Posts Tagged ‘constant contact with God’

Morning Prayer for Thursday, November 1, 2018 — Faith, hope, prayer keep me sane, sober, useful in service to others

November 1, 2018

Many people today say they have lost their faith and they have lost their hope. The two go together. No faith, no hope. On the challenges of this life and the suffering it brings, Pope John Paul II said, “No cross, no resurrection.”

There is work each of us must do in order to have the faith we need to stay sane, sober and useful to others. Part of this work is prayer. Prayer and service to others keep us sane, sober, useful, loved and in love.

After the horrendous mass killing at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, Rabbi Benjamin Sendrow came forward to offer some reflection on what had happened:

“We will not let the few evil people dominate our society.”

“As a society we are becoming courser, and meaner and cruder.”

“When God is removed from our society, this is the result.”

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Mourning in Pittsburgh

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Below from “Twenty Four Hours a Day” for November 1:

I have hope. That magic thing that I had lost or misplaced. The future looks dark no more. I do not even look at it, except when necessary to make plans. I try to let the future take care of itself. The future will be made up of todays and todays, stretching out as short as now and as long as eternity. Hope is justified by many right nows, by the rightness of the present. Nothing can happen to me that God does not will for me. I can hope for the best, as long as I have what I have and it is good. Have I hope?

Meditation for the Day

Faith is the messenger that bears your prayers to God. Prayer can be like incense, rising ever higher and higher. The prayer of faith is the prayer of trust that feels the presence of God, which it rises to meet. It can be sure of some response from God. We can say a prayer of thanks to God every day for His grace, which has kept us on the right way and allowed us to start living the good life. So we should pray to God with faith and trust and gratitude.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may feel sure of some response to my prayers. I pray that I may be content with whatever form that response takes.

Related:

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Morning Prayer for Monday, August 6, 2018 — Daily Communion With God

August 6, 2018

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Refilling with the spirit is something you need every day. For this refilling with the spirit, you need these times of quiet communion, away, alone, without noise, without activity. You need this dwelling apart, this shutting yourself away in the very secret place of your being, away alone with your Maker. From these times of communion you come forth with new power. This refilling is the best preparation for effective work. When you are spiritually filled, there is no work too hard for you.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may be daily refilled with the right spirit. I pray that I may be full of the joy of true living.

Related:

Morning Prayer For Saturday, June 23, 2018 — Constant Contact with God — Where your treasure is; there will your heart also

June 23, 2018

“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple-minded?
And how long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?
Turn back at my reproof
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
I will make my words known to you.

Proverbs 1:22-23

(Don’t get Stuck on Stupid)

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Do not be focused on yourself

No chain is stronger than its weakest link. Likewise, if you fail in the
day-by-day program, in all probability it will be your weakest point.
Great faith and constant contact with God’s power can help you
discover, guard, and undergird your weakest point with a strength not
your own. Intelligent faith in God’s power can be counted on to help
you master your emotions, help you to think kindly of others, and help
you with any task that you undertake, no matter how difficult. Am I
master of my emotions?

Meditation For The Day

You need to be constantly recharged by the power of the spirit of
God. Continue with God in quiet times until the life from God, the
Divine life, by that very contact, flows into your being and revises your
fainting spirit. When weary, take time out and rest. Rest and gain
power and strength from God, and then you will be ready to meet
whatever opportunities come your way. Rest until every care and
worry and fear have gone and then the tide of peace and serenity, love
and joy, will flow into your consciousness.

Prayer For The Day

I pray that I may rest and become recharged. I pray that I may pause
and wait for the renewing of my strength.

From the book “Twenty Four Hours a Day”

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“Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.”

How often we get weary of praying when God does not answer our prayers the way we want Him to answer them!  How slow we are to recognize that God knows better than we what is truly good for us!  How difficult it is to remain praying for what we think is right when nothing good seems to happen to us and when we sense that God has abandoned us!

God never abandons any of us but instead is always with us, seeking to form us as wonderful and loving human beings who have the strength to do what is right and good.  To form anyone requires that we learn how to persevere, how to keep going in the midst of any difficulties, how to accept that if we persevere and keep trying, eventually we see the hand of God present and his loving presence beside us.

My sisters and brothers, let us not be spoiled children who only want our own desires!  Let us grow into women and men who are strong and seek only what God wants and who are willing to suffer for the love of God and the love of others.

Pour Yourself Out:

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

 

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Mass For Saturday:

Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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23 JUNE, 2018, Saturday, 11th Week, Ordinary Time

SLAVE OF GOD OR OF MAMMON?

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 CH 24:17-25MT 6:24-34 ]

In the gospel yesterday, Jesus made it clear that “where your treasure is, there will your heart also.”  So today, we are confronted with a decision to choose God or Mammon. This is the crux of today’s Word of God, “No one can be the slave to two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn.  You cannot be the slave both of God and money.”   What we choose in life will determine our happiness because our focus is dependent on what motivates us in life.  If God is whom we choose, we put God as the center of our life in all that we do or say.  If Mammon is what we choose, then it becomes the controlling factor in all our thoughts, words and actions.  So what is driving us each day in life?

In the first place, we must clarify what it means to be a slave.  The first thing we take note is that a slave is the property of the master.  He lives entirely for the master.  His whole life, all his energy and talents are at the service of the master.  All that he owns belongs to the master, his time and his whole life.  He claims nothing for his own.  The corollary of this also means that he lives from the master.  His life is dependent on the master since he lives for his master.  Since he has nothing that he could claim as his own, the master is the one who looks after him and cares for him since he is serving him.  Otherwise, the slave would be too weak to serve the master and take care of his needs.  So there is this mutual relationship of loyalty and fidelity to each other.  If the master does not treat his servant well, he will suffer ultimately.

Analogously, in our relationship with God, He is our master and we are His servants.  If we consider God as the treasure of our lives, then we would live for Him and Him alone.  He is the sole determinant in whatever we do or say.  This is what Jesus meant when He said, “Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness.”   This entails living for God and His kingdom of justice, love, mercy and compassion.   When we put God and His kingdom values in our lives, then all our energy, talents and resources, all our will and devotion is to make these values of the kingdom prevalent in the world.  In this way, we live for God and for the service of humanity.

All that we have belong to God and therefore our possessions and wealth are only means, not the ends.  They are used for the glory of God and the extension of His reign of love and justice.  Like the birds in the sky or the flowers in the field, we are called to glorify God with our lives.  Our attitude towards things of the world is to use them for the service of love of God and of our fellowmen.  Money and possessions are not used solely for ourselves or just for our selfish enjoyment but we see ourselves as stewards of God’s gifts to be distributed and shared with others.  Our position in society, our health, our wealth, they are all to be used to further the reign of God’s love.

But it also means that we will also live from God alone.  Since everything belongs to Him, we are aligned with His will.  We will do what He wants and not what we want.  We take whatever the Lord has given to us for others.  We accept whatever He gives us without demanding more than we need to serve the plan of God.  If God does not bless us with certain gifts, wealth or position, it is simply because we are not required to serve in that area.  When we endeavor to do God’s will rather than ours, then we will not fall into the sin of pride, envy and greed.  We will live a full life, doing as much as we can in whichever situation we are in, because we are serving our master.  At the same time, we do not crave for things that we do not need for the service of love.  In this way, we live a contented life, free from fear and worry about tomorrow because we know that God will take care of us since we live for Him.

Conversely, when a person lives for Mammon and entrusts his life to the pursuits of this world, regardless whether it is wealth, money or status, then his entire focus is about the world.  The world controls his direction in life.  Like a slave, he lives for money, power and glory.   Whatever he does, it is to increase his wealth, power and glory.  These are the things that matter most.  People are subordinated to this goal.  He will make use of people and often put his family and loved ones second to his worldly pursuits.  Everything is measured in terms of worldly success and gains.  He would even use unscrupulous and unethical means to enrich himself.   All his time and energy is for his ambition and selfish wants.

Such a person lives for himself.  He is focused on himself, his needs, his desires and aspirations.  Because he lives only for himself and can only depend on himself, he lives a life of insecurity.  He is always worried about tomorrow because life is unpredictable.  He wants his will to prevail and his goals to be realized.  But the truth is that one can fall sick and even die, the economy can suddenly collapse; a tragedy could strike anytime and anyplace.  So he lives in fear and worries even as he accumulates more and more; and grows to be more powerful and influential.  Yet, he knows that these things will soon pass and that makes him insecure and fearful that it is a matter of time when he will lose everything that he has.

