis of the Last Supper was on the Eucharist and the Priesthood and service.  By extending the washing of feet not just to men but to women and even to prisoners, he is making a strong statement that the gospel is primarily a gospel of mercy.   He has put the theme of service to the poor as the primary meaning of this washing of feet.

Indeed, in the gospel, Jesus made Himself a servant.  By donning like a servant, washing the feet of His disciples, He exemplified what we are all called to do, namely, to be a servant to others.  In ancient times, when the roads were dusty, it was the task of the servants to wash the feet of the master.  In washing the feet of His disciples, Jesus is teaching us that the true master is one who serves and serves humbly.  He makes Himself the lowliest of servants.  His service is always for the greater good of those that are under His charge.

But He was more than just a servant in service to His people.  He was a servant unto death.  The washing of feet was but a symbol of the depth of His self-emptying.  St John spoke of the self-emptying of Jesus in these words:  “Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. He had always loved those in the world who were his own, and he loved them to the very end.”  In coming from the Father to the world, Jesus first emptied Himself of His divinity.  Having assumed our humanity, Jesus once again emptied Himself by being a slave even unto death.  By His death, He gave Himself completely to humanity and to His enemies at the passion.

Like Jesus, we are called to empty ourselves.   Indeed, we must not put too much focus on the novelty of women being allowed to have their feet washed.  This is but a symbolic invitation to all to be like Jesus in servanthood.  I can wash and kiss all your feet and none of us will be holier.  You can have your feet washed a thousand times and nothing will change.  That is why when Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, do not wash only my feet, then! Wash my hands and head, too!”   Jesus said, “Anyone who has taken a bath is completely clean and does not have to wash himself, except for his feet. All of you are clean – all except one.” (Jesus already knew who was going to betray him; that is why he said, “All of you, except one, are clean.”)   So you can have your feet washed and yet be like Judas, externally clean but still full of greed and pride inside.  What we need, as Jesus said, is not a bath, but we need to be cleansed in our hearts so that we can humble ourselves like Jesus in service to all, even to the extent of giving up our lives in service to all of humanity.

So if you desire to have your feet washed this evening, whether in person or in your heart, then you must now live out what is done for you.  In truth, all of us by virtue of our baptism, have been washed, not only our feet but our entire being, soul and body.  In baptism and in the sacrament of reconciliation, our sins have been forgiven and we have been given a new life.   But we need to live out what Jesus has done for us.  This is what He said, ‘”Do you understand what I have just done to you?” he asked. “You call me Teacher and Lord, and it is right that you do so, because that is what I am. I, your Lord and Teacher, have just washed your feet. You, then, should wash one another’s feet. I have set an example for you, so that you will do just what I have done for you.”’

The question this evening is, what does it mean to do what He has done?  Surely it cannot be simply an enactment of this Last Supper gesture of washing the feet of another.  Rather, we must explore the full implications of washing the feet of someone.  It means first and foremost, the giving of one’s life for others.  The memorial that we celebrate, as St Paul wrote to the Christian community, is not just a mere ritualistic celebration of the Eucharist. Rather, it is an invitation to make it effective in our lives.  In other words, what we celebrate ritually and sacramentally must take effect in our life.  To wash the feet means that we must now celebrate the Eucharist in such a way that we participate in His act of self-sacrifice for others in humble service. We are called to die to ourselves as Jesus did, for the love of God and humanity.  In a special way, like Jesus, we are called to be ready to die for truth and to stand up for Jesus!   Are we ready?  Or would we flee like the apostles when challenged to speak up and stand up for Jesus?

Secondly, to wash the feet of others is to offer ourselves in a life of service.  The celebration of the Eucharist must lead to works of charity.  The relationship between the Eucharist and charity is so intimate that the Church cannot think of the Eucharist without reaching out to the poor, the underprivileged and the suffering.  If the Eucharist is the heart of God’s love in Christ’s sacrificial act, then receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist should also make us charitable towards others since we are members of the Body of Christ.  Right from the outset of the early Church, the apostles appointed the deacons to carry out this work of charity so that they could focus on “prayers, the Eucharist and liturgy and preaching” of the Word of God.  Clearly, the social work of the early Church was seen as a spiritual work because of its connection with the Eucharist.  Anyone who says he loves the Eucharist but has no love and compassion for his fellowmen would have neglected the Lord because the poor are members of His body, the Church.  He did say, “Whatsoever you did to the least of my brothers, you did it unto me.”   So in the Old Testament, we read how the community as a whole celebrated the Passover together.

Thirdly, to wash the feet of others is to offer forgiveness and reconciliation.  In washing their feet, the Lord was forgiving the apostles of their sins in view of the fact that they would all betray Him in different ways after the meal.  In this year of mercy, we must seek to be reconciled with those who have hurt us.  Like Jesus who stooped so low to wash the feet of His apostles, we too must stoop low and reach out to those who have hurt us deeply and initiate reconciliation with them.  We must be ready to eat humble pie to pay them a visit and be ready to be rejected by our enemies.  Offering forgiveness like Jesus is what it means to wash the feet of another as Jesus did.   So for those who demand to have their feet washed, the question is whether they are ready to wash others’ feet.  As I have said, this washing of feet is otherwise but a hypocritical act, just for show but not what we intend to do after having our feet washed by the Lord.  As the Lord tells us, “So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”  (Mt 18:35)   If the Lord has forgiven us, we must do the same; otherwise, the forgiveness we receive from Him will not heal us completely.  So long as we do not forgive others and let our enemies free, we remain a bondage to them.

Of course, we cannot do it with our own strength.  It is not enough to depend or rely on the example of Christ, noble and inspiring it might be.   We need His Spirit to be able do what He did.  For this reason, too, we are asked to eat the Lamb of God before we share in His sacrifice on the cross.  To celebrate this memorial of doing what He did in offering Himself to His Father and humanity, we must be part of Jesus.   We must first belong to Him.  This is what He said to Peter, “If I do not wash your feet, you will no longer be my disciple.”   This is what the responsorial says, “How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me? The cup of salvation I will raise; I will call on the Lord’s name.”

So how can we belong to Jesus today if not through the reception of the Eucharist?  This Mass therefore also celebrates the institution of the Eucharist as well, because charity presupposes that we are united in the same Spirit of the Lord.   It is this constant recalling of His love and mercy for us in His passion, death and resurrection that will give us a share in His Spirit.  “A thanksgiving sacrifice I make; I will call on the Lord’s name. My vows to the Lord I will fulfil before all his people.”  It is for this reason that the Christians, as we read in the second reading, constantly celebrated the Eucharist in memory of Him who died and gave His life to us. Through the celebration of the Eucharist, as we contemplate on His passion for us, we too will follow Him in death.

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites

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The passage of the Gospel of today is inserted in a literary whole which includes chapters 13-17. At the beginning we have the account of the Last Supper which Jesus shares with his disciples, during which he fulfils the gesture of the washing of the feet (13, 1-30). Then Jesus interweaves a long dialogue of farewell with his disciples (13, 31 – 14, 31). Chapters 15-17 have the function to deepen further the previous discourse of the Master.
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Immediately, after this, Jesus is arrested (18, 1-11). In any case, these events narrated in 13, 17,26 are joined already in 13, 1 with the Passover of Jesus. It is interesting to note this last annotation: from 12, 1 the Passover is no longer called the Passover of the Jews, but of Jesus. From now on, it is He, the Lamb of God who will liberate man from sin. The Passover of Jesus is one that aims to liberate man: a new exodus which permits to go from darkness to light (8, 12), and which will bear life and feast in humanity (7, 37).
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Jesus is aware that he is about to conclude his journey toward the Father and, therefore he is about to bring to an end his personal and definitive exodus. Such a passage, going to the Father, takes place through the Cross, the central moment in which Jesus will surrender his life for the good of man.
.
It strikes the reader when he becomes aware how the Evangelist John knows how to present the person of Jesus well, while he is aware of the last events of his life and therefore, of his mission. So as to affirm that Jesus is not crushed or overcome by the events which threaten his life, but that he is ready to give his life.
.
.
Before, the Evangelist has remarked that his hour had not arrived; but now in the account of the washing of the feet he says that he is aware that his hour is close at hand. Such a conscience is at the basis of the expression of John: “After having loved those who were his in the world, he loved them to the end” (v. 1). Love for “his own”, for those who form the new community, has been evident while he was with them, but it will shine in an eminent way in his death. Jesus shows such a love in the gesture of the washing of the feet, which in its symbolical value, shows the continuous love which is expressed in service.
.
The washing of the feet
.
Jesus is at an ordinary supper with his disciples. He is fully conscious of the mission which the Father has entrusted to him: the salvation of humanity depends on him. With such an awareness he wishes to show “to his own”, through the washing of the feet, how the work of salvation of the Father is fulfilled and to indicate in such a gesture the surrender of his life for the salvation of man. It is the will of Jesus that man be saved, and a longing desire leads him to give up his life and to surrender. He is aware that the Father gives Jesus complete freedom of action.
.
Besides, Jesus knows that his true provenance and the goal of his itinerary is God; he knows that his death on the Cross, the maximum expression of his love, is the last moment of his journey of salvation. His death is an “exodus”; it is the climax of his victory over death, in his surrender (giving his life) Jesus reveals to us the presence of God as the fullness of life and exemption from death.
.
With this full consciousness of his identity and of his complete liberty Jesus is prepared to fulfill the great and humble gesture of the washing of the feet. Such a gesture of love is described with a great number of verbs (eight) which render the scene absorbing, enthralling and full of significance. The Evangelist in presenting the last action of Jesus toward his own, uses this rhetorical figure of the accumulation of verbs without repeating himself in order that such a gesture remains impressed in the heart and mind of his disciples and of every reader and in order that a commandment may always be remembered, not forgotten.
.
The gesture fulfilled by Jesus intends to show that true love is expressed in tangible actions of service. Jesus despoils himself of his garments and ties around his waist a towel or apron, symbol of service. More precisely, Jesus takes off his garments is an expression which expresses the significance of the gift of life. Which is the teaching which Jesus transmits to his disciples through this gesture? He shows them that love is expressed in service, in giving one’s life for others as he has done.
.
At the time of Jesus the washing of the feet was a gesture which expressed hospitality and welcome towards the guests. In an ordinary way it was done by a slave or also by the wife, concerning the wife and also the daughters toward their father. Besides, it was the custom that such a rite of the washing of the feet should be done before they sat at table and not during the meal. Such an insertion of Jesus’ action intends to stress or underline how singular or significant his gesture was.
.
And thus, Jesus gets down to wash the feet of his disciples. The repeated use of the apron which Jesus tied around his waist underlines the attitude of service which is a permanent attribute of the person of Jesus. In fact, when he will have finished the washing of the feet, Jesus does not take off the towel which he used as an apron. Such a detail intends to underline that the service-love does not end with his death. This minute detail shows the intention of the Evangelist to wish to underline the significance and importance of the gesture of Jesus. By washing the feet of his disciples Jesus intends to show them his love, which is one with that of the Father (10, 30.38).
.
This image with which Jesus reveals God is really shocking: he is not a Sovereign who resides exclusively in Heaven, but he presents himself as the servant of humanity in order to raise it to the divine level. From this divine service flows, for the community of believers, that liberty which comes from the love which renders all its members as “lords” (free) because they are servants. It is like saying that only liberty creates the true love.
.
From now on, service which the believers will render to man will have as its purpose that of restoring the relationship among men in whom equality and liberty are a consequence of the practice of reciprocal service. Jesus, with his gesture intends to show that any domination o tentative to prevail over man is contrary to the attitude of God who, instead, serves man to raise him to himself. Besides, the pretensions of superiority of one man over another, no longer have any sense, because the community founded by Jesus does not have any pyramidal characteristics, but horizontal dimensions, In which each one is at the service of others, following the example of God and of Jesus.
.
In synthesis, the gesture which Jesus fulfilled expresses the following values: the love toward the brothers demands to be expressed in fraternal acceptance, hospitality, that is, in permanent service.
.
Peter’s Resistance
.
The reaction of Peter before the gesture of Jesus is expressed in attitudes of surprise and protest. There is also a change in the way in which he related to Jesus: Peter calls him “Lord” (13, 6). In such a title Jesus is recognized as having a level of superiority which is in conflict with the “washing” of the feet, an action which belongs, instead, to an inferior subject. The protest is expressed energetically by the words: “Are you going to wash my feet?” In Peter’s eyes this humiliating gesture of the washing of the feet seemed to him as an inversion of values which regulate the relationship between Jesus and men: the first one is the Master, Peter is a subject. Peter disapproves the equality which Jesus wants to create among men.
.
To such misunderstanding Jesus responds inviting Peter to accept the sense of washing his feet as a witness of his love toward him. More precisely, he wants to offer him a concrete proof of how he and the Father love him.
.
But Peter in his reaction does not give in: he categorically refuses that Jesus should get down at his feet. According to Peter each one should carry out his own role, it is not possible to have a community or a society based on equality. It is not acceptable that Jesus abandons his position of superiority to render himself equal to his disciples. Such an idea of the Master disorientates Peter and leads him to protest. Not accepting the service of love of his Master, he neither accepts that he dies on the cross for him (12, 34; 13, 37). It is as to say that Peter is far away from understanding what is true love, and such an obstacle is an impediment so that Jesus can show it to him by his action.
.
In the mean time, if Peter is not ready to share the dynamics of love which manifests itself in reciprocal service he cannot share the friendship with Jesus and runs the risk, truly, to exclude himself.
.
Following the admonition of Jesus “If I do not wash you, you can have no share with me” (v. 8), Peter adheres to the threatening words of the Master, but without accepting the profound sense of the action of Jesus. He shows himself open, ready to let Jesus wash his feet, not only the feet, but also his hands and head. It seems that it is easier for Peter to accept Jesus’ gesture as an action of purification or ablution rather than as a service.
.
But Jesus responds that the disciples have become pure (“clean”) at the moment when they accepted to allow themselves to be guided by the Word of the Master, rejecting that of the world. Peter and the disciples no longer need the Jewish rite of the purification but to allow themselves to have their feet washed by Jesus; or rather to allow themselves to be loved by him, conferring them dignity and liberty.
.
The Memorial of Love
.
At the end of the washing of the feet Jesus intends to give his action a permanent validity for his community and at the same time to leave to it a memorial or commandment which should always regulate the fraternal relationships.
.
Jesus is the Lord, not in the dimension of domination, but in so far as he communicates the love of the Father (his Spirit) which makes us children of God and qualified to imitate Jesus who freely gives his love to his own. Jesus intended to communicate such an interior attitude to his own, a love which does not exclude anyone, not even Judas who is about to betray him. Therefore, if the disciples call him Lord, they have to imitate him; if they consider him Master, they have to listen to him.
.
Some question to meditate on
.
– he got up from the table: How do you live the Eucharist? In a sedentary way or do you allow yourself to be moved to action by the fire of the love which you receive? Do you run the risk that the Eucharist in which you participate is lost in contemplative Narcissism, without leading to the commitment of solidarity and sharing? Your commitment in favour of justice, of the poor, does it come from the habit of encountering Christ in the Eucharist, from the familiarity with him?
.
– he removed his outer garments: when from the Eucharist you go to daily life, do you know how to remove the garments of your own benefit, your calculations, personal interests to allow yourself to be guided by an authentic love toward others?
.
Or rather, after the Eucharist you are not capable of removing your garments of domination and of arrogance to put on those of simplicity, of poverty?
.
– taking a towel he wrapped it around his waist: this is the image of the “Church of the apron”. In the life of your family, of your ecclesial community, do you walk on the street of service, of sharing? Are you directly involved in the service to the poor and to the least? Do you know how to see the face of Christ who asks to be served, loved in the poor?
.
ORATIO
.
Psalm 116 (114-115), 12-13; 15-16; 17-18
.
The Psalmist who finds himself in the time and in the presence of the liturgical assembly sings his sacrifice of thanksgiving. Voltaire who had a special predilection for v. 12 expressed himself as follows: “What can I offer to the Lord for all the gifts which he has given me?”
.
What return can I make to Yahweh
for his generosity to me?
I shall take up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of Yahweh.
.
Costly in Yahweh’s sight
is the death of his faithful.
I beg you, Yahweh!
I am your servant,
I am your servant and my mother was your servant;
you have undone my fetters.
.
I shall offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of Yahweh.
I shall fulfil my vows to Yahweh,
witnessed by all his people
.
Final Prayer
.
Fascinated with the way in which God expressed his love toward his own, Origin prayed as follows:
.
Jesus, come, my feet are dirty.
Become a servant for me, pour the water in the basin;
come, wash my feet.
I know it, what I am saying is daring,
but I fear the threat of your words:
“If I do not wash you,
you can have no share with me”.
Wash then my feet,
so that I may have a share with you.
(Homily 5 on Isaiah)
.
And Saint Ambrose having an ardent desire to correspond to the love of Jesus, expresses himself as follows:
.
Oh, my Lord Jesus,
allow me to wash your sacred feet;
you got them dirty when you walked in my soul…
But where will I take the water from the fountain
to wash your feet?
In lacking that
I only have the eyes to weep:
bathing your feet with my tears,
do in such a way that I myself remain purified.
(Treatise on penance).
.
.
Related:
.
.
.
In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis, right, kisses the foot of an inmate at the juvenile detention center of Casal del Marmo, Rome, Thursday, March 28, 2013. Francis washed the feet of a dozen inmates at a juvenile detention center in a Holy Thursday ritual that he celebrated for years as archbishop and is continuing now that he is pope. Two of the 12 were young women, an unusual choice given that the rite re-enacts Jesus’ washing of the feet of his male disciples. The Mass was held in the Casal del Marmo facility in Rome, where 46 young men and women currently are detained. Many of them are Gypsies or North African migrants, and the Vatican said the 12 selected for the rite weren’t necessarily Catholic. (AP Photo/L’Osservatore Romano, ho)

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ EX 12: 1-8, 11-14; 1 COR 11: 23-26; JOHN 13: 1-15 ]

We are celebrating the Jubilee Year of mercy.  Our beloved Holy Father, Pope Francis, is truly a prophet and emissary of mercy.  No pope has spoken so much on the theme of mercy than Pope Francis.  This is understandable because Pope Francis has been a pastor all his life.   He has been very much in contact with those who are marginalized, the poor, the suffering and the oppressed.  It is not surprising, therefore, that he has taken upon himself to change a time immemorial tradition where the washing of feet at the Last Supper was only allowed for men and, at Papal services, only for priests.  Until then, the emphasis of the Last Supper was on the Eucharist and the Priesthood and service.  By extending the washing of feet not just to men but to women and even to prisoners, he is making a strong statement that the gospel is primarily a gospel of mercy.   He has put the theme of service to the poor as the primary meaning of this washing of feet.

Indeed, in the gospel, Jesus made Himself a servant.  By donning like a servant, washing the feet of His disciples, He exemplified what we are all called to do, namely, to be a servant to others.  In ancient times, when the roads were dusty, it was the task of the servants to wash the feet of the master.  In washing the feet of His disciples, Jesus is teaching us that the true master is one who serves and serves humbly.  He makes Himself the lowliest of servants.  His service is always for the greater good of those that are under His charge.

