Posts Tagged ‘compassion’

Morning Prayer for Tuesday, July 31, 2018 — Start Each Day With a Grateful Heart

July 31, 2018

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Only one day can matter to us today and that is today. Anyone can fight the battles of just one day. It is only when you and I add the burden of those two awful eternities, yesterday and tomorrow that we break down. It is not the experience of today that drives us mad. It is the remorse or bitterness for something, which happened yesterday, or the dread of what tomorrow may bring. Let us therefore do our best to live but one day at a time. Am I living one day at a time?

Meditation for the Day

Give God the gift of a thankful heart. Try to see causes of thankfulness in your everyday life. When life seems hard and troubles crowd, then look for some reasons for thankfulness. There is nearly always something you can be thankful for. The offering of thanksgiving is indeed a sweet incense going up to God throughout a busy day. Seek diligently for something to be glad and thankful about. You will acquire in time the habit of being constantly grateful to God for all His blessings. Each new day some new cause for joy and gratitude will spring to your mind and you will thank God sincerely.

Prayer for the Day

I pray for a truly thankful heart. I pray that I may be constantly reminded of causes for sincere gratitude.

Related:

See also:

AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE

Source:https://fathergodlovesyou.com/2017/09/14/an-attitude-of-gratitude-can-change-your-life/

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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, July 12, 2018 — God is “the one in whom orphans find compassion”

July 11, 2018

Jesus said to his Apostles: “As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.

Image result for Jesus and lepers, art

Jesus cures the lepers, by James Tissot 1896-97.

Thursday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 386

Reading 1 HOS 11:1-4, 8E-9

Thus says the LORD:
When Israel was a child I loved him,
out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them,
the farther they went from me,
Sacrificing to the Baals
and burning incense to idols.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
who took them in my arms;
I drew them with human cords,
with bands of love;
I fostered them like one
who raises an infant to his cheeks;
Yet, though I stooped to feed my child,
they did not know that I was their healer.My heart is overwhelmed,
my pity is stirred.
I will not give vent to my blazing anger,
I will not destroy Ephraim again;
For I am God and not man,
the Holy One present among you;
I will not let the flames consume you.

Responsorial Psalm PS 80:2AC AND 3B, 15-16

R. (4b) Let us see your face, Lord, and we shall be saved.
O shepherd of Israel, hearken.
From your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Rouse your power.
R. Let us see your face, Lord, and we shall be saved.
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. Let us see your face, Lord, and we shall be saved.

Alleluia MK 1:15

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Kingdom of God is at hand:
repent and believe in the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 10:7-15

Jesus said to his Apostles:
“As you go, make this proclamation:
‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Cure the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse the lepers, drive out demons.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.
Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts;
no sack for the journey, or a second tunic,
or sandals, or walking stick.
The laborer deserves his keep.
Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it,
and stay there until you leave.
As you enter a house, wish it peace.
If the house is worthy,
let your peace come upon it;
if not, let your peace return to you.
Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—
go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.
Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment
than for that town.”
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Reflection for Hos 11:1-9 from Living Space
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Our total commitment to God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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12 JULY, 2018, Thursday, 14th Week, Ordinary Time
YOU RECEIVED WITHOUT CHARGE, GIVE WITHOUT CHARGE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ HOSEA 11:1-48-9MT 10:7-15 ]

In the first reading, we read of the gracious love of God for Israel. “When Israel was a child I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.  I led with reins of kindness, with leading-strings of love. I was like someone who lifts an infant close against his cheek; stooping down to him I gave him his food.” God has chosen us unconditionally, not because of any merit of ours.  He treats us like His sons and daughters.  He loves us as our Father and mother.  He provides for all our needs.  We are what we are today because of His divine providence. Indeed, when we look at our lives, we know that the Lord has always been there for us, otherwise, we would not be where we are today.  We only have His love to thank for.  But often we fail to realize that without His love, we would not be where we are.  “I myself taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in my arms; yet they have not understood that I was the one looking after them.”

But God is also a faithful and merciful God.  We betray His love for us again and again.  Like little children, we tend to take the love of our parents for granted.  We make promises to be true to God and be obedient to Him if He grants us our petition.  But in a short while, we forget our promises.  We go back to the old way of life, not obeying His will.  We are forgetful of His love for us.  This is what the Lord experienced in His people.  “But the more I called to them, the further they went from me; they have offered sacrifice to the Baals and set their offerings smoking before the idols.”  Instead of worshipping God, we worship the idols of our lives.  We get attached to the world like the rest of humanity instead of serving God alone.

Most of all, God is a forgiving God.  “My heart recoils from it, my whole being trembles at the thought. I will not give rein to my fierce anger, I will not destroy Ephraim again, for I am God, not man: I am the Holy One in your midst and have no wish to destroy.”  This God is a God who always forgives.  He does not take into account our sins.  He is ever ready to show mercy and clemency to us when we are repentant.  God knows us because His Son became man and He could identify with us in our temptations and struggles.  That is why Christ is our compassionate High Priest who continuously intercedes for us before our heavenly Father.

