Posts Tagged ‘compassion’

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

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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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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, October 29, 2017 — “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves…” — “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 

October 28, 2017

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 148

“To live is to strive to love.”

“For I am compassionate.”

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Good Samaritan by Walter Rane

Reading 1 EX 22:20-26

Thus says the LORD:
“You shall not molest or oppress an alien,
for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.
You shall not wrong any widow or orphan.
If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me,
I will surely hear their cry.
My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword;
then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans.”If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people,
you shall not act like an extortioner toward him
by demanding interest from him.
If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge,
you shall return it to him before sunset;
for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body. 
What else has he to sleep in?
If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51

R. (2) I love you, Lord, my strength.
I love you, O LORD, my strength,
O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.
My God, my rock of refuge,
my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!
Praised be the LORD, I exclaim,
and I am safe from my enemies.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.
The LORD lives and blessed be my rock!
Extolled be God my savior.
You who gave great victories to your king
and showed kindness to your anointed.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.

Reading 2 1 THES 1:5C-10

Brothers and sisters:
You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake.
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord,
receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit,
so that you became a model for all the believers
in Macedonia and in Achaia.
For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth
not only in Macedonia and in Achaia,
but in every place your faith in God has gone forth,
so that we have no need to say anything.
For they themselves openly declare about us
what sort of reception we had among you,
and how you turned to God from idols
to serve the living and true God
and to await his Son from heaven,
whom he raised from the dead,
Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath.

Alleluia JN 14:23

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

Gospel MT 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law tested him by asking,
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
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John 14:15
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From The Abbot

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

All that God wants of us is to love Him and to love one another. Why can we not fulfill these commands? Why do we find ourselves so incapable of such a simple commandment? When we are honest with ourselves, we admit that there is something broken in our humanity. Our Catholic Tradition calls this “original sin” and because of our sinfulness, the Father sends His Son to save us in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The first reading today is from the Book of Exodus. This particular passage speaks to us of the mercy and compassion that God has for the orphans, the widows and the poor. God tells us that we must be like Him and also have mercy and compassion in a special way for the orphans, the widows and the poor. This is a requisite of those who belong to the “covenant.”

Today many of us Christians forget that we belong to the “new covenant” with Jesus Christ. We inherit the promises of the Old Covenant and have the gifts of the New Covenant. It is our baptism into Christ that makes us members of this Covenant. It is important for us Christians to remember that in this New Covenant we have the promise and commitment of God Himself for our salvation and for our well-being.

The second reading is from the First Letter to the Thessalonians. In this passage of this Letter, Saint Paul reminds us that we must always give example of how to live our Christian faith. When we live with joy and gladness the New Covenant, others are drawn to come to know the Lord. Most of us know at least one or two people that we would consider models for living a Christian life. We ourselves need to become models of how to live. We do that we striving to live as Christ lived, striving to be faithful to our Covenant with Him and by each day renouncing all that is against the Lord.

Today’s Gospel from Saint Matthew is very short but also very clear. What is the greatest commandment? To love God and to love one another. This message of the Lord Jesus is very clear: to live is to strive to love! If we want to be faithful to the God who created us, then we must love all others. We know that in the tradition, it is easy to love those who love us. Jesus calls us to love everyone and that proof of that love is the special love that we must have for our enemies and those who try to destroy us.

We are invited today to live more profoundly the love given to us in Christ Jesus. We are invited to show that love for all people and especially for those who are our enemies in any way. The promise for us, the Covenant, is that we shall possess everlasting life and be with the Lord forever.

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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29 OCTOBER, 2017, Sunday, 30th Week, Ordinary Time
LET OUR LIVES BE AN INSTRUCTION FOR OTHERS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ EX 22:20-26PS 18:2-4,47,511 THES 1:5-10MT 22:34-40 ]

In the second reading, St Paul wrote, “You observed the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction, and you were led to become imitators of us, and of the Lord.”   How many of us can say this to our children, our spouse, our siblings, our friends and colleagues?  Can we say to them that we are a model and an exemplar for them? Indeed, the question we need to ask ourselves before God and our fellowmen is:  has our life been an inspiration for them?  Have we made a difference in their lives?  Have we lived in such a way that they look up to us and desire to imitate the way we live?   We can only elicit such a response if we have lived an inspiring, edifying, loving and liberated life.

Indeed, today, what we need are mentors.  It is not enough just to be a Christian or a worker doing our work well.  We are all called to be mentors to each other.  We all have an influence over each other for better or for worse.  St Paul wrote to the Romans, “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.  If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”  (Rom 14:7f)  People do not believe in talkers but in witnesses.   We can teach beautiful things about God and love, but if we do not live out what we preach then everything is spoken in vain.  Truly, many Catholics have left the Church not because they do not believe in Christ or His teachings but they are scandalized by how fellow Catholics, especially the leaders, behave and conduct themselves.  Many are disillusioned with the Church and have stopped coming because they find it difficult to reconcile with what the Church teaches and how we live out the gospel. In contrast, when we find witnesses of Christ, we are inspired to live likewise, just as the early Christians did when they saw how St Paul and his fellow missionaries lived out the gospel.

What kind of faith inspires people today?  A faith that focuses on the ultimate of life.  Many in the world, especially in affluent societies, are finding life so dissatisfying because they have everything they want.  They have luxury, food, pleasures.  They live and travel in comfort, go for holidays often, eat well and have great careers.  Yet, many of them find life meaningless.  This is because many are living life superficially.  They are living life like an animal that is concerned in keeping itself alive.  Such a life is a life of idolatry.  It is a worship of self.  Such kind of life will not make us feel liberated.  Life is more than just pleasure, success and fame.  This was what happened to the Christians at Thessalonians before they were converted.  St Paul praised them saying, “how you broke with idolatry when you were converted to God and became servants of the real, living God.”

We have a Spirit, a human and a divine spirit.  The divine spirit connects us with God and the human spirit connects with us with our fellow men.   For this reason, to live a life that is worthy of living is to live a life in communion with God and with our fellowmen.  Anyone can live a meaningful and inspiring life if we live for God and for our fellowmen.  Only such a life can give us lasting meaning.   This explains why when the Lord was asked, “Which is the greatest commandment of the Law?” Jesus said, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.”   Loving God as the ultimate in life and loving our neighbours is to love ourselves.   In the final analysis, it is love that provides us meaning and purpose in life.  All other achievements when pursued other than for the service of love, will not liberate us or give us life.  They will only enlarge our ego and make us self-centered and inward-looking.  We will remain unfulfilled, empty and insecure in spite of having all that we want.

To put God as the center of our lives means that He is the ultimate.  It is to believe that we are not the ultimate answer to life, unlike those humanists and secularists who think that they can dictate their own future and control life.  We are contingent beings.  Our life comes from God and to Him, we return.  This truth is revealed to us in Christ by His passion, death and resurrection.  And this was the kind of life the early Christians lived, how they “are now waiting for Jesus, his Son, whom he raised from the dead, to come from heaven to save us from the retribution which is coming.”  Our life is therefore not just a life on this earth.  We live fully in the present for the future, which is to be with God.  We become more humble and realistic about life.  We no longer cling on to the things of this world as they are passing.  We know that nothing on this earth will last except love.