But He was more than just a servant in service to His people.  He was a servant unto death.  The washing of feet was but a symbol of the depth of His self-emptying.  St John spoke of the self-emptying of Jesus in these words:  “Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. He had always loved those in the world who were his own, and he loved them to the very end.”  In coming from the Father to the world, Jesus first emptied Himself of His divinity.  Having assumed our humanity, Jesus once again emptied Himself by being a slave even unto death.  By His death, He gave Himself completely to humanity and to His enemies at the passion.

Like Jesus, we are called to empty ourselves.   Indeed, we must not put too much focus on the novelty of women being allowed to have their feet washed.  This is but a symbolic invitation to all to be like Jesus in servanthood.  I can wash and kiss all your feet and none of us will be holier.  You can have your feet washed a thousand times and nothing will change.  That is why when Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, do not wash only my feet, then! Wash my hands and head, too!”   Jesus said, “Anyone who has taken a bath is completely clean and does not have to wash himself, except for his feet. All of you are clean – all except one.” (Jesus already knew who was going to betray him; that is why he said, “All of you, except one, are clean.”)   So you can have your feet washed and yet be like Judas, externally clean but still full of greed and pride inside.  What we need, as Jesus said, is not a bath, but we need to be cleansed in our hearts so that we can humble ourselves like Jesus in service to all, even to the extent of giving up our lives in service to all of humanity.

So if you desire to have your feet washed this evening, whether in person or in your heart, then you must now live out what is done for you.  In truth, all of us by virtue of our baptism, have been washed, not only our feet but our entire being, soul and body.  In baptism and in the sacrament of reconciliation, our sins have been forgiven and we have been given a new life.   But we need to live out what Jesus has done for us.  This is what He said, ‘”Do you understand what I have just done to you?” he asked. “You call me Teacher and Lord, and it is right that you do so, because that is what I am. I, your Lord and Teacher, have just washed your feet. You, then, should wash one another’s feet. I have set an example for you, so that you will do just what I have done for you.”’

The question this evening is, what does it mean to do what He has done?  Surely it cannot be simply an enactment of this Last Supper gesture of washing the feet of another.  Rather, we must explore the full implications of washing the feet of someone.  It means first and foremost, the giving of one’s life for others.  The memorial that we celebrate, as St Paul wrote to the Christian community, is not just a mere ritualistic celebration of the Eucharist. Rather, it is an invitation to make it effective in our lives.  In other words, what we celebrate ritually and sacramentally must take effect in our life.  To wash the feet means that we must now celebrate the Eucharist in such a way that we participate in His act of self-sacrifice for others in humble service. We are called to die to ourselves as Jesus did, for the love of God and humanity.  In a special way, like Jesus, we are called to be ready to die for truth and to stand up for Jesus!   Are we ready?  Or would we flee like the apostles when challenged to speak up and stand up for Jesus?

Secondly, to wash the feet of others is to offer ourselves in a life of service.  The celebration of the Eucharist must lead to works of charity.  The relationship between the Eucharist and charity is so intimate that the Church cannot think of the Eucharist without reaching out to the poor, the underprivileged and the suffering.  If the Eucharist is the heart of God’s love in Christ’s sacrificial act, then receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist should also make us charitable towards others since we are members of the Body of Christ.  Right from the outset of the early Church, the apostles appointed the deacons to carry out this work of charity so that they could focus on “prayers, the Eucharist and liturgy and preaching” of the Word of God.  Clearly, the social work of the early Church was seen as a spiritual work because of its connection with the Eucharist.  Anyone who says he loves the Eucharist but has no love and compassion for his fellowmen would have neglected the Lord because the poor are members of His body, the Church.  He did say, “Whatsoever you did to the least of my brothers, you did it unto me.”   So in the Old Testament, we read how the community as a whole celebrated the Passover together.

Thirdly, to wash the feet of others is to offer forgiveness and reconciliation.  In washing their feet, the Lord was forgiving the apostles of their sins in view of the fact that they would all betray Him in different ways after the meal.  In this year of mercy, we must seek to be reconciled with those who have hurt us.  Like Jesus who stooped so low to wash the feet of His apostles, we too must stoop low and reach out to those who have hurt us deeply and initiate reconciliation with them.  We must be ready to eat humble pie to pay them a visit and be ready to be rejected by our enemies.  Offering forgiveness like Jesus is what it means to wash the feet of another as Jesus did.   So for those who demand to have their feet washed, the question is whether they are ready to wash others’ feet.  As I have said, this washing of feet is otherwise but a hypocritical act, just for show but not what we intend to do after having our feet washed by the Lord.  As the Lord tells us, “So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”  (Mt 18:35)   If the Lord has forgiven us, we must do the same; otherwise, the forgiveness we receive from Him will not heal us completely.  So long as we do not forgive others and let our enemies free, we remain a bondage to them.

Of course, we cannot do it with our own strength.  It is not enough to depend or rely on the example of Christ, noble and inspiring it might be.   We need His Spirit to be able do what He did.  For this reason, too, we are asked to eat the Lamb of God before we share in His sacrifice on the cross.  To celebrate this memorial of doing what He did in offering Himself to His Father and humanity, we must be part of Jesus.   We must first belong to Him.  This is what He said to Peter, “If I do not wash your feet, you will no longer be my disciple.”   This is what the responsorial says, “How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me? The cup of salvation I will raise; I will call on the Lord’s name.”

So how can we belong to Jesus today if not through the reception of the Eucharist?  This Mass therefore also celebrates the institution of the Eucharist as well, because charity presupposes that we are united in the same Spirit of the Lord.   It is this constant recalling of His love and mercy for us in His passion, death and resurrection that will give us a share in His Spirit.  “A thanksgiving sacrifice I make; I will call on the Lord’s name. My vows to the Lord I will fulfil before all his people.”  It is for this reason that the Christians, as we read in the second reading, constantly celebrated the Eucharist in memory of Him who died and gave His life to us. Through the celebration of the Eucharist, as we contemplate on His passion for us, we too will follow Him in death.

.
*****************************
.

Lectio Divina from the Carmelites

.

The passage of the Gospel of today is inserted in a literary whole which includes chapters 13-17. At the beginning we have the account of the Last Supper which Jesus shares with his disciples, during which he fulfils the gesture of the washing of the feet (13, 1-30). Then Jesus interweaves a long dialogue of farewell with his disciples (13, 31 – 14, 31). Chapters 15-17 have the function to deepen further the previous discourse of the Master.
.
Immediately, after this, Jesus is arrested (18, 1-11). In any case, these events narrated in 13, 17,26 are joined already in 13, 1 with the Passover of Jesus. It is interesting to note this last annotation: from 12, 1 the Passover is no longer called the Passover of the Jews, but of Jesus. From now on, it is He, the Lamb of God who will liberate man from sin. The Passover of Jesus is one that aims to liberate man: a new exodus which permits to go from darkness to light (8, 12), and which will bear life and feast in humanity (7, 37).
.
Jesus is aware that he is about to conclude his journey toward the Father and, therefore he is about to bring to an end his personal and definitive exodus. Such a passage, going to the Father, takes place through the Cross, the central moment in which Jesus will surrender his life for the good of man.
.
It strikes the reader when he becomes aware how the Evangelist John knows how to present the person of Jesus well, while he is aware of the last events of his life and therefore, of his mission. So as to affirm that Jesus is not crushed or overcome by the events which threaten his life, but that he is ready to give his life.
.
.
Before, the Evangelist has remarked that his hour had not arrived; but now in the account of the washing of the feet he says that he is aware that his hour is close at hand. Such a conscience is at the basis of the expression of John: “After having loved those who were his in the world, he loved them to the end” (v. 1). Love for “his own”, for those who form the new community, has been evident while he was with them, but it will shine in an eminent way in his death. Jesus shows such a love in the gesture of the washing of the feet, which in its symbolical value, shows the continuous love which is expressed in service.
.
The washing of the feet
.
Jesus is at an ordinary supper with his disciples. He is fully conscious of the mission which the Father has entrusted to him: the salvation of humanity depends on him. With such an awareness he wishes to show “to his own”, through the washing of the feet, how the work of salvation of the Father is fulfilled and to indicate in such a gesture the surrender of his life for the salvation of man. It is the will of Jesus that man be saved, and a longing desire leads him to give up his life and to surrender. He is aware that the Father gives Jesus complete freedom of action.
.
Besides, Jesus knows that his true provenance and the goal of his itinerary is God; he knows that his death on the Cross, the maximum expression of his love, is the last moment of his journey of salvation. His death is an “exodus”; it is the climax of his victory over death, in his surrender (giving his life) Jesus reveals to us the presence of God as the fullness of life and exemption from death.
.
With this full consciousness of his identity and of his complete liberty Jesus is prepared to fulfill the great and humble gesture of the washing of the feet. Such a gesture of love is described with a great number of verbs (eight) which render the scene absorbing, enthralling and full of significance. The Evangelist in presenting the last action of Jesus toward his own, uses this rhetorical figure of the accumulation of verbs without repeating himself in order that such a gesture remains impressed in the heart and mind of his disciples and of every reader and in order that a commandment may always be remembered, not forgotten.
.
The gesture fulfilled by Jesus intends to show that true love is expressed in tangible actions of service. Jesus despoils himself of his garments and ties around his waist a towel or apron, symbol of service. More precisely, Jesus takes off his garments is an expression which expresses the significance of the gift of life. Which is the teaching which Jesus transmits to his disciples through this gesture? He shows them that love is expressed in service, in giving one’s life for others as he has done.
.
At the time of Jesus the washing of the feet was a gesture which expressed hospitality and welcome towards the guests. In an ordinary way it was done by a slave or also by the wife, concerning the wife and also the daughters toward their father. Besides, it was the custom that such a rite of the washing of the feet should be done before they sat at table and not during the meal. Such an insertion of Jesus’ action intends to stress or underline how singular or significant his gesture was.
.
And thus, Jesus gets down to wash the feet of his disciples. The repeated use of the apron which Jesus tied around his waist underlines the attitude of service which is a permanent attribute of the person of Jesus. In fact, when he will have finished the washing of the feet, Jesus does not take off the towel which he used as an apron. Such a detail intends to underline that the service-love does not end with his death. This minute detail shows the intention of the Evangelist to wish to underline the significance and importance of the gesture of Jesus. By washing the feet of his disciples Jesus intends to show them his love, which is one with that of the Father (10, 30.38).
.
This image with which Jesus reveals God is really shocking: he is not a Sovereign who resides exclusively in Heaven, but he presents himself as the servant of humanity in order to raise it to the divine level. From this divine service flows, for the community of believers, that liberty which comes from the love which renders all its members as “lords” (free) because they are servants. It is like saying that only liberty creates the true love.
.
From now on, service which the believers will render to man will have as its purpose that of restoring the relationship among men in whom equality and liberty are a consequence of the practice of reciprocal service. Jesus, with his gesture intends to show that any domination o tentative to prevail over man is contrary to the attitude of God who, instead, serves man to raise him to himself. Besides, the pretensions of superiority of one man over another, no longer have any sense, because the community founded by Jesus does not have any pyramidal characteristics, but horizontal dimensions, In which each one is at the service of others, following the example of God and of Jesus.
.
In synthesis, the gesture which Jesus fulfilled expresses the following values: the love toward the brothers demands to be expressed in fraternal acceptance, hospitality, that is, in permanent service.
.
Peter’s Resistance
.
The reaction of Peter before the gesture of Jesus is expressed in attitudes of surprise and protest. There is also a change in the way in which he related to Jesus: Peter calls him “Lord” (13, 6). In such a title Jesus is recognized as having a level of superiority which is in conflict with the “washing” of the feet, an action which belongs, instead, to an inferior subject. The protest is expressed energetically by the words: “Are you going to wash my feet?” In Peter’s eyes this humiliating gesture of the washing of the feet seemed to him as an inversion of values which regulate the relationship between Jesus and men: the first one is the Master, Peter is a subject. Peter disapproves the equality which Jesus wants to create among men.
.
To such misunderstanding Jesus responds inviting Peter to accept the sense of washing his feet as a witness of his love toward him. More precisely, he wants to offer him a concrete proof of how he and the Father love him.
.
But Peter in his reaction does not give in: he categorically refuses that Jesus should get down at his feet. According to Peter each one should carry out his own role, it is not possible to have a community or a society based on equality. It is not acceptable that Jesus abandons his position of superiority to render himself equal to his disciples. Such an idea of the Master disorientates Peter and leads him to protest. Not accepting the service of love of his Master, he neither accepts that he dies on the cross for him (12, 34; 13, 37). It is as to say that Peter is far away from understanding what is true love, and such an obstacle is an impediment so that Jesus can show it to him by his action.
.
In the mean time, if Peter is not ready to share the dynamics of love which manifests itself in reciprocal service he cannot share the friendship with Jesus and runs the risk, truly, to exclude himself.
.
Following the admonition of Jesus “If I do not wash you, you can have no share with me” (v. 8), Peter adheres to the threatening words of the Master, but without accepting the profound sense of the action of Jesus. He shows himself open, ready to let Jesus wash his feet, not only the feet, but also his hands and head. It seems that it is easier for Peter to accept Jesus’ gesture as an action of purification or ablution rather than as a service.
.
But Jesus responds that the disciples have become pure (“clean”) at the moment when they accepted to allow themselves to be guided by the Word of the Master, rejecting that of the world. Peter and the disciples no longer need the Jewish rite of the purification but to allow themselves to have their feet washed by Jesus; or rather to allow themselves to be loved by him, conferring them dignity and liberty.
.
The Memorial of Love
.
At the end of the washing of the feet Jesus intends to give his action a permanent validity for his community and at the same time to leave to it a memorial or commandment which should always regulate the fraternal relationships.
.
Jesus is the Lord, not in the dimension of domination, but in so far as he communicates the love of the Father (his Spirit) which makes us children of God and qualified to imitate Jesus who freely gives his love to his own. Jesus intended to communicate such an interior attitude to his own, a love which does not exclude anyone, not even Judas who is about to betray him. Therefore, if the disciples call him Lord, they have to imitate him; if they consider him Master, they have to listen to him.
.
Some question to meditate on
.
– he got up from the table: How do you live the Eucharist? In a sedentary way or do you allow yourself to be moved to action by the fire of the love which you receive? Do you run the risk that the Eucharist in which you participate is lost in contemplative Narcissism, without leading to the commitment of solidarity and sharing? Your commitment in favour of justice, of the poor, does it come from the habit of encountering Christ in the Eucharist, from the familiarity with him?
.
– he removed his outer garments: when from the Eucharist you go to daily life, do you know how to remove the garments of your own benefit, your calculations, personal interests to allow yourself to be guided by an authentic love toward others?
.
Or rather, after the Eucharist you are not capable of removing your garments of domination and of arrogance to put on those of simplicity, of poverty?
.
– taking a towel he wrapped it around his waist: this is the image of the “Church of the apron”. In the life of your family, of your ecclesial community, do you walk on the street of service, of sharing? Are you directly involved in the service to the poor and to the least? Do you know how to see the face of Christ who asks to be served, loved in the poor?
.
ORATIO
.
Psalm 116 (114-115), 12-13; 15-16; 17-18
.
The Psalmist who finds himself in the time and in the presence of the liturgical assembly sings his sacrifice of thanksgiving. Voltaire who had a special predilection for v. 12 expressed himself as follows: “What can I offer to the Lord for all the gifts which he has given me?”
.
What return can I make to Yahweh
for his generosity to me?
I shall take up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of Yahweh.
.
Costly in Yahweh’s sight
is the death of his faithful.
I beg you, Yahweh!
I am your servant,
I am your servant and my mother was your servant;
you have undone my fetters.
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I shall offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of Yahweh.
I shall fulfil my vows to Yahweh,
witnessed by all his people
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Final Prayer
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Fascinated with the way in which God expressed his love toward his own, Origin prayed as follows:
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Jesus, come, my feet are dirty.
Become a servant for me, pour the water in the basin;
come, wash my feet.
I know it, what I am saying is daring,
but I fear the threat of your words:
“If I do not wash you,
you can have no share with me”.
Wash then my feet,
so that I may have a share with you.
(Homily 5 on Isaiah)
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And Saint Ambrose having an ardent desire to correspond to the love of Jesus, expresses himself as follows:
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Oh, my Lord Jesus,
allow me to wash your sacred feet;
you got them dirty when you walked in my soul…
But where will I take the water from the fountain
to wash your feet?
In lacking that
I only have the eyes to weep:
bathing your feet with my tears,
do in such a way that I myself remain purified.
(Treatise on penance).
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Related:
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In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis, right, kisses the foot of an inmate at the juvenile detention center of Casal del Marmo, Rome, Thursday, March 28, 2013. Francis washed the feet of a dozen inmates at a juvenile detention center in a Holy Thursday ritual that he celebrated for years as archbishop and is continuing now that he is pope. Two of the 12 were young women, an unusual choice given that the rite re-enacts Jesus’ washing of the feet of his male disciples. The Mass was held in the Casal del Marmo facility in Rome, where 46 young men and women currently are detained. Many of them are Gypsies or North African migrants, and the Vatican said the 12 selected for the rite weren’t necessarily Catholic. (AP Photo/L’Osservatore Romano, ho)

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, March 11, 2018 — Our human failings and God’s mercy — “Even when we were dead in our transgressions, God brought us to life with Christ.”

March 10, 2018
Fourth Sunday of Lent

Lectionary: 32

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, sky, twilight, outdoor and nature

Reading 1 2 CHR 36:14-16, 19-23

In those days, all the princes of Judah, the priests, and the people
added infidelity to infidelity,
practicing all the abominations of the nations
and polluting the LORD’s temple
which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.Early and often did the LORD, the God of their fathers,
send his messengers to them,
for he had compassion on his people and his dwelling place.
But they mocked the messengers of God,
despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets,
until the anger of the LORD against his people was so inflamed
that there was no remedy.
Their enemies burnt the house of God,
tore down the walls of Jerusalem,
set all its palaces afire,
and destroyed all its precious objects.
Those who escaped the sword were carried captive to Babylon,
where they became servants of the king of the Chaldeans and his sons
until the kingdom of the Persians came to power.
All this was to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah:
“Until the land has retrieved its lost sabbaths,
during all the time it lies waste it shall have rest
while seventy years are fulfilled.”In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia,
in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah,
the LORD inspired King Cyrus of Persia
to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom,
both by word of mouth and in writing:
“Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia:
All the kingdoms of the earth
the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me,
and he has also charged me to build him a house
in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people,
let him go up, and may his God be with him!”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6.

R. (6ab) Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!
By the streams of Babylon
we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
On the aspens of that land
we hung up our harps.
R. Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!
For there our captors asked of us
the lyrics of our songs,
And our despoilers urged us to be joyous:
“Sing for us the songs of Zion!”
R. Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!
How could we sing a song of the LORD
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand be forgotten!
R. Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!
May my tongue cleave to my palate
if I remember you not,
If I place not Jerusalem
ahead of my joy.
R. Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!