In the face of such a loving and merciful God, what must we do?  We must continue the mission of Jesus in proclaiming the Good News in words and deeds.  “Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘As you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.  Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils. You received without charge, give without charge.”  Just as we have received freely His love and mercy, we desire to extend what we have undeservedly received to others.  This is the beginning of our mission. We are to produce the signs of faith.  Curing the sick, healing the lepers and setting people free from the bondage of the devil are means to proclaim the continued presence of God in our midst, lest we think that He is no longer present in the world.

But this proclamation of the gospel must be given freely.  How can we always love freely and give freely?  The truth is that after some time, we begin to be calculating in what we do for others.  Our love is no longer free but given conditionally.  We serve those who are helpful or good to us.  We serve those who support us.  We give our time and services only to our friends, our benefactors.  We are not easily available to those whom we do not know or are not supportive of us and our programs.  If that is the case, then we are no better than the pagans because they too care for each other.  That is why we must always be watchful of preachers and teachers who are out to enrich themselves and who show themselves to be equally attached to the world.  Just by using God’s name to get what they want does not mean that they come from God.  We must be wary of them if they always talk about money and their needs. They should be the least concerned about money. Instead, their priority should be to make the Good News heard and seen through their works of mercy and compassion.

To give without charge, we need to be constantly receiving without charge.  We need to continue to receive His love.  This can happen only if we do not depend on ourselves and hard work alone.   That is why true preachers of the gospel live simply because their only concern is to alleviate the sufferings of their fellowmen and not to fall into desire for worldly things. By living simply, we know that our lives are dependent on God alone.  It is the experience of helplessness and uncertainty of our needs tomorrow that we can receive everything from the Lord with gratitude and wonderment.  And God often surprises us when we least expect.  How often in times of difficulty and challenges, when we felt so helpless, that God sent HIs angels to help us out. We only need to trust in Him.

This dependence on divine providence is what the Lord wanted His disciples to go through so that they would know His love and power.  Hence, He said, “Provide yourselves with no gold or silver, not even with a few coppers for your purses, with no haversack for the journey or spare tunic or footwear or a staff, for the workman deserves his keep.”  The more we experience His marvellous works in our lives, the greater is our trust in Him.  The greater the confidence in Him, the stronger is our faith when we reach out to those who need the healing grace of God.  Our prayers will be more fervent and faith-filled and our works will be more effective.  With the psalmist we pray with faith. “O shepherd of Israel, hear us, shine forth from your cherubim throne. O Lord, rouse up your might, O Lord, come to our help. God of hosts, turn again, we implore, look down from heaven and see.  Visit this vine and protect it, the vine your right hand has planted.”

But it is not enough to be free in giving the Good News.  We must also allow the freedom of response. Because the Good News is given freely, it must be freely received.  It cannot be imposed.  “And if anyone does not welcome you or listen to what you have to say, as you walk out of the house or town shake the dust from your feet.  I tell you solemnly, on the day of Judgement it will not go as hard with the land of Sodom and Gomorrah as with that town.”  We should not be offended if people reject the Good News.  If we do, it is because our pride is hurt. This is the way God regards us as He did with Israel who rejected Him for the idols.   Instead, we should love them even more. 

Indeed, by being peacemakers and life-bringers, we bring life to ourselves and to our beneficiaries. “Whatever town or village you go into, ask for someone trustworthy and stay with him until you leave.  As you enter his house, salute it, and if the house deserves it, let your peace descend upon it; if it does not, let your peace come back to you.”  Peace begets peace, love begets love.  This is the rule of life.  What we give to others, we receive in return.  In blessing others, we are blessed in return.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

 

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, July 10, 2018 — When they sow the wind they shall reap the whirlwind

July 9, 2018
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We reap what we sow…

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Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 384

Reading 1 HOS 8:4-7, 11-13

Thus says the LORD:
They made kings in Israel, but not by my authority;
they established princes, but without my approval.
With their silver and gold they made
idols for themselves, to their own destruction.
Cast away your calf, O Samaria!
my wrath is kindled against them;
How long will they be unable to attain
innocence in Israel?
The work of an artisan,
no god at all,
Destined for the flames—
such is the calf of Samaria!When they sow the wind,
they shall reap the whirlwind;
The stalk of grain that forms no ear
can yield no flour;
Even if it could,
strangers would swallow it.When Ephraim made many altars to expiate sin,
his altars became occasions of sin.
Though I write for him my many ordinances,
they are considered as a stranger’s.
Though they offer sacrifice,
immolate flesh and eat it,
the LORD is not pleased with them.
He shall still remember their guilt
and punish their sins;
they shall return to Egypt.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 115:3-4, 5-6, 7AB-8, 9-10

R. (9a) The house of Israel trusts in the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Our God is in heaven;
whatever he wills, he does.
Their idols are silver and gold,
the handiwork of men.
R. The house of Israel trusts in the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
They have mouths but speak not;
they have eyes but see not;
They have ears but hear not;
they have noses but smell not.
R. The house of Israel trusts in the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
They have hands but feel not;
they have feet but walk not.
Their makers shall be like them,
everyone that trusts in them.
R. The house of Israel trusts in the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaJN 10:14

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord;
I know my sheep, and mine know me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Gospel  MT 9:32-38

A demoniac who could not speak was brought to Jesus,
and when the demon was driven out the mute man spoke.
The crowds were amazed and said,
“Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”
But the Pharisees said,
“He drives out demons by the prince of demons.”Jesus went around to all the towns and villages,
teaching in their synagogues,
proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom,
and curing every disease and illness.
At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned,
like sheep without a shepherd.
Then he said to his disciples,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.”
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Question: “What does it mean to sow the wind and reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7)?”