Loving God with our all heart, soul and mind therefore means to submit our entire life to Him.  Love is more than an emotional response but it means to trust Him completely and live according to the way He loves us in Christ Jesus.  We are called to obey His commandments and all that He has taught us.  Jesus is for us, the Way, the Truth and the life. We are called to love God completely only because He has revealed His love for us when He delivered the Hebrews from the slavery of the Egyptians, and when He died for us in Christ for our salvation.  The call to love God is possible only because He has first loved us.  “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that 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 expiation for our sins.”  (1 Jn 4:9f)

Consequently, the love of God leads to the love of neighbor, which is the second greatest commandment.  Jesus said, “You must love your neighbour as yourself.” St John wrote, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”  (1 Jn 4:11f)  This love of our neighbor is not just based on humanitarian grounds, although it not does preclude it.  But rather, it is based principally on the love of God for us.  This was what Moses told the sons of Israel.  “You must not molest the stranger or oppress him, for you lived as strangers in the land of Egypt.”  In other words, when we reach out to help those who are weak and in need, it is rooted in the fact that we ourselves were once in their place and have been set free by God, whether from material poverty, uselessness of life, or spiritual poverty.  Only when we are conscious that we were once sinners and helpless, can we then from the love of God in us reach out to others.

Of course, for those who lack the love of God, they are still capable of love if they identify themselves with their fellowmen using platonic love, a love that springs from the origin of humanity.  The examples given by Moses illustrate the need to be identified with their sufferings.  He said, “You must not be harsh with the widow, or with the orphan; if you are harsh with them, they will surely cry out to me, and be sure I shall hear their cry; my anger will flare and I shall kill you with the sword, your own wives will be widows, your own children orphans.  If you lend money to any of my people, to any poor man among you, you must not play the usurer with him: you must not demand interest from him.  If you take another’s cloak as a pledge, you must give it back to him before sunset. It is all the covering he has; it is the cloak he wraps his body in; what else would he sleep in? If he cries to me, I will listen, for I am full of pity.”

Finally, an inspiring life is one that empowers and witness to others the love of God in our lives in word and in deed.  We read how the early Christians, filled with “the joy of the Holy Spirit” “took to the gospel, in spite of the great opposition” they faced.   They were those who were not left defeated by opposition and failure.  They knew that God was their strength. They knew where their hope lay.   So we too can surrender our lives to Him because of the assurance of His love for us.  With God on our side, we can overcome all trials in life because we know that we can win every battle with Him fighting on our side.  This security in God gives us the courage to let go of the things of this life, the false securities, and enable us to give ourselves in love and service to others and not be preoccupied with our needs.

By living such a life that is devoted to God and man, we in turn inspire others in their faith.  They too become living examples to others and a source of inspiration to others.  This is how we become mentors for each other.  Good mentors produce great mentors after them. This was the case of the early Christians.  “This has made you the great example to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia since it was from you that the word of the Lord started to spread – and not only throughout Macedonia and Achaia, for the news of your faith in God has spread everywhere.”

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

Paul Keating: Voluntary euthanasia is a threshold moment for Australia, and one we should not cross

October 19, 2017
  • By Paul Keating

There is probably no more important issue in contemporary bioethics or a more serious ethical decision for our parliaments than that raised by the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 being debated this week in the Victorian Parliament.

Under this bill, conditions and safeguards are outlined that will allow physicians to terminate the life of patients and to assist patients to take their own life. This is a threshold moment for the country. No matter what justifications are offered for the bill, it constitutes an unacceptable departure in our approach to human existence and the irrevocable sanctity that should govern our understanding of what it means to be human.

The justifications offered by the bill’s advocates – that the legal conditions are stringent or that the regime being authorised will be conservative – miss the point entirely. What matters is the core intention of the law. What matters is the ethical threshold being crossed. What matters is that under Victorian law there will be people whose lives we honour and those we believe are better off dead.

In both practical and moral terms, it is misleading to think allowing people to terminate their life is without consequence for the entire society. Too much of the Victorian debate has been about the details and conditions under which people can be terminated and too little about the golden principles that would be abandoned by our legislature.

One of the inevitable aspects of debates about euthanasia is the reluctance on the part of advocates to confront the essence of what they propose. In this case it means permitting physicians to intentionally kill patients or assisting patients in killing themselves. Understandably, the medical profession is gravely concerned by this venture.

An alarming aspect of the debate is the claim that safeguards can be provided at every step to protect the vulnerable. This claim exposes the bald utopianism of the project – the advocates support a bill to authorise termination of life in the name of compassion, while at the same time claiming they can guarantee protection of the vulnerable, the depressed and the poor.

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No law and no process can achieve that objective. This is the point. If there are doctors prepared to bend the rules now, there will be doctors prepared to bend the rules under the new system. Beyond that, once termination of life is authorised the threshold is crossed. From that point it is much easier to liberalise the conditions governing the law. And liberalised they will be. Few people familiar with our politics would doubt that pressure would mount for further liberalisation based on the demand that people are being discriminated against if denied. The experience of overseas jurisdictions suggests the pressures for further liberalisation are irresistible.

While there are different views strongly expressed within the medical profession, the president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Michael Gannon, has explained that the formal position of the AMA is opposition to interventions that have as their primary intention the ending of a person’s life.

Dr Gannon recently said: “Once you legislate this you cross the Rubicon. The cause for euthanasia has been made in a very emotional way and this is the latest expression of individual autonomy as an underlying principle. But the sick, the elderly, the disabled, the chronically ill and the dying must never be made to feel they are a burden.”

Palliative Care has issued the most serious warnings. It says at least one in four Victorians who die each year (about 10,000 people) do not have access to needed palliative care, that access in aged residential care is “very low”, that between 2 and 10 per cent of older Australians experience abuse in any given year and that its funding is inadequate to meet growing demand.

The submission highlights the problems with this bill – it is a disproportionate response to the real problems of patient pain and suffering, a situation that demands greater priority in public care and funding. It is true that if this bill fails then some people will endure more pain and this is difficult for legislators to contemplate. It is also true, however, that more people in our community will be put at risk by this bill than will be granted relief as its beneficiaries. This is the salient point.

Palliative Care said the bill ‘sends the wrong message to people contemplating suicide and undermines suicide prevention efforts.’ How could this not be the case? Suicide is the leading cause of death among people aged 15-44 and the second leading cause of death among people aged 45-54. International studies offer no support for the view that legalising euthanasia is associated with a decrease in non-assisted suicides.

The bill’s failure is pre-set by its design.

The issue is not how many people will choose to die under this proposed law. It is how many people may die when otherwise they wouldn’t. As Dr Gannon says it is “commonplace” for patients to tell doctors in front of their loved ones that they have no wish to be a burden on families.

Once this bill is passed the expectations of patients and families will change. The culture of dying, despite certain and intense resistance, will gradually permeate into our medical, health, social and institutional arrangements. It stands for everything a truly civil society should stand against. A change of this kind will affect our entire community not just a small number of dying patients. It is fatuous to assert that patients will not feel under pressure once this bill becomes law to nominate themselves for termination.

Opposition to this bill is not about religion. It is about the civilisational ethic that should be at the heart of our secular society. The concerns I express are shared by people of any religion or no religion. In public life it is the principles that matter. They define the norms and values of a society and in this case the principles concern our view of human life itself. It is a mistake for legislators to act on the deeply held emotional concerns of many when that involves crossing a threshold that will affect the entire society in perpetuity.

Paul Keating is a former prime minister of Australia

http://www.smh.com.au/comment/paul-keating-voluntary-euthanasia-is-a-threshold-moment-for-australia-and-one-we-should-not-cross-20171019-gz412h.html

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, October 8, 2017 — “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

October 7, 2017

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 139

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Reading 1 IS 5:1-7

Let me now sing of my friend,
my friend’s song concerning his vineyard.
My friend had a vineyard
on a fertile hillside;
he spaded it, cleared it of stones,
and planted the choicest vines;
within it he built a watchtower,
and hewed out a wine press.
Then he looked for the crop of grapes,
but what it yielded was wild grapes.

Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard:
What more was there to do for my vineyard
that I had not done?
Why, when I looked for the crop of grapes,
did it bring forth wild grapes?
Now, I will let you know
what I mean to do with my vineyard:
take away its hedge, give it to grazing,
break through its wall, let it be trampled!
Yes, I will make it a ruin:
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
but overgrown with thorns and briers;
I will command the clouds
not to send rain upon it.
The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah are his cherished plant;
he looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed!
for justice, but hark, the outcry!

Responsorial Psalm PS 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20

R. (Is 5:7a) The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.
A vine from Egypt you transplanted;
you drove away the nations and planted it.
It put forth its foliage to the Sea,
its shoots as far as the River.
R. The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.
Why have you broken down its walls,
so that every passer-by plucks its fruit,
The boar from the forest lays it waste,
and the beasts of the field feed upon it?
R. The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.
Once again, O LORD of hosts,
look down from heaven, and see;
take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted
the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
R. The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.
Then we will no more withdraw from you;
give us new life, and we will call upon your name.
O LORD, God of hosts, restore us;
if your face shine upon us, then we shall be saved.
R. The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

Reading 2 PHIL 4:6-9

Brothers and sisters:
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters,
whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,
if there is any excellence
and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.
Keep on doing what you have learned and received
and heard and seen in me.
Then the God of peace will be with you.

AlleluiaCF. JN 15:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I have chosen you from the world, says the Lord,
to go and bear fruit that will remain.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel MT 21:33-43

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“Hear another parable.
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
When vintage time drew near,
he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,
another they killed, and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,
but they treated them in the same way.
Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking,
‘They will respect my son.’
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,
‘This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’
They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”
They answered him,
“He will put those wretched men to a wretched death
and lease his vineyard to other tenants
who will give him the produce at the proper times.”
Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?

Therefore, I say to you,
the kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

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The Cornerstone by Ray Pritchard
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“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone” (Psalm 118:22).

The image comes from the ancient quarries where highly-trained stonemasons carefully chose the stones used in construction. No stone was more important than the cornerstone because the integrity of the whole structure depended on the cornerstone containing exactly the right lines. If the cornerstone was not exactly right, the entire building would be out of line. For that reason, builders inspected many stones, rejecting each one until they found the one they wanted. Rejected stones might be used in other parts of the building, but they would never become the cornerstone or the capstone (the first and last stones put in place).

When Peter preached to the Jewish leaders in Acts 4:8–12, he quoted Psalm 118:22 to show that Jesus is the rejected stone whom God made to be the cornerstone of salvation. They (the Jewish leaders) rejected him, but God not only accepted him but put him in the position of highest honor.

Peter pressed the point home with this powerful conclusion: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). These words are utterly exclusive. There is no other hope, no other way, and no other name than the name of Jesus. If we would be saved, we must come God’s way or we won’t come at all.

Do not be like the builders who rejected God’s Stone of salvation! Do not reject Jesus Christ. Do not stumble over this rejected stone. The very stone the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. May God open your eyes to see Jesus as he really is—the Cornerstone of eternal salvation.

Taken from “Rejected Stone” by Keep Believing Ministries (used by permission).

http://www.jesus.org/is-jesus-god/old-testament-prophecies/the-stone-that-the-builders-rejected-became-the-cornerstone.html

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Don’t Reject Anybody, Ever

The Gospel teaches us to never give up hope. No person is beyond salvation. Everyone is worthy of our care. We are called to care for the marginalized — the sick, the old, the forgotten, the insane, the addicted.

Because each and every human being is related to me through Jesus Christ I cannot overlook another who is suffering. The “Sanctity of Human Life” means than in each of us lives the spark, the life of God.

We forget too often what we are called to do and what we are here for.

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From The Abbot

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Saint Paul tells us today in the second reading, from the Letter to the Philippians: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” The other two readings, the first one from the Prophet Isaiah and the Gospel from Saint Matthew, speak of God’s love for us that is so intense that it is expressed in images of destruction for those who will not listen to His love and respond to it.

Surely we must be mature enough to understand that Scripture uses images. There is no way that our loving God is going to try to destroy us or even try to harm us in any way. The images that are used in Scripture sometimes leave us with a sense that God is just waiting to judge us and throw us in Hell. But that is because we misunderstand the words and images of Scripture. We take them as an accurate image of God. Instead, the words of Scripture are the words of men, reflecting in some Divine Way, the reality of God.

We have to know that images that depict God as angry reflect the way that we feel at times when nothing goes the way we want it to go, even when we are trying to be good. We also have to recognize that bad actions on our own part will bring bad results in our lives—not because of God wanting to do something bad to us but because our life will reflect the way that we live. If we live dishonestly, it will destroy us eventually. If we live just according to the lusts of the flesh, that also will eventually destroy any deep relationships what we might have. If we live only seeking power, we will at some point lose power and realize that what we sought was worth nothing.

It is our own actions that actually end up condemning us and making our lives to be a mess—not God. So many of the great theologians and saints have said in their writings that God condemns no one. Rather we condemn ourselves by the choices that we make.

The images today in the first reading and the Gospel are about what we humans do with our lives, both personally and as a people or as a community. We mess things up and we reject God and His ways. The image used to show that God sees what is happening is that of God’s anger—but we must remember that it is God who is upset with us for choosing against Him. God always loves us unconditionally and even accepts our rejection of Him. God cannot change us unless we choose to let God change us. Sometimes when our lives are a mess, all we can do is ask God: “Help me.” That is enough. But when we blame the mess on God and reject God, then God cannot help us unless we have some openness to Him.

So the message of the readings today is very clear: choose God and pray to God with a complete confidence. If we reject God, he cannot go against our own free will which He gave us. God’s choice is always love! Our choice is up to us.

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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08 OCTOBER, 2017, Sunday, 27th Week, Ordinary Time
THE CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO AN UNREQUITED LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ISAIAH 5:1-7PHILIPPIANS 4:6-9MATT 21:33-43]

It is the constant teaching of the bible that God loves us tremendously and that His love is unconditional.  His love cannot be merited nor earned.  God gives us His love freely without conditions.  Justification or salvation is faith in His love and mercy alone.  Yet, there is a danger when this proclamation is over-emphasized to the extent that a response is not necessary; and that all of us can be saved, whether we respond to His love or not, or whether we do good or evil.  When this happens, love that is received is unappreciated.   Worse still, the gospel of Christ is reduced to cheap grace.  This is precisely what happened to the Israelites in the first reading and the Jewish leaders during the time of Jesus.  Ingrates are of two kinds, namely, those who do not appreciate what they have and those who are not only unappreciative but would even repay kindness with evil.

In the first instance, in the parable of the Vineyard from Prophet Isaiah, we hear the aching words of God who was disappointed at the lack of response from Israel.  In spite of the fact that God had given everything that Israel needed, the people, instead of growing to become more like God in love, lived a life without integrity, justice and love.  Israel took the unconditional love of the Lord for granted.  They did not respond by living a covenanted life with God and with each other.  Instead of living as a community, the people were destroying each other.  This was certainly not the kind of community that God intended for Israel.

In the second parable of the Wicked Tenants, we have the case of ingrates who returned evil for kindness.  These ingrates were worse than those who abused their privileges.  These were the people who would bite the very hands that feed them. Instead of repaying the kindness of the owner by settling their dues; the tenants had his servants, messengers and even his own son murdered.  This was the height of greed and ingratitude.  Of course, this parable was directed at the Jewish leaders.  Instead of being grateful to God, they became so self-righteous and blind to their pride and selfishness.