This was the mistake of King Joash.  He started well as a young king guided and mentored by Johoiada, the high priest who restored the Temple of Jerusalem by removing Queen Athaliah.   When the Temple was restored, the country was also restored to order.  When God is worshipped and loved, then we find our bearings in life because everything is seen in the perspective of the love of God and of our fellowmen.  However, the tragedy of life is that riches and wealth often blind us to the truth.  As the country became prosperous, Joash and his leaders again forgot about Yahweh.  They fell into decadence and allowed idolatry, the worship of false gods and superstitious practices to come into their lives.

When we are consumed by our desires and when God is no longer the center of all that we live for, then we can no longer even hear the truth proclaimed by the prophets.  This was the reaction of King Joash to the prophet, Zechariah, son of Jehoiada the priest.  He forgot completely what his father did for him in helping him to regain the throne from the wicked Queen.  Yet for all that he did for him in his glory, he dismissed the warning of Zechariah.  Instead of being grateful, he had him killed.   As a consequence, the country deteriorated.  Eventually, he was conquered by the Aramean army and was murdered by his own officials.  He got his just desserts for the sins he committed.   God sends prophets to save us from our sins and destruction.  And even when He allows us to suffer for our sins, it is never out of vindictiveness or revenge but to awaken us to the truth about our selfish pursuits and the more important things of life.   If we do not pay heed to His warnings, we too will suffer the same fate.

So, we are called to make a decision today, whether we want to serve God or Mammon.  If we choose God and make Him the center of our lives, we do not have to live in fear for His will is our peace.  By surrendering our lives to Him, we can live in peace and give ourselves entirely to what we do and choose to be happy and fulfilled in any circumstance we are in.  We can be confident that He will look after us as history has shown.  Somehow, we will manage and survive in life.  When we look at our past, the Lord has shown in many situations that He is the Lord of our lives.  “Now if that is how God clothes the grass in the field which is there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will he not much more look after you, you men of little faith?”  So we live in faith and trust in the Lord each day, without having to worry about tomorrow.  As Jesus said, “Surely life means more than food, and the body more than clothing!”  If we choose Mammon, that is, to put our trust in worldly things and in ourselves, then the consequence is that we live in perpetual fear and worry because there is no peace in our hearts.  We will always be seeking to fulfill our will.

But the real tragedy for us is not that we choose God or mammon but we want both.  The truth is that no one can serve two masters.  In trying to serve both masters, we end up confused and fickle minded.  One day, we serve God and another day, we serve Mammon.  As such, our lives are lived like a yo-yo, swinging up and down, left and right because we lack focus.  We fall into sin and then get out of sin. This explains why those of us who apparently choose God but not definitively or totally, continue to live in tension, in fear, in worry and lacking peace and joy in our lives.   So the choice is really ours.  The kingdom of God, the reign of His love and peace is ours if we choose to serve Him and make Him the center of our lives.  If we choose Mammon, the world and ourselves, then be ready for the consequences.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore 
 
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Coming Into Contact With God — All We Have To Do Is Cooperate — A Spiritual Reflection of the Lenten Season

March 10, 2017

What can give satisfaction to all our cravings for human sympathy, understanding and love? In life, what gives man total equanimity?

Sadly, in human life, no matter how much money, how many cars, how much sex, and how varied and large the supply of intoxicants some of us can consume, many of us still lack something.

We search and search but still find the world wanting.

Along my own path of searching and discovery, I encountered an older man going through life with such equanimity, such a child-like joy at every life encounter and each and every moment of every day that I felt a powerful attraction toward him. Despite strokes, heart attacks and just about every malady of old age, he seemed totally unworried and unafraid.

Yet all around us we saw young, strong, intelligent and promising men and women devoid of any redeeming values at all. Their lives looked vacuous and lost — and not worth having.

It took years for me to realize that what I had experienced was very much the same as the experience felt by many in the scriptures.

“The savior exercised a magnetic attraction over men who, at the time of coming into contact with him, were walking in the ways of sin. This is truly extraordinary.” (p. 47)

And the followers of the savior traveled the world, two by two, seeking only the opportunity to share what they had learned. Saint Thomas made it to India and others after him reached Japan, Korea and every corner of the world.

I was told that, “we are driven to Jesus as to the one creature among all creatures that can give satisfaction to all our cravings for human sympathy, understanding and love.” (p. 46)

“But as soon as that contact with him is established, a new experience begins for us. The disappearance of the dissatisfaction with life, which we have felt, is followed by the emergence of different longings, greater ambitions and loftier aspirations…. The desires of our hearts are enlarged and he is able to satisfy these new desires as he did for those that prepared the way for him.”

The “Holy Spirit in us gives some of the sacred humanity of Jesus, which, in spite of our sinfulness and the shrinking fear that comes of it, we can feel God as a friend to us.”

“It is the role and mission of the Holy Spirit to establish those relations between God and man.”

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The quotes are from “Holy Spirit” by Father Edward Leen, available from Amazon. The book invites us to live the teachings of Jesus in our daily lives. The rewards are eternal.

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“Be vigilant at all times pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” — Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, November 26, 2016

November 25, 2016

Saturday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 508

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Christ Stands Before Pilate by Antonio Ciseri — Ecce Homo (Behold the Man)

 

Reading 1 RV 22:1-7

John said:
An angel showed me the river of life-giving water,
sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God
and of the Lamb down the middle of the street,
On either side of the river grew the tree of life
that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month;
the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations.
Nothing accursed will be found anymore.
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it,
and his servants will worship him.
They will look upon his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
Night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun,
for the Lord God shall give them light,
and they shall reign forever and ever.And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true,
and the Lord, the God of prophetic spirits,
sent his angel to show his servants what must happen soon.”
“Behold, I am coming soon.”
Blessed is the one who keeps the prophetic message of this book.

Responsorial Psalm PS 95:1-2, 3-5, 6-7AB

R. (1 Cor 16: 22b, see Rev. 22: 20c) Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!
For the LORD is a great God,
and a great king above all gods;
In his hands are the depths of the earth,
and the tops of the mountains are his.
His is the sea, for he has made it,
and the dry land, which his hands have formed.
R. Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!

Alleluia LK 21:36

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Be vigilant at all times and pray
that you may have the strength to stand before the Son of Man.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 21:34-36

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”

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Related:
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Seeking Truth
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Commentary on Luke 21:34-36 From Living Space


Our final reading from Luke (and this Church year) continues the messages of warning that he has been giving during the week.

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The warning is not to become immersed in a life of self-centred indulgence and hedonism nor to be overcome by many worries and anxieties. It is these two things which can dominate the lives of so many: a combination of escapism from what is difficult and a running to activities where happiness is confused with pleasure.

The “great day” is going to close in like a trap – quickly and without previous warning. “The day I speak of will come upon all who dwell on the face of the earth.” Of course, for every single one of us, that “great day” in practice is the day on which we will be called individually to face our Lord and Creator.

(One might ask, What do we do while we are waiting for the rest of the world to join us? Perhaps we should remember that ‘on the other side’ it is an eternal Now, with no past or future. It is like going to the hub of a wheel from any part of the rim. All converge together in the same place.)

So we are warned to be permanently on the watch. To pray constantly for strength to avoid what is bad for us and that we may be able to stand secure when we come face to face with the Son of Man. In some ways, the demands are very simple, although we find them difficult at times – showing our fidelity to God by a loving concern for the well-being of every other person, but especially those most in need. “As often as you did it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to ME.”

Whatever the circumstances of our life we look forward in confidence to the ultimate victory of God, of Jesus and of the Kingdom. As has been said here more than once, the best preparation for that unpredictable moment of leaving this world is to live as fully as we can in the presence of our always-present God. Let us seek him, find him and respond to him in every single person and in every single experience of our daily lives.

“O Lord, grant that all my thoughts, intentions, actions and responses may directed solely to your love and service this day and every day.” Amen.

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“The antidote to fear is faith”

If we are “spiritual” what do we get?

We get peace. We might answer: “Do not be afraid. Everything is possible with God.”

We might simplify further and say, “We get a good night’s sleep.”

Our anxiety goes away or is greatly reduced.

We get freedom and a clear head. We get the joy of living not for ourselves but for and with others. We get a shot at eternity.

We might ask, “If you are spiritual, do you pray?” Many have said, “no prayer, no spiritual life.”

We might recommend this book, which suggests, after much study, that we who want to be or get closer to God, do at least four (not one or three) things frequently… We at Peace and Freedom have come to belive that these four actions help the addicted, the unbelievers, and everyone in between….)

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(Might also be called, “Four Signs of a Dynamic Christian” or “Four Signs of A Dynamic Person in Recovery”)

  1. We Pray and Meditate
  2. We study (spiritual works, like the scripture — For alcoholics and drug addicted people, we study the 12 Step literature)
  3. We pour ourselves out in loving service to others
  4. We evangelize. A Christians talks about his faith — he is not ashamed. A person in AA or another 12 Step recovery program, does 12 Step work.

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Do We Pray?