Answer: Hosea 8:7 makes the enigmatic statement, “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” This proverb is known in modern times for its use in military speeches and as a title for a science fiction novel. What did Hosea mean?

The proverb uses an illustration gleaned from the agricultural process of sowing and reaping. A farmer would sow seed. Of course, the type of seed he planted determined the type of plant that would grow and be harvested. This is the principle of duplication. In Hosea 8:7, God says that Israel had planted wind and would harvest a whirlwind. Taking the “wind” to mean something worthless and foolish (see Job 7:7Proverbs 11:29; and Ecclesiastes 1:1417), we can surmise that Israel’s foolishness in the past would result in a veritable storm of consequence. Indeed, in the previous verses, Hosea decries Israel’s idolatry (verses 4-6). Their foolish pursuit of false gods would reap a severe judgment from the Lord.

Also at work in the proverb is the principle of multiplication: a farmer may plant one kernel of corn, but he will reap much more than that—a whole ear. In the same way, Israel’s sin of idolatry would bring forth an amplified consequence that would sweep them all away.

The rest of verse 7 notes the results of this “whirlwind” of judgment: “The standing grain has no heads; it shall yield no flour; if it were to yield, strangers would devour it.” So, the crop would yield nothing. Outsiders would steal anything that did happen to grow. Israel would have understood Hosea’s words well. A poor or stolen crop would be devastating. Here, God is warning His people that their idolatry would lead to ruin.

In addition to following idols, Israel was seeking help in other, equally sinful ways. “For they have gone up to Assyria, a wild donkey wandering alone; Ephraim has hired lovers” (Hosea 8:9). Israel had made ill-advised treaties with Assyria for protection from their enemies. Instead of trusting God, they relied on their wealth and the help of pagan nations.

The “whirlwind” came upon Israel in 722 B.C., when Assyria invaded Israel, destroyed the capital city of Samaria, and deported the Israelites. Yet Hosea 14:4 promised future grace: “I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them.” A whirlwind does not last forever, and God’s judgment would not be unending. God would later renew the relationship between Him and His people.

Today, we can see the truth of Hosea’s proverb in many ways. Those who live in unrepentant sin can expect to suffer the consequences of their sin—consequences that both “fit the crime” and exhibit a stunning intensity. Also, this statement by Hosea is a clarion call to avoid idolatry. Anything that steals our trust in the Lord, lessens our devotion to Him, or controls us can be considered an idol and should be abolished from our lives.

Recommended Resource: NIV Application Commentary Hosea, Amos, and Micah by Gary Smith

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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10 JULY, 2018, Tuesday, 14th Week, Ordinary Time

HERALDS OF THE GOSPEL

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [HOS 8:4-711-13MT 9:32-37  ]

“Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness.”  This one sentence, sums up the whole ministry of Jesus, which is the proclamation of the Good News through words and deeds.  This vision and mission statement was promulgated by the Lord (cf Lk 4:18f), citing His mission in line with the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. (Isa 61:1-7)

As the herald of the Good News, Jesus was conscious that He was called to be the face of God’s mercy and love.  A herald is a messenger and an ambassador of the one who sent him.  Indeed, the messenger, in his entire being, in his words and deeds, represents the one who sent him or her.  That is what a saint is, someone who reveals the love and mercy of God in himself or herself.  To the extent that we mediate God’s love to others, to that extent, we are His heralds of the gospel.

For this reason, we must be careful that we do not reduce the proclamation of the gospel to teaching alone.  This was the tragedy of the scribes. They were concerned about the preservation of the Laws at all costs.  Fidelity to the Law is all they were concerned about, regardless of the situation and the context of those observing the laws.  They had no regard for the person who was suffering and placed in a context where the laws could not be observed.  Instead of adapting the laws without compromising the principles of the laws, they were more concerned with the meticulous observation of all laws and customs.

This is also true for some of us.  We are too obsessed with the observance of the laws of the Church, the liturgical laws, the customary practices and even the doctrinal laws.  We can be implementing the laws without compassion, without love, without any feelings for those who find the laws oppressive and demanding.   Indeed, some have all the time to quibble over the observance of certain liturgical rules, as if the mass would not be valid if such details were not followed.  There are weightier matters to consider in the Church than such things, such as love, sensitivity, compassion and service.  What is important is that these laws must effectively serve our people.  Let us never forget that unity does not mean conformity to all the rules and customs peculiar to a culture.  We must never forget to distinguish between the substance of the laws and the accidentals.  This is where Pope Francis is asking us to seek a pastoral solution, on one hand, not to deny the doctrines of the Church, and on the other, to help people apply these doctrines concretely in their lives and offering them mercy and compassion even when they fail because of human weakness.  Laws are neat and perfect in themselves but human beings are complex!