Of course, we too can easily identify ourselves with God.  Often, people whom we have loved or nurtured forget us when they become successful in life.  These are the people whom we have loved, cared for and helped financially, materially and emotionally. And yet these same people would be the ones who will one day become our enemies and turn against us.  They will slander and plot against us.  This is perhaps the greatest kind of pain that one can suffer.  Indeed, I have come across numerous cases when parents were driven out of their house after having given all their savings to their children.  Instead of being grateful to their parents for paying for their education and even their house, they make life difficult for them and eventually evict them from their their own house.  Such sad stories are common and heart-breaking.  It is really tragic.

In the face of such ingratitude, what is the appropriate response?  The instinctive reaction is to retaliate.  An eye for an eye is the principle that many people live by.  That is why, some of us can become very vicious because of unrequited love.  Some become so vicious to the extent of plotting to destroy the people that they love.  Others begin to demand back from the other person the gifts that have been given.  Retaliation however is certainly not the way to resolve and heal the situation.  Vindictiveness and revenge would only breed greater misery, not only for those who hurt us but also for the aggrieved party as well.  It would be self-defeating.  To react to situations make us slaves of others.  It means that others are dictating our happiness and our lives and how we act.  Thus, instead of reacting, we must choose to act and to act rightly.  We are called to be actors, not reactors.

What, then, should our response be?  We should take heed of the advice of St Paul.  He asked us not to worry but to seek the peace of God.  This peace of God “which is so much greater than we can understand”, will guard our hearts and thoughts.  Unless we pray for this peace of God within ourselves, then it is not possible to make any response.  The truth is that when we are hurt, we cannot love.  Indeed, a person who is hurt can only think of his pain and nothing else.  So long as we nurse our pain and hurts, we cannot love others who have hurt us.  We would only react and not act to the wrongs that we encounter.  In any case, to bear grudges and nurse our anger is to hurt ourselves even more.  Truly, until we are at peace, within and without, we cannot think rightly, much less to talk about forgiveness.

How can we maintain our peace?  St Paul says that we must pray for it with prayer and thanksgiving.  Only in prayer can we come to understand ourselves better and look at the problem from another perspective and look at life the way God sees others.  We must also pray with thanksgiving in our hearts. Only a thankful person can look at life objectively.  A thankful person is one who is able to see the goodness in every situation even when it is an unpleasant event.   In thanksgiving, we learn to be grateful for all that we already have and the opportunities given to us to grow to become stronger and more loving.   Through prayer and thanksgiving, we find peace within ourselves because we eventually acquire the mind and heart of Christ.

With the mind of Christ, we can now speak of a redemptive love.  We will come to understand that revenge and retaliation is not the way to heal the situation.  The fact that a person is ungrateful to us already implies that he is sick at heart and in his mind.  He is more to be pitied than to be blamed.  Hence, we must take the cue from God Himself.  He allowed His Son to suffer a tragic death so that His death can be redemptive.  For God knows that the only way to conquer evil and selfishness is through love unto death.  It is the way of unconditional love.  This is the cornerstone of life that Jesus speaks about.   The way of foolish love is the keystone by which God will win us over to His love. When we experience the forgiving love of someone whom we have been unjustly wronged, we cannot but feel ashamed and be transformed in our lives.

Furthermore, when we reflect on our own lives, we also recognize how often we have been ungrateful to others as well, especially to God who has loved and blessed us so much.  None of us can claim that we have responded totally to the love of God.  None of us can boast that we have given a total response.  If that is so, then it behooves us to have compassion on others who have not given the full response to the love and goodness that we have showered on them.  Like us, they too need time to grow in gratitude and be sensitive to the goodness and kindness of others.  In this respect, Paul is the perfect example.  He himself understood how he had failed to respond to God’s love.  But God had been merciful to him by giving him a new start.

In the final analysis, we must not take matters into our own hands.  If ungrateful people do not change their selfish attitudes, then ultimately, they will only harm themselves.  We must realize that if God wants us to respond to His love by living a good, holy, loving and righteous life, it is not for His sake but for ours.  For without a life of justice, love and peace, we cannot be truly happy.  We will only hurt ourselves and destroy ourselves when we fail to respond to God’s love by being transformed into this likeness.  This, precisely, is the warning of the first reading and the gospel.  It must not be seen as a threat but rather as a warning when Jesus said, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants.”  For if we do not appreciate what we have, then one day when our privileges will be taken away from us. We will have no one to blame except ourselves.  And we cannot blame those who take away our privileges since love cannot be imposed.

This is our challenge today.  Will we become reactors when others are ungrateful to us in love; or will we be actors and respond to ingrates with compassion, forgiveness and patience?  Because if we do, then perhaps with God’s grace, they will one day come to their senses.  And if we are the ingrates, then we need to conscientise ourselves lest we suffer the foolishness of our indifference and selfishness.  Instead of bearing fruits for us, we will turn sour and become bitter with life.  The choice is ours.

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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, October 1, 2017 — “Humbly regard others as more important than yourselves” — Humility to Embrace Each Other

September 30, 2017

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 136

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Reading 1 EZ 18:25-28

Thus says the LORD:
You say, “The LORD’s way is not fair!”
Hear now, house of Israel:
Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?
When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies,
it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.
But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed,
and does what is right and just,
he shall preserve his life;
since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (6a) Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your love are from of old.
The sins of my youth and my frailties remember not;
in your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
and teaches the humble his way.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.

Reading 2 PHIL 2:1-11

Brothers and sisters:
If there is any encouragement in Christ,
any solace in love,
any participation in the Spirit,
any compassion and mercy,
complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love,
united in heart, thinking one thing.
Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory;
rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,
each looking out not for his own interests,
but also for those of others.

Have in you the same attitude
that is also in Christ Jesus,
Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Or PHIL 2:1-5

Brothers and sisters:
If there is any encouragement in Christ,
any solace in love,
any participation in the Spirit,
any compassion and mercy,
complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love,
united in heart, thinking one thing.
Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory;
rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,
each looking out not for his own interests,
but also for those of others.

Have in you the same attitude
that is also in Christ Jesus.

Alleluia JN 10:27

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel MT 21:28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:
“What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
He said in reply, ‘I will not, ‘
but afterwards changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir, ‘but did not go.
Which of the two did his father’s will?”
They answered, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later change your minds and believe him.”

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Homily From The Abbot in the Desert
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My sisters and brothers in Christ,

God loves us!  Completely and without limits God loves us.  God wants our salvation.  God is not a God who wants us to suffer for sin but instead God wants to save us from all sin.  What is our response?

The first reading today, from the Prophet Ezekiel, is so clear:  God loves us and never wants to judge us.  It is we ourselves who create problems but God is always ready to forgive.  For so many people in the past and even today, God is seen as a God who judges us and might condemn us.  This is an incredibly wrong image of God.  God only loves us!  If we are condemned, it is we ourselves who condemn ourselves.  God is always there, ready to forgive us and to draw us to Himself.  We must rethink our images of God.  Any image of God which includes any attitude toward us that is not completely love, is simply a wrong image of God.

Yes, in the Scriptures we heard of God being angry with us and we hear of God being upset with His people, but these are the images from the human side.  Instead, the great Prophets and the great authors of Scripture always come back to this one reality:  God loves us unconditionally.

That does not mean that God sees all our behavior as good.  Our behavior is often not good because we are subject to original sin and we all sin.  The question is whether we will accept God’s love and turn away from sin.  The question is whether we will accept as sin what God has revealed to us in Scripture as sin.  Today many try to rewrite the Scriptures so that there is no sin.