“A soul should not resolve, on account of the dryness it experiences, to abandon prayer.” — St. Teresa of Avila

“No prayer, no spiritual life.” –St. John Paul II

“Nothing so much purifies our mind from its errors, or our will from its depraved  affections, as prayer.” — St. Francis de Sales

“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.” — St. Pio of  Pietrelcina (“Padre Pio”)
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For thousands of years, human beings have been praying. We modern Americans may need to give it a try too. I know it’s not cool but being cool won’t keep me sober or get me to heaven!

Prayer is what “practicing” spiritual people do. They also study, do service for others, evangelize, meditate…..

Our daily practices of our Christian faith opens the door to more intervention of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. Once we realize “All things are possible with God” and “Do not be afraid” have given us inner peace and strength, only then can we take risks in serving others more totally and spiritually.
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Our goal is to be saved unto eternity — but if we constantly cower in fear on this earth we cannot find and do the mission God sent us here to perform.
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Our lives do not belong to us. Rather, God gives us life as an opportunity to find the mission He has for us!
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Related:

This little “anti-anxiety” prayer was a part of every Catholic Mass for centuries:
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Deliver us, Lord, from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
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Another anti-anxiety prayer is this one:
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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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28 NOVEMBER 2015, Saturday, 34th Week in Ordinary Time
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OVERCOMING THE ENEMIES OF THE KINGDOM THROUGH WATCHFUL PRAYER

SCRIPTURE READINGS: DN 7:15-27; LK 21:34-36As we come to the end of the liturgical year, the theme of today’s liturgy is that we must stay awake at all times.  This theme seems to be repetitive during these last weeks.  If the Church appears to be repetitive of this theme, it is because many of us are still not hearkening to the invitation of the Lord to be prepared for His coming.

We can never be too sure or confident that our life will be well taken care of and things will continue run smoothly for us.  We may have no worries and enjoy a blessed life.  Our family may be united in love and are children are doing well in their studies and careers.  Yet, the peace and security we have are never guaranteed.  Life is always unpredictable.  Without warning and often suddenly, we might one day find ourselves struck by the death of a loved one, an accident, a misfortune, an illness, a broken marriage, unemployment or a business failure, just when we think everything is going well for us.

Of course besides all our fears and anxieties, we can also be overwhelmed by our own sins and worldly concerns.  Our hearts are weighed down by greed, lust, gluttony and all kinds of worldly pursuits. We are all addicted to our sinful habits and unable to free ourselves from our disordered passion for pleasures.  Many of us are too preoccupied with the cares of life. The gospel advises us to be watchful of the signs and the presence of the kingdom.  Many of us are asleep.  As a result, life passes us by.  We live a barren life and a life that is ruled by sin.  We drift from day to day without any sense of direction.

That is why Jesus warns us not to take all these things for granted.  He said, “’Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap.  For it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth.”  If we are not prepared, we can be so weighed down by the inconveniences, setbacks, failures and disappointments in life.  We can also be crushed by our sins and our mistakes in life.  Some of us cannot accept these passing things and events of life.  We cannot forgive ourselves or those we blame for the situations we are in, or simply cannot accept the situation itself.  Some of us are resigned to the difficulties of life, but are not trying to transcend or overcome our problems.  Others try to drown their sorrows by escaping into drinks, or engaging in vain and useless activities.  Instead of confronting the way they live, they want to numb their senses and their conscience.

So without exception, besides contending with our internal enemies, we also have to contend with external foes in our lives that threaten our peace and joy.  Who, then, are our external enemies? The first reading from the Prophet Daniel speaks of the forces of evil in the world.  Daniel had earlier interpreted that vivid dream of King Nebuchadnezzar, about a terrifying statue symbolizing four kingdoms.  Historically, we know that these kingdoms were the Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians, and the Greeks. (Cf Daniel 2)  The four beasts in Daniel’s own dream in Chapter 7 probably corresponds also to these same four kingdoms.  Clearly, the fourth beast refers to the Greek Empire, from which arose Antiochus IV Epiphanes who was one of the generals who inherited part of the empire of Alexander the Great after his death.  He proved to be the greatest persecutor of the Church.  He was the horn that made “war on the saints and proving the stronger … he is going to speak words against the Most High, and harass the saints of the Most High. He will consider changing seasons and the Law, and the saints will be put into his power for a time, two times, and half a time.” Indeed, because of him, many Jews defected from their faith and gave up the Covenant and the Law.

What about our enemies today? Today our enemies are not so much physical powers or internal enemies but spiritual forces at work in the world.  I would consider the four beasts in our time as secularism, relativism, materialism and religious syncretism.  Secularism denies the reality of God and puts God out of the affairs of man.  Relativism amoralizes all values so much so that the objectivity of truth is no longer known.  Materialism reduces man merely to an animal like the rest of the creatures on earth, making him lose his spiritual consciousness.  Finally, there is religious and scientific syncretism, which encompasses the New Age phenomena whereby science and religions are eclectically fused together so that man comes to deceive himself thinking that he is god.  Whilst the first three are obviously anti-religion, the last seems to be “religious”, but is in fact as insidious a lie as it confuses our real identity and calling.  Indeed because the New Age phenomena looks so innocent, attractive and compatible with religions, even many of our Catholics unwittingly have imported such New Age beliefs and practices into their spiritual life and daily living.  New Age philosophy is basically pantheistic.

It is therefore necessary for us, as Jesus said, to “Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.”  We must continue to stand firm in the face of the challenges in society where Christianity is no longer having the kind of influence on the world as it had before.  In fact, we are at a critical stage of history when people are losing faith in the institutions, be they political or religious.  As Christians, we must continue to resist the secularist, relativist and materialist approaches to life.  We must be firm in upholding true values that are rooted in the dignity of the human being.

At the same time, we must, in our fight against evil, be confident that we will triumph in the end.  We must not be pessimistic when we consider the struggles we have to put up with. This is what the first reading is assuring us. We read that in spite of the great persecution, evil has a limit “until the coming of the one of great age who gave judgement in favour of the saints of the Most High, when the time came for the saints to take over the kingdom.”  Prophet Daniel said “the saints will be put into his power for a time, two times, and half a time.” In other words, for three and a half years, which is a symbol of incompleteness. Evil can only reign temporarily.  It might appear to have the upper hand, but God is in control.  The forces of evil will ultimately be destroyed. Eventually, the Kingdom of God will be established as the only reality.  This kingdom has in fact already been established in Christ Jesus.

This prophecy about the “final and absolute destruction” of this king’s rule must have been a great source of comfort to the faithfulliving at that time and to us today.  Hence, with the psalmist, we can truly praise God for His love and fidelity to us.  “Give glory and eternal praise to him.” Indeed, the psalmist calls for sons of men, all Israel, Priests, Servants of the Lord, Spirits and souls of the just  and Holy men of humble heart, “bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.”

However, this kingdom is only given to the saints, to those who have persevered against the forces of evil. The tragedy is that many of us are still unaware that God’s kingdom is already here.  Truly, many of us are aware that we are not being true to ourselves or to God.  For this reason, today, Jesus urges us to be awake at all times.  We must live the life that is given to us fully.  Instead of running away from problems and troubles, we must seek to face life and live it courageously.  In this way, we can live without regrets whatsoever and can face the Son of Man with a clear conscience, knowing that we have done all that we could.  Such a life is the only kind worth living.  By living in this manner, the kingdom of God also becomes a reality in our lives.  We will then know the promise of God that His reign would be established in the saints is fulfilled, as prophet Daniel foretold in the first reading.  Together with Jesus, God’s kingdom will reign in us, a kingdom that is eternal because the life of God is in us. We too must keep ourselves awake at all times so that we can see the reality of the Kingdom of God establishing itself in our lives even while we continue our struggles against the kingdom of evil.  In this way, the Kingdom of God will gradually but certainly be established so that the prophecy of Daniel that His kingdom will be established forever is fulfilled.

What remains therefore is the question of how we can keep ourselves awake at all times.  The key to being awake is to pray at all times.  This is the advice of Jesus.  For it is in prayer that we will find strength and wisdom to direct and sustain ourselves in the face of trials and challenges.  Only in prayer, can we find the power of God to keep us firm in our beliefs, convictions and visions.  Without prayer, we will lose our sense of direction, especially when we are too absorbed by the world’s problems.  We need to stand from afar in order to look at our problems objectively and with the eyes of faith.  Prayers enable us to do just that.  It is prayer that will give us the confidence that what we do is in accordance with our conscience.  Hence, we will be able to find great strength and courage to do what we need to do. Consequently, we are no longer fearful of death or of the Lord’s final coming because our conscience is upright and hence we are able to “stand with confidence before the Son of Man.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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26 NOVEMBER 2016, Saturday, 34th Week in Ordinary Time
LIVING OUR LIVES MEANINGFULLY IN THE PERSPECTIVE OF ETERNITY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  REVELATION 22:1-7; LK 21:34-36   ]Today is the last day of the liturgical year. Consequently the question addressed to us is whether we are ready for the last day of our lives.  This question is very real.  We must not delude ourselves into thinking that we have plenty of time or that we are still young because death can come suddenly, like a heart attack, or gradually, like a terminal illness.  Jesus made it clear that “that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap.  For it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth.”  For us Christians, we thank God if we suffer from a terminal illness for at least we have time to repent and reorder our lives.  But alas, if we die of a heart attack or a tragic and fatal accident, we would have no chance to repent and to find closure for all the unfinished agenda in our lives.