Secondly, the proclamation of the gospel is not just about offering sacrifices.  This was the temptation of the priests.  In the first reading, the leaders of the Northern Kingdom, Samaria, was condemned because they led the people to idolatry by setting up the golden calves for political reasons, so that their inhabitants would not travel down to Jerusalem to offer the true worship to God.  “Out of their own silver and gold they have made idols, which are doomed to destruction. I spurn your calf, Samaria, my anger blazes against it. A workman made the thing, this cannot be God! Ephraim has built altar after altar, they have only served him as occasion for sin.  Were I to write out the thousand precepts of my law for him, they would be paid no more attention than those of a stranger.”

Indeed, we are also like them, keeping God in our statues and taking Him out of our lives!  Moses forbade the carving of images of God precisely because God is the “I Am.”  He is a living God who walks, travels, feels and is always with His people.  He is not domesticated in some structures or idols.  To give reverence to the idols, whilst good in itself, can also be a temptation to separate God from the world; God from life.  So we will keep “God” in our statues and shrines, but when we are in the world, we live as if He were not present.

Like them, we too love to offer sacrifices.  The Lord said, “They love sacrificing; right, let them sacrifice! They love meat; right, let them eat it!”  We come for daily mass even and we give our meagre donations for the upkeep of the church, but not for its mission to extend the good news to the poor through the evangelization of the gospel in words and deeds.  We are contented with some rituals that we perform to seek God’s protection for our daily life, good health, career and business.  It is all about ourselves and not about others.

The proclamation of the gospel is precisely the proclamation of true freedom.  “He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.”  We are called to release our people from blindness to their sins and how they are hurting themselves because they choose the values of the world, which is greed, power, immorality, dishonesty, violence and even killing.  Such attachments to the world, addiction to our passions and a selfish way of life makes us even more insecure.  It is the freedom to love, to put others before self and freedom from the fear of suffering and even death.  This was what Jesus did when He exorcised someone under the possession of a dumb demoniac.

Jesus proclaimed the gospel not just by His teaching but in healing and reaching out to those who were suffering and those who were marginalized.  Pope Francis invites the Church to break out of its comfort zone and reach out to those in the peripheries, those who are divorced, burdened by same-sex orientation, prisoners, drug addicts, sick, elderly, abandoned.  These were the same people that Jesus reached out to as well.  Jesus went “through all the towns and villages curing … all kinds of diseases and sickness.”

And we read about the reaction of the people and the Pharisees.  They “were amazed.  ‘Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel’ they said.  But the Pharisees said, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts out devils.’”  Why the different reactions to the miracles and the teachings of Jesus?  The simple, ordinary and desperate people who sought God’s presence found Him in Jesus and were inspired by Him.  The Pharisees and the Scribes on the other hand were self-sufficient.  They did not need any help from anyone.  They were well-off and they had their positions in society.  They found Jesus a threat to their popularity, their credibility, their status quo; and so whilst recognizing the power of Jesus in healing and in the work of exorcism, they attributed His works to His alignment with the devil.   This is so true even in the religious world, when we do good, people who are jealous of us will allow themselves to be used by the Devil to attack us and destroy our good works.

Jesus did all these good works not to draw attention to Himself but simply for the good of the people.  He came to rescue them, as “he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.”  Jesus showed us the compassionate heart of the Good Shepherd who seeks His lost, wounded, hurting, bruised and broken sheep.  He did not stay in His office, planning and clearing emails all day!  He was out teaching, preaching, ministering to those who sought the face of God in Him, and those who needed to feel the healing touch of God.  He was there for the people.   He was available.

Today, we are all called to join Jesus in being heralds of the Good News.  Jesus said, “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.”   We are called to pray for more labourers, but not just to send others to the vineyard but that we ourselves might be the ones to say, like Isaiah, “Here I am!  Send me!”  (Isa 6:8) All of us in our own ways can proclaim the gospel, in words, in deeds, in our whole being, by serving the people of God, especially the poor and the marginalized in works of charity and mercy.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

 

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

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Is Hillary Clinton secretly planning to run in 2020?

July 8, 2018

The messages convey a sense of urgency, and are coming with increasing frequency. They are short, focused reactions to the latest “outrage” committed by President Trump.

Some end by asking for money, some urge participation in protests. All read as if they are sent from the official headquarters of the resistance.

Hillary Clinton is up to something.

Commentary
By Michael Goodwin
New York Post

Five times in the last month alone, she sent e-mails touting her super PAC’s role in combating President Trump. Most seized on headline events, such as the family-separation issue at the southern border.