Reading 2 EPH 2:4-10

Brothers and sisters:
God, who is rich in mercy,
because of the great love he had for us,
even when we were dead in our transgressions,
brought us to life with Christ — by grace you have been saved —,
raised us up with him,
and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus,
that in the ages to come
He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace
in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith,
and this is not from you; it is the gift of God;
it is not from works, so no one may boast.
For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works
that God has prepared in advance,
that we should live in them.

Verse Before The Gospel JN 3:16

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.

Gospel JN 3:14-21

Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
And this is the verdict,
that the light came into the world,
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light
and does not come toward the light,
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.
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Homily From The Abbot in the Desert
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My sisters and Brother in Christ,Rejoice in the Lord!  This Fourth Sunday of Lent is always about rejoicing.  We rejoice because we have made it halfway through Lent!  We rejoice because the Lord continues to call us His people and to draw us to Himself.  We rejoice because we know that Jesus came in the flesh for us, died for us and is raised from the dead for us.The readings today make us very aware that we are still sinful humans, called to grow in faithfulness and love.  The first reading is from the Second Book of Chronicles and gives us the sad history that God’s people were unfaithful and finally taken from their own land into exile in Babylonia.  The story does not end there, however.  Instead this story gives us cause for rejoicing because God brings some of His people back to Judah, to Jerusalem, to rebuild the temple.This account from the Second Book of Chronicles is a pattern that is repeated over and over in the life of our Jewish ancestors and also in the life of our Church.  We humans find it difficult to remain faithful.  When we are unfaithful, God allows us to suffer the consequences and then, quite often, at least a remnant will return to the Lord.  Then there is rejoicing!

The second reading is from the Letter to the Ephesians and speaks again about our human failings and God’s mercy.  “God, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ.  It is the gift of God.”

Finally today’s Gospel from Saint John tells us “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him….  Whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”

Our hearts are hardened and our ears are closed and so often we do not listen to these words of the Lord.  Even when we do listen to them, often we do not believe them.  Today, on the Sunday of Lent when we should rejoice, let us open our hearts and listen to God.  He only wants to tell us that He loves us and invites us to live a life of commitment to Him.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

https://christdesert.org/2018/03/4th-sunday-lent-laetare-cycle-b-2018/

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Commentary on 2 Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21 from Living Space

AT FIRST SIGHT one might wonder at the choice of the First Reading and what its relevance might be to Lent, let alone the Gospel. (There is usually some link between the First Reading and the Gospel.)

Because of the sins of the Jewish people, from the priests down, because of idolatry and other shameful and sacrilegious practices and after God sent them messenger after messenger who were not listened to, a terrible punishment fell on the whole people. This is how the sacred writer understands the destruction of the Temple and the whole city of Jerusalem and the survivors being carried off to Babylon and exile by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylonia.

Many years later, Cyrus, the king of Persia, became the agent of God by which God’s people were once more able to return to Jerusalem and begin to rebuild their traditions and a new Temple.

Jesus, an agent of God

The Gospel has a parallel theme but on a much higher level. Jesus, the Son of God, becomes the agent of God’s salvation, not just for one sinful people but for the sinfulness of the whole world. On this Fourth Sunday of Lent we are coming closer to the celebration of how that salvation was brought about.

The gospel makes a comparison with Moses, who was also an agent of God and a saviour of God’s people. The Israelites in the desert had been complaining bitterly about their conditions

so they were punished by a plague of serpents and many died (Numbers 21:4-9).

At God’s instructions, Moses raised up a bronze serpent on a pole “and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he recovered”. John sees here a foretype of Jesus being lifted up. For John Jesus’ being “lifted up” includes both his being raised up on a cross and being raised up to be with his Father in glory. In the process we were saved, healed and made whole. All those who look up to Jesus in faith will be saved, will be given “eternal life”, a life that never can be taken away.

And all of this is a sign of God’s own love. God sacrificed his only Son so that we might have that eternal life. He emphasises that God sent his Son to save and not to judge or condemn. In fact, no one who puts their whole self in God’s hands through faith can be condemned. And it is never too late to make that step of faith.

Darkness of chosen evil

On the other hand, whoever refuses to believe is already condemned. This is not at all directed at those who sincerely follow another faith, another religion, another vision of life. Judgment and condemnation happen where people prefer darkness to light, as indicated by lives of evil and immoral behaviour: hate instead of love; vengeance instead of forgiveness; greed instead of sharing; taking instead of giving life…

It is not a loving God who condemns; rather people choose to alienate themselves from his love. John says that all those who do wrong deliberately hate the light and choose darkness. A person who lives by truth and integrity is not afraid of the light. Such a person has nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of.

Such persons are like the salt of the earth, like a city on a hill, like a candle on a lamp stand. People can see their goodness and so be led by them to Jesus and to God.

Fear of being judged

However, there is another kind of darkness in which people live. It is the darkness of shame when there is something in their lives which they would like to share but are not able to bring out into the open. The reason is their fear of judgment, rejection or ridicule by others. One thinks of the young girl who finds herself pregnant but has no one to turn to, least of all members of her own family, or sometimes even members of the Church. One thinks of the young person who discovers he/she is homosexual and is condemned to live in the darkness of the “closet”, terrified to “come out” even to, or especially to family and friends.

These are just two examples. In these cases the agents of darkness are those who sit in judgment. They themselves are living in the darkness of prejudice and hate, usually the symptoms of an inner fear and insecurity.

But as the Second Reading reminds us today, all our goodness is God’s gift to us and is nothing for us to boast about. Our goodness, such as it is, is his goodness shining through us.

Let us then look at Jesus lifted up on the cross and in glory. Let us see the colossal love of God for us shown there. Let us open our hearts to that love and let it flow right through us to bring life and hope to others.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/LB041/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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11 MARCH, 2018, Sunday, 4th Week of Lent
REJOICING IN GOD’S MERCY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 CHR 36:14-16.19-23; EPH 2:4-10JOHN 3:14-21 ]

Today, we pass the mid-term of the season of Lent.   As we enter into the fourth Sunday of Lent, the Church invites us to rejoice.  Hence, this Sunday is traditionally called Laetarae Sunday, the Sunday of rejoicing.    What is the cause of rejoicing that seems to break the somber mood of the season of Lent?  During the last three weeks of Lent, the focus had been on penance, prayer, almsgiving and mortification.  However, it can lead to a wrong understanding of the Christian Faith, as if we take joy in making people suffer inconvenience and be deprived of the legitimate pleasures of life.  The penitential exercises are meant to help us come to a deeper interior prayer life so that we can contemplate on the love and mercy of God.  They are meant to clear the way for the Lord’s love to enter into our hearts by helping us to see the light.  Christian faith is a joyful faith that comes from liberation from sin.

Indeed, this was the case of the Israelites in the first reading.  They were unfaithful to the covenant and as a result brought disaster upon themselves.  “All the heads of the priesthood, and the people too, added infidelity to infidelity, copying all the shameful practices of the nations and defiling the Temple that the Lord had consecrated for himself in Jerusalem.”   However, God in His mercy, “tirelessly sent them messenger after messenger, since he wished to spare his people and his house. But they ridiculed the messengers of God, they despised his words, they laughed at his prophets, until at last the wrath of the Lord rose so high against his people that there was no further remedy.”   As a consequence, when they refused to heed God’s warning of destruction and continued with their immoral and sinful lives, God allowed the consequences of their sins to take place.  Judgement followed.  “Their enemies burned down the Temple of God, demolished the walls of Jerusalem, set fire to all its palaces, and destroyed everything of value in it. The survivors were deported by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon; they were to serve him and his sons.”  They lost the kingship, the kingdom and the Temple.

Even in our sinfulness, God continues to show His mercy.  Indeed, even His judgement and punishment of our sins is an act of mercy.  If God allowed Israel to be punished by foreign powers, it was in order that they come to their senses and return to God and the Covenant.  Punishment and suffering are the means by which God disciplines us.  God acts like a paternal father who disciplines His wayward children.  Instead of thinking that God does not care for us or has abandoned us in our sufferings, we should take such periods of suffering as the Lord inviting us to reflect on our lives, our mistakes and learn from them.  Indeed, this is done in order to help us repent of our sins and walk in the truth.  Even in our sufferings, the Lord gives us hope.  This was true for the Israelites who disobeyed God when they were in the desert, grumbling against Him until God sent the serpents to bite them to death.  They were taught a lesson by the Lord not to lament all the time but to be contented with what they had.   They had no reason to complain as they were given sufficient food.

However, when they repented, God told Moses to tell the people to look at the bronze serpent erected on the pole for healing.  By looking at their sins, they came to realize God’s mercy and love for them, which they took for granted.   So too for the Israelites in exile.  When 70 years had passed, God roused up “the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue a proclamation” to invite the Israelites to return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.  Indeed, the mercy and love of God is boundless and wise.  That a pagan king would grant them permission and even help them financially to rebuild their kingdom and temple was something beyond their imagination.

Nevertheless, the wondrous mercy of the Lord does not stop here.  His love and mercy extends not just to the Israelites but also to the whole world.  This is what St John and St Paul proclaimed in today’s scripture readings.  St John wrote, “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.”   God loves the world and all in it.  His love is not confined just to the Israelites but for all.  God cares for humanity, our sufferings, our pains, the divisions and wars caused by selfishness in humanity.

He sent us His only Son so that the world might come to know His love and mercy.  Jesus’ death on the cross is a reminder of God’s unconditional and total giving love.  It is the utter giving of God and truly the expression of God’s mercy for us.  In Christ, God our Father suffers with us in our sinfulness and misery.  The passion and death of our Lord reveals to us the infinite limits of God’s love.   Christ comes not to condemn the world but to show the world the light.   He comes to show us the way to love and to find fullness of life.   That is why the Lord said, “No one who believes in him will be condemned; but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already, because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son. On these grounds is sentence pronounced: that though the light has come into the world.”

Rejection of Christ is to reject the light and the truth of love.  If that were the case, it would not be God who rejects us or causes us to suffer.  Rather, we choose to live in darkness and in evil.  Indeed, the Lord warns us that “men have shown they prefer darkness to the light because their deeds were evil. And indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it, for fear his actions should be exposed; but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light, so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.”  By refusing to accept the light because of fear and selfishness, we prevent the grace of God from entering into our lives.  It is our sins that prevent us from seeing the light, just like a man with a pair of dirty spectacles is unable to see the light clearly.  We need to recognize our sinfulness and our inadequacies so that we can surrender ourselves to the light and to His love.

God invites us to repent, not through force but through grace.  He wants us to repent not out of fear but out of love.  This is the same appeal of St Paul when he exhorted the people to conversion.  “God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ – it is through grace that you have been saved – and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus.”  By reflecting and contemplating on the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, we will find the strength to give up our sins and live the new life of grace by walking in the light.   As we follow Him in death by giving up our lives for our fellowmen, we too will come to share in His light and love.  And this power is given to us when Jesus is raised from death, enabling Him to bestow on us the power of His spirit to do what He did.

So what is necessary today is that we have faith in His love and mercy, not on our own strength.  St Paul wrote, “This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how infinitely rich he is in grace. Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.”  It is purely the grace of God through faith in Him and in the power of His Spirit that we are able to be saved and to do good.  It is a gift from God, not something we earn or merit.

This is the heart of the gospel message.  God intends for us happiness and He forgives us our sins through His grace received by faith.  All that is needed for us is to cling to His love and mercy as we continue to contemplate on His face in His passion and resurrection.   This is the reason for our rejoicing because of the hope that is promised to us.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, March 9, 2018 — Total Commitment to God — “His splendor shall be like the olive tree”

March 8, 2018

Friday of the Third Week of Lent
Lectionary: 241

Image may contain: plant, nature and food

Reading 1  HOS 14:2-10

Thus says the LORD:
Return, O Israel, to the LORD, your God;
you have collapsed through your guilt.
Take with you words,
and return to the LORD;
Say to him, “Forgive all iniquity,
and receive what is good, that we may render
as offerings the bullocks from our stalls.
Assyria will not save us,
nor shall we have horses to mount;
We shall say no more, ‘Our god,’
to the work of our hands;
for in you the orphan finds compassion.”I will heal their defection, says the LORD,
I will love them freely;
for my wrath is turned away from them.
I will be like the dew for Israel:
he shall blossom like the lily;
He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar,
and put forth his shoots.
His splendor shall be like the olive tree
and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar.
Again they shall dwell in his shade
and raise grain;
They shall blossom like the vine,
and his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

Ephraim! What more has he to do with idols?
I have humbled him, but I will prosper him.
“I am like a verdant cypress tree”–
Because of me you bear fruit!

Let him who is wise understand these things;
let him who is prudent know them.
Straight are the paths of the LORD,
in them the just walk,
but sinners stumble in them.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 81:6C-8A, 8BC-9, 10-11AB, 14 AND 17

R. (see 11 and 9a) I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.
An unfamiliar speech I hear:
“I relieved his shoulder of the burden;
his hands were freed from the basket.
In distress you called, and I rescued you.”
R. I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.
“Unseen, I answered you in thunder;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
Hear, my people, and I will admonish you;
O Israel, will you not hear me?”
R. I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.
“There shall be no strange god among you
nor shall you worship any alien god.
I, the LORD, am your God
who led you forth from the land of Egypt.”
R. I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.
“If only my people would hear me,
and Israel walk in my ways,
I would feed them with the best of wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would fill them.”
R. I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.

Verse Before The GospelMT 4:17

Repent, says the Lord;
the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Gospel MK 12:28-34

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.

The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.
You are right in saying,
He is One and there is no other than he.
And to love him with all your heart,
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself

is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,
he said to him,
“You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
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From Living Space
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Commentary on Hos 14:2-10

Both readings are about our total commitment to God.

“More than any other prophet, Hosea tells about God’s love for his people.” (Vatican II Missal)

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After many negative words from the prophet to God’s people, Hosea in this last part of his book sounds a note of hope, which he had already hinted at earlier. Today’s passage is a liturgical prayer expressing sincere repentance, concluding with a firm promise of God’s blessing.

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In this closing passage of his book, Hosea calls the people back to God. The troubles they have been experiencing are due to their alienation from God. If they will only come back to him, where they belong, their lives will flourish. God is only too anxious to shower his love and gifts on them.

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Hosea urges the people to say: “Take all guilt away and give us what is good, instead of bulls we will dedicate to you our lips.” In other words, expressions of true repentance will take the place of purely external rituals.

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Nor is there much good in looking for help in powerful neighbours like Assyria nor in the ‘riding of horses’ (perhaps a reference to Egypt). Rather God is “the one in whom orphans find compassion”.

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God will bring his healing – “I shall cure them of disloyalty, I shall love them with all my heart”. These gifts and their results are expressed in lovely phrases taken from plant life:

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– I will be like the dew for Israel
– they will blossom like the lily
– they will strike root like a cedar of Lebanon
– and put forth shoots splendid as the olive tree
– fragrant as a cedar of Lebanon
– produce grain and blossom like the vine
– become as famous as the wine of Lebanon

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God – and this is unique in the Old Testament – compares himself to the greenness of a cypress tree, a source of life and fruitfulness for his people.

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If we can only learn that only through the ways of life which God proposes can be found the true fulfilment of our deepest longings, then we will experience a deep happiness right through our life. During this Lent let us open our hearts to a total and unconditional love of God and of those around us.

https://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1036r/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites for June 8, 2017 — Mark 12:28-34
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Reflection
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• The Gospel today presents a beautiful conversation between Jesus and a Doctor of the Law. The doctor wants to know from Jesus which is the first of all the commandments. Today, also many persons want to know what is most important in religion. Some say: to be baptized. Others, to pray. Others say: to go to Mass or to participate in the worship on Sunday. Others say: to love your neighbour! Others are worried about the appearance or the charges or tasks in the Church.
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• Mark 12, 28: The question of the Doctor of the Law. A doctor of the Law, who had seen the debate of Jesus with the Sadducees (Mk 12,23-27), was pleased with the response of Jesus, and he perceives in him a great intelligence and wants to profit of this occasion to ask him a question: Which is the first one of all the commandments?” At that time the Jews had an enormous number of norms which regulated, in practice, the observance of the Ten Commandments of the Law of God. Some said: “All these norms have the same value, because they all come from God. It does not belong to us to introduce distinctions in the things of God”. Others would say: “Some Laws are more important than others, that is why they oblige more!” The Doctor wanted to know Jesus’ opinion.
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• Mark 12, 29-31: The response of Jesus. Jesus responds by quoting a passage of the Bible to say that the first commandment is “to love God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your strength!” (Dt 6, 4-5). At the time of Jesus, the pious Jews made of this text of Deuteronomy a prayer which they recited three times a day: in the morning, at noon and in the evening. Among them it was known as today we know the Our Father. And Jesus adds, quoting the Bible again: the second one is this: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no other more important commandment than this one”. (Lev 19,18). A brief and profound response! It is the summary of all that Jesus has taught about God and about life (Mt 7, 12).
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See:
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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09 MARCH, 2018, Friday, 3rd Week of Lent
THE MASKS OF IDOLATRY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ HOSEA 14:2-10MARK 12:28-34 ]

In ancient days, the sin of idolatry was considered the greatest of all sins.  It was the cause of all the misery of Israel and the early Christians.   Indeed, the first commandment of the Decalogue says, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;  you shall have no other gods before me.  You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”  (Ex 20:1-4)  In the context of Israel living in the midst of neighbours who worshipped idols and deities, whilst Israel worshipped the one and only God, idolatry was considered the most serious act of infidelity. The psalmist says, “I am the Lord your God: listen to my warning. ‘Let there be no foreign god among you, no worship of an alien god. I am the Lord your God, who brought you from the land of Egypt.”

In truth, worshipping idols per se cannot cause us any real harm because as the psalmist says, “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; they make no sound in their throats. Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them.”  (Ps 115:4-8)  To worship idols is to worship nothingness, an illusion.  That is why when we chase after illusions, we will ultimately hurt ourselves.  The real idolatry is not so much statues and carved images but what they represent.  When these statues represent our egoistic desires, then they will destroy us.

In the final analysis, the real idolatry is the worship of self.  This is what the prophet said to the people.  It is pride, arrogance and disobedience of the laws.  “Israel, come back to the Lord your God; your iniquity was the cause of your downfall. Assyria cannot save us, we will not ride horses any more, or say, ‘Our god!’ to what our own hands have made.”  The mistake of Israel was to rely on human political powers instead of on God.  They trusted in military might and they sought to preserve their self-centered lives.  Indeed, this is the case for the modern man today.  He trusts more in science and technology than the power of God.  He thinks that the answer to the problems of life lies in knowledge expressed in political, economic and technological power.  Instead of trusting in God and submitting all our plans to Him, we become proud and over self-confident in solving our own problems.

This worship of self can subtly mask itself as righteousness.  Whilst the Israelites in the Old Testament broke the laws of the Covenant, the Jews in the time of Christ ironically broke the laws by keeping the laws!  In seeking to keep the laws, they became self-righteous, judgmental, proud and intolerant of those who failed to keep the commandments perfectly.  So instead of helping them to be more loving and compassionate, the laws became a goal to achieve with all their efforts, so that they could show off to others that they were holier than the rest.