Why does the Church want us to have such morbid thoughts at the end of the year?  It is not meant to put fear unto our hearts but to help us to be realistic and focused. This is because to live a full life now is determined by what we intend to achieve in the end.  Unless we have a clear vision and goal in life, we cannot give ourselves wholeheartedly to the task of living.  Vision provides us with focus and hope.  Without a clear understanding of one’s vision, we cannot commit ourselves to the task with zeal.  Without vision, we cannot strengthen the community’s spirit.  Whether our members will make a difference in the organization depends on the clarity and conviction of the mission of the organization.  But more importantly, we need to have our own personal vision and mission in life.  We need to ask the more fundamental question of the meaning and purpose of our existence.  Otherwise, we will just drift through life as in the case of someone who loses his or her spouse.  It is vision that keeps us alive and keeps us going until we realize our dream.  It is vision that draws us to pour our spirit into society and help others to realize their own vision and the community’s vision.

Indeed, the tragedy is that many people in the world live an aimless life.  As Jesus said, their hearts are “coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life.”  Indeed, so many of us fail to live our lives in the shadow of eternity.  We are only preoccupied with the pleasures and anxieties of this life.  We get so burdened with the non-essentials of life that we forget what is really important.  We think pleasures, possessions, power and status can give us meaning in life.  Nay, all these are passing.  In fact some pleasures and worldly pursuits in life can destroy us even and make us insensitive to what is truly of eternal value.  We live superficially and not deeply.  When we live for ourselves alone and allow sins to control our lives, we will never be able to live fully as we are created for God and for love.  Failing to give ourselves to God and to our fellowmen, we lose meaning and purpose to live fully.  The one who tries to live for himself will eventually be frustrated because our hearts are made for God and for others.  Love of self is self-suffocation.

So what is of eternal value?  The first reading gives us the vision and goal of every Christian, which is to enter into the river of life.  It is a life that is lived in the presence of God, seeing Him face to face.  The author writes, “The ban will be lifted. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in its place in the city; his servants will worship him, they will see him face to face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. It will never be night again and they will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will be shining on them.”  We will reign with Him in the new Kingdom.  In the responsorial psalm, we are called to praise God and recognize Him as our Lord and God to whom we belong.  Our goal is to be with Him.  On that day, we will reign with him forever because we live in the light.  It is a life of clear conscience, focused on the essentials of building relationships with God and each other instead of trivia.  Too often, we waste so much energy on nonessentials.  In the final analysis, our vision of life is a life in Christ. Christ is the goal of history and humanity.  That is all we know and need to know about the future.   Indeed, Jesus is coming into our lives.  With Christ in us; our hearts will be full of joy.

But the Good News is that we already have a foretaste of this life in Christ.  Whenever we live our lives in selfless love and service, we experience the joys of Jesus in our hearts.  This is what St John is inviting us to.  He wants us to be those trees that bear fruits and give life and healing to others. Indeed, as a priest, I find this to be one of the greatest ways one can live, to give oneself totally to God and to His people.  Yes, we have to endure the trials of the apostolate but they are part of the whole process of purification of love and faith.  But it is one of the most meaningful vocations one could live.  In fact, the priestly and religious life is a real anticipation of the eternal life to come because it is a life of Christ.  Of course, anyone who lives His vocation and responds generously to what the Lord has allotted to him or her will also find life to the fullest.  Fullness of life is not confined to just the priesthood and religious life. A married life when lived to the full with our spouse and our children too will give great joy and meaning.  A single life when lived in service to humanity and to the Church is equally rich and meaningful.

Hence, if there is anything, which could be holding us back from the joy of serving the Lord in freedom, then all we need to do is to give our hearts to Jesus.  He wants to offer us true freedom from our anxieties and sinful habits of life.  He comes to give us a fruitful life of love and peace.  Yes, Jesus wants to rule our lives by the power of love.   All He asks of us is to draw strength and life from Him just as the trees drew life from the river and “bear twelve crops of fruit in a year, one in each month, and the leaves of which are the cure for the pagans.”

Unless we give ourselves to Jesus, sin and disordered living will rule our lives and make us inward-looking. We must avoid allowing our hearts to become drowsy through sin and attachment to a sinful and self-indulgent way of life.  This is because we are created to live a life of love and service. If not, we become gradually insensitive to goodness and love.  The frightening prospect is that a heart does not become drowsy overnight.  Just like the human heart, it slowly collects fats leading eventually to a heart attack; and in our case a spiritual attack.

Consequently, if we are to be ready to receive Jesus, we must be alert and watchful. Jesus tells us, “Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.” Indeed, we must avoid falling into the temptation of becoming spiritually lazy and inattentive to spiritual things.  The worst is to fall into complacency and indifference.  We begin with neutrality and indifference, but eventually it will lead us to sin.  Very soon, we will become enemies of Christ and detractors of the Church.   That is why we need to pray for His grace.  We need to drink from Him the river of life so that we can give life to others.  Unless we pray, we will lose focus and direction in life.  Only prayer will enable us to see the face of God.  Prayer is but an invitation to contemplate on the face of Christ.  Unless we see the face of God in Christ, we cannot see the face of God in His people crying out to us for help. Indeed, Jesus could meet man only because He has met God and stayed in His presence.

Yes, we are given a lifetime to prepare our hearts to receive Christ.  If we do not start preparing and perfecting our lives in holiness, when death comes, we would only regret but that would be too late.  Before God, we would not be given a second chance.  When that day comes, if our conscience is clear, then we meet God face to face only because Jesus is in our hearts.  If we do not recognize Jesus now, how can we recognize God when we die?   So let us give ourselves to Jesus completely, crying out “maranatha” as in the responsorial psalm so that Jesus lives in us.  We must ask ourselves again and again, if the Lord were to come, can we stand with heads upright and with confidence before Him and our fellowmen with a clear conscience?

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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https://www.catholic.sg/26-november-2016-saturday-34th-week-ordinary-time/

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, October 16, 2016 — “Pray always without becoming weary” — “Constant Contact With God” — “Only prayer can change the world.”

October 15, 2016

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 147

Jesus is the Light of Life. Art by Greg Olsen

Reading 1 EX 17:8-13

In those days, Amalek came and waged war against Israel.
Moses, therefore, said to Joshua,
“Pick out certain men,
and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle.
I will be standing on top of the hill
with the staff of God in my hand.”
So Joshua did as Moses told him:
he engaged Amalek in battle
after Moses had climbed to the top of the hill with Aaron and Hur.
As long as Moses kept his hands raised up,
Israel had the better of the fight,
but when he let his hands rest,
Amalek had the better of the fight.
Moses’hands, however, grew tired;
so they put a rock in place for him to sit on.
Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands,
one on one side and one on the other,
so that his hands remained steady till sunset.
And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people
with the edge of the sword.

Responsorial Psalm PS 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

R. (cf. 2) Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
I lift up my eyes toward the mountains;
whence shall help come to me?
My help is from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
R. Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
May he not suffer your foot to slip;
may he slumber not who guards you:
indeed he neither slumbers nor sleeps,
the guardian of Israel.
R. Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
The LORD is your guardian; the LORD is your shade;
he is beside you at your right hand.
The sun shall not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
R. Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
The LORD will guard you from all evil;
he will guard your life.
The LORD will guard your coming and your going,
both now and forever.
R. Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Reading 2 2 TM 3:14-4:2

Beloved:
Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed,
because you know from whom you learned it,
and that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures,
which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation
through faith in Christ Jesus.
All Scripture is inspired by God
and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction,
and for training in righteousness,
so that one who belongs to God may be competent,
equipped for every good work.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,
who will judge the living and the dead,
and by his appearing and his kingly power:
proclaim the word;
be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient;
convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.