Under the message line, “horrific,” she wrote June 18: “This is a moral and humanitarian crisis. Everyone of us who has ever held a child in their arms, and every human being with a sense of compassion and decency should be outraged.” She said she warned about Trump’s immigration policies during the 2016 campaign.

Three days later, she was back again, saying that her group, Onward Together, raised $1 million and would split it among organizations working to change border policy, including the American Civil Liberties Union and a gaggle of immigrant, refugee, Latino and women’s groups.

And the day after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, Clinton introduced a newly minted resistance partner. Called Demand Justice, it promises to protect “reproductive rights, voting rights and access to health care” by keeping Senate Democrats united in opposing any conservative Trump nominee.

The instant, in-house nature of Demand Justice was reflected by the name of its executive director: Brian Fallon, Clinton’s campaign press secretary.

In truth, Fallon’s role doesn’t tell us something we didn’t know. Onward Together, formed in May of 2017, is a Clinton 2020 campaign vehicle in waiting.

Its homepage says the group “is dedicated to advancing the vision that earned nearly 66 million votes in the last election.”

Advancing the vision? More like advancing the candidate who collected those votes despite not having a vision.

With the Democratic Party locked in a battle between its far left wing and its far, far left wing, no single leader has emerged to unite it. Clinton is trying to play that role by being a mother hen to the fledgling activists drawn to politics by their hatred of Trump.

If they were active in 2016, most probably supported Bernie Sanders in his primary challenge to Clinton. But by helping to fund them now, she is putting them in her debt for later.

Ah, but will she need their support later? Is she really going to make a third run for the White House?

Not long ago, I told a group of friends, all liberal Dems, that I believed she was keeping open the possibility of a rematch against Trump, and might already have decided to run.

It was unanimous — they were horrified. “I would not give her a single cent,” one man, formerly a big donor to Clinton, said emphatically.

Their reasons are no surprise: Her moment has passed, she was a terrible candidate and her endless claims of victimhood are tiring rather than inspiring. It’s time to find new blood.

Those assessments are unassailable, and certainly are shared by the 20 or so Dems lining up to take their shot at the nomination.

Moreover, there isn’t any clamoring for another Clinton run in Hollywood or other leftist hotbeds. They want a new blockbuster, not a sequel to failure.

So she’s toast, right? Maybe.

On the other hand, the odds are zero that she is playing community organizer just to be a kingmaker. When it comes to money and power, the Clintons assume charity begins at home.

Here’s how I believe she sees the playing field, and why she can’t be ignored.

First, because there’s no clear front-runner for the nomination 18 months into Trump’s presidency, Clinton remains the closest thing to an incumbent. She’s also got numerous advantages, from name recognition to campaign experience to an off-the-shelf Cabinet, that could give her a head start.

Second, a crowded, diverse field diminishes the chances of anyone knocking her off. Recall how Trump outlasted 16 GOP rivals by having a committed core of supporters that grew as the field shrunk. Clinton could be in a similar position — unpopular among many, but also unbeatable by a single opponent.

Third, looking ahead to the 2020 primaries, she sees no reason to fear the favorite daughters and sons in key blue states. She would almost certainly beat Sen. Kamala Harris in California, Sen. Cory Booker in New Jersey and Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York.

And please — forget Sanders and Joe Biden. Sanders is already 76 and Biden, at 75, has never been a viable candidate for president and still isn’t.

Fourth, money is not an issue. Some donors will resist Clinton at first, but any Dem nominee can count on all the money in the world to run against Trump.

To be clear, there are scenarios where Clinton doesn’t run. Health reasons, for example, or a younger rival could rocket to the top of the pack and become the party’s next Barack Obama. Either way, recurring nightmares of two previous defeats would send her back to wandering through the Chappaqua woods.

For now, I am convinced Clinton wants to go for it. Doubters should recall the line about pols who get the presidential itch: There are only two cures — election or death.

Besides, the third time could be the charm.

The Empire State of anarchy

For their next trick, will New York Dems try to secede from the United States?

First, Gov. Cuomo proposed cockamamie schemes to avoid new federal limits on state and local tax deductions. Now Manhattan Assemblyman Richard Gottfried fantasizes about a “workaround” of the Supreme Court ruling that allows municipal workers to skip union fees.

Remember way back, when Dems warned Donald Trump would not accept the election results if he lost? Well …

Doth protest too much

Most immigrants are grateful for the opportunity and freedom they find in America. Then there is Therese Patricia Okoumou.

An immigrant from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where civil war is endless and where protesters are shot, the 44-year-old Okoumou caused visitors to be evacuated from Liberty Island on July 4th when she climbed the base of Lady Liberty to protest American immigration policies.

She was also arrested in a demonstration last year. In 2011, she was hit with $4,500 in fines after illegally posting ads for services as a personal trainer, The Post reports.

Since America isn’t up to her standards, Okoumou should try another country. Perhaps a return to her homeland would make her happy.

Hot-dogged competitor

The stomach-turning quote of the week comes from Joey Chestnut, the Nathan’s July 4th hot-dog-eating champ. Judges initially ruled he ate 64 dogs in 10 minutes, but Chestnut knew he had eaten 10 more.