Consequently, they became over legalistic in the way the laws were implemented.  This was the context of the scribe’s question when he asked Jesus, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”  The Jews were required to observe not just the Ten Commandments but also the 613 laws and other customs as well.  There were so many laws that they began to question which was the most important.  The good Jews were doing their best to keep the laws so that they would be blessed by God.  Others kept them so that they could earn praise from others.  (cf Mt 6:1-5)

Observing the commandments alone need not necessarily make us more loving towards God and others.  As St Paul noted, “Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately.  This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful.”  (cf 1 Tim 1:8-11)  At any rate, the Laws tell us what we cannot do.  They are prohibitive and restrictive by requiring us to do the minimum.  They do not teach us how to love more.

Idolatry is self-love. That is why the antidote to the sin of idolatry is love; love of God and of others.  Jesus declared, “This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment great than these.”  In saying that the love of God is the first and loving our neighbours as the second, Jesus was not speaking of specific laws.  He was laying down the principles to be applied in every specific situation.  Once we get the principles right, then we will know what to do in every situation instead of worrying whether we broke the letter of the laws.  Jesus, in delineating these two fundamental principles of love, was simply reiterating the Old Testament commandments given by Moses in Deuteronomy and Leviticus.  (cf Dt 6:5Lev 19:9-19)

Why is the love of God the first of all commandments?  This is because we do not love as we ought because we do not know the meaning of love, or because we do not have the capacity to love.  Loving God is to enable us to love as He has loved us and to find the strength from His love for us to love others.  St John makes this point when he wrote,  “God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.”  (1 Jn 4:9-12)

This explains why our God is a loving and compassionate God.  When we sin, He is always ready to forgive and to heal us.  He does not take delight in seeing us suffer the consequences of our sins.  The prophet said, “’You are the one in whom orphans find compassion.’ – I will heal their disloyalty, I will love them with all my heart, for my anger has turned from them. I will fall like dew on Israel. He shall bloom like the lily, and thrust out roots like the poplar, his shoots will spread far; He will have the beauty of the olive and the fragrance of Lebanon.”

Only when we have loved God, can we then do likewise.  Accordingly, the command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” is but the means to acquire the heart and mind of God.  When we love Him with all our heart, we become one with Him in love and in compassion.  When we love Him with all our mind and soul, we begin to think like Him with respect to how we should see people, especially sinners and the poor.  When we love Him with all our strength, we will in turn be strengthened in our capacity to do good for others.

But prior to even loving our neighbours, the command of the Lord is that we should love ourselves.  This is the presupposition to the capacity and the right way to love.  If we know how to love ourselves, we will know how to love our neighbor because we share the same humanity, the same aspirations in life for love, respect, dignity, care, compassion, forgiveness, food, accommodation and health.  The golden rule of our Lord is this, “In everything we do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”  (Mt 7:12)   Thus we cannot love our neighbour unless we are first in touch with our own needs.

So the end to loving God is for the love of our neighbours.  God does not need our love but He wants us to love Him so that we can love ourselves by loving our neighbours.  St Paul wrote, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”  (cf Rom 13:8-10)  Anyone who loves is filled with the love of God.  “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.”  (cf 1 Jn 4:12f)  In loving, God is glorified, and in God, we are glorified.

So today, let us take heed of the call of the prophet.  Let us come back to the Lord so that we can truly love ourselves and our neighbours once again.  Let us be wise and not rely on our idols, for the Lord says, “What has Ephraim to do with idols any more when it is I who hear his prayer and care for him? I am like a cypress ever green, all your fruitfulness comes from me. Let the wise man understand these words. Let the intelligent man grasp their meaning. For the ways of the Lord are straight, and virtuous men walk in them, but sinners stumble.”  Let us walk the way of truth and love.   Let us love from the strength that comes from God’s love and mercy for us.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, February 26, 2018 — Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins. Allow us your compassion and forgiveness!

February 25, 2018

Monday of the Second Week in Lent
Lectionary: 230

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Reading 1  DN 9:4B-10

“Lord, great and awesome God,
you who keep your merciful covenant toward those who love you
and observe your commandments!
We have sinned, been wicked and done evil;
we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws.
We have not obeyed your servants the prophets,
who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes,
our fathers, and all the people of the land.
Justice, O Lord, is on your side;
we are shamefaced even to this day:
we, the men of Judah, the residents of Jerusalem,
and all Israel, near and far,
in all the countries to which you have scattered them
because of their treachery toward you.
O LORD, we are shamefaced, like our kings, our princes, and our fathers,
for having sinned against you.
But yours, O Lord, our God, are compassion and forgiveness!
Yet we rebelled against you
and paid no heed to your command, O LORD, our God,
to live by the law you gave us through your servants the prophets.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 79:8, 9, 11 AND 13

R. (see 103:10a) Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.
Remember not against us the iniquities of the past;
may your compassion quickly come to us,
for we are brought very low.
R. Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.
Help us, O God our savior,
because of the glory of your name;
Deliver us and pardon our sins
for your name’s sake.
R. Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.
Let the prisoners’ sighing come before you;
with your great power free those doomed to death.
Then we, your people and the sheep of your pasture,
will give thanks to you forever;
through all generations we will declare your praise.
R. Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.

Verse Before The Gospel  SEE JN 6:63C, 68C

Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life;
you have the words of everlasting life.

Gospel  LK 6:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.”.******************************************

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Commentary on Luke 6:36-38 from Living Space

“Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.” This is the last sentence in Luke’s version of Jesus’ teaching on the need to love our enemies. We saw the Matthaean version last Saturday. There the passage ends with “Be perfect as your Father is perfect.” It is clear that it is in showing compassion for all, even those who wish us evil, that we are to aim at imitating our heavenly Father.

God’s compassion is all-embracing. His love reaches out to all without any discrimination between saint and sinner. Like the rain and sun which fall equally on all, so God’s compassion and mercy are extended to all. We, too, are being called to follow the example of our God and of Jesus his Son. We remember the words of Jesus as he was being nailed to the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Here is the compassion of God being expressed in an extreme situation. The words will be repeated by Stephen when he is being stoned to death.

In today’s Gospel, we are told to follow that compassion by not sitting in judgement on others. That in no way means that we are to be blind to the genuine faults of others. But we are not in a position to take the higher moral ground so that we can sit in judgement on the supposed wrongdoer.

If we are honest we know we judge others a lot, often with very little evidence and even less compassion. Our media, too, are full of judgment. Our conversations, our gossip is full of judgment. We lack compassion for the weaknesses of our brothers and sisters.

At the same time, we do very little to help them correct their ways; in fact, they seldom hear the criticisms we make. It is most often done behind their backs. If they unexpectedly appear, we quickly change the subject. We just take pleasure in the backbiting. We might even be disappointed if they reformed!

“Do not condemn and you will not be condemned; pardon and you will be pardoned.” Later on in this Eucharist we will pray, “Forgive us our sins in so far as we forgive the sins of others”. A dangerous prayer to make, yet it trips so easily off our tongues, the same tongues that can be so critical and judgemental.

The gospel calls for great generosity in our relationship with others. Not just material generosity but generosity in love, in understanding, in tolerance and acceptance, in compassion and forgiveness. The more generous we are with others the more we will receive in return.

Lord,
teach me to be generous,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and to seek no reward
save that of knowing that I do your holy will.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1022g/

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Monday in the Second Week of Lent 

Daniel 9:4ff. The exiles’ prayer of repentance. Humbled by the experience of being conquered and taken away as captive slaves, they turn back to God their Saviour.

Luke 6:36ff. Jesus calls us to be perfect in the virtue of mercy, in imitation of God himself.

Beautiful Compassion

Where Matthew’s gospel has Jesus say, on the mountain: “You must be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48), Luke, in the sermon on the plain, reads: “Be compassionate, as your Father is compassionate.” Luke’s expectations are more specific and more attainable. All sinners ought to be capable of compassion, as they continually seek this very response of mercy from God. Yet, Jesus does not allow half-measures; it must be all, it seems, or nothing! Pardon must be bestowed so generously upon anyone who has hurt us, that it runs over and pours into the folds of one’s own garments. We are expected to bestow twice as much love as the other person showed us hate, twice as much trust as the other party manifested suspicion.

This divine compassion can be partly learned, as we meditate upon the example of Jesus who died for us when as yet we were God’s enemies by our sins (Rom 5:8). Yet, this attitude of overwhelming goodness and understanding can never be fully and adequately learned by study nor be acquired by human effort, no matter how diligent and persevering we may be. We cannot transform ourselves into God, as the human race should have learned at the beginning (Gen 3:5).

 

No Half Measures

The only way to surrender ourselves to God is unconditionally and without reservation. Without anticipating all that will happen to us and be asked of us, we give ourselves totally into God’s hands. We repeat Jesus’ beautiful, heroic prayer: “not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). God will then act through us, reaching others with infinite compassion, infinite tenderness, infinite trust! Without counting the cost or the outcome, such divine life will overflow into the folds of our garments!

Lenten fasting may weaken our physical strength and reduce the aggressiveness of our human response. If it is accompanied, however, by a surrender of our spirit to God, then divine strength and infinite responsiveness will flow through us. Our fasting reminds us and symbolizes to others that God alone is the source of our decisions and actions.

Possessed by this divine spirit of compassion and pardon, we can spontaneously pray for mercy as Daniel did in today’s first reading. We have only to place before God our sins, our wickedness and our evil. We have only to admit to God that “we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and laws.” We realize that in confessing our sins, we are already within the intimate bond of God’s love and transformation. Confession is the final act of rejecting whatever is the residue of sin within us. Once upon our lips, the sins are gone forever, driven out by God’s holy spirit already within us.

Daniel admits several times to be “shamefaced.” Shame can be very destructive or it can be purifying and transforming. Sometimes when shame comes over people, they lose all inhibitions and abandon themselves to all kinds of shameless deeds! Another kind of shame casts off pride and make-belief. It begets a wholesome humility and honesty. It freely admits whatever was wrong, this time from the attitude of a delicate conscience. It helps the adult to be again as a child in spirit, in trust, in a wholesome purity. Such an adult trusts, loves and forgives as easily as God himself. “Of such is the kingdom of God.”

First Reading: Daniel 9:4-10

I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, keeping covenant and steadfast love with those who love you and keep your commandments, we have sinned and done wrong, acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and ordinances. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

“Righteousness is on your side, O Lord, but open shame, as at this day, falls on us, the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you.

Open shame, O Lord, falls on us, our kings, our officials, and our ancestors, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by following his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.

Gospel: Luke 6:36-38

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged;do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

From the Association for Catholic Priests

http://www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie/2011/03/monday-in-the-second-week-of-lent/

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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26 FEBRUARY, 2018, Monday, 2nd Week of Lent
RECEIVING FORGIVENESS AND HEALING

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Dan 9:4-10Ps 79:8-9,11,13Luke 6:36-38]

We are sinners and in need of forgiveness and healing.  None of us can say that we have not hurt others or broken any of the commandments of God.  Healing comes through forgiveness, received and given.  What we all need most is forgiveness.  However, not many people seek healing although they know they are wounded and hurt.

The main obstacle to people availing themselves of healing through forgiveness is because of pride.  It is the lack of humility to ask for forgiveness because of the fear of shame.  This is the ultimate reason why many Catholics do not go for the sacrament of reconciliation.  They would give all kinds of excuses, apparently logical reasons, why they do not need the sacrament of reconciliation.  They want to forgive themselves.  On that count, they should have just baptized themselves as well, since baptism is for the forgiveness of sins.  St James exhorts, “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.”  (Jms 5:16)  And the Lord said to His disciples, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”  (Jn 20:22f)

Then there are those who go for the sacrament of reconciliation but they also do not find real and lasting healing.  As a result, some claim that going for confession is a waste of time as the healing effects of the sacrament does not last.  Why is this so?  This is because many do not have the right disposition when celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation.  Some go for confession out of devotion and habit but they have no intention of giving up their sins.  Of course, if we are not serious about giving up our sins, the grace of absolution will not work in our lives because grace demands human cooperation.  Many go for confession without any preparation, both in the heart and in the examination of their conscience.  This explains why the Penitential Service held in our churches, although beautiful and meaningful in bringing the community together to celebrate God’s mercy and forgiveness, often because of time constraint, is done in haste, often without much preparation and recollection or even the opportunity to confess one’s sin sincerely and deeply.

To address this situation, the scripture readings today can help us to prepare for a beautiful sacrament of reconciliation. 

In the first place, we are called to praise God for His mercy and goodness, especially in acknowledging that His commandments are good.  The prophet began by saying, “Lord, our God great and to be feared, you keep the covenant and have kindness for those who love you and keep your commandments.”  Unless we see that His commandments are not meant to make our lives miserable but to set us free to live a life of wisdom, we will not be able to feel sorry for breaking His commandments.  Moses said, “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law which I set before you this day?”  (Dt 4:7f)  Even St Paul agrees on this point.  “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good.”  (Rom 7:14-16)   By acknowledging that His commandments are just and fair, we condemn our sins.  Only when we condemn our sins, will we be less likely to commit them in future.  So it is important that we need to sensitize our conscience to condemn the sins we committed.

Secondly, we need to acknowledge our sins without justifying ourselves.  Many of us when confessing our sins, seek to justify ourselves, and often like Adam and Eve, push the blame to others.  Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the Devil!  Instead, true contrition of heart is to confess our sins without excuse, just as King David did when he was confronted by the prophet Nathan.  He simply said without any excuse on his part, “I have sinned against the Lord.”  (2 Sm 12:13) Again, this was what the prophet Daniel confessed on behalf of his people, “we have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly, we have betrayed your commandments and your ordinances and turned away from them.”  That is why when we go before the priest, right at the outset, we begin by saying, “Bless me Father for I have sinned”, not that others have sinned against me!  Some go for confession to confess the sins of others rather than their own!

Thirdly, we must confess our sins sincerely without hiding them in generalities.  Many of us try to hide our shame by just confessing sins in a general manner.  When we are not explicit in naming our sins, we cannot exorcise the demon out from us.  Naming our sins as they are, calling a spade a spade is what will bring us healing.  That is why those penitents who try to couch their sins by oversimplifying them often do not find real healing because they did not allow themselves to articulate their guilt and their pain.  Only when we can articulate our sins the way we committed them, in all its shame, can our fear be removed completely.  This was how Daniel confessed to God.  “We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.”

Fourthly, we accept the judgement of God. We accept the judgement of God against sins, not our judgement of what sin is.  “Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.”  (Ps 51:4)  True repentance and sorrow for our sins means the willingness to accept the consequences of our sins.  This was what Daniel prayed, “Integrity, Lord, is yours; ours the look of shame we wear today, we, the people of Judah, the citizens of Jerusalem, the whole of Israel, near and far away, in every country to which you have dispersed us because of the treason we have committed against you.  To us, Lord, the look of shame belongs, to our kings, our princes, our ancestors, because we have sinned against you.”  King David also accepted the punishment for his sin when his son conceived out of lust died. He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me, and the child may live.’ But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”  (2 Sm 12:22f)

Finally, we turn to Him for forgiveness and pardon.  We are called to trust in His mercy.  Daniel pleaded, “To the Lord our God mercy and pardon belong, because we have betrayed him, and have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God nor followed the laws he has given us through his servants the prophets.”  With the psalmist, we pray as well, “Do not treat us according to our sins, O Lord. Do not hold the guilt of our fathers against us.  Let your compassion hasten to meet us; we are left in the depths of distress.”  The gospel assures us that the Father is all forgiving because He is compassionate and just.

However, whilst forgiveness is given when we go for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, healing is not complete until we render forgiveness to those who have hurt us.  Jesus said to His disciples: “Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.  Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned.”   Indeed, if we want to seek forgiveness and healing, we must be ready to forgive those who have hurt us.  This is the most important condition for healing.  This explains why many go for confession but are not healed.  If they cannot forgive others as God has forgiven us, we continue to make ourselves prisoners of our enemies and our past.   If we condemn others, we are condemning ourselves, for if we cannot forgive others for what they had done, how can we forgive ourselves in the same vein. This is why, the Lord said,  “Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.”  Forgiveness of others is what ultimately heals us in the end.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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The Road to Hope by Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan

Many of  Nguyễn Văn Thuận letters, prayers and sermons have been preserved and published — most are available at fine bookstores and from Amazon.

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Book: Joseph’s Way: The Call to Fatherly Greatness – Prayer of Faith: 80 Days to Unlocking Your Power As a Father by Devin Schadt
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As no sensible person would make a long road trip without first consulting a map, so the person intent upon gaining Heaven should turn to a competent guide to reach that most important goal. An Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) is addressed as a personal letter to Philothea, the “lover of God.” This book instructs us in our approach to God in prayer and the Sacraments, the practice of 16 important virtues, remedies against ordinary temptations, and becoming confirmed in our practice of devotion. TAN-CLASSICS Edition; paperback.

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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, February 10, 2018 — Feeding the Multitude with Loaves and Fish

February 9, 2018

Memorial of Saint Scholastica, Virgin
Lectionary: 334

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Feeding the Multitude by Bernardo Strozzi, early 17th century.

Reading 1 1 KGS12:26-32; 13:33-34

Jeroboam thought to himself:
“The kingdom will return to David’s house.
If now this people go up to offer sacrifices
in the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem,
the hearts of this people will return to their master,
Rehoboam, king of Judah,
and they will kill me.”
After taking counsel, the king made two calves of gold
and said to the people:
“You have been going up to Jerusalem long enough.
Here is your God, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.”
And he put one in Bethel, the other in Dan.
This led to sin, because the people frequented those calves
in Bethel and in Dan.
He also built temples on the high places
and made priests from among the people who were not Levites.
Jeroboam established a feast in the eighth month
on the fifteenth day of the month
to duplicate in Bethel the pilgrimage feast of Judah,
with sacrifices to the calves he had made;
and he stationed in Bethel priests of the high places he had built.Jeroboam did not give up his evil ways after this,
but again made priests for the high places
from among the common people.
Whoever desired it was consecrated
and became a priest of the high places.
This was a sin on the part of the house of Jeroboam
for which it was to be cut off and destroyed from the earth.

Responsorial Psalm PS 106:6-7AB, 19-20, 21-22

R. (4a) Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
We have sinned, we and our fathers;
we have committed crimes; we have done wrong.
Our fathers in Egypt
considered not your wonders.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
They made a calf in Horeb
and adored a molten image;
They exchanged their glory
for the image of a grass-eating bullock.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
They forgot the God who had saved them,
who had done great deeds in Egypt,
Wondrous deeds in the land of Ham,
terrible things at the Red Sea.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.