Alleluia HEB 4:12

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The word of God is living and effective,
discerning reflections and thoughts of the heart.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 18:1-8

Jesus told his disciples a parable
about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.
He said, “There was a judge in a certain town
who neither feared God nor respected any human being.
And a widow in that town used to come to him and say,
‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’
For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought,
‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being,
because this widow keeps bothering me
I shall deliver a just decision for her
lest she finally come and strike me.’”
The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones
who call out to him day and night?
Will he be slow to answer them?
I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.
But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

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From The Abbot in the Desert
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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Benedictine monastic community, near Abiquiu, New Mexico
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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

The Second Letter to Timothy, from which our second reading comes today, tells us this piece of wisdom:  “You have known the sacred Scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”  Clearly the lesson today is to seek wisdom and to listen attentively to the Lord and others as we seek God’s wisdom.

The first reading is from the Book of Exodus and that wonderful story of Moses holding up his hands in prayer.  As long as his hands are held up, the army of Israel wins in battle.  When Moses tires and lowers his hands, the other armies begin to win.  This is a story that is repeated in the Gospel:  never weary of praying because, in truth, it is only prayer than can change the world.

The Gospel today is from Saint Luke and tells the story of a widow dealing with an unjust judge.  As we hear the details of this judge, we understand why the widow is upset.  The judge does not fear God and does not respect any human being!  There really is no hope for the widow.  We don’t know the details of the widow’s case which she brings before the judge.  She is not asking that the judge favor her, only that he render a just decision.  This widow is relentless!  She just keeps pestering the judge until he says to himself:  I better give a just decision lest she finally come and strike me.

This is almost a comic situation:  a strong and unjust judge who fears a widow who might come and beat him up!  Luke’s Gospel tells us that “Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.”

How often we get weary of praying when God does not answer our prayers the way we want Him to answer them!  How slow we are to recognize that God knows better than we what is truly good for us!  How difficult it is to remain praying for what we think is right when nothing good seems to happen to us and when we sense that God has abandoned us!

God never abandons any of us but instead is always with us, seeking to form us as wonderful and loving human beings who have the strength to do what is right and good.  To form anyone requires that we learn how to persevere, how to keep going in the midst of any difficulties, how to accept that if we persevere and keep trying, eventually we see the hand of God present and his loving presence beside us.

My sisters and brothers, let us not be spoiled children who only want our own desires!  Let us grow into women and men who are strong and seek only what God wants and who are willing to suffer for the love of God and the love of others.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

Monastery of Christ in the Desert https://christdesert.org/about/

Last Supper. Art by Mike Duke

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From Peace and Freedom

God really hear and answer our prayers. The problem with many of us, even the most devout Christians and Catholics, often find that they don’t really believe. So they don’t really ask. They don’t really pray.

God is kind of gentle that way — he always allows us free rein. We always have out free will. I’ll just bet, often times as he watches me, He’s thinking, “There you go again. Always wanting to do it your own way!”

It is interesting to me that often in the Bible, Jesus or some other major player says, “Do not be afraid.” But that supposes we are doing the things Jesus tells us to do like keeping the commandments and to, “Pray always without becoming weary.”

God wants us to have peace of mind — but we have to do some work to get it!

People trying to recover from alcoholism or drug addiction are often given the suggestion to seek “constant contact with God.”

One of our friends sent us this:

What is your definition of prayer? God’s Word says we are to pray without ceasing. If your definition would meet this requirement then the definition needs to be changed to be able to meet this requirement. God wants us to stay in constant contact with Him all throughout our days. So let’s invite him into every moment of every day and ask Him to move and be glorified in every thought we think, every word we speak, and every action we take or prevent ourselves from taking.
To many, prayer means: bow their head, kneel, and pray. If that were the definition of prayer and when the Bible tells us “never stop praying”, how could anyone do it?

There are different times and prayer styles, however, to be able to meet the requirement of “never stop praying”, we need to make sure we aren’t putting God in a box but that we are considering how and what we can do to ensure we are in constant contact with God and that we are walking in alignment with Him. Yes, we should have our private prayer time. Yes, we should have our corporate prayer time. We also need to realize that directing our thoughts towards God qualifies as a silent prayer. Since prayer is a conversation with God, the Bible is telling us that we are to be in constant conversation with God. So be aware of His presence throughout Your day. Invite Him into your meetings and conversations. Invite him into the planned and surprise events. Invite Him into the exciting and routine parts. Talk to Him when you wake up and when you go to sleep.

https://from2005toeternity.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/are-you-staying-in-constant-contact-with-god/

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Whenever I am in need of keeping in constant contact with god: I hum. I hum in the grocery store. I hum while driving. I fall asleep humming. I mow the lawn and shovel snow while humming. I think God hears me and always knows where I’m at! I know He knows where I am even if I don’t hum. But If I do hum, I KNOW I need HIM always and constantly.

That’s a critical part of my constant contact with God.

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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16 OCTOBER 2016, 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time
DISCERNMENT IN PRAYER CALLS FOR OPENNESS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  Ex 17:8-13; 2 Tim 3:14-4:2; Lk 18:1-8 ]

Does God really hear and answer our prayers?  This question will elicit different answers from different people.  Some would declare confidently that God always answers their prayers, no matter what they ask for, and if they are not answered, it is probably because they lack faith that God can answer their prayers.  Others would hesitate and answer that God does not answer all our prayers for reasons we do not know.  Others still, find it useless to pray, for God cannot answer our prayers at all.  Everything is dependent on human and will- power.

What is the scripture’s response to this question?  In no uncertain terms, the scripture readings today affirm that God always listens to our prayers and answers them.  This is what Jesus taught us in today’s gospel when He gave us the parable of the judge and the poor widow, declaring that God “will see justice done to them, and done speedily”.  Then, we have the story of how Moses, whenever his hands were raised in prayer, his people won victory over their enemies.  Hence, Jesus exhorts us to pray continually and never lose heart.

Now, although it is true that God always answers our prayers, we must not understand this in a naive and simplistic way.  When we examine the parable given by Jesus, we must not over anthropomorphize God to the level of man.  In other words, we must not reduce God to the level of the human judge.  In fact, in the analogy between God and the judge, there is a much greater dissimilarity than similarity.   If not, then we might come to the conclusion that God, like the judge, is lazy and needs to be pestered before He answers our prayers.  Furthermore, when He answers our prayers, it is not because He wants to answer them, nor because He cares for us, but because He does not want us to be a nuisance to Him; and so responding to our requests is the best way to get rid of us.  If that is how God is like, such a kind of God surely does not command our respect, even less, our worship.

Nay, on the contrary, the point of comparison that Jesus wants to bring is that God is so unlike the judge.  Like the judge, God has no fear of man, but in a positive sense.  The judge does not fear God or man because he thinks only of himself.  He is so self-centered that he has no respect or concern for others, not even God in his life.  But God’s ‘fear’ of man is different.  If God does not fear man, it is because His love for us is not a grasping kind of love.  He does not love us so that we might love Him.  Rather, He loves us first even before we decide to love or not love Him.  He loves us because His very nature is love.  He loves us not even for our sake, nor for His sake.  His love is really a disinterested love – a love that flows from His very nature.

For this reason, God can freely bestow His favours and blessings on man without discrimination.  God is fair to us all and He loves us all the same.  He cannot be manipulated or be appeased.  We do not have to do anything for Him to gain His favour.  In other words, we cannot do anything to buy God over.  This is because He is complete in Himself.   Consequently, God’s justice is unlike the judge’s justice.  His justice is His merciful love for all and His care for all.  His justice is His impartiality in loving all without discrimination and without any selfish motives.

Within this context then, we can understand better that it is not simply because Moses raised his hands in prayer that God helped the Israelites to win the battle.  We should not read this text literally.  Rather the significance of the raised hands of Moses and the prayer of the widow is their persistent openness and trust.  All prayers are always answered by God without exception, provided we have this attitude of persistent openness to Him in trust. That is why Jesus declared at the end of today’s gospel, “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?”  That is to say, can people be open to the different ways God enters into our lives?  The rejection of Jesus by His fellowmen is simply because they had their fixated ideas of how God should come as their saviour.

How, then, can one adopt such a persistent openness to God in trust?  By praying continually.  But this must be clarified.  To pray continually does not mean we keep on knocking on the doors of the heart of God, demanding that our petitions be answered.  No, to pray continually means to be in continuous dialogue with God in discernment.

How then do we discern whether our petitions are in line with the will of God? The second reading provides us the means of discernment.  It speaks first of all of our teachers, that is, the wisdom of the teaching Church, the tradition which we have inherited.  Secondly, Paul refers us to the scriptures, “from these you can learn the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”  By praying over the scriptures, we can be guided and inspired.  In reading the scriptures, we must keep an open mind and accept the Word, welcome or unwelcome, as Paul said.  Unwelcome, because there will be times when the Word challenges us in the ways and attitudes of our thinking. We might find it difficult to accept certain truths about ourselves or about life.  Yes, we are constantly being called to be true to ourselves.