The second reading today is from the Letter to the Philippians and is one of the most profound of passages in all of Scripture.  Saint Paul begins by asking us:  “humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.”  The example he gives, however, is that of Jesus, who humbles Himself completely for love of us.

Are we are to humble ourselves in order to love others?  Are we will to completely give up our lives in order to love others?  What is the measure of our love?  Do we love only to be loved?  Are we willing to follow Jesus and live as He did?

The Gospel of Matthew today is very short and to the point:  do we truly seek to do God’s will in our lives?  The Gospel gives us two examples:  the one son who say that he will not work but in the end does work.  The other son who says he will work but in the end does not.

To follow Jesus is to seek to do all that He asks of us.  No matter how many times we have said “no” to God, we still can change and seek God’s will and God forgives us our faults.  But if we are always saying good things and doing nothing, then we are not doing the will of God.

Today we stand in front of God.  Who are we?  Will we say “yes” to God and not do anything?  Will we say “no” to God and yet in the end at least try?  Let us walk in the way of the Lord.

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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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01 OCTOBER, 2017, Sunday, 26th Week, Ordinary Time
HUMILITY TO EMBRACE EACH OTHER IS THE KEY TO UNITY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [EZ 18:25-28PS 25:4-9PHIL 2:1-11 (OR >< 2:1-5); MT 21:28-32 ]

Global migration is a reality in our times, although migration itself is not new.  Since the beginning of time, people have always travelled from one place to another.  Abraham was a migrant who travelled from Ur to Canaan.  Later, the sons of Israel went to Egypt and settled in Canaan, claiming the territory as their own.  So it was out of necessity to protect the people that nations and kingdoms were born and lands were demarcated and portioned out to different groups of peoples.  However today, when we speak of migration, we are more inclined to think of individuals who travel to distant lands to settle down permanently.

Globalization can be a boon or a bane unless we know how to handle this issue prudently.   As Christians, we must ensure that migration is a win-win situation for all. This is what St Paul asks of us in the second reading when he wrote, “If our life in Christ means anything to you, if love can persuade at all, or the Spirit that we have in common, or any tenderness and sympathy, then be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind.”   Whether we are immigrants or residents of the host country, we must have a common view with respect to migration so that we do not see each other as competitors but as complementary to each other.

Again, St Paul wrote, “There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everybody is to be self-effacing.”  We cannot see each other as competitors or enemies if we are to preserve the unity of the country and among all peoples.  Rather, welcoming migrants must be a win-win for all.  Migrants bring with them their skills and culture and contribute to the economic development of the host country.  Without migrants, Singapore would not be where we are today.  It is through their contribution to trade and business, and in construction that Singapore is what it is today.   Singaporeans in the first place were all migrants.  Our forefathers were migrants from China, India, Malaysia and the United Kingdom.  Conversely, migrants who come to Singapore benefit from the country’s economic development, a high standard of living, efficiency, peace and social order.  So no one can say that we can do without the other.  We are inter-dependent on each other.

We should be grateful to each other and not think too highly of ourselves.  We cannot act in a superior way towards migrants.  This is what St Paul advises us.  “Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, so that nobody thinks of his own interests first but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead.”  To think that we are better than the migrants and to look down on them is to forget that we were all migrants in the first place.  We too were once poor and looking for greener pasture.  Our forefathers settled here and together they built up the nation.  We must not forget the mercy of God, as the responsorial psalm reminds us. So in the same spirit, we must welcome migrants.  We must be careful that we do not fall into the same attitude of the Jews who despised the tax-collectors, prostitutes and sinners.  They thought so highly of themselves and treated them as outcasts.  They regarded themselves as the chosen people of God.  But they forgot that they were chosen not for themselves but for the world.  Their position of being the Chosen People of God was so that they would be the instrument of salvation for the world.  Instead of isolating themselves, they were called to reach out to them as Jesus did.

Failing to embrace others, the Jews forfeited what they had.  Hence, Jesus remarked, “I tell you solemnly, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you, a pattern of true righteousness, but you did not believe him, and yet the tax collectors and prostitutes did. Even after seeing that, you refused to think better of it and believe in him.”  They were so proud of themselves that they were not willing to learn from John the Baptist.  They thought they had the Word of God.  They thought they knew everything.  But in truth those who entered the kingdom of God were the tax collectors and prostitutes who appreciated John the Baptist and repented.  Instead of obeying the Word of God, the Jews paid lip service.

We can also learn much from the migrants when it comes to gratitude and appreciation of our resources.  We are told that the Jewish leaders did not treasure the prophets that the Lord sent to them.  They rejected both John the Baptist who was widely seen as a prophet among the ordinary people and Christ as the Messiah. We often take what we have for granted; the peace, social harmony, the security, the efficiency and the prosperity of our country.  We do not realize that in many countries, they do not enjoy what we have. This explains why migrants tend to be more resourceful, hardworking, persevering and tolerant than the locals, because they do not take what they have for granted.  They fight for survival and they seek to grow their resources.

Why, then, are there restrictions placed on migrants?   The world is one and all of creation belongs to humanity.   But because of selfishness, injustice, discrimination and lawlessness, barriers are created by man to protect national interests, which means the common interests of the people under their charge.  So boundaries are drawn between nations so that the common good of the people could be protected.  This principle is not much different from the axiom that says, “charity begins at home although it does not end there.”  In other words, each nation has to first put their country in order before they can accept immigrants.   Without such measures, there will be social disorder if there is no control and proper management of the entry of migrants into a country because it means providing jobs, accommodation, transport, education, medical and health care.  If not handled properly, there will be a critical shortage of the basic amenities, which could result in chaos, social disorder, theft, cheating, drugs peddling, crimes and upheaval, making the country impossible to live in. So even whilst we promote migration, the host country has the responsibility to determine the capacity of migrants it is able to admit comfortably.

Indeed, managing the influx of migrants into our community is the key to maintaining social cohesion, otherwise the benefits of migration, both to the migrant and the host country, would not be realized, and what the country had to begin with, may even be taken away.  The greatest fear is always disunity and social disorder.  This happens when migrants feel discriminated or treated unjustly.   They become an enclave and start isolating themselves from the larger community.  When migrants want to distinguish themselves from the rest of the community, protecting their culture, language and customs at the expense of alienation, it will breed disharmony, misunderstanding and suspicion.  We must not act as if we are a superior race and have a superior culture compared to the rest of humanity. This was how the Jewish leaders behaved and isolated themselves from the common people.  Racial and religious supremacy are the causes of disunity and competition.

Hence, there is a need for integration even if we are not speaking about assimilation. This is the key to preserving the unity of the peoples.  We must take a page from Jesus Himself in the second reading.  We are told that the Son of God, although “was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.”   God became man to identify with us in all things except sin.  God became one of us and one with us so that He could lead us to salvation and life.

Similarly, migrants and local residents must seek to identify with each other.  They must learn to reach out to each other and share with each other their cultures, join in their celebrations and enrich each other with their knowledge, skills and values.  That is why St Paul urges us to “be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind.”   We must work together for a common goal, which is for the greater good of everyone.   We must share a common vision of a new society built on justice, equality, progress and compassion.  We are here to better the life of each other and not to take away the interests of each other.   As migrants, we come to offer our gifts to the host country, and the host country receives the gifts so that together we can all celebrate and rejoice together as we work for progress, harmony and peace.