AlleluiaMT 4:4B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Gospel MK 8:1-10

In those days when there again was a great crowd without anything to eat,
Jesus summoned the disciples and said,
“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd,
because they have been with me now for three days
and have nothing to eat.
If I send them away hungry to their homes,
they will collapse on the way,
and some of them have come a great distance.”
His disciples answered him, “Where can anyone get enough bread
to satisfy them here in this deserted place?”
Still he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?”
They replied, “Seven.”
He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.
Then, taking the seven loaves he gave thanks, broke them,
and gave them to his disciples to distribute,
and they distributed them to the crowd.
They also had a few fish.
He said the blessing over them
and ordered them distributed also.
They ate and were satisfied.
They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets.
There were about four thousand people.

He dismissed the crowd and got into the boat with his disciples
and came to the region of Dalmanutha.

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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Look at the words: Taken, Blessed, Broken, Given.
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This is what Jesus does. This is what Jesus did with the loaves and the fish — and this is what Jesus does again at The Last Supper.
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Jesus does this over and over again in the Mass — and with us in our lives.
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Whenever we are broken we can return to Him. We can be taken, blessed, broken and given back to Him.
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Archbishop Goh has said, “Without hope, everything will end in nihilism.”
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Nihilism says that life is without objective meaning. Nothing could be further from the truth if we follow Jesus who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)
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Related:
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Our thanks and prayers go out to Fr. Henri Nouwen who has been my excellent teacher.
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Fr. Henri Nouwen

In Henri Nouwen’s book “Life of the Beloved” he outlines four words that he believes are central to the spiritual lives of Christians,

“To identify the movements of the Spirit in our lives, I have found it helpful to use for words: taken, blessed, broken and given. These words summarize my life as a priest because each day, when I come together around the table with members of my community, I take bread, bless it, break it and give it. These words also summarize my life as a Christian, because, as a Christian, I am called to become bread for the world: break that is taken, blessed, broken and given. Most importantly, however, they summarize my life as a human being because in every moment of my life somewhere, somehow the taking, the blessings, the breaking and the giving are happening.” (Life of the Beloved, 41-42)

The radical difference between the way God works and the way the world works is that the world only uses 2 of the four. The world takes and breaks with no idea of how to bless and give. Praise God that we have a Father who knows us and loves us enough to give us exactly what we need and then turn right around and use us to be a blessing to others through the experiences we have walking with God…being taken by him, blessed by him, experiencing brokenness through him and with him and then being given for others.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had blessed it, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” – Matthew 26:26

Nouwen says, we are now that bread….

http://mattdabbs.com/2014/07/28/taken-blessed-broken-given-we-are-the-bread/

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Commentary on Mark 8:1-10 from Living Space

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Today we have the second of two multiplication stories found in Mark. The first with 5,000 people was in a predominantly Jewish area while this one with 4,000 people is in mainly Gentile territory. Jesus is reaching out to both groups. The people have nothing to eat and are hungry. The meaning is both physical and spiritual.

Once again we see Mark indicating the emotional response of Jesus. He is filled with compassion for the people in their need. “I feel compassion for all these people… If I send them off home hungry they will collapse on the way… Some have come a great distance.”

They will collapse “on the way”, on the road. Jesus is the Way, the Road. To walk the road of Jesus, we need a certain kind of nourishment. This is what Jesus came to give.

The disciples, interpreting Jesus literally, as they usually do, ask: “Where could anyone get bread to feed these people in a deserted place like this?” In the presence of Jesus, the question answers itself but the disciples have not yet clicked. In Mark’s gospel they are often shown to be without an understanding of just who their Master is. That is because they represent us.

The disciples are asked what they can supply. Seven loaves and a few fish is all they have.

There is a strong eucharistic element in this, as in the former story. The people are told to sit down. “He took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks (eucharistesas, ’ eucaristhsas in the Greek), he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute. And they distributed them among the crowd.”

Again we note that Jesus himself does not give out the food the people need. It comes from him but his distributed by his disciples. The same is today. It is our task to feed the hungry – both physically and spiritually. All were filled – 4,000 people altogether – and even so there were seven (a perfect number) baskets left over. A sign of God’s abundance shared with his people.

Again, as before, “He sent them away and, immediately, getting into the boat with his

disciples, went to the region of Dalmanutha”, back to Jewish territory. Jesus was leaving no room for any misinterpretations of what he had done. The disciples too are quickly removed from the scene. There was to be no self-congratulation or glorying in their connections with Jesus the wonder worker. Through the miracle the teaching had been given and that was it.

Lord, teach me to serve you as you deserve;

to give and not to count the cost;

to fight and not to heed the wounds;

to labour and seek no reward

save that of knowing that I do your holy will.

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http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2057g/

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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10 FEBRUARY, 2018, Saturday, 5th Week, Ordinary Time
HEALING THROUGH ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS IN THE EUCHARIST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 KGS 12:26-3213:33-34PS 106:6-719-22MK 8:1-10  ]

Today’s readings should lead us to reflect on the close link between sickness and sin, whether remotely or proximately.  Sin is alienation from God and from each other.  As a result of our loss of focus, man has usurped the place of God and made himself a god.  That means he can no longer depend on anyone but himself.  Inevitably, he loses his balance in life and all integrity within himself and his relationship with the world.  This has brought about his bodily illness because there is a lack of integrity between his mind, body and spirit. The loss of the preternatural gifts, resulting in death, pain, ignorance and concupiscence, is the consequence of Adam’s disobedience.  Seduced and misled by the serpent who said to his wife Eve, “You will not certainly die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:4-5), his pride caused him to deceive himself into thinking that he can do without God.

The sin of the Israelites is the same sin as that of Adam’s.  It is a repetition of the sin of pride and disobedience.  Already in the Book of Exodus, we read how the Israelites made for themselves a golden calf whilst Moses was meeting the Lord at the Mountain.  Again, we see this same attempt of Jeroboam.  He “made two golden calves; he said to the people, ‘You have been going up to Jerusalem long enough.  Here are your gods, Israel; these brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’”  It was out of ambition, fear and selfishness that he turned away from the true God of Israel and erected his own sanctuaries, altars for sacrifices, appointed his own priests that were not of the Levi tribe.  He did all these to prevent his people from going to Jerusalem for fear that the people might return to the Kingdom of David.  So to restrain contacts between his people and those of Judah, he duplicated the shrines purely for his self-interest.  As a result, he led his people to sin, as their religion and worship became contaminated and diluted by pagan influences.  When God is abandoned, sin increases.  There is no greater sin than the sin of idolatry, for the sin of Adam is in fact the sin of idolatry.  Anyone who worships himself is committing the sin of idolatry, which will lead to every other sin.

It was for this reason that Christ come.  He came to reconcile us with God so that we can find focus in life again.  He came to show us who His Father really is.  He came to reveal to us the mercy and compassion of God.   Indeed, the healing ministry was central to the life of Jesus.  His healing miracles were signs that He has come to overthrow the reign of Satan and destroy sin.  The miracles of Jesus were, on one hand, the expression of God’s compassion for His suffering and afflicted people.  On the other hand, it was also a demonstration of the power of the Spirit at work in Jesus manifesting the divine presence in Him.  By healing the sick, which is the consequence of original sin and also quite often the fruits of our own personal sins, it shows that God has come to restore us.  By living a foolish, selfish, self-centered, ill-disciplined and wanton life, we cannot but bring misery upon ourselves and even our loved ones.  St Paul, warning the Galatians about living a licentious life, wrote, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”  (Gal 6:7-8)

Jesus came to teach us about God’s love and the way to live a life of love and service.  This is brought out in today’s gospel story.  By the act of multiplying the loaves for the Seven Thousand, Jesus wanted the crowd to know that only God can satisfy their spiritual and physical hunger completely.  And when God gives, He gives abundantly, beyond human calculation.  This was what the disciples learnt in this miracle.  When they were wondering how to feed so many people, Jesus worked this miracle to let them know that He is the Bread of Life.  Just as God gave manna to their fathers in the desert, so now Jesus, the Bread of life, is doing the same by feeding them in a deserted place.

Accordingly, the best place to be healed is in the Eucharist.  Many Catholics who are seeking spiritual, physical, emotional and psychological healing fail to realize that they have the greatest means of healing before them, namely, the Eucharist.  Being the real presence of our Risen Lord, the Eucharist has the power to transmit the healing grace of God.  At every mass, just before the reception of Holy Communion, we repeat the words of the Centurion, saying, “Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  Indeed, since Jesus is personally present in the Eucharist, He too can heal us the way He healed the sick when He was in His earthly life at Palestine.

Today, as in the days of old, there are so many people who need healing from all kinds of illnesses. Like the apostles, we too ask: how can we find the strength and resources to help them?   The answer of course is to bring Jesus to them.  And what better way to do this than to give them the Eucharist, the presence of Jesus par excellence.  As the gospel tells us, after Jesus multiplied the loaves for them, they ate their fill and still they collected seven basket loads of leftover.  So with Jesus, all can be satisfied.

But how is this so?  Faith in the healing power of the Eucharist must not be reduced to mere superstition.  We must keep the unity between the Word and the Sacrament.  The gospel tells us that Jesus taught them for three days before He broke bread for them.  In other words, before we can celebrate the sacrament of the Eucharist, we must be converted in the mind through careful listening of the Word of God.  Unless the mind is renewed and converted, the heart cannot be changed.  Unless a person is brought to repentance and contrition, no effective healing can take place, and even if it does, the person will once again be wounded emotionally, psychologically and physically by his sins.  But if the mind is renewed and the heart is converted, then the person will avoid falling into sin again and save himself from the effects of sin.  Furthermore, unless we have heard the Word, then we can in faith recognize Jesus in the Eucharist.  This means that we must keep that integral and balanced unity between the celebration of the Word and the Sacrament.  Sometimes, we tend to overemphasize the Word at the expense of the Sacrament; or conversely, emphasize the sacrament and neglect to attentively listen to the Word of God proclaimed at mass.

In the final analysis, we must ask whether we have encountered Jesus, the Word made Flesh, incarnated in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  If we fail to have a personal faith encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist, then the Eucharist cannot feed us or heal us.  Once we encounter Jesus, we will be healed physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually.   Encounter with the person of Jesus will heal all our wounds.

However, the healing grace of the Eucharist extends beyond the reception of the sacrament.  We become what we eat.  So we become more like Jesus when we receive Him, putting on His mind and heart.  In turn we too become mediators of Christ’s love and compassion to others.  Like Jesus, we will also become healers ourselves, reaching out to others who are as wounded as we were.  Like Jesus, we too must in turn be motivated by pastoral charity, shown concretely in our actions, our compassion for them in their sufferings and needs.

For this to happen, we need priests chosen by the Lord.  If the Eucharist is the summit of the Church’s liturgy and life, then without priests, we will not have the Eucharist.  That is why we must continue to pray for young men to have the courage and generosity to give themselves to the priesthood.  Without the Eucharist, the people of God would be like those Seven Thousand, hungry for food.  Priests are chosen by God, not by men, as what Jeroboam did.  He tried to dissuade his people from going to the Temple of Jerusalem by erecting his own temples, appointing priests who were not from the tribe of Levi and established his own feasts.  The truth is that just because he was doing and imitating what was being done at the Temple of Jerusalem, it does not mean that he could bring about the presence of God for the people.  Similarly, without ordained ministers, the people of God will be impoverished and be deprived of the healing grace that comes from the Eucharist.  Let us therefore seek a deeper appreciation of the Eucharist, and at the same time pray for an increase of holy priestly vocations.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore 
 
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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, December 17, 2017 — “He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives…”

December 16, 2017

Third Sunday of Advent
Lectionary: 8

Image result for rejoice in the lord always! Again I say rejoice, art, pictures

In all circumstances give thanks for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus

Reading 1  IS 61:1-2A, 10-11

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.I rejoice heartily in the LORD,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice,
like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,
like a bride bedecked with her jewels.
As the earth brings forth its plants,
and a garden makes its growth spring up,
so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise
spring up before all the nations.

Responsorial Psalm  LK 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54

R. (Is 61:10b) My soul rejoices in my God.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
R. My soul rejoices in my God.
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
R. My soul rejoices in my God.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy.
R. My soul rejoices in my God.

Reading 2  1 THES 5:16-24

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit.
Do not despise prophetic utterances.
Test everything; retain what is good.
Refrain from every kind of evil.

May the God of peace make you perfectly holy
and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body,
be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful,
and he will also accomplish it.

Alleluia  IS 61:1 (CITED IN LK 4:18)

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 1:6-8, 19-28

A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.And this is the testimony of John.
When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests
and Levites to him
to ask him, “Who are you?”
He admitted and did not deny it,
but admitted, “I am not the Christ.”
So they asked him,
“What are you then? Are you Elijah?”
And he said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
So they said to him,
“Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?
What do you have to say for yourself?”
He said:
“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘make straight the way of the Lord,'”

as Isaiah the prophet said.”
Some Pharisees were also sent.
They asked him,
“Why then do you baptize
if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?”
John answered them,
“I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”
This happened in Bethany across the Jordan,
where John was baptizing.
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Homily From The Abbott At The Monastery of Christ in the Desert

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

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The Prophet Isaiah gives us the theme for reflection today: “In my God is the joy of my soul.” When that is true in our lives, we are walking the road and we know the truth of these words from the same Prophet: “He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God.”

This great Prophet Isaiah believed with his whole being that God would send salvation and redemption for His people. Each one of us can have that same trust and confidence in God: God loves us and will bring us salvation. God invites us to live according to His laws and His wisdom—let us walk the way of the Lord!

This is the 3rd Sunday of Advent and called “Gaudete” Sunday in Latin. It is a Sunday of rejoicing. The entrance song for some centuries was always from the Letter to the Philippians: Rejoice in the Lord always!  Again, I say, rejoice!

The second reading this Sunday picks up the theme of rejoicing: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.” We need to hear both of these realities: rejoice and pray! We can only rejoice always if we are praying without ceasing. God is not asking the impossible of us. We are able to walk through a normal day while keeping Him always in our heart. It is not easy and we shall fail but when we see that God is not in our heart, we can invite Him once more to make us aware of His presence. In that way, we can rejoice and pray all the day long.

The Gospel from Saint John today brings us back to Saint John the Baptist. John the Baptist was a central focus of the Gospel last Sunday and once again is here for us to consider. We should note that John the Baptist is not at all concerned about being considered great or important. His one concern is to point to Jesus Christ: the One who is to come, whose sandal strap he is unworthy to untie.

Saint John the Baptist is a saint of joy because he points always to Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. We also can become people of joy when our lives point to Jesus our Lord. We don’t have to be perfect but we do have to keep pointing to the Lord. Just as in the life of John the Baptist, the more we decrease, the more the Lord may increase. It is a challenge for us to live in such a way that we are always witness to the presence of God and God’s love.

The Offertory in the Latin Mass is clear: “Lord, you have blessed your land. You have forgiven the iniquity of your people.” It is because God loves us and forgives us that we can rejoice and be glad. It is because Jesus invites us to live His life that our lives can be witnesses to Him. Let us rejoice and be glad this Sunday as we delight in God’s love.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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17 DECEMBER, 2017, Sunday, 3rd Week of Advent
ANTICIPATING THE JOY OF CHRISTMAS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ISA 61:1-2.10-11; 1 THESS 5:16-24JN 1:6-8.19-28  ]

We are mid-way into our preparation for Christmas. This Sunday, which is the third Sunday of Advent, is celebrated as Gaudete Sunday, which means a Sunday of rejoicing.  To mark the change in sentiment, the liturgical color for this Sunday is pink, a symbol of joy.  Indeed, all the three readings for this Sunday echo the theme of  joy.  In the first reading, the prophet says, “I exult for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God, for he has clothed me in the garments of salvation, he has wrapped me in the cloak of integrity, like a bridegroom wearing his wreath, like a bride adorned in her jewels.”  In the responsorial psalm taken from the magnificat, Mary sang for joy. “My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour. He looks on his servant in her nothingness; henceforth all ages will call me blessed.”  In the second reading, St Paul urges the Christians, “Be happy at all times.”  Of course, the fullness of joy comes at Christmas when we celebrate the birth of Christ and most of all, the birth of Christ in our hearts.

However, this does not mean that from now until Christmas we live a life of sadness and emptiness.  The Church invites us to anticipate the joy of Christmas here and now.  Indeed, the truth of every great celebration is not just the day of the celebration itself, which of course is the climax.  Rather, the joy of the celebration is dependent on two factors; the preparation before it and the day itself.  Both are very much inter-related.  The depth of the joy of the day of the celebration is very much dependent on how much we have prepared ourselves for it.  On the other hand, in the very act of the preparation, we are already entering into the joy of the celebration.

This is true in a wedding, the symbol of joy as mentioned in today’s first reading.  The climax of the celebration in a person’s life is his or her wedding.  But it takes months, if not years, to come to this day.  There are so many things to be done before the wedding day.  The relationship between the couple must be intensified.  Rough corners and disagreements must be sorted and ironed out.  Reconciliation and forgiveness for each other’s negligence or wrongs should take place before the wedding so that the couple can start on a new chapter.  Then there is the material preparation for the wedding, the dinner, the gowns, the invitations, etc.  Most of all, the couple needs spiritual preparation for their wedding so that they know what they are entering into, their commitments, responsibilities and the important role that God and faith play in their relationship.   Until all these have been done, the couple would not be ready to enter into marriage.

This is the real problem facing marriages today.  Many are taking marriage lightly and that is why many marriages do not last. Today, there is a tendency to secularize the wedding and make it into a mundane and everyday affair.  The solemnity and sacredness of the wedding is emptied from the celebration.  Many think that the wedding is an entertainment.  They marry in the sky, in the sea, underneath the water, on the cliff, etc.   There is no seriousness in wanting the marriage to last.  There is a lack of emotional and spiritual preparation of the couple for the wedding.  Many get married when they are emotionally not ready, because they are still suffering the loss of a previous relationship and in their vacuum, they readily jump into another relationship.   When marriages are not well prepared, we do not expect any solemn celebration.  It is just another social gathering.

But if there is preparation, the marriage will become sacred and meaningful.  The love that is celebrated on the wedding day will be intense.  Most of all, the preparations for the wedding itself will bring great joy for the couple as they get ready for that big day together, sharing the joys, the difficulties and the partnership.

What is true for the celebration of marriage is true for all other celebrations, especially the feast of Christmas.  The question is whether we are seriously preparing for the feast of Christmas.  This is what the Church is asking of us through John the Baptist.  The gospel tells us, “A man came, sent by God. His name was John.  He came as a witness, as a witness to speak for the light, so that everyone might believe through him. He was not the light, only a witness to speak for the light.”   It is the task of John the Baptist to do what the prophet Isaiah said, to be “a voice that cries in the wilderness: Make a straight way for the Lord.”