However, when we see the error of our ways of thinking and living, we will spontaneously be converted.  We are converted not because of any compulsion but because we see the stupidity of our attitudes to life; the foolishness of the petitions that we pray for.  Yes, to be converted is to be converted to the will of God.  Prayers are not meant to convert God to do our will, rather, that we do His will.  Obedience to the will of God is not something which we carry out as a burden; rather, it is carried out joyfully and happily because we see it as something good for us.  If we find obedience to God’s will difficult, it is simply because we do not understand His will for us.  We are carrying them out in blind obedience, which goes against our intellectual and volitional grains.  The reason why we carry crosses in life is only because our will crosses God’s will.  But when His will and ours are one, there are no crosses to carry.

Yes, the faith that the scriptures ask from us, therefore is a faith that is open to the ways of God which are often above the ways of man.  With that faith and with the gift of God’s wisdom to see life differently, we will indeed find that all our prayers are always answered.  Not only will our prayers be answered, but we will find that the best answer that one can receive from God is that He does not answer our prayers at all.  Why? Because we will come to understand that He always provides what is best for us.  We will learn to trust Him at all times and only be open to His providence.  Of course, such an attitude can be in us only if we are like Moses and the widow who were persistently open.  Such openness means that we can never lose heart no matter what comes our way. And we therefore will always be at peace with God and within ourselves.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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Commentary on Luke 18:1-8 From Living Space
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One of the attributes attributed to Luke is that his is a “Gospel of Prayer”. We see Jesus praying in this gospel more than in the others and he gives more teaching about prayer.
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Today Jesus tells a parable urging perseverance. “He told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.” This is very much a theme in Paul’s letters (cf. Rom 1:10; 12:12; Eph 6:18; Col 1:3; 1 Thess 5:17; 2 Thess 1:11, etc., and 2 Cor 4:1,16; Gal 6:9; Eph 3:13; 2 Thess 3:13).
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The parable features a totally corrupt judge, who fears neither God nor man. It also features a widow, probably the most powerless, the most pitiful and least pitied of people in the society of those days. She has lost her husband, re-marriage is out of the question, she has lost the support of her own family and her husband’s family, and there is nothing comparable to social welfare for her to lean on.
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As far as a corrupt judge is concerned, she can be ignored. She has neither power nor money (for bribing). But this widow is different. She is persistent and will not give up. Eventually, the judge, for his sheer peace of mind, settles in her favour.
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If, Jesus concludes, a corrupt and ruthless judge can be moved by a helpless widow, what kind of response can we expect when we, his people, call out in our helplessness to our loving and compassionate God? “I tell you, he will give them swift justice.” That is, he will give them what is rightfully due to them.
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But, says Jesus in a challenge which should make us sit up and take notice, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?” Times of persecution are on the way – they have already begun as this gospel is written – and some will give up under pressure. They will not persevere in keeping close contact with God in prayer, finding him and his peace in the midst of their sufferings.
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It is easy to pray when things are going well. It is often in times of pressure that we, too, give up praying when we need it most, when our faith is really being put to the test. We have to pray constantly and consistently. We should not be afraid to ask for what we believe we really need.
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But then, if God is such a caring person, why should we have to pray to him at all? We need to keep praying, not for his sake but for our own. By doing so, we maintain an awareness that “by ourselves we can do nothing”.
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Secondly, the more we pray, the closer we come to God. And, as we pray, what we ask for will gradually change. Ultimately what we want is what we need. And what we need is to bring our thinking, our dreams, our ambitions totally into line with God’s way of seeing things.
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The problem is, as Jesus says at the end today, how many people will really be doing that when he comes looking for us? How often do I pray? How consistently do I ask? What do I ask for? What do I really want? Do I distinguish between what I want and what I really need? And do I really have that faith and trust in the loving providence of my God?
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There is another and very indifferent interpretation of this passage. When we read this parable about perseverance, we usually think of it in these terms: God is the judge and we are the widow. This means we should persevere in pestering God until our needs are met.
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But what happens if we turn that around and say that we are the judge and God is the widow? In some ways, this interpretation makes more sense. We, like the judge, are basically unjust. Sometimes we, too, have no fear of God; that is, we do not allow God to scare us into being good.
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Similarly, like the judge we persist in refusing to listen to the cries of the poor all around us. But God is the persistent widow who will not go away. God keeps badgering us, refusing to accept as final our ‘No’ to love. God will persist until we render a just judgment, that is, until we let the goodness out, until we learn to love.*
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In Genesis we are told we are made in the image and likeness of God. Perhaps our prayer could be: Dear God, Persevering One, make us more like you!
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Related here on Peace and Freedom:
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God, I offer myself to Thee –
to build with me and 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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Survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan march during a religious procession in Tolosa on the eastern Philippine island of Leyte on November 18, 2013 over one week after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the area. The United Nations estimates that 13 million people were affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan with around 1.9 million losing their homes. AFP PHOTO / Philippe Lopez (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images) When the going gets tough, we have to get our faith going!

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
(From Our Archives)
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14 NOVEMBER 2015, Saturday, 32nd Week in Ordinary Time
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THE SIN OF DESPAIR

SCRIPTURE READINGS: WIS 18:14-16; 19:6-9; LK 18:1-8

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?”  This is indeed a very critical question that we are all asked to consider today.  Will we remain faithful to God until the end of our lives?  Will we remain true to our faith in God?  Will we remain true to our vocation in life, especially those of us who are married or those called to priestly life or religious life?  The fact is that we are all being tested and challengedin many ways.  We can be tried in big ways and in the daily humdrum of life too.

Like the widow in today’s gospel, we are put through all kinds of onslaughts and disappointments in life and pushed to our wits end.  We can certainly feel with the widow in her predicament.  It is unfortunate enough that she could no longer depend on her husband for her livelihood.  Not only did she have to look after herself, but perhaps her children as well.  Life must indeed have been tough for her.  However, that is not all.  We are also told that she was being persecuted by her enemies and lost some of her rights.  In that kind of situation, we can certainly empathize with her in her plight.

But we too suffer similar struggles in our own lives.  We too have our own tragedies.  Some of us are in ill health; others are in financial straits; yet others have difficulty securing employment.  Some of us also face the challenge of trying to change certain situations in our life, in our family, at work, or the community we belong to.  Unfortunately our attempts to rectify such irregularities are often met with indifference and opposition.  Such difficulties can be rather trying.

One of the most painful experiences in life is thesuffering that comes from being unjustly treated; discriminated at our workplace and at home. Like the widow, we feel the need to address the injustice. However, justice must be seen in the biblical context.  Justice in the bible is firstly understood in terms of distributive justice, that is, an equal and fair distribution of goods, and the respect of each individual’s rights.  This is the most basic level of justice.  However, in the bible, justice goes beyond mere legal justice.  It entails a harmonious relationship with our neighbours and with God.  It is concerned with a right and loving relationship.  According to our own situations, we all suffer some form of deprivation or the lack of relationship with others and even with God.  Redressing our rights is certainly a tedious and time-consuming process.  Quite often, such mediation or litigation can result in further complications, especially when neither party is willing to admit its error.

But even more difficult and daunting is the restoration of relationships, especially after a misunderstanding.  Even if one party is willing to forgive, the other party might not.  In such circumstances, most of us would be tempted to give up.  As the gospel says, there is a real possibility of losing heart when we find that seeking justice is too difficult a process.  As a result, some of us succumb to unjust practices.   Most of us give up in those situations where we have fought hard to make changes but received no support.  Students give up studying because they fail in their exams; parents give up on their wayward children and surrender them to the homes when they fail to change their behaviour.  We too also give up on our friends when they hurt us.  In giving up hope, we are admitting defeat.

Even if we are not overwhelmed by the major trials of life, the real test is our fidelity to what we believe and who we are in the long haul.  It is in the ordinary, everyday life that we are truly tested, the daily sacrifices of a mother; the giving of spouse to each other in mutual love, forgiveness, patience and tolerance of each other’s weaknesses; the perseverance in our duties, whether at home, in our faith or in looking after our loved ones, particularly our children who have endless needs and want our attention; and the dying to one’s self-will and interests.  It is easy to love, to forgive or do a good deed once or twice, but to do it every day and every year, that is a different matter altogether!

This is also true in our spiritual life.  There are some of us who have a beautiful experience of God, especially after a good retreat.  But then the euphoria does not last.  We cannot thrive on mere spiritual highs and sentimental experiences of God.  After the spiritual renewal, we need to take the difficult step of deepening our spiritual life through prayer, reading the Word of God, receiving the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, almsgiving and good works, fasting and mortification.  Most of us do not persevere in prayer; much less strive to grow in virtues and in deepening our love and faith in love.  In no time, we stop praying, ongoing formation in our faith and the scriptures.  And of course, we slide back to our old way of life; a life of sin and irresponsible living.