This is our common vision of a world where everyone is given the full opportunity to develop himself or herself with the resources given by God in this world.  This is what the justice of God is all about, as Ezekiel proclaims.  God does not take our past into consideration but He seeks a new life for us.  So long as we are ready to let go of our sinful way of life, our foolish way of living and live according to His laws, He is ever ready to forgive us and give us a new start.   So let us renounce our pride and self-interests but be servants of each other in Christ, serving humbly and totally, giving ourselves for the good of all.  Let us welcome each other as Christ welcomes us, sinners and unworthy as we are.  Let the words of St Paul be in our hearts when he exhorts us, “In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus.”

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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, September 17, 2017 — “Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?” — “Anger does more damage to the vessel in which it is stored than to the vessel in which it is poured.”

September 16, 2017

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 130

Image result for no man is an island, art

Reading 1 SIR 27:30—28:7

Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.
The vengeful will suffer the LORD’s vengeance,
for he remembers their sins in detail.
Forgive your neighbor’s injustice;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
Could anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?
Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself,
can he seek pardon for his own sins?
If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath,
who will forgive his sins?
Remember your last days, set enmity aside;
remember death and decay, and cease from sin!
Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor;
remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.

Responsorial Psalm PS 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12

R. (8) The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.
Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.
He pardons all your iniquities,
heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.
He will not always chide,
nor does he keep his wrath forever.
Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our crimes.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.

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Reading 2 ROM 14:7-9

Brothers and sisters:
None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.
For if we live, we live for the Lord,
and if we die, we die for the Lord;
so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
For this is why Christ died and came to life,
that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Alleluia JN 13:34

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I give you a new commandment, says the Lord;
love one another as I have loved you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 18:21-35

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused.
Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

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Homily From The Abbot in the Desert
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My sisters and brothers in Christ,

“Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.”  —  these words from the Book of Sirach remind us that forgiveness is a deep and necessary part of our spiritual tradition, handed down to us from our Jewish ancestors in faith.  Jesus echoes this teaching when He gives us the “Our Father,” which tells us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

The second reading today, from the Letter to the Romans, tells us that “if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”  And it is our Lord who tells us to forgive.  If we want to follow Jesus, then we become people who forgive others, no matter what offense they do to us.  Jesus is clear that to follow Him, we will suffer, so we must take up our cross daily and follow Him.

The Gospel from Matthew today is very strong.  Jesus is so clear in His teaching to us:  forgive everything from your heart!  We are not allowed to hold on to anything against anybody.  Rather, as Jesus teaches, we must go even further and help those who harm us and give to those who rob us.  To follow Jesus is not easy and asks us to give ourselves completely to Him and to following Him.  Christianity will never be a life of comfort, even though we may have comforts from time to time.

We can also ask ourselves today how we relate to those around us?  Are we people who forgive others?  Are we people who really seek to love and serve others?  Do we seek to see Christ in others?  Do we look for God’s will in our lives and in the lives others?

Jesus always pulls our attention back to God and to the way God wants us to live.  Always we are invited to see God in every situation and not ignore the divine presence.  It is too easy for us to lose sight of God and to pay attention only to our human desires.

At the heart of the teachings of Jesus, at the heart of His own life, is this deep awareness of God’s presence in all creation and in all peoples.   Even in the agony of Jesus and in the Cross, Jesus keeps His heart with love for others.

Today, we are invited to forgive and to follow Jesus once more in a way that gives witness to the glory of God.  Let us walk the way of the Lord.

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 SEPTEMBER, 2017, Sunday, 24th Week, Ordinary Time
THE POWER TO FORGIVE COMES FROM A CONSCIOUS EXPERIENCE AND RECOGNITION OF ONE’S SINFULNESS AND THE GRACE AND MERCY OF GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ECCL 27:30-28:7ROM 14:7-9MT 18:21-35 ]

We are called to forgive those who have sinned against us.  Yet, we all know that forgiveness is not an easy matter.  Humanly speaking, it is impossible to forgive those who have offended us or betrayed our trust.  It goes against the human grain.

Indeed, if after reading today’s parable of the Unforgiving Servant we react with disgust at his lack of forgiveness, it is because we are that self-righteous servant. We too cannot forgive those who have hurt us.  Why is it that we cannot forgive?

Logically, we all know that we should forgive.  We know that by not forgiving our enemies, we destroy ourselves.  By not freeing our enemies from our hatred, we have made ourselves their slaves. Those who do not want to forgive make themselves prisoners of their enemies. The misery of harbouring anger and revenge eats up the person gradually until he loses all peace, joy and freedom in life.  Rationally, no one will argue that holding forgiveness from our enemies will not make us happy in life.

If forgiveness is so logical, then why can’t we forgive?  The truth is that forgiveness is not simply a matter of logic.  It is a matter of the heart.  When someone hurts us, we are affected not only logically but in the very depths of our heart.  Indeed, quite often we say, “I can forgive but I cannot forget.”  So it is not the head that cannot forgive but the heart.  From this perspective the heart is the seat of our emotions.  The inability to forgive comes from the psychological memory of the person.  This explains why Jesus said, “And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.”

Forgiveness however does not mean that we can forget the incident completely.  We cannot deny our faculty of memory. In fact, because we remember our past so well, it continues to haunt us, especially our sins and those incidents in our lives which we cannot forgive.  So what the Lord is asking of us is not so much to forget the hurtful incidences, but that we embrace the events in the light of God’s love and mercy so that they no longer hurt us emotionally.

So what is the real cause of the lack of forgiveness in our lives?  It is because sin lives in us!  It is not simply because we are sinning, but rather because we are sinners in the first place, that is why we sin.  The first reading makes it clear that “resentment and anger, these are foul things, and both are found with the sinner.”  Indeed, it is because such things are found within us that we know that we are sinners.  And the truth is that a sinner punishes himself with sin.  Isn’t this what it means when the author of the book of Wisdom says, “He who exacts vengeance will experience the vengeance of the Lord, who keeps strict account of sin.”

In other words, God punishes sin with more sins. This does not mean that God makes us sin more.  God allows us to sin so that we will come to the realization that sin is hurting us and causing us to be miserable.   Indeed, sin eats up the person.  Sin causes more sins.  Hence, the wages of sin is eventually death, both spiritual and physical.  This is clear in the context of unforgiveness.  For by refusing to forgive, we allow ourselves to nurse the pain and resentment in us till we lose our peace and freedom.  Consequently, the author of Wisdom asks, “Mere creature of flesh, he cherishes resentment; who will forgive him his sins?”

And what is the greatest obstacle in forgiveness?  Isn’t it pride and self-centeredness?  The reason why we cannot forgive others is because more often than not, as sinners, we recognize our sinfulness in our fellow sinners.  We are too proud and we cannot accept ourselves as we really are.  If we cannot forgive the sinner, it is because we cannot forgive ourselves.  We hate fellow sinners because we hate ourselves. This explains why the servant who was forgiven could not forgive his fellow servant for “showing no pity for a man like himself”.  We want to deny that we are like that.

Secondly our self-centeredness tends to make us less aware of the seriousness of our own sins and that we have hurt others by our words and actions.  On one hand, we minimize our sins and on the other hand, we exaggerate the sins committed by others against us. This explains why our immediate reaction to the parable of the unforgiving servant is one of anger at the absurdity of the situation.

How then can we overcome our incapacity to forgive?  We must consciously desire to forgive.  From this perspective, some rational thinking can help prepare us for the act of forgiveness.  How can we do this?

Firstly, by remembering “the last things, and stop hating, remember dissolution and death, and live by the commandments.”  The sins of others against us must be seen from a broader horizon.  Quite often, when people hurt us, we tend to remember only the hurt and the pain.  Suddenly, we have forgotten all the good that the person has done for us.  Furthermore, we must see the incident in perspective, for it does not cover every dimension of our lives.