The work of John the Baptist was to prepare the people to meet the bridegroom.  The Church is called the bride of God and Jesus is our bridegroom.  St John calls himself the friend of the bridegroom.  He said later, “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full. He must increase, but I must decrease.”  (Jn 3:28-30)

How can we be prepared to meet the bridegroom?  What kind of wedding preparations must we make to welcome the bridegroom on Christmas day?  Firstly, we need to “make a straight way for the Lord.”  This was what St Paul wrote to the Christians, “Hold on to what is good and avoid every form of evil. May the God of peace make you perfect and holy; and may you all be kept safe and blameless, spirit, soul and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. God has called you and he will not fail you.”  If we want to enter into the joy of Christmas, and to welcome the birth of Jesus in our hearts, we must free our hearts from all sins, evil and selfishness.  When we live a life of integrity, there will be peace and joy in our hearts.  This is what the prophet says, “I exult for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God, for he has clothed me in the garments of salvation, he has wrapped me in the cloak of integrity, like a bridegroom wearing his wreath, like a bride adorned in her jewels.”   Without living a life of integrity and honesty, our conscience will haunt us and take away whatever joy and peace the Lord wants to give to us at Christmas.  If we have begun to walk a straight path, we are already entering into the joy of the Lord.

Secondly, we need to pray.  St Paul said, “Be happy at all times; pray constantly.”  There can be no peace in our hearts unless we make space for Him in our hearts and in our minds.  The problem is that our hearts and minds are cluttered with worries, anxieties, unforgiveness, anger, resentment, envy and greed.   We need to make time for prayer.  Give yourself a break, a real holiday by spending a day or even a few days in solitude and prayer, whether in a retreat house or in the garden, or take a walk or sit before the Blessed Sacrament.  We need to have some quiet time each day, especially when we come to the end of the year.  We need to take stock of how we have lived our life this entire year.  We need to rethink and reprioritize the way we live our lives.  Unless we live purposeful and meaningful lives, we cannot find happiness and peace.  Prayer gives us peace, direction, focus and most of all, surrender to the plan of God.

Thirdly, we must give thanks.  St Paul says, “And for all things give thanks to God, because this is what God expects you to do in Christ Jesus.”   Unless, we know how to thank God for the gifts which we have received, we will not be grateful to Him.  Happiness in life is about thanksgiving.  Those of us who are ingrates are always looking at what we do not have instead of what we already have.  When we give thanks, we become grateful for what we have received and we are open to God who wants to give us more.  When we are grateful, we also become generous ourselves. We begin to share with others what we have received.  By sharing with others our joys, our resources, our wealth and our things, we in turn receive the joy of making a difference in the lives of others.  We become happier when we act like God in being life-givers, bringers of joy and peace into the lives of others.  That is why we invite people to give gifts to each other at Christmas, especially to the poor, so that we can partake in His joy of giving and loving.

Finally, we must ask for a renewal of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  St John the Baptist said, “I baptise with water; but there stands among you – unknown to you – the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo his sandal-strap.”  St Luke elaborated, “I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”  (Lk 3:16)   To ask for the Holy Spirit is to ask for a rebirth.  The baptism of John the Baptist brings about the forgiveness of sins.  Christian baptism brings about the bestowal of the Holy Spirit.  This is what it means to speak about Christ being born again in our hearts.

This is what will enable us to be like John the Baptist, to be a witness to Christ.  Like the Messiah prophesied in the first reading, we can also say, “The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken; to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to those in prison; to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.”  We must allow the Spirit and His gifts to be used for the service of God and our people.   As we bring Christ to others, we reinforce the Christ in us.  It is the Holy Spirit living in us that will ensure we bear fruits in our mission.  “For as the earth makes fresh things grow, as a garden makes seeds spring up, so will the Lord make both integrity and praise spring up in the sight of the nations.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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The Good Samaritan by Walter Rane.
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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13 DECEMBER 2015, 3rd Sunday of Advent
THE NEARNESS OF THE LORD AS THE CAUSE OF OUR JOY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: ZEPH 3:14-18; PHIL 4:4-7; LK 3:10-18

We have just passed the halfway mark of Advent.  This third Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as “Rejoice Sunday”. What is the reason for the Church’s joy this Sunday?  Simply this: because the Lord is very near.   Yes, we have every reason to be happy today because God has forgiven us unconditionally.  There is no need to think of our past.  We must let go of our crippling past, which is our greatest enemy, so that the new life of joy and happiness can be ours.  We need not let fear and guilt control our lives.  We must not allow our narrow outlook of life and resentment to blind us to the goodness that God has given to us.

For this reason, the mood of today’s liturgy is one of joy and festival.  We might think that we are hopeless, great sinners and condemned to a life of misery and unhappiness.  But to us all, the scriptures want to tell us that happiness is within our reach.  Happiness is so near to us.  God is coming into our hearts.  But we must open our hearts to receive Him.

How?  By removing the obstacles that prevent Him from coming into our lives and being present to us; for it is His absence that results in emptiness and sadness since there is no love in us.  What then are these obstacles?

Firstly, we must remove the obstacle of selfishness and a closed heart.  This is what John demanded of the people.  He said, “If anyone has two tunics he must share with the one who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.”  In saying this, John is not simply asking us to share our abundance.  He is not saying, “You have three shirts, please give away one.”  No, he is saying, “Keep only one for yourself.  The rest, please give to those who do not have.”  In other words, John is saying that anything above our basic needs must be shared with others.

The truth is that unless we have a compassionate, loving and generous heart, we cannot share the heart of Christ.  The inability to share and to love will make us inward looking.  As a result, we become cut off not only from God but from others as well.  To be able to have a greater capacity to love and to share means to have a larger heart, which is to share in the heart of God.

Secondly, John says that we must live an honest life.  To the tax collectors, John said, “Exact no more than your rate.”  Why?  Because it was bad enough that they were collecting taxes for the Romans, their oppressors but to collect more than what they should so that they could keep the balance for themselves is to cheat the poor and increase the misery of the poor.  The flip side of this dishonesty and greed is that we will find no peace in our hearts.  We will live in guilt and fear.  Indeed, without a life of honesty and integrity, we cannot find peace in our hearts.  We live in fear that one day the truth might be out.

Thirdly, we are called to live a contented life.  Indeed, contentment is a necessary pre-requisite for happiness.  When we are not contented with what we have, then we become envious, jealous and greedy.  We begin to find fault with others.  We become vindictive and revengeful.  Some of us might even use unscrupulous means to get what we want.  As a result not only do we create competitors and enemies, robbing ourselves of our happiness, but also the happiness of others.  Contentment is the key to peace and happiness in our hearts.

But how can we live a compassionate, honest and contented life?  If we rely only on our own strength, we will fail.  Humanly speaking, most of us are self-centered and discontented in life.  For this reason, we need to pray.  Yes, we need to pray for the grace of God to remove those obstacles in our lives that prevent us from being happy and at peace within ourselves.  What then should we pray for?

We must pray for the virtue of humility, which is the ultimate antidote to removing these blocks to happiness in our lives.  For good reason, therefore, St Paul urges us to pray with thanksgiving.   Unless, we are grateful to God, we cannot be open to others, we cannot be contented nor be generous with others.  Gratitude is a pre-requisite for compassion and generosity.

Why is humility so essential for us to overcome our unhappiness in life?  Only humility can make us compassionate, for we recognize whom we are and how much God has blessed us.   And because of what God has done for us in our poverty, we too begin to feel with and for others; especially when God had reached out to us in the first place through others.

Secondly, only humility can make us recognize our selfishness and our pride.  Very often we do not know the reason for our resentment against others.  We do not know why we are angry with them.  We find all kinds of excuses to justify our anger and unhappiness.  But quite often, when we examine deeper the reasons for our anger, it boils down to nothing else but pride and greed.  Being humble enables us to acknowledge the root of our problems and this prevents us from finding scapegoats to exonerate ourselves.

Thirdly, only humility can grant us the joy of contentment.  To be contented with what we already have is the secret to real happiness in life.  Contentment comes when we recognize that we are not deserving of what we have.  Instead of always thinking that we have not been paid enough or that we have not been given our rights, we must be grateful for all the blessings that we already have received.  Without the gift of contentment, we will always be hankering for more.  This will only increase our envy of others and bitterness in life.  Thus, when we are contented, we live an integral life and honest life.

But most of all, humility is the key to allowing the power of God to work in our lives.  When we are humble, we become more open to God’s grace.  Thus, when St Paul asks us to pray with thanksgiving, he is asking us to pray with faith that we have already received what we have prayed for. To pray with the expectation of our prayers being answered implies that we have surrendered ourselves to the Lord and we know that He will always grant us all that we need and is good for us.  And those petitions that He will not grant us, we consider them as not in accordance with His will because it will not bring us real happiness and joy.

Thus, when we have removed all these obstacles, the chaff of the wheat, as John would put it, then we will find the Lord is so near to us, in our midst and in our hearts.  Truly, like the Israelites who had been purified during their time of exile, we who are purified of our selfishness, guilt and greed will find the love and joy of God in us. His presence becomes real because we would have acquired His Spirit of love and compassion.

With the felt presence of God’s love in our hearts, we will naturally be freed from all anxiety. The anxieties and the ensuing fear in our lives will simply disappear by themselves because we live in trust in divine providence.  We will have the confidence that somehow the Lord is watching over us and protecting us.  With that confidence, we need not allow greed to dominate our lives.  Only trust in divine providence can truly free us from dishonesty, greed and selfishness, which are the fruits of fear of destruction.  With fear destroyed, now we will be able to love, to share and have compassion for others.

But above everything else, when we are filled with the Spirit of God, we will experience the peace of God in our hearts.  Yes, it is this peace within ourselves that will truly make us happy.  With peace in our hearts, we will look at others and this whole world with peace too.  Peace in our hearts empowers us to look at life, our sufferings and even our enemies differently.  We will no longer see them with hatred but with understanding, compassion and detachment.  That is why St Paul says that only the peace of God can guard our hearts and thoughts because we will be able to look at life with a horizon beyond ourselves.

Truly, with the presence of God within us, then we know that God is so near.  The more He is present to us, the nearer Christmas is for us.  This is because at Christmas we celebrate the Emmanuel, God with us, but not only with us but also in us.  So if we have not yet been purified of those chaffs in our lives, let us continue to pray with thanksgiving as Paul urges us so that by the time Christmas arrives, He would have been borne in our hearts once again; a birth that entails the giving of His Spirit peace, love and joy.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, December 5, 2017 — Isaiah Tells What To Look for When The Messiah Arrives — “The Messiah will have God’s Spirit in unlimited measure.”

December 4, 2017

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent
Lectionary: 176

Reading 1  IS 11:1-10

On that day,
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A Spirit of counsel and of strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
But he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.On that day,
The root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
The Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17

R. (see 7) Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
He shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
May his name be blessed forever;
as long as the sun his name shall remain.
In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed;
all the nations shall proclaim his happiness.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold, our Lord shall come with power;
he will enlighten the eyes of his servants.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 10:21-24

Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said,
“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows who the Son is except the Father,
and who the Father is except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

Turning to the disciples in private he said,
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.
For I say to you,
many prophets and kings desired to see what you see,
but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

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Homily Ideas for Isaiah 11: 1-10
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He understands what you’re going through

Isaiah’s opening sentence tells us His earthly roots. Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. A stump is all that is left of a tree that has been cut down. Israel is just a clear-cut field of burned out stumps on the landscape of world history, Isaiah writes. But God will be faithful to His promises in regard to His people.

A small, green shoot will spring forth from one of the dead stumps, from the family tree of Jesse. Recall that Jesse was the father of Israel’s greatest king, David. Though this royal lineage holds incredible importance to the people of Judah, Isaiah does not mention David’s name here. Instead, he refers to humble Jesse, which emphasizes three things.

God loves to magnify His grace in mysterious ways

The Apostle Paul noted that God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world – what is viewed as nothing – to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, so that no one can boast in His presence. (1 Cor.1:27-29) We tend to value beauty and strength, influence and wealth. But God brings His Deliverer to this world in the most unpretentious, unpredictable ways.

The Messiah will not be born into privilege

Jesse was never a king. Being born in the line of Jesse means the Messiah will not be born into the royal family as a crowned prince and grow up in the ruling class. He will not start out as royalty; He will inherit His kingdom.

 

The Messiah will have God’s Spirit in unlimited measure

He knows what you need and how best to meet your needs.

Verse 2: The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him – a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. We have never known a president like this. The people in Isaiah’s day hadn’t either. This tender shoot from Jesse’s family tree will have the breath of God upon Him. He will not attempt to accomplish His goals by human means, but will be controlled by the Spirit of God.

Therefore, He will exercise His judicial duties with wisdom and understanding. Unlike every world leader in human history, this Messiah will not require a cabinet of advisors or any of the other political machinery seated leaders need to accomplish their plans, for upon Him rests the Spirit of counsel and strength. He knows what needs to be done and has the power to accomplish His plans.

Isaiah adds that everything this Messiah will do will flow from a unique connection with God, for He has the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. In fact, the opening phrase of v. 3 tells us that His delight will be in the fear of the Lord. It will be the defining drive of His life and work.

This combination of attributes springs from a man in whom the Holy Spirit finds no impedance of sin, and is therefore able to empower Him to do all of the will of God. This level of spiritual innocence and unhindered dependence upon the Spirit of God can only be explained by what we call the Incarnation, when God was born a man in the person of Jesus Christ.

His reign will bring people face-to-face with the King

Verses 3-5: He will not judge by what He sees with His eyes, He will not execute justice by what He hears with His ears, but He will judge the poor righteously and execute justice for the oppressed of the land. He will strike the land with discipline from His mouth, and He will kill the wicked with a command from His lips. Righteousness will be a belt around His loins; faithfulness will be a belt around His waist.

The hallmark of the reign of God’s Messiah is captured in three primary words in this passage: righteousness, equity, and faithfulness. Each of those words is about conforming to a standard, about aligning to a criterion. And it’s plain from this passage that the benchmark by which God’s final King will rule is not derived from the people over whom He will reign. He is not elected to this office by a vote; there will be no vote. He reigns by the authority of God and rules by the standards of the will of God.

And notice that He means to exercise His rule down to the lowest level. The tone of these verses tells us that He is not legislating for the masses, but in each of our lives. He will render His rule on an individual basis!

So He will judge you according to reality rather than perception. He will not be swayed by emotion or fooled by ignorance of the truth. He will see you for who you really are. No one will be overlooked. He will deal with you with precise justice, evaluating your life in accordance with the holiness of God. And when He pronounces His judgment, it is final. All who are made righteous by faith in Christ will be exalted. And all others, called the wicked, He will wipe from the face of the earth.

Read the rest:

http://www.lifeway.com/Article/sermon-christmas-triumph-savior-isaiah-11

THE PROPHECY THE FULFILLMENT
The Messiah: Jesus of Nazareth:
Will be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) Was born of a virgin named Mary (Luke 1:26-31)
Will have a Galilean ministry (Isaiah 9:1,2) Ministry began in Galilee of the Gentiles (Matthew 4:13-16)
Will be an heir to the throne of David (Isaiah 9:7; 11:1, 10) Was given the throne of His father David (Luke 1:32, 33)
Will have His way prepared (Isaiah 40:3-5) Was announced by John the Baptist (John 1:19-28)
Will be spat on and struck (Isaiah 50:6) Was spat on and beaten (Matthew 26:67)
Will be exalted (Isaiah 52:13) Was highly exalted by God and the People (Philippians 2:9, 10)
Will be disfigured by suffering (Isaiah 52:14; 53:2) Was scourged by Roman soldiers who gave Him a crown of thorns (Mark 15L15-19)
Will make a blood atonement (Isaiah 53:5 Shed His blood to atone for our sins (1Peter 1:2)
Will be widely rejected (Isaiah 53:1,3) Was not accepted by many (John 12:37, 38)
Will bear our sins and sorrows (Isaiah 53:4, 5) Died because of our sins (Romans 4L25; 1Peter 2:24, 25)
Will be our substitute (Isaiah 53:6,8) Died in our place (Romans 5:6, 8; 2 Corinthians 5:21)
Will voluntarily accept our guilt and punishment for sin (Isaiah 53:7,8) Jesus took on our sins (John 1:29; Romans 6:10; 2 Corinthians 5:21)
Gentiles will seek Him (Isaiah 11:10) Gentiles came to speak to Jesus (John 12:20,21)
Will be silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7) Was silent before Herod and his court (Luke 23:9)
Will save us who believe in Him (Isaiah 53:12) Provided salvation for all who believe (John 3:16; Acts 16:31)
Will die with transgressors (Isaiah 53:12) Was numbered with the transgressors (Mark 15:27, 28; Luke 22:37)
Will heal the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1,2) Healed the brokenhearted (Luke 4:18, 19)
God’s Spirit will rest on Him (Isaiah 11:2) The Spirit of God descended on Jesus (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; 4:1)
Will be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9 Was buried in the tomb of Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea (Matthew 27:57-60; John 19:38-42)
He will judge the earth with righteousness (Isaiah 11:4,5) Jesus was given authority to judge (John 5:27; Luke 19:22; 2 Timothy 4:1,8)

http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/charts/Isaiah’s%20Messianic%20Prophecies.htm

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Lectio Divina Reflection on Luke 10: 21-24

Today’s text reveals the depth of the Heart of Jesus, the reason for his joy. The disciples had gone on the mission, and when they return, they share with Jesus the joy of their missionary experience (Lk 10, 17, 21)

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• The reason for the joy of Jesus is the joy of the friends. In listening to their experience and in perceiving their joy, Jesus also feels a profound joy. The reason for Jesus’ joy is the well-being of others.

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• It is not a superficial joy. It comes from the Holy Spirit. The reason for the joy is that the disciples – men and women – have experienced something of Jesus during their missionary experience.

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• Jesus calls them “ little children”. Who are the “little children”? They are the seventy-two disciples (Lk 10, 1) who return from the mission: father and mother of a family, boys and girls, married and single, old and young. They are not doctors. They are simple persons, without much science, much study, but they understand the things of God better than doctors.

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• “Yes, Father, for that is what it has pleased you to do!”  A very serious phrase. It pleases the Father that the doctors and the wise do not understand the things of the Kingdom and that, instead the little ones understand them. Therefore, if the great want to understand the things of the Kingdom, they should become the disciples of the little ones!

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• Jesus looks at them and says: “Blessed are you!” And why are they happy? Because they are seeing things which the prophets would have liked to see, but did not see. And what will they see? They will be able to perceive the action of the Kingdom in the common things of life: to cure the sick, to console the afflicted, to expel the evil from life.

“I give you praise, Father,  for although you have hidden these things from the wise  you have revealed them to the childlike.” (cf. Lc 10,21)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-luke-10-21-24

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

05 DECEMBER, 2017, Tuesday, 1st Week of Advent

BUILDING A NEW WORLD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ISAIAH 11:1-10LUKE 10:21-24  ]

What is the world like today?  This world that we live in is in such a confused state.  It is ruled by extreme ideologists, religious fundamentalists and terrorists!  Indeed, how can there be peace and unity in this world when we are all so divided in everything, from morality to religion and politics.  We cannot agree even on the fundamentals of life, such as our sexual identity, marriage and the family.  How, then, can we ever come to agreement on other critical moral issues like abortion, euthanasia, cloning?  If such basic issues that concern love, life and death are contentious, what can we say about political ideology and religious beliefs.  For this reason, we are living in a very tense world.  This is the most unsafe world we are in at any time of human history.  We fear terrorist attacks, which can come any time at any place.  We fear World War III might break out, if not, a nuclear war causing mass destruction of life if relations between nuclear-armed countries are not properly managed.  Above all, there is a divide between globalization and protectionism, whether in politics or in economics, not to mention in religions.   Because of this too, we are afraid that the economy could be derailed anytime when war breaks out.