However, it is precisely this situation that the gospel encourages us to avoid.Jesus is telling His disciples and us “never lose heart.”  Indeed, the teaching of Jesus in today’s gospel is not simply a question of perseverance in prayer so that our petitions could be answered.  Rather, when we interpret this story in the context of Jesus’ message of the Kingdom, then Jesus’ message is that we must never give up our hope for the realization of the Kingdom of God in our lives.  Jesus is assuring His disciples and us that even when things seem to be against us; even when things do not seem to be moving or changing, we must never give up hope.  We must believe that things are changing, gradually, but certainly.  When we feel that we are getting nowhere, we are not making much progress, when things are not changing; when our diocese, parish or Church group is not growing in strength and unity; when we get impatient with ourselves or others or the situation, then the gospel is saying, “Be patient and persevere!

Yes, to give up hope is to give in to the biggest temptation of the Evil one.  This is precisely the intent of the petition in the Lord’s Prayer when we say, “Do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil.” The greatest temptation that we need to pray to be delivered from is the temptation to despair, to lose heart and to lose hope.  It is not even to pray for deliverance from our sufferings because if we lose hope in life, in love, in humanity, then the Devil is victorious over us.  Once we give up hope, we give up life.  Giving up hope is to give up trust in God and the Kingdom.  This would spell the end of us.

What then is our basis for not giving up hope?  Simply this:  we must realize that the mercy and love of God is so much greater compared to the unjust judge.  God is more merciful than him.  Indeed, Jesus reminds us that if an unjust judge could listen to the appeal of the widow, certainly God, who is unlike the unjust judge, would all the more listen to our prayers.  And this faith in God’s mercy and care is also founded in the history of Israel.  This is what the first reading from the book of Wisdom wants to teach us.  In that passage, we are reminded of how God helped Israel to cross the Red Sea in their flight from Egypt.  Just as God helped Israel in all their difficulties, God will certainly also respond to our pleas for help.

Consequently, today, the responsorial psalm invites us to “remember the wonders the Lord has done.”  It is important that we remember.  If not, during our trials and difficulties, we will fall into depression.  Remembering the past blessings we have received from the Lord will give us confidence to continue hoping and trusting in the power of God who is always at work in unseen ways.  Yes, today, if we feel discouraged or about to lose hope in goodness and in life, let us recall the wonderful deeds of the Lord in our lives.

And, as the first reading tells us, when we least expect, God will manifest His powers and stretch out His hands to save us.  God will come, like as the author tells us “when peaceful silence lay over all, and night had run the half of her swift course, down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt your all-powerful Word; into the heart of a doomed land the stern warrior leapt.” Indeed, God will come in a sudden, decisive and surprising way.  He will work the same wonders He did at Exodus. He will deliver us in a most stupendous way. When that day comes, we will never, like the Israelites, the Jews and the early Christians, doubt that Jesus is Lord, or the efficacious power of the Word of God at work in us.

So, if we are losing our patience with the Lord because He appears to be late in responding to our prayers, let us never doubt that He is aware of our needs.  According to St Augustine, it is because the time is still not yet opportune.  What we need to do is to wait for God so that at the opportune time, God can give us the better things we are praying for.  In the meantime, God wants us to wait so that we can purify ourselves.  It is our patience and perseverance in times of trials and difficulties that we become victorious in the end.  Hence, we will prove also with God’s grace that the Kingdom of love is the last word,;not evil and despair.

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, July 14, 2016 — “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.”

July 13, 2016

Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin
Lectionary: 392

“My soul yearns for you in the night, yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you. It is you who have accomplished all we have done.”

“For your dew is a dew of light.”
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The morning dew light by Mitchell Phelps

Reading 1 IS 26:7-9, 12, 16-19

The way of the just is smooth;
the path of the just you make level.
Yes, for your way and your judgments, O LORD,
we look to you;
Your name and your title
are the desire of our souls.
My soul yearns for you in the night,
yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you;
When your judgment dawns upon the earth,
the world’s inhabitants learn justice.
O LORD, you mete out peace to us,
for it is you who have accomplished all we have done.O LORD, oppressed by your punishment,
we cried out in anguish under your chastising.
As a woman about to give birth
writhes and cries out in her pains,
so were we in your presence, O LORD.
We conceived and writhed in pain,
giving birth to wind;
Salvation we have not achieved for the earth,
the inhabitants of the world cannot bring it forth.
But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise;
awake and sing, you who lie in the dust.
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the land of shades gives birth.

Responsorial Psalm PS 102:13-14AB AND 15, 16-18, 19-21

R. (20b) From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
You, O LORD, abide forever,
and your name through all generations.
You will arise and have mercy on Zion,
for it is time to pity her.
For her stones are dear to your servants,
and her dust moves them to pity.
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
The nations shall revere your name, O LORD,
and all the kings of the earth your glory,
When the LORD has rebuilt Zion
and appeared in his glory;
When he has regarded the prayer of the destitute,
and not despised their prayer.
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
Let this be written for the generation to come,
and let his future creatures praise the LORD:
“The LORD looked down from his holy height,
from heaven he beheld the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoners,
to release those doomed to die.”
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.

Alleluia MT 11:28

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 11:28-30

Jesus said:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
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Commentary on Matthew 11:28-30 From Living Space

In spite of what we at some times feel, both today’s First Reading and the Gospel remind us that our God is never far away, especially in times of trouble. In the Gospel Jesus makes this promise and gives an invitation. “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Jesus reaffirms what Isaiah says, that we have a caring and tireless God who takes looks after his own. “I am gentle and lowly of heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

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Jesus seems primarily to be referring to the burdens which the Mosaic Law laid on people, especially as interpreted by some of the Scribes and Pharisees. Under them, it was next to impossible not to put a foot wrong somewhere. And, as they saw it, perfection in the eyes of God was the scrupulous observation of the tiniest obligation.  us from all that. It does not mean that we do what we like but all is now reduced to simply one commandment, the commandment to love God and all our brothers and sisters unconditionally. That is not always easy but we will find that keeping the commandment of love has a liberating effect. It helps us to become the kind of people we were meant to be. In being a law-keeper, I take care of my own ‘perfection’. In following the law of love, I benefit but my brother or sister benefits too.

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Jesus does not say that if we go to him that we will have no more troubles, no more pain, no more disappointments… There will be “yokes” to carry but he will carry them with us.

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Someone has suggested that the ‘yoke’ that Jesus is referring to is a double yoke used for two oxen pulling together. Jesus then is saying that he carries the yoke together with us.

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Jesus never promises to take away pain. What Jesus does is to help us go through the pain. A life without any pain, without any failure or disappointment, a life without difficulty or challenge is no life.When children are so protected by doting parents that their every whim is answered and every negative feeling anticipated, what do we end up with? Spoiled brats.

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Jesus will not spoil us in that way. The challenges of life are necessary for us to grow and mature. But they are easier to bear when he carries them with us, when we know that we are never alone in our difficulties and sorrows. And, because of our own pains, we are in a much better position to help others carry their yokes of sorrow or pain or sickness. Strange as it may seem, it is probable that a world without pain would be a very selfish and individualistic one.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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09 DECEMBER 2015, Wednesday, 2nd Week of Advent
MAKING LIGHT OUR BURDENS IN LIFE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: ISAIAH 40:25-31; MATTHEW 11:28-30

How has life been treating you?  Do you find life to be nothing more than drudgery?  Are you heavily laden with the cares, anxieties and responsibilities of life?  Do you feel that your burden is too overwhelming and wish that the Lord would come and relieve you of your life soon?  Indeed, some of us are so weary, tired and weighed down by the struggles of daily life that we wish we could die soon so that we can rest in peace.   If you are feeling this way, then the prophet Isaiah assures us, “He gives strength to the wearied, he strengthens the powerless. Young men may grow tired and weary, youths may stumble, but those who hope in the Lord renew their strength, they put out wings like eagles. They run and do not grow weary, walk and never tire.”

How could this be?  Will we not grow weary and tire of the burdens of this life? In the first place, we must ask what these burdens are that have caused us to feel a load on our shoulders and this heaviness in the heart. Burdens come from three areas of life.   Basically, they belong to the past and the future.  It is not the present that is difficult but when we take the past and the future together, it is immensely heavy and intimidating.  Unfortunately, many of us live in our past and the future, forgetting the present joys and the moment.

In the first place, we are burdened by sin and guilt.  We cannot forgive the mistakes we have made in life.  Hence, we cannot move on.  The past continues to haunt us and accuse us of the follies we have made in life.  We cannot let go of the hurts we have caused to others, the betrayals in love and friendship, especially of our loved ones and family.  But we are burdened not only by our own sins; we are equally, if not more, enslaved by the sins others have committed against us.  We cannot forgive those who have sexually abused us, those who have caused us to lose our dignity because of slander and gossip; and those who have acted unjustly towards us, cheating us of our money, business secrets, etc.