“At the end,” he said, “I knew I’m at 74 — 64 feels a lot different in the stomach than 74.”

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Related:

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, July 8, 2018 — “For when I am weak then I am strong.”

July 7, 2018

Can I abandon myself? Can I pour myself out for others? — “As the LORD spoke to me, the spirit entered into me.”

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Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 101

Reading 1  EZ 2:2-5

As the LORD spoke to me, the spirit entered into me
and set me on my feet,
and I heard the one who was speaking say to me:
Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites,
rebels who have rebelled against me;
they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day.
Hard of face and obstinate of heart
are they to whom I am sending you.
But you shall say to them: Thus says the LORD GOD!
And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house—
they shall know that a prophet has been among them.

Responsorial Psalm PS 123:1-2, 2, 3-4

R. (2cd) Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
To you I lift up my eyes
who are enthroned in heaven —
As the eyes of servants
are on the hands of their masters.
R. Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
As the eyes of a maid
are on the hands of her mistress,
So are our eyes on the LORD, our God,
till he have pity on us.
R. Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
Have pity on us, O LORD, have pity on us,
for we are more than sated with contempt;
our souls are more than sated
with the mockery of the arrogant,
with the contempt of the proud.
R. Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
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Reading 2 2 COR 12:7-10

Brothers and sisters:
That I, Paul, might not become too elated,
because of the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak then I am strong.

Alleluia CF. LK 4:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 6:1-6

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.
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Reflection By The Abbot in the Desert
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My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Are we able to see the presence of God in others?  Are we able to recognize that God speaks through others?  Do we see and acknowledge the prophets of our own time?  Today’s readings call us to open our hearts, our minds and our whole being to the presence of God in others.

The first reading today is from the Prophet Ezekiel.  God sends prophets to His people.  We don’t always like to hear the words that a prophet speaks.  On the other hand, not everyone who speaks is a prophet.  The Old Testament and the New both understand clearly that a true prophet must speak according to the Word of God, and not according to the words of men.

Today many claim to be prophetic, but most lack any claims to speaking the Word of God.  A true prophet in our Christian tradition must reflect both the Holy Scriptures and the Church.  The Prophet Ezekiel clearly speaks the same message as the other prophets and that message is always the same:  faithfulness to God’s word revealed in Holy Scripture, love for God, love for others, care for the needy and the oppressed.

This message of the Scriptures remains the same from the beginning to the end of the Scriptures.  The message always demands that we give up our own concerns and be concerned only for God and God’s message for us.  The moment we begin to seek our own good, our own enrichment, our own way of thinking—then we become unfaithful to the word of God.

The second reading today is from the Second Letter to the Corinthians.  Here we also listen to God’s word:  “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”  We are invited to embrace the word of Jesus Christ with all our strength and all our being.  When we do embrace this word of God, we shall surely suffer and know our own weaknesses.  This also is a form of prophecy because the more we embrace Christ and follow His way, the more our lives speak about God and His incredible love for us.  We prophesy simply by living.

The Gospel today is from Saint Mark and takes us back to the challenge of rejection.  We should remember that Ezekiel told us that it does not matter if a prophet is recognized or not.  What matters is that the prophet speaks the word of God.  Today’s Gospel points out that we can reject a true prophet simply because we don’t believe that God acts in the ordinary events of our lives and in seemingly ordinary people.

God is always speaking to us:  in others, in the events of our lives, in the Church, in our world.  In order to understand God we must be attentive first of all to His revealed word.  When that revealed Word is our whole way of living, then we begin to recognize His word in all the other realities of our lives.  Today God invites us:  listen to the prophets!  Open your hearts and minds and beings!  God loves you and wishes to speak with you.  Harden not your hearts today!

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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I am but an empty cup….fill me Lord, with your unlimited love…..

We who profess to be Christians, have been infused with the Christ Spirit whose life is intricately intertwined in the tattered threads of our humanity, and He is the One who works in and through us to bring about His plans and purposes for our lives, not we ourselves.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I have discovered this faith life, is not so much about doing anything, it is all about being God’s Heart of love in the flux of life coming at me.

The Art of Surrendering

This life becomes a daily act of surrendering on my part and a daily action on God’s part to lead, direct, and guide in the continual high call upon my life in intricately allowing His Spirit life to manifest His love wherever I walk and with whomever I meet.

Letting go becomes a necessary process in moving forward in my journey as a woman of Faith in this world. God’s ways are not my ways.  Letting go so God’s love can saturate those places I am giving up in a consecrated devotion in desiring Him above anything else in this world.

God’s Redemptive Love

Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus that they (along with all of us) would “be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height” and “to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God”(Ephesians 3:18-19).

I am not sure about you, but have you ever stopped to think about the multiple dimensions of God’s love—the breadth, length, depth, and height— that Paul mentions?

I can barely imagine such extraordinary, magnificent, gracious, glorious, expounding, expansive dimensions of this love, where I have only tasted a bit, barely scratching the surface of a love that is untainted by any human concept of love.