Of course, as it is said, when you have a toothache, you can only think of the toothache and nothing else.  Pain makes us forget the bigger picture of life.  So forgiveness requires us to situate our pain within the bigger dimension of life.  And what is the best horizon to view the pain if not from the viewpoint of death?  For in death, everything finds it place.  So reflecting on death and eternity is the best and most effective way to help us release the pain and anger in us.  Knowing that all these things on earth will pass and we are returning to eternity will help us to let go.

Secondly, we must recall His love and mercy for us.  The key to forgiveness is to contemplate on the love and mercy of God in the crucified Christ.  If Jesus could forgive His enemies when He was on the cross, it was because He understood the Father’s love and mercy as expressed in today’s parable.  In His pain, Jesus was not thinking of Himself, but of those who crucified Him, imploring the Father to forgive them “for they know not what they are doing”.  If we only understand the depth of God’s forgiveness for our sins, we would surely be able to forgive others because what others have done against us cannot be compared to what we have done against God.

If the servant was unforgiving, it was because he failed to spend time reflecting on the mercy of God as portrayed in the master. Instead of spending time to ponder on God’s mercy he went out immediately. No wonder those who make their confession but never spend time to thank God quickly fall into sin. Indeed, “If a man nurses anger against another, can he then demand compassion from the Lord?”

For this reason, we are called to remember the covenantal love of God for us.  Yes, we are exhorted to “Remember the commandments, and do not bear your neighbour ill-will; remember the covenant of the Most High, and overlook the offence.”  We are created for love and our goal is to live as a covenanted community.  In any community, because of our human sinfulness, we are called to forgive each other.  The recognition of our solidarity in sin should make us recognize the need to forgive each other.

This means that we must become conscious of our own sins if we are to forgive others.  When we realize that we are not perfect and have our own fair share of sins in this life, then we will be able to be more compassionate and understanding.  Quite often, like the unforgiving servant, we forget about our sins too quickly.  Having been forgiven, we think that we are perfect.  So like the servant we become judgmental of others, condemning them, exacting from them the punishment which we ourselves asked to be liberated from.  Unless we recognize ourselves as fellow sinners, how can we forgive others?

Finally, it is often said that forgiveness is not human but divine.  We must pray, because only God can forgive in that manner.  That is what the scripture says, “Forgive your neighbour the hurt he does you, and when you pray, your sins will be forgiven.”  In order to forgive ourselves, we must forgive others.  But this is not possible without prayer.

What is prayer?  Isn’t prayer a calling to mind the love and mercy of God for us? Only through such a recollection can we recognize our sinful state.  This then is followed by asking for the grace of forgiveness through a renewed experience of His love and mercy for us.

Yes, the call to forgive seventy times seven is a call to forgive ourselves.  In the final analysis, to forgive others ultimately is to forgive ourselves. To the extent that we can forgive others, to that extent is the measure of our experience of God’s forgiveness.  Truly, only the merciful can experience God’s mercy.  So if we are still struggling with forgiveness, let us pray for the mercy of God to help us to recognize our sinfulness, the injuries we are causing ourselves, so that we can turn to Him for grace, mercy and strength.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Twice in the bible, God makes reference to “seventy times seven” (or “seventy-seven times”). Once in Genesis 4:24 (dealing with Cain’s punishment for his murder of Abel), and the other in Matthew 18:22
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In many ancient cultures, Hebrew included, the number seven often signifies completeness and/or perfection (for more information see either Numerical Sayings in the OT, W. Roth or IVP New Bible Dictionary, ed. Marshall, Miller, Packer, Wiseman, p834). Therefore, it is often used in an emphatic sense. This is seen in Peter’s question: “should I forgive seven times?” (possibly thinking he was being a good disciple in making the point that he should always forgive) – Jesus’ reply is to be emphatically emphatic! That is, seventy times seven! Jesus often uses hyperbole (overstatement to make a point) in his teaching style, such as the Camel and the eye of a needle in Matthew 19:24.
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Forgiveness equals wellness
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 / 05:04 AM September 17, 2017

Who is the least stressed driver in the world? The funeral car driver. Why? He is not in a hurry, he is not affected by the flow of traffic, and most of all, he does not have to put up with a back-seat driver!

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 18:21-35), Jesus teaches us about forgiveness and reconciliation. Hatred, revenge and refusing to forgive cause so much stress and sadness. Take the road of humility and reconciliation, and you are free. Again, humility, humility, humility is the key.

“Anger does more damage to the vessel in which it is stored than to the vessel in which it is poured.” How true. We have a choice: to forgive and be free, or not to forgive and be angry, stressed and depressed.

Are you an unforgiving person? Are you an exacting person? Maybe you have your reasons, your standards and your expectations. But ask yourself: How many times have I been forgiven by God, without conditions, and without expectations? We can pray: Lord, You have forgiven me so many times. Help me to do likewise.

Think of the worst and most disgusting person(s) in your life right now whom you dislike or even hate so much that you almost wish him/her to die soon, and go to hell to be punished by God. Stop the downslide and level up by offering that person to God. Leave him/her in God’s heart, pray for his/her conversion. Release the matter from your hands, surrender, and let God’s power take over.

To forgive doesn’t mean saying “It did not happen.” Neither does it mean saying “It did not hurt.” To forgive is to say “That which happened, and which hurt, will no longer become a wall between you and me.” By all means let us go for justice, but by all means let us also be open to understanding, mercy and compassion.

The late Fr. Among Ricafort, SVD, had disappointments, complaints, and outbursts of anger regarding issues, people and events in our society, our country, and the world. But after he had said his piece, he would always end up saying, with a wave of his hand: “Ah, it’s all right.” Let us learn to let go and to let God. Let us carry no burdens, and travel light.

Fr. Pabs Tagura, SVD, one of those formed by Father Among, wrote a eulogy from faraway Divine Word College in Iowa in the United States: “I am now almost 30 years in the priesthood, and I have always looked up to Among with so much respect and high regard, especially with the way he handled himself with dignity, and the inspiration he provided with his faithfulness to his religious-missionary life as a priest.”

Please remember that our life is a constant call to get out of our comfort zones, and a constant effort to go the “extra mile,” where grace abounds, and where even God smiles.

Sept. 23 is the feast of St. Padre Pio, one of the most present and most active modern-day saints. He is well-known for many miracles and healing, but he is most remembered as the confessor saint, spending so many hours of the day hearing the confessions of so many pilgrims from all over the world. He was a man of peace and reconciliation which we need so much in our country and in our world right now.

My uncle, Fr. Jesuito Mendoza, OFM Cap, had the privilege of going to confession to Padre Pio in Italy in the early 1960s. He told me how Padre Pio knew everything about him, and saw through him. His encounter with Padre Pio was a religious experience and a life-changing moment. Whether to Padre Pio or to less worthy priests like me, make that good confession and go home to the embrace of our loving Father.

On a personal note, let me share that I was close to tears when my brother Tim handed me my Vademecum, a prayer book that was given to me when I was 12 years old and a first year high school seminarian at Christ the King Seminary. I was so happy to have it back. I thought I had lost it. It turned out that Mama kept it in one of her boxes. It was a reminder for me that God’s love is never gone. No matter how lost, no matter how long, He will find us, and embrace us.

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help us to forgive others as You have so many times forgiven us. Amen.

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/107177/forgiveness-equals-wellness#ixzz4svHSppdR
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Commentary on Matthew 18:21-35 from Living Space

This passage makes a crucial link between God forgiving us and our forgiving others. Peter asks how many times he should forgive another and offers what he regards as a very generous seven times. Jesus multiplies that by eleven. In other words our readiness to forgive should be without limit.