So is there hope for tomorrow?  This is what the scripture readings seek to address.  Advent is a season of hope.  It tells us of a new world that is to come.  This was what the prophet Isaiah spoke about to his people before the exile.  He spoke about a new world and a new creation where there will be justice, peace and harmony.  In this kingdom, he envisaged the almost impossible dream where “the wolf lives with the lamb, the panther lies down with the kid, calf and lion cub feed together with a little boy to lead them. The cow and the bear make friends, their young lie down together. The lion eats straw like the ox. The infant plays over the cobra’s hole; into the viper’s lair the young child puts his hand. They do no hurt, nor harm, on all my holy mountain.”

What a beautiful vision of tomorrow!  Dare we hope for this world?  Do we believe that this world has a future?  Or are we like those in the world who have given up hope for happiness in this world, or of building a world of peace and harmony, progress and prosperity?  The truth is that both fundamentalists and liberals have given up hope on this world.  The fundamentalists think that this world has no more hope because there is so much evil and injustice.  Hence, they would do anything, even offer themselves as martyrs through terrorist acts so that they can gain the rewards of the eternal kingdom of joy, love and abundance promised them.  The liberals also go the same way.  Because they think that there is no hope for tomorrow, they become individualistic and materialistic.  They care only for themselves and their comfort now.  So it is important that they enjoy all that they can and grab whatever they can from others.

But such attitudes precisely will destroy the peace and progress for the nations!  What we need to establish peace in this world is to acquire the spirit of the promised Messiah.  This is what the prophet Isaiah said. “A shoot springs form the stock of Jesse, a scion thrusts form his roots: on him the spirit of the Lord rests, a spirit if wisdom and insight, a spirit of counsel and power, a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. (The fear of the Lord is his breath.) He does not judge by appearances, he gives no verdict on hearsay, but judges the wretched with integrity, and with equity gives a verdict for the poor of the land. His word is a rod that strikes the ruthless, his sentences bring death to the wicked. Integrity is the loincloth round his waist, faithfulness the belt around his hips.”

Truly what the world needs are leaders who possess such qualities in governing the country or in leading and forming the young.  We need wisdom to understand what the essentials of lifeare, rather than just pursuing the transient and the passing values of this world.  We need understanding of the truth of what we are doing, the policies that we formulate for our organization, Church and the people.  We need counsel to discern prudently how we should act.  We need fortitude to push through our convictions and to persevere in our goals.  We need the spirit of piety and devotion to God and to our fellowmen if we are to offer ourselves as a sacrifice for the greater good of humanity.  Finally we need people who have reverence for God and not think too highly of themselves, but that there is a supreme being that is in charge of this world.  

When a leader possesses all these qualities, only then can he live a life of integrity.  At the end of the day, integrity will determine the fruits that a leader brings. “Integrity is the loincloth round his waist, faithfulness the belt around his hips.”  Without integrity, a leader cannot command the trust of his subjects.  Without integrity, there can be no justice, impartiality and honesty.  That is why, among all the qualities a leader should have is integrity and honesty, transparency and accountability in all that he does before God and the people he leads or governs.  This is what the psalmist prays.  O God, give your judgement to the king, to a king’s son your justice, that he may judge your people in justice and your poor in right judgement. In his days justice shall flourish and peace till the moon fails. He shall rule from sea to sea, from the Great River to earth’s bounds. For he shall save the poor when they cry and the needy who are helpless. He will have pity on the weak and save the lives of the poor.”

Is there such a leader in this world?  The Good News is that Christ is the promised Messiah who possesses these gifts of the Spirit.  Christ is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah.  Historically, Isaiah was giving assurance to the Kingdom of Judah, which was under threat from the great empire, Assyria.  It would not destroy Judah but like a tree, Assyria would be cut down at the height of its power.  (cf isa 10:33f)  Judah would be like a tree chopped down to a stump.  But from that stump, the Davidic Dynasty would arise anew with the coming of the Messiah.  He will be greater than the previous kings.  He would bear much fruit and he would rule forever.   Of course, Christ the King of Kings will rule the world with justice, righteousness, compassion and wisdom.

This hope of a new world in Christ is confirmed in today’s gospel.   We read earlier how the 70 disciples rejoiced upon their return from their mission.  They said, “’Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’ And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you.  Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’” (Lk 10:17-20)  And Jesus praised God for using Him to restore the world back to order through the healing miracles and overcoming the work of the Evil One when He remarked, “Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.”   Through His works and words, Jesus revealed to us the love and mercy of His Father for us.  He said, “Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

We, too, as His disciples are sent forth to proclaim the rule of God in this world, based on justice, equality, compassion and mercy.  We must build a new world that the Lord has come to establish based onrighteousness and justice and to give fair treatment to all.  Our judgement cannot be based on appearance, hearsay and false evidence.  We need to refrain from copying the corrupt practices of Judah that oppressed the poor, the weak.

Instead of lamenting how society and the world is heading, we must not give in and succumb to despair.  On our part, we must play an active role in building a vibrant, evangelistic and missionary Church.  By virtue of our baptism, we are called to exercise the messianic gifts given to us.  All of us in our capacity are called to contribute our resources, money, talents and time for the greater good of our Church and the nation.  The only way to save ourselves is to save the world.  We cannot isolate ourselves from the rest of the world because we are all living in this world.  Let us work for the golden age where there will be peace, love, compassion and a world where poverty no longer exists.  Let us realize the dream of God for humanity when all will become a great family of God where there is love and unity.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, November 8, 2017 — “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

November 7, 2017

Wednesday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 487

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“Everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”

Reading 1 ROM 13:8-10

Brothers and sisters:
Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another;
for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
The commandments, You shall not commit adultery;
you shall not kill;
you shall not steal;
you shall not covet,

and whatever other commandment there may be,
are summed up in this saying, namely,
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Love does no evil to the neighbor;
hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.

Responsorial PsalmPS 112:1B-2, 4-5, 9

R. ( 5a) Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.
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 is gracious and lends to those in need.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He dawns through the darkness, a light for the upright;
he is gracious and merciful and just.
Well for the man who is gracious and lends,
who conducts his affairs with justice.
R. Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.
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 is gracious and lends to those in need.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia  1 PT 4:14

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you,
for the Spirit of God rests upon you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’

Gospel LK 14:25-33

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus,
and he turned and addressed them,
“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters,
and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me
cannot be my disciple.
Which of you wishing to construct a tower
does not first sit down and calculate the cost
to see if there is enough for its completion?
Otherwise, after laying the foundation
and finding himself unable to finish the work
the onlookers should laugh at him and say,
‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’
Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down
and decide whether with ten thousand troops
he can successfully oppose another king
advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops?
But if not, while he is still far away,
he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms.
In the same way,
everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions
cannot be my disciple.”

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Commentary on Luke 14:25-33 from Living Space

Luke’s gospel is noteworthy for its extremes. On the one hand, it shows the radical and uncompromising demands that Jesus makes on those who would be his followers and, at the same time, emphasises as none of the other gospels do the gentleness and compassion of Jesus for the sinful and the weak. Both pictures have always to be kept simultaneously in view and they are in no way contradictory. Today and tomorrow we will see both of these images of Jesus back to back.

In today’s passage we see Jesus, as was often the case, surrounded by a huge crowd of people. They are full of enthusiasm and expectation but Jesus very quickly pulls them up short. If anyone comes after him, Jesus says, and is not prepared to hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters and indeed his very own self, he cannot be accepted as a disciple. This is a very shocking demand, especially for a society where people’s whole lives were centred on their families. Luke is alone in asking that even the wife, too, be abandoned but this is just an example of the totality of our commitment to following Jesus.

However, we have to make two qualifications. The word “hate” is a Semitic expression not to be taken literally. It could not be so taken as the whole of Jesus’ teaching is based on love not only of blood relatives but of strangers and even enemies. It is rather a dramatic way of saying that anyone who puts any person, even those closest to them, before total commitment to Christ and his mission is not ready to be a disciple. There can be no compromise here; it is all or nothing.

We also have to say that Jesus is not recommending a literal abandonment of one’s family. That could be highly irresponsible and a violation of that commandment of universal love. But it is clear that, for those who want to be part of Jesus’ work, they have to give themselves completely and unconditionally. And, where there is a choice between the clear call of the Gospel and personal attachments, they have to let go of the latter.

It is important for the crowd to hear this. Following Christ is not just like football fans stalking their favourite player or ‘groupies’ following a pop star from city to city. There is a price to be paid and they need to know that there is one and what it is. That price is the cross, a level of sacrifice and suffering – perhaps even of one’s life – that each one must be prepared to undergo for the sake of the Gospel and the building of the Kingdom.

So, to illustrate this Jesus gives two examples:

– One is of a man who had a plan to build a tower. Before he started, he made sure that he had all the necessary resources. Otherwise he might find that, after laying the foundations, he could not finish the work and he would become the laughing stock of others. “Ha! Ha! He began to build what he could not finish.”

– In the second example Jesus speaks of a king with 10,000 soldiers who finds he is going to war with another king who has 20,000. If he thinks there is no way he can win, he will send an embassy to negotiate the best peace terms he can get.

Similarly, says Jesus, no one can be a disciple of his who is not ready to let go of everything he has.

The following has to be absolute and unconditional. How many of the crowd listening were ready for that? How many of us are ready for that? Am I ready? And what are the things I am clinging to? What are the things I cannot let go of? And why?

To be a disciple of Jesus means being absolutely free. It reminds one of Francis of Assisi leaving his family and taking off all his rich and fancy clothes to replace them with a beggar’s rags and being filled with a tremendous sense of joy and liberation. Do I want to be a disciple of Jesus? To what extent? Am I ready to pay the price he asks?

The paradox is that once I pay the price I will get so much in return. Ask Francis or Mother Teresa…

Comments Off on Wednesday of week 31 of Ordinary Time – Gospel

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 Reflection and Lecio Divina From The Carmelites

• The Gospel today speaks about discipleship and presents the conditions to be a disciple of Jesus. Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem where He will die soon on the Cross. This is the context in which Jesus speaks about discipleship.

• Luke 14, 25: An example of catechesis. The Gospel today is a beautiful example of how Luke transforms the words of Jesus into catechesis for the people in the communities. He says: “Great crowds accompanied him. He turned and spoke to them”. Jesus speaks to the great crowd, that is, He speaks to all, to the persons of the communities at the time of Luke, and today He speaks for us. In the teaching which follows, Jesus gives the conditions for those who want to be His disciples.

• Luke 14, 25-26: First condition: to hate father and mother. Some reduce the force of the word to hate and translate it as “to prefer Jesus to one’s own parents”. The original text uses the expression “to hate one’s parents”. In another place, Jesus  says one must love and respect one’s parents (Lk 18, 20). How can this contradiction be explained? Is it a contradiction? The force of the word is typically Semitic. Matthew uses the terms “loves father or mother more”, which shows the meaning of hate is rather to love less.

At the time of Jesus,  social and economic conditionss led  families to become self contained. This prevented them from fulfilling the law of ransom or liberation (goel) which calls one  to help one’s brothers and sisters  in community (clan) who were in danger of losing their land or  becoming slaves (cf. Dt 15, 1-18; Lv 25, 23-43). Closed in upon themselves, the families weakened life in the community. Jesus wants to reconstruct life in community.

This is why He asks to put an end to the restricted vision of the small family.   He asks the family to open itself and  be united by the larger family of community. This is the sense of hating father and mother, and wife, sons, sisters and brothers.  Himself When His  family wants to take Him back to Nazareth, Jesus does not symapthize with their request. He ignores or hates their petition and extends His family saying: “Behold, my mother and my brothers! Anyone who does the will of God, is my brother, sister and mother” (Mk 3: 20-21,31-35). The family bonds of union cannot prevent the formation of the Community. This is the first condition.

• Luke 14, 27: Second condition: to carry the cross. “No one who does not carry his cross and come after me can be my disciple”. In order to understand the importance of this second requirement we have to look at the context in which Luke places this word of Jesus. Jesus is going toward Jerusalem to be crucified and to die. To follow Jesus and to carry the cross means to go with Him up to Jerusalem to be crucified with him. This recalls the attitude of the women who “followed and served Him when He was still in Galilee, and many others who went up to Jerusalem with him” (Mk 15, 41). This also reminds us of Paul’s phrase in the Letter to the Galatians: “But as for me, it is out of the question that I should boast at all, except of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Ga 6,14)

• Luke 14, 28-32: Two parables.

Both of these parables have the same objective: that people may think well before making a decision. In the first parable, He says “which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, anyone who saw it would start making fun of him and saying: Here is someone who started to build and was unable to finish!”

This parable needs no explanation. It speaks for itself. Let each one reflect well on his/her way of following Jesus and ask him/herself if he/she values the conditions before making the decision to become a disciple of Jesus.

The second parable: Or again, “which king marching to war against another king would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the other who was advancing against him with twenty thousand? If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace”. This parable has the same purpose of the one before. Some ask: “How is it that Jesus uses an example of war?”

The question is a pertinent one for us who today know the wars. The Second World War (1939-1945) caused the death to about 54 million people! At that time, though, the wars were similar to commercial competition between enterprises which today struggle among themselves to obtain the greatest profit or gain at the expense of the other.

• Luke 14, 33: Conclusion for discipleship. The conclusion is only one: to be Christian, to follow Jesus, is something serious. For many people today, to be Christian is not a personal choice, and neither is it a decision for life, but a simple cultural phenomenon. They do not even think of making a choice. Anyone who is born a Brazilian is a Brazilian. He who is born Japanese is Japanese. He does not have to choose. He is born like that and will die like that. Many people are Christians because they were born so l, without ever  choosing their faith.

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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8 NOVEMBER, 2017, Wednesday, 31st Week, Ordinary Time
THE DEBT OF MUTUAL LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Rom 13:8-10Ps 112:1-2,4-5,9Lk 14:25-33 ]

“Avoid getting into debt, except the debt of mutual love.”  We are all debtors in some ways.  Some are in financial debt because of lavish spending and irresponsible management of money.  Some incur debts because of the lack of planning, as in the man who sought to build a tower but could not complete it.    Still others incur debts because they fail to strategize properly, as the king who had to deal with a larger army fighting against him.  Such debts can be overcome if we are wiser and more disciplined, more humble in the way we live our life; and less ambitious and gung-ho in the way we take on projects.

But there is one debt which we can never pay back.  It is the debt of mutual love.  This is what St Paul is saying.   Why is this debt never repayable?  Firstly, this is because who we are today is the result of the intervention of many people in our lives.  If we are successful today, we owe this success primarily to our parents, teachers, friends and colleagues who have helped us to do well in our studies and climb the ladder.  We are also indebted to society, the government, the Church and all those who have helped to grow the country and the people.  That explains why we must pay back as much as we can when we do well in life.  We should not keep our wealth and our success just for ourselves.

If we do not return our dues to society, then others would be deprived of growth because likewise, those who are young or those who are learning to grow, will need our support, financial and moral support.   By not helping others to better themselves, society would suffer from the lack of good leaders and skills to help the country to grow further.  That is why, one of the saddest realities of society is brain-drain.  This happens when those who have been trained and given the best education and skills migrate to other places for better economic opportunities, money and status, instead of remaining back to help the country to grow.  Migration is not wrong, but it must be because we want to contribute to the growth and needs of the people rather than just for our own selfish interests.   Paying back the debt of mutual love is to return to society what we have taken from them.

Secondly, we owe this debt to our fellowmen because we cannot love ourselves without loving our brothers and sisters.    St Paul says, “If you love your fellow men you have carried out your obligations.  All the commandments: You shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not covet, and so on, are summed up in this single command: You must love your neighbour as yourself.”   We are all interconnected and inter-dependent.  The happiness and sadness of our brothers and sisters will affect us as well.   So if we love ourselves, we must also love others.  No man is an island.  No man can exist on his own.   We all need each other.  Happiness is always a shared happiness.  A narcissistic person is always a miserable, insecure, lonely and frustrated person.

This debt of mutual love is expressed in living a just life in relationship with our neighbors.   The commandments given by Moses and quoted by St Paul tell us what are the things we should not do.  It is based on the principle of the golden rule, “Do not do to others what you do not like them to do unto you!”  This is the same justice that we expect others to conduct in their relationship with us.   Just as we do not wish our neighbours to do us injustice, we must not do the same to them.   If everyone observes this principle of loving others as much as we love ourselves, there will be peace and harmony in this world.  The cause of suffering is often because there are some who are irresponsible in their work, in their responsibilities, or doing things that are harmful to others because of selfishness and indifference.  How often have we practised double standards by causing others to suffer because of our selfishness and self-centeredness, but we cannot tolerate injustice and suffering done to us?

However, this debt of mutual love is more than just not harming our brothers and sisters.  It is not just about not doing evil but doing good.  Only when we do good, can we be happy in life because that is the only way we share in the love of God and His joy.  We must therefore be proactive in love.   St Paul wrote, If you love your fellow men you have carried out your obligations. Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments.”   Like the psalmist, we must seek to help the poor and the needy.  The psalmist describes who the happy man is.  He is one “who fears the Lord, who takes delight in all his commands.  He is a light in the darkness for the upright: he is generous, merciful and just. The good man takes pity and lends, he conducts his affairs with honour. Open-handed, he gives to the poor; his justice stands firm forever.  His head will be raised in glory.”   Indeed, one who reaches out to the poor and is generous will partake of the joy of giving and of seeing their fellowmen’s faces lighted up because of our selfless service and generosity.

But this debt of mutual love seems to be contradicted by Jesus in the gospel when He said, “If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple.  Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”   In these words, Jesus is not only asking us to hate our loved ones but even ourselves!   Furthermore, He added, “So in the same way, none of you can be my disciples unless he gives up all his possessions.”  This call to love Jesus alone seems to be an unreasonable demand.  On the contrary, this ironically becomes the key to truly love our neighbours.

Why does loving our neighbours require us to hate our loved ones and ourselves and give ourselves totally to the Lord?  The truth is that although we claim to love our parents and our loved ones, yet the reality is that we love ourselves more than we love them.  In other words, we love them more for ourselves than for their sakes.  Parents love their children more for themselves than for the children’s sake.  Otherwise, we would not have sought to possess them, control their lives and even determine what they should do to please us.  Of course, we do love them but we love ourselves more.  It is true for our spouse as well.  We are protective of our spouse because we are afraid of losing them.  And when they are unfaithful to us, we find it extremely difficult to forgive them even if they were repentant.  This again shows that our love is possessive and we love them as much as we love ourselves.