God’s love never gives up on me and He pursues me dearly all the days of my life.  His love is faithful, loyal, and remains steadfast.  His love requests no return.  His love is freely gifted to me. His love cannot be forced onto anyone.

Those who come to Him do so in response to His love. Love shows kindness to all. Love  went about doing good to everyone without partiality. Love did not covet what others had, living a humble life without complaining. Love did not brag about who He was in the flesh, although He could have overpowered anyone He ever came in contact with.

Love does not demand obedience. God did not demand obedience from His Son, but rather, Jesus willingly obeyed His Father in heaven. “The world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me” (John 14:31). Love was/is always looking out for the interests of others.

This love has a name, Jesus Christ, Father God, Holy Spirit, who dwell in a perfect union known in the fellowship of their love and when I abide, dwelling in this secret place, I  become their expression of love upon this earth..

When I am deeply touched in their love, I desire to fellowship in this Triune Godhead, receiving love into my heart each day.  It is in this known intimacy in having this near relationship with a living God where I become His love.

My God hears, always responding lovingly, desiring communion with us, calling us to Himself each moment.  God, whose timing is perfect and whose actions always stem from a purely motivatedfoundation of His true love for all mankind.

God’s Love dwells in me

Wherever I travel today, His love dwells in the core of my inner being.

God gave His love to me and offers His love to anyone who will receive it. In the gospel of it is writing;  “For God so loved the world.” John 3:16.  In John 16:27 we read, “For the Father Himself loves you.” The apostle John, again, speaks of God’s love in 1 John 3:1 when he says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us.”

These verses are simply a sampling of the many times this truth is expressed in the Scriptures. God is love, and He expresses His love in many ways.

green trees surrounding lake

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.comWe All Struggle At Times

In those times of uncertainty, unknowing, wondering, it is His love I return in finding Him again, seeking His grace to help in sustaining me through any difficulties.  I myself have weather sudden and unexpected chronic health issues, unrelenting emotional/physical pain, lost job, death of loved one, estranged family members, etc.

Perhaps you too are struggling with some sort of unrelenting issues in your life.  We all do at times and we all need someone to help us to get through these times. We were never meant to be on our own in this faith life. God has gifted us with a community of saints all over the world.

It was in my search for His guidance to lighten my burdens in the dark times I found myself wondering, around, in and through, I discovered His love was the only way to be in this world, regardless of any life altering events that came my way.

It was in those times of not having answers, I realized, I have no power of my own to carry the divine nature of the Christ in me, and I needed to surrendered on a deeper level, allowing His Spirit room to move in the edges and in the corners of all the hidden regions of my heart.

In this process of letting go, in giving up of my ways, it was God’s love who continued to wash me, refreshing me by His Spirit of regeneration, and it was His love who continually changing my inner thoughts, attitudes to be more loving in my response with myself and with others.

Through all of the situations and circumstances in my life, it has been God who drew me nearer to His bosom of love, so that I could become God’s Heart, manifesting His genuine, sincere,authentic love towards others.

Manna From God

Each falling in my own strength, ushered me into the new land graced with honey combs, where I become strengthened in the daily manna from God’s hand, and all I had to do was to come to Him, again and again and again, as an open receptacles thirsting and hungering to receive His presence of love.

“Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.” Proverbs 26:24

Yes, pleasant words, God’s words, scriptures are as honey – health for body and good for my soul. It’s especially healthy for my bones, the strength of body and combined with Holy Spirit living, He holds me together within His frame of Holinessknitting my flesh, bones and blood in the shed blood of the crossinterconnecting me in the sufferings of Christ.

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Book: Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Holy Spirit Power

In those times of my human failings, He stepped in, lifting me by His resurrection power of His Holy Spirit, where I became His adopted daughter, desiring only Him, longing to be with Him each day, pining to be filled with His sweet love and goodness towards me.

In this way I become the fragrance of His character walking this earthly pilgrimage one step at a time, in and by His abundant mercy and grace.

When I am in the dark, spiritually blind to the secret things of God, it is He who unveils His ways, His love, revealing spiritual insights that are birthed from those dark times when I became blind to His activity in my life, either through wrong decisions, or from life events.

I find myself bowing before Him in humility asking for His forgiveness in my errors in not being His love.

Stepping out in faith often requires me to fall flat on my face in the realization, on my own, I am unable, but in Him, I am more than able to fulfil the purposes and intentions He has on my life, and the greatest ones are in being His breath of love in the hearts of the men, woman and children I meet in my journey.

I do this one step at a time, one moment at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time, one month at a time, one year at a time….

A New Day is Here

Today is a new day, to begin again. To begin again on the road that revives life in my soul and brings life to all those I touch, as I come into His presence with humbleness, asking forgiveness when I react from my flesh rather than responding through His love.

I am ever thankful for His tender gentle care towards me, as I ask again, for my God to pour into my dry days, His rain of lovefilling my empty cup by His streams of living waters, giving me His compassion for this day.