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The reason is that that is the way God himself acts towards us. Supposing we only had seven chances of being forgiven our sins in our lifetime? Supposing we were to confess our sins to a priest and were told: “Sorry, you have used up your quota.” Don’t we expect that every single time we genuinely repent we can renew our relationship with God?

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Jesus is simply telling us that, if we are to be his followers, we must act on the same basis with other people. To make his teaching clear he tells the parable of the two servants. The one with the huge debt is forgiven by the king. He then proceeds to throttle another servant who owes what is, in comparison, a paltry amount.

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As indicated in the parable, there is no real proportion between the offence of our sins against an all-holy God and those made against us by others. And every time we say the Lord’s Prayer we commit ourselves to this: “Forgive us our sins JUST AS we forgive those who sin against us.” It is indeed a courageous prayer to make. Do we really mean what we say? Do we even think about it when we pray it?

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We could make a couple of extra comments:

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– This teaching does not mean turning a blind eye to a person who keeps on doing hurt to us. Forgiveness is more than just saying words; it involves the restoring of a broken relationship. It involves the healing of both sides. It may be necessary to make some proactive but totally non-violent response. Our main concern should not be ourselves but the well-being of the other person whose actions are really hurting him/her.

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– Forgiveness is not purely a unilateral act. It is only complete when there is reconciliation between the two parties. It is difficult for me fully to forgive when the other party remains totally unrepentant. Even God’s forgiveness cannot get through in such circumstances (remember the Prodigal Son whose healing only began when he came to his senses and returned to his Father). The injured party has to work on bringing about a healing of the wound of division between both sides. Only then is the forgiveness complete. That may take a long time.

Source http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1033g/

Related:

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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NO MERCY WITHOUT MERCY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Daniel 3:25-43Ps 24:4-9Matthew 18:21-35]

We are all in need of mercy.  This is because we are all sinners.  We are weak and often succumb to temptations, or simply because we have a wounded nature.   We get angry.  We are impatient.  We are envious of those who are better than us because we feel insecure.  We cannot control our appetites because we greedy.  We steal and hoard because we are afraid that we do not have enough. Because of our biological drive for sexual union and intimacy we cannot resist the sin of lust. We are proud because we want independence, respect and control over others.

Therefore, being a sinner is a fact.  Other than our Lord Jesus Christ and our Blessed Mother, no one is exempted from falling into sin.  To think that we are without sin is to call God a liar.  St John in no uncertain terms said, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jn 1:8)  For this reason, we must be ever ready to forgive each other simply because we are fellow sinners.  Hence, when Peter asked the Lord,  “Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?” Jesus answered, “Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.”  In other words, seven being the complete number, it means “always”, without exception.

Forgiveness is something we cannot withhold from anyone.  Firstly, God forgives us completely. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 Jn 1:9) God is portrayed as the master who forgave the servant who owed him ten thousand talents, which is probably 7 billion US dollars in today’s terms.  Of course this is an exaggeration.  But it underscores the point that God loves us and has given us so much and have forgiven all our sins.  He has paid the price for our sins with the blood of His only Son.  (cf 1 Jn 1:7) So what audacity do we have to ask for God’s forgiveness for our many sins when we cannot forgive the weaknesses of our fellowmen?

Secondly, forgiving others is the only way to receive the full forgiveness given to us by God.  Indeed, the Lord warns us, “And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.”   By not forgiving, we are in truth not forgiving ourselves.  Many of us fail to realize that healing can be complete only when we forgive those who have hurt us.  Being forgiven by God is not enough.  We are to be reconciled with God and with others.  This explains why many go for confession asking for forgiveness for their sins and yet do not find true and lasting healing because they have not yet released their own grievances against those who hurt them.  This was basically the sin of the merciless servant.  The master forgave him for his enormous debt but he was not able to forgive the little debt his fellow servant owed him.  As a consequence, when the master heard of he said, “You wicked servant, I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?”

How is it that we find it so difficult to forgive?  Firstly, it is because we are not fully aware of our own imperfections and sinfulness.  We tend to look at others who sinned against us.  Our eyes are always focused on others, judging them.  Again the Lord warns us, “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”  (Mt 7:2)  St James also warned us, “judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy; yet mercy triumphs over judgment.”  (Jms 2:13)  If “the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt”, it was because it was necessary for him to learn about his own sins so that he could forgive the sins of others.  The servant needs time to reflect for himself his own sins and God’s abundant mercy.  Only then, could he truly forgive his fellow servant.

Indeed, the season of Lent is a time for us to reflect on our sins.  If we find ourselves lacking forgiveness and not able to let go of our hurts, we should begin reflecting on ourselves, our own sins.  We must keep the words of Jesus in mind. “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  (Mt 7:3-5)  Coming to consciousness of our many sins will help us to be more realistic in judging others.  We will come to realize that we are actually even a worse sinner than them!

This was what the Israelites did in the first reading.  Azariah reflected on the outcome of the sins of Israel.  “Lord, now we are the least of all the nations, now we are despised throughout the world, today, because of our sins. We have at this time no leader, no prophet, no prince, no holocaust, no sacrifice, no oblation, no incense, no place where we can offer you the first-fruits and win your favour.”   Through the consequences of their sins, they came to realize their mistakes.   Instead of excusing themselves, he prayed, “may the contrite soul, the humbled spirit be as acceptable to you as holocausts of rams and bullocks, as thousands of fattened lambs: such let our sacrifice be to you today, and may it be your will that we follow you wholeheartedly, since those who put their trust in you will not be disappointed.”

We too must make time to think through our own life.  The real obstacle to healing is that not many of us spend sufficient time to reflect on our mistakes in life.  When we have a break down in relationship, we only think of assigning blame to the other party.  We are always excusing ourselves but not others.  We only see things from our perspective and not from the other party.  We need to put ourselves in the shoes of others if we are to see everything more objectively.  Unless we learn from our lessons, we cannot grow in self-awareness and be purified in love.  We need to be contrite for true healing to take place.  With the Israelites, we pray, “And now we put our whole heart into following you, into fearing you and seeking your face once more. Do not disappoint us; treat us gently, as you yourself are gentle and very merciful. Grant us deliverance worthy of your wonderful deeds, let your name win glory, Lord.”

We must also avoid applying double standards with respect to our sins and the sins of others.  Indeed, when it comes to our wrongs, we are ever ready to excuse ourselves and ask for leniency, like the unforgiving servant.  But when it comes to the sins of others, we would not make excuses for them.  We demand justice and punishment.  We have no mercy for them.  We are presumptuous and self-righteous. Indeed, those of us who use double standards in dishing out punishment to those who have done us wrong, but would forgive ourselves or our loved ones, show that we are partial in our judgements.  How many of us would be like the legendary Justice Bao who would render judgement equally to all, without regard for the rich or poor, the powerful or the ordinary man?

Even then, God is no Justice Bao!  He is not simply a just God but the God of mercy.  His justice is His mercy!  We can pray with confidence llike Azariah who say, “Oh! Do not abandon us forever, for the sake of your name; do not repudiate your covenant, do not withdraw your favour from us, for the sake of Abraham, your friend, of Isaac your servant, and of Israel your holy one, to whom you promised descendants as countless as the stars of heaven and as the grains of sand on the seashore.”   God, like the master, is ever ready to excuse us as Jesus did on the cross when He prayed to His Father, “Forgive them for they know not what they are doing!”  (Lk 23:34)  Truly, the psalmist says, “Remember your mercy, Lord, and the love you have shown from of old.  Do not remember the sins of my youth because of your goodness, O Lord.  The Lord is good and upright.  He shows the path to those who stray.  He guides the humble in the right path; he teaches his way to the poor.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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