So to truly love our neighbours require us to love Jesus more so that in giving our lives entirely to Jesus, we will be able to love them the way Jesus loves us, unconditionally and totally.  When we put Jesus as the center of our lives and in our relationship with others, we begin to see them and love them the way Jesus loves us.  We are loved for our sake and not for the sake of Jesus.   Only when we give ourselves entirely to Jesus, can we too in the same way give ourselves, freed from love of self for others.  Loving Jesus more does not mean loving our loved ones less; it means to be capable of loving them even more, but this time with a certain level of detachment, void of self-love.  Loving Jesus and others more does not mean that we love ourselves less.  It means that we are capable of a true love of self without being dependent on the love of others and their appreciation.  It is a love that comes from our being and not dictated by external forces and personal gain.

This is the same reason why Jesus said, “none of you can be my disciples unless he gives up all his possessions.”  Again if we are too attached to our possessions, we cannot give ourselves entirely to others.  In being detached from our possessions, we begin to use them well for the good of ourselves and for the good of others.  We do not hoard our possessions out of insecurity but we exercise proper stewardship knowing that all our possessions are meant for the good and service of others.  Anyone who is too attached to his possessions will be limited in his capacity to love and give.  Jesus gave Himself totally, including all His possessions for the service of all and so lived the fullness of life.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, October 30, 2017 — “We are not debtors to the flesh” — “We are led by the Spirit of God and are children of God.”

October 29, 2017

Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 479

Image result for Jesus cures a woman on the sabbath in the synagog, photos, pictures

Reading 1 ROM 8:12-17

Brothers and sisters,
we are not debtors to the flesh,
to live according to the flesh.
For if you live according to the flesh, you will die,
but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body,
you will live.For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,
but you received a spirit of adoption,
through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit
that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs,
heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,
if only we suffer with him
so that we may also be glorified with him.

Responsorial Psalm PS 68:2 AND 4, 6-7AB, 20-21

R. (21a) Our God is the God of salvation.
God arises; his enemies are scattered,
and those who hate him flee before him.
But the just rejoice and exult before God;
they are glad and rejoice.
R. Our God is the God of salvation.
The father of orphans and the defender of widows
is God in his holy dwelling.
God gives a home to the forsaken;
he leads forth prisoners to prosperity.
R. Our God is the God of salvation.
Blessed day by day be the Lord,
who bears our burdens; God, who is our salvation.
God is a saving God for us;
the LORD, my Lord, controls the passageways of death.
R. Our God is the God of salvation.

Alleluia

JN 17:17B, 17A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Your word, O Lord, is truth;
consecrate us in the truth.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Gospel LK 13:10-17

Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath.
And a woman was there who for eighteen years
had been crippled by a spirit;
she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect.
When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said,
“Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.”
He laid his hands on her,
and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.
But the leader of the synagogue,
indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath,
said to the crowd in reply,
“There are six days when work should be done.
Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day.”
The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites!
Does not each one of you on the sabbath
untie his ox or his ass from the manger
and lead it out for watering?
This daughter of Abraham,
whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now,
ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day
from this bondage?”
When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated;
and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.

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William Henry Margetson (1861-1940)

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But mostly, it’s personal.

Compassion is one man taking off his shoes and handing them to a neighbor who has none. Compassion is a woman pounding nails for Habitat for Humanity. Compassion is kids pulling money out of their piggy-banks for medical missions or literacy or to give a Happy Meal to a family on the streets. It is putting your arm around a hurting friend and stumbling through a prayer. It is cooking meals for new moms, and stopping to put on a spare for a senior citizen. It is the tenderness of heart that results in joyful self-sacrifice to meet another’s needs. It is person to person and neighbor to neighbor.

It doesn’t kick the cost down the road to our neighbors or their children.

It isn’t funded by someone else’s dime.

Jesus volunteered for the Cross. He didn’t shift the burden. He didn’t agitate the Roman government to create a compassionate society. He accepted the full weight of God’s love for our needy race. He cared. He came. He gave. He paid.

That’s compassion.

https://maxgrace.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/it-aint-compassion-if-its-someone-elses-dime/

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Commentary on Luke 13:10-17 by Living Space

Last Saturday we saw Jesus telling people that they should not be distracted from their own obligations by getting caught up in tragedies which happened to others. Rather than wonder about the eternal salvation of others, they should pay more attention to their own situation.

Today we have an example of people so busy criticising what others are doing that they are totally unaware of the emptiness in their own lives.

We are told that Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on a sabbath day. In the congregation was a woman who was suffering from what seems to be curvature of the spine for 18 years. There is a certain symbolism in the fact that she was badly stooped and was not able to stand up straight.Spiritually speaking, is that not also our problem too? So many of us are bowed down with the burdens and worries of our lives.

In fact, nearly all the healings done by Jesus can be seen as symbolic of deeper afflictions from which all of us can suffer – at the same time! Deafness (we can’t hear God speaking to us), blindness (we cannot see the truth or understand the Word of Jesus in the Gospel), dumbness (we can’t or won’t proclaim our faith), paralysis and other crippling afflictions (we are not able to do the things we ought to be doing), leprosy (we are cut off from relating with others or we cut other people off), possessed by evil spirits (in the grip of various compulsions and addictions)…

Jesus saw the woman, called her to him and told her she was free from her affliction. Her affliction was seen as caused by an evil spirit and Jesus had liberated her. He laid his hand on her and immediately she stood up straight and began thanking God.

One might expect that everyone present would also start thanking and praising God for what had happened to the poor woman. But no. The chief of the synagogue was indignant that the healing had taken place on the sabbath. Medical services were not allowed on the day of rest. “There are six working days on which to be cured; the sabbath is not one of them,” he said.

The ruler of the synagogue was not a priest. He was responsible for conducting services, inviting people to read the Scriptures and preach, and in general of maintaining order. He was a layman who also had administrative duties such as taking care of the building. Normally, only one person held this post but sometimes it could be simply an honorary position.

In a way, of course, the ruler was perfectly right. A woman who had lived with this kind of ailment for 18 years could easily have waited for just one more day to be cured. But that was not the point, as Jesus made perfectly clear.

He accused the synagogue head and his like of pure hypocrisy. There was not one of them who would hesitate to take their ox or donkey from its stall on a sabbath day in order to give it water. They put the needs of animals before that of a human being.

And what could be more appropriate than to liberate this poor woman from the slavery of her affliction on the sabbath? All the synagogue head could see was the letter of the law. He could not marvel at the healing power of Jesus and the deep compassion behind it. He could not see that he was in the presence of God’s very power.

It would be like someone at Mass criticising the brevity of the reader’s dress while being totally oblivious to the Word of God she was reading – perhaps this very text!

There is also the sinister possibility, which was the case on other similar occasions, that the woman had been put there deliberately to see whether Jesus would violate the sabbath. It was not the sabbath that some of the religious leaders were concerned about but of gathering evidence to convict Jesus of heresy.

The story is an example of taking the beam out of our own eye before dealing with the speck in someone else’s or of none being so blind as those who refuse to see.

In the end, we are told that Jesus’ critics were left covered in confusion, while the ordinary people, often with far more insight than their religious leaders, joyfully marvelled at what Jesus was doing.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2302g/

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First Thoughts of Peace and Freedom

Wherever we are in life, we are called to emulate the teachings of Christ in our daily lives, our daily work.

Our fist thoughts on reading today’s scripture is: we need to do more.

Do we carry the Spirit of God or the spirit of slavery? The Spirit of Fear?

Has anybody (lately) “Marvelled at our good works?” Maybe not. Why not?

Have we not been saved? Do we not join in the gifts of the resurrection? Do we not have the Spirit of God and the Power of God at our call?

No matter the pain we feel today, or the displeasure, the “big picture” should make us happy and grateful and joyous. But our “humanness” draws us back to our sinfulness and our misery.

Don’y let it. Cherish what we have been Given By God.

And don’t be afraid to share it. And don’t be afraid to give thanks. And don’t be afraid to ask for more!

PS: Note the phrase “prisoners to prosperity” ….

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Galley slaves, chained to their ship (From the film “Ben Hur”)

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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30 OCTOBER, 2017, Monday, 30th Week, Ordinary Time
OVERCOMING SLAVERY BY LIVING IN THE FREEDOM OF THE SPIRIT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Rom 8:12-17Ps 68:2,4,6-7,20-21Lk 13:10-17  ]

There are two things that prevent us from living life to the fullest.  The first is when we live unspiritual lives.  This is what St Paul wrote, “there is no necessity for us to obey our unspiritual selves or to live unspiritual lives.  If you do live in that way, you are doomed to die.” Indeed, when we allow ourselves to live worldly lives rooted in selfishness, self-indulgence, injustice, greed, anger and dishonesty, we will bring about our own death.  We cannot be happy living such a life because it will be a life of restlessness, anxiety, fear and guilt.   People who live such sinful lives cannot enter the Kingdom of God.  “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived!  Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers – none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.”  (1 Cor 6:9f)

But there is also another form of slavery which is in contrast to those who live unspiritual lives.  In the former, slavery is to oneself, one’s ego and desires.  This slavery is a slavery to the laws and to structure.  It is a slavery based on external structures.  Such slavish observance of the laws bring death as well.  Indeed, this was the slavery of the Jewish leaders.  Their life was founded on the legal system.  The system was more important than the persons and their lives.  They loved the laws more than those who practised them.   They spent their whole life seeking to uphold the laws at all costs, even if it meant causing people to suffer unnecessarily as the laws did not take account of the needs of the individuals.  This was what happened to the woman who was unable to stand up straight for 18 years. She was in the synagogue but the President of the Synagogue “was indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, and he addressed the people present.  ‘There are six days’ he said ‘when work is to be done.  Come and be healed on one of those days and not on the Sabbath.’”  He was only concerned with the observance of the Sabbath Law but oblivious to the suffering of the woman.

Either way, we are doomed to die or live a life that is as good as dead.  We live in fear when we sin because of the consequences of our sins.  We know that selfishness will take away our peace and hurt our conscience.   On the other hand, we could also live in fear of breaking the law.  There are some good Catholics who are over-scrupulous with regard to the laws of the Church, be they liturgical laws, Church laws or even of the commandments.  They live in fear of God’s punishment and they live in guilt.   Even when they observe the laws, they are not happy.  They find religion such a burden.  In the secrets of their hearts, they wish they could do things that those without religion do.   In truth, they hold a hidden hostility and even resentment against God.

How then can we overcome this slavery?  We are called to live in the power of the Spirit.  St Paul wrote, “If by the Spirit you put an end to the misdeeds of the body you will live.”  We can put paid to the sinful self by living in the consciousness of the Holy Spirit.  On our own strength, we cannot overcome our sinful desires.  No matter how much we try, we will fall into sin because of our sinful nature.  However, we do not need to live under our sinful nature anymore.   We can live under the Spirit of God.  Instead of allowing our human spirit to take charge of our lives, we can live by the Spirit of God.   But this is provided, we are conscious of the Spirit of God in us.  This explains why the Baptism in the Holy Spirit was rather important in the early Church because it was a conscious experience of the presence of the Spirit in their lives.  Even now, those who are renewed in the Holy Spirit rediscover a new personal relationship with God in prayer, in their daily life.  Those who have encountered the Holy Spirit, whether in the renewal of His gifts or in some religious conversion experience, no longer live the same lives.

The consequence of being renewed in the Spirit is to become conscious that we are sons and daughters of God.  St Paul wrote, “The Spirit himself and our spirit bear united witness that we are children of God.”  This consciousness that we are God’s children is not something that is intellectual but a personal experience of being loved by God.  It is the outpouring of His Spirit in our hearts.  “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”  (Rom 5:5)  This explains why both the Spirit of God and our own spirit bear witness together. It is an interior experience and conviction of the heart.

Secondly, it is this consciousness that we are sons and daughters of God in Christ that free us from fear and all forms of anxiety because we know that God is our Abba Father.  “The spirit you received is not the spirit of slaves bringing fear into your lives again; it is the spirit of sons, and it makes us cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’”  When we call God our Father, it is no longer just a thought or an idea but sharing in Christ’s sonship. We can now address God as Father the way Jesus related to His Abba Father.  This relationship is one of intimacy and trust.  Like Jesus, when we become conscious that God is our Father, we no longer worry too much about the future because we know that God will look after us and our needs.  With the psalmist, we are confident that this God of ours will save us.  “Let God arise, let his foes be scattered. Let those who hate him flee before him. But the just shall rejoice at the presence of God, they shall exult and dance for joy.  Father of the orphan, defender of the widow, such is God in his holy place. God gives the lonely a home to live in; he leads the prisoners forth into freedom. He bears our burdens, God our saviour.”

Thirdly, the consciousness of our sonship in Christ is our participation in His sufferings as well as His glory.  Being in Christ means that we are ready to suffer with Him in love and service.  It calls for self-sacrifice, living not for ourselves but for God and for others.  This invitation to suffer with Jesus is a necessary consequence of following Jesus because like Jesus we will be persecuted, misunderstood and sometimes even slandered because our values contradict the secular values of the world.   This is where we need to carry our cross and follow after Him.   But in our suffering, we are not hopeless because we are confident that we will also share in His glory.   We will be vindicated if not in this life, we can rest in peace knowing that the Father will accept us and give us the rewards of eternal life.  “This God of ours is a God who saves. The Lord our God holds the keys of death.”

Indeed, if Jesus were able to live freely and without fear it was because He was conscious of His sonship.  He was neither a slave to sin nor was He a slave to the laws as well.  He put people before the system.  He saw all laws as means to an end, which is to give life.  He did not subordinate the human person to the laws without understanding the context.  Indeed, He saw through the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders.   They cared more for their animals than their fellowmen.   Jesus challenged them, “Is there one of you who does not untie his ox or his donkey from the manger on the Sabbath and take it out for watering?  And this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan has held bound these eighteen years – was it not right to untie her bonds on the Sabbath day?”  For an animal, they would save, but not for a human being in suffering, simply because it was a Sabbath.  In Jesus’ understanding this would put the laws before the human person who is in need of help.  When it comes to setting people free from pain and fears, this should be done as soon as possible without unnecessary delay.   Any kindness that should be done must be done quickly.

Furthermore, Jesus recognized the woman as a daughter of Abraham who was under the bondage of the Evil One.  For this reason, she should be healed immediately and not allow Evil to control her life.   When we see everyone as a child of God and our brother and sister, we will also do the same.  Human beings are not digits or things without a heart.  We need to feel with their pain, anxiety and suffering.  Only people with a heart of compassion like Jesus identifies with them.  He calls them his brothers and sisters.  (cf Heb 5:1f)


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

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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26 OCTOBER 2015, Monday, 30th Week in Ordinary Time
LIBERATION FROM OUR BONDAGE THROUGH THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION AND THE AWAKENING OF THE SPIRIT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: ROM 8:12-17LK 13:10-17

We all suffer from different kinds of bondages.  Some of us suffer from the bondage of legalism, like the synagogue official who was indignant because Jesus healed on the Sabbath.  Indeed, because the laws curtail us, we restrain ourselves from doing beyond what the law commands of us.  Unfortunately, laws which are meant for the preservation of the harmony of the community can also be a curtailment of the spontaneity of goodness and love.  So legalism that stifles freedom in love and compassion is a bondage in some ways.

Others suffer from the bondage of an unspiritual life, the kind of life that St Paul condemns in the first reading.  When we obey our unspiritual selves and live unspiritual lives, Paul says we are “doomed to die”.  Living a materialistic and self-centered life cannot bring true freedom and liberation.  It makes us slaves to the passions of the world.  We find ourselves attached to excesses of food and drink, pleasure, money, and success.  We live in an egoistic way, not giving in to humility and obedience to the Word of God.  We also fail in promoting an inclusive love and friendship, a love that is open to all our fellow human beings.  Instead, we may have adopted an exclusive form of friendship with some and discriminate against others.  St Paul tells us that this only means that we have the spirit of slavery, which only brings more fear into our lives since we cannot be happy without them.

Finally, the greatest bondage of all is the bondage to sin, which is an active act of doing wrong.  This seems to be the case of the woman in the gospel.  At first glance, we might think that she was suffering from sclerosis, which is a deformation of the spinal column and that all she needed was to see a medical specialist.  However, in the diagnosis of the evangelist, the woman “for eighteen years had been possessed by a spirit that left her enfeebled … bent double and quite unable to stand upright”.  Jesus further confirms this when he argued that Satan has held her bound for these eighteen years.   Hence, her infirmity was but an external manifestation of her slavery to Satan.

We do not know exactly why Satan has a hold on her.  But certainly, although not always the case, physical sickness may be connected to sin.  Perhaps this woman was living a sinful life.  As a result, Satan controlled her life.  The inner struggle between sin and freedom must have made her weak.  What was needed was not a physical healing but a spiritual healing.  Indeed, this is true for many of us as well.  Often, our physical illness can be traced to some spiritual sicknesses in us.

We have reasons to believe that this was so for the woman since the word used to describe her healing was “untie”.  Twice the gospel mentions the need to untie her bondage.  The synonym for untying a person is to release a person from bondage, especially from sin.  The word “untie” is also the same word used in the Synoptic gospels and in St John regarding the power for the forgiveness of sins, which was given to Peter and to the apostles.  So the healing of the woman was the result of Jesus releasing her from her sins.  The moment she was released from the shackles of Satan, she could straighten up and glorify God.  Prior to that, she was neither able to stand up nor give praise to God.

What, then, does it mean for us?  How can we too regain the freedom of the children of God so that we can have the Spirit of sonship in us?  If we find ourselves unable to release ourselves from the bondage that binds us, be it our attachment to things, people, unforgiveness or sinful habits, then the answer that is proposed by the liturgy today is simply this: be filled with the Spirit of God.  But how can we live by the Spirit and be moved by the Spirit?

First and foremost, we need to experience the liberating effects through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We need to be untied from our sins that continue to have a hold on us.  It is a mistake to belittle the power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  This sacrament continues to be the main instrument of breaking the grasp of Satan over us.  It is a promise of Jesus to the apostles and His successors that through them, He will deliver us from the bondage of our sins.  Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is also the Sacrament of Healing, we will recover our sonship once again.

Following the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Spirit of Christ, which is the Spirit of sonship that has been given to us must then be reawakened.  It is necessary, as St Paul tells us in the first reading, to be moved by the Spirit so that we can cry out, “Abba, Father!”  Only through the Spirit of Christ which is the Spirit of the Father can we truly share in His glory and be united with Him in witnessing to a life of authentic sonship.  For this reason, in the charismatic and Pentecostal movements, the release of the Holy Spirit always takes place after the sacramental confession of sins.  But what the charismatic movement underscores is that no radical experience of the Holy Spirit is possible unless we are freed from our sins through repentance and confession.

Yes, if we find ourselves still in bondage to sin, bad habits, fears, attachments or anything that prevents us from attaining freedom to love and to live wholly for Christ and others, then we must return to the Sacrament of Reconciliation with a sincere request for the Spirit to come into our lives.  If we do, then the Spirit of Christ will cry out in us to God, “Father, Abba”.  In that experience, we come to know deep in our hearts that we are the children of God, and that we have the power to witness to Christ’s sufferings in order to share His glory.  From that moment too, we go beyond the recognition that we are simply the children of Abraham but are children of God and that we are all brothers and sisters of the same Father with Jesus as our Brother, belonging to the one family of God and not slaves of Satan.

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