As I walk this road with others, one step at a time, in and by His ability, I am mindful, He has gifted me with sisters who join with me in this journey, to encourage, to support, to edify, to prayerful lift one another up, for in God we are never alone, and in the fellowship of one anthers’ company, we will never be alone!

The New Way is Love

In scriptures, the book of James tells us to not be surprised when troubles come our way, for we will have many in this world, but Jesus Christ and His love is the way in and through the hard times and Jesus Christ and His love is the way in and through all the good times.

It is in the dark times He draws me ever nearer to Him, as I draw ever nearer to His love, and I am are drawn ever nearer to the community of the saints.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to me.”  James 4:8

I have learned this faith life is all of us gathering together, walking hand in hand, helping, assisting, being His love Heart, lighting the way for one other, where our love becomes the healing balm, uniting in the fellowship of the Triune Godhead and in the intimacy found in becoming vulnerable with one another in our relationships, where truth, honor and integrity become moral codes.

God as my Source

When I learn the art of dwelling in Him, coming to Him in each moment, drinking from the living waters in the well of life that will never go dry, I am learning the art of abiding, of resting, of being in His Spirit, who becomes the very breath in my lungs, granting me His new life each day generously filling me in His rich unlimited love.

His love becomes my source for enduring in the difficulties found in being human, in being born in the flesh having an earthly vessel, where I become weary at times, where I feel alone at times, where I see the tragedies all around me, and where I come face to face with the overwhelming suffering of people, often beyond what any human being seems capable of bearing.

Then I discover again, His supernatural ability enters into my humanness helping me to persevere in adversity, in the many life challenges, in the often unexpected arrival of life altering events, and in having weathered these times of intense unrelenting suffering.

God’s Agents offering Compassionate Caring

In and through my own pained sorrows, I have learned to carry the compassionate caring of my Lord, with all those I come face to face with who are daily suffering, and I become His active agent in pouring into their souls, an offering of His mercy and grace.

In becoming His holy breath of love in those who have lost hope, in those who are downtrodden, in those who are poor, in those who are ill, in those who know not my God, I can help to inspire a renewed hope simply through those acts of kindness in being sensitive in meeting others right where they are at, not forcing them to be where I am.

When we realize, we can be powerful influencers in our own sphere of the world, helping to ignite passions in others in desiring to seek out this God who is love, in developing spiritual patterns in a new way of being, and showing there is a way we can bridge all that comes to separate us in this world, in learning to relate with others, according to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

In this way we are instilling value and worth into the lives of those we touch, becoming God’s human agents, infusing His love into the souls of those we encounter and our lives become a balm of healing in the midst of the struggles of those we come face-to-face with in this world.

I am but an empty cup….fill me Lord, with your unlimited love…..

Living Intentionally

 

I have a few questions I would like us to reflect on.  If you wish to share your answers with us in the ‘Penny for your thoughts’ section at the end of this post, please do so, as we can all learn from one another.

  1. Where is my motivations when with others?
  2. What is my life purpose on this earth?
  3. What gives me meaning and value in my life?
  4. Where am I failing in sincerely loving others?
  5. How can I become more balanced as a person in offering compassion?
  6. How can I find God as my source to help me in my life’s struggles?

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If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.

— Isaiah 58:10

See also 1 Samuel 1: 15

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

 

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

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

May 13, 2018

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

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Feast of Saint Matthias, Apostle
Lectionary: 564

Reading 1 ACTS 1:15-17, 20-26

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

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

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

AlleluiaSEE JN 15:16

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

Gospel  JN 15:9-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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14 MAY, 2018, Monday, St Matthias, Apostle

MISSION IN COMMUNION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 28, 2018

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

Image may contain: 1 person

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

Reading 1 EX 12:1-8, 11-14

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

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

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

Reading II 1 COR 11:23-26

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

Verse Before The Gospel  JN 13:34

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

Gospel  JN 13:1-15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites

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

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

March 10, 2018
Fourth Sunday of Lent

Lectionary: 32

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

Reading 1 2 CHR 36:14-16, 19-23

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

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

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

Reading 2 EPH 2:4-10

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

Verse Before The Gospel JN 3:16

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

Gospel JN 3:14-21

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

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

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

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

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus, an agent of God

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

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

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

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

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

Darkness of chosen evil

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

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

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

Fear of being judged

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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

March 8, 2018

Friday of the Third Week of Lent
Lectionary: 241

Image may contain: plant, nature and food

Reading 1  HOS 14:2-10

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

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

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

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

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

Verse Before The GospelMT 4:17

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

Gospel MK 12:28-34

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

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

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

Both readings are about our total commitment to God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 25, 2018

Monday of the Second Week in Lent
Lectionary: 230

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Reading 1  DN 9:4B-10

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel  LK 6:36-38

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

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Commentary on Luke 6:36-38 from Living Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday in the Second Week of Lent 

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

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

Beautiful Compassion

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

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

 

No Half Measures

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

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

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

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

First Reading: Daniel 9:4-10

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

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

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

Gospel: Luke 6:36-38

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

From the Association for Catholic Priests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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