Secondly, we are burdened by the perfection demanded by Christian life.  We know that we all fall short of what a Christian should be.  We want to live a holy and exemplary Christian life.  But the Old Adam is deeply latent in us and waiting to resurrect the moment we are weary or vulnerable.   So we are beset with our struggles against the capital sins, especially of pride, envy, anger, sloth, gluttony, lust and greed.   We find ourselves losing the battle against our human weaknesses so much so we feel hypocritical, especially when we are supposed to be “good and devout” Catholics.  We are ashamed that we have betrayed Christ.  But like St Paul, the more we try to meet the demands of the Law and what is expected of us, our faith become a religion, simply meeting the obligations of what the Church or the gospel asks of us.  When we break them, we live in fear of God’s displeasure, even punishment.  So religion is burdensome because it means having to do this and that, fulfilling this and that obligation.  Some of us in ministry also feel so burdened having to fulfill the conditions of membership.  With the demands upon our time from all sides, we simply feel like giving up completely and just let things be!

Thirdly, we are burdened by our responsibilities in life.  For those of us who hold responsibilities, the higher the office we hold, or the more people are dependent on us, whether as leaders, bosses or parents, the more we feel the load on our shoulders.  Heavy is the head that wears the crown.  There are always the anxieties for tomorrow.  We are aware that we need to protect and give our children a great future.  We worry about their studies, about their relationships and their health.  As parents, our worries for our family have no end.  Even when our children are married, we worry for their children and our grandchildren. There is no end to worrying! If we are leaders, we worry about how to grow the organization, how to strengthen the members and how to strategize.  Most of all, we have the headache of dealing with difficult members, be they family, colleagues at work or and church ministry.  We have to firefight in managing scandals, internal squabbling, jealousy, envy, backbiting and irresponsible people under us. This explains why people shy from holding office, especially public office because of the undue glare of the public’s eye and the accountability for everything that happens under their charge.  There is no peace for those who hold office, but then this is true for parents as well.

In the light of the burdens that we carry, how then can we be happy in life and not worry so much?  Jesus is our solution.  He invites us saying, “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest.  Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”   How does Jesus help us to lighten our load?  Does it mean that He will take away our crosses in life?  Surely not!  He Himself carried His own cross and instructed us to carry our crosses and follow after Him.  So the solution is not removing the crosses and the burdens in our lives.  The key is to consider how we carry them, our past, the future and our responsibilities.

The primary attitude that is required of us as Jesus said is to be gentle and humble of heart.  Humility, gentleness and love are the three keys to approaching the demands and trials of life.  Humility is the foundation.  Indeed, just earlier on, Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father saying, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”  (Mt 11:25f)   We need to be humble if we want to see life through the eyes of God and to have the wisdom to look at life in the right perspective.

Only with humility, can we see the greatness, beauty and love of God in creation and in our lives.  It is because of our pride that we want things always to be done our way.  We dictate to God what we need and how things should work out according to our narrow-minded thinking.   The first reading invites us to contemplate on the intricacies of creation, the beauty of God’s work, His majesty, wisdom and power.  This is what the Lord says, “To whom could you liken me and who could be my equal?  Lift your eyes and look. Who made these stars if not he who drills them like an army, calling each one by name? So mighty is his power, so great his strength that not one fails to answer.”   Truly, even science cannot fathom everything in creation in spite of all its achievements.  Pondering on the power of God and the transient things of nature, we should surrender and resign our lives to God.  So in our trials and sufferings, we must think that God does not care.  This was what God said to the ingrates, “How can you say, Jacob, how can you insist, Israel, ‘My destiny is hidden from the Lord, my rights are ignored by my God’? Did you not know? Had you not heard?”

Consequently, we must surrender our lives, especially our worries, to Him.  When Jesus invites us to carry His yoke and learn from Him, He is saying that as a carpenter, He knows how to make the yoke fitting for us.  When we carry the yoke, we need to have the right fitting, otherwise we hurt ourselves.  So too, let us trust that God has given the right crosses for us to bear in life.  Each one has his or her cross to carry.  None of the other crosses fit us.  So when we try to run away from our crosses and seek other crosses instead, this is where the misfit comes in and we suffer more eventually.  So to carry the yoke of Jesus is to accept the cross like Him and when we carry them rightly, in faith, the crosses will no longer be that heavy.  God knows our limits and our strengths.  He does not give us the cross without giving us His grace and strength.  When you look at your life, you know that He has always blessed you and helped you, as the psalmist says, “My soul, give thanks to the Lord and never forget all his blessings.”

Secondly, we need the attitude of gentleness.  Most of us are not gentle with ourselves and therefore harsh with others as well.  To be gentle is to learn to love ourselves, accepting our mistakes and limitations.   Pride, ambition and envy cause us to be hard on ourselves.  Perfectionists are never happy because their self-acceptance depends on their performance and what others say of them.  So we need to love ourselves and recognized our human frailties.  The psalmist reminds us that God is always forgiving and tolerant.  “My soul, give thanks to the Lord.  It is he who forgives all your guilt, who heals every one of your ills, who redeems your life from the grave, who crowns you with love and compassion. The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy. He does not treat us according to our sins nor repay us according to our faults.”  If God deals with us in this manner, then we should learn to forgive ourselves, our past mistakes and our sins.

Until we forgive our mistakes, we cannot forgive others who have hurt us.  A big part of our burden is not letting go of our hurts.  We continue to nurse the pain in our hearts and in our minds.  This is the most unnecessary burden.  It is not life-giving and it is not empowering.  We will not only destroy others around us because of the bitterness in our hearts but we will be a prisoner of our hatred and anger.  So let us know that our brothers and sisters, like us, are weak in different areas and vulnerable to the temptations of the Evil One.  If we do not feel that way, then we have fallen into the sin of presumption and self-righteousness.

Finally, the burden will be light when we carry all of them like Jesus, not just in faith, in gentleness, but in love.  When Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest”, this is a not a rest from our duties and responsibilities, but the rest of the soul, because we carry them without fear of the future, the mistakes of the past and, most of all, with love in our hearts.  Anything that is done in life is still a sacrifice on our part, but it is a loving sacrifice.  Such sacrifices not only give life to those whom we serve but we give life to ourselves. Indeed, with faith, we will be like the Israelites, carried by the wings of the eagles knowing that “his understanding is beyond fathoming”; with humility, we will not stumble because we will walk in His ways; and with love, the Lord will renew our strength and we can “run and do not grow weary, walk and never tire.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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From:

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore (July 14, 2016)
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14 JULY 2016, Thursday, 15th Week in Ordinary Time
CARRYING THE YOKE OF CHRIST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ IS 26:7-9, 12, 16-19; MT 11:28-30  ]

We all carry many burdens in life. Some burdens come from our responsibilities and the anxiety of carrying them out, especially with regard to the needs of our family and children.  We are constantly worrying about their health, their studies, careers and relationships.  Some burdens come from our own sins and mistakes in life.  We cannot forgive our past mistakes and often we allow our guilt and past to haunt us.  We fear that God will not forgive us our sins.  We are worried that one day our sins and crimes would be exposed.  Then we also suffer from the onslaught of our opponents and enemies, either at work or in what we do. We have people who will oppose us, slander us, and misunderstand us.  Indeed, quite often, we feel like giving up because the burdens are so heavy.  We wish for an early exit from this earth and yet are not able to let go because we fear for our loved ones.  We love them too much to abandon them and yet at the same time, we feel that the crosses are too heavy for us.  Often times, we wish that God would change our cross for others.  We envy why others seem to have a better share of this world’s happiness and goods than us.

What needs to be changed is not the cross that we carry but the way we carry our cross in life.  This is what Jesus is telling us when He said, “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest.  Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”   Today, we are invited to put on a different pair of lens in looking at our problems.  Indeed, happiness in life has to do with the way we look at life rather than the challenges of life themselves.  The truth is that all of us face struggles in life.  We all have to deal with difficult people around us and those who do not agree with us.  We all have our fair share of family squabbles, failed relationships, financial worries, etc. The difference between those who manage to stay afloat and keep themselves happy and joyful and those who fall into depression is simply a matter of how we look at our woes in life.

The question we need to determine is whether we see our problems and struggles from a narrow perspective or through the eyes of God.  Unfortunately, many of us cannot see beyond our sufferings, our pains and our needs.  We see every challenge from the eyes of self-centeredness and hence our reaction tends to be one of fear, anger and revenge.  When we become defensive, we are reacting to our problems.  What is required of us is to be more proactive and to see a bigger picture instead.  We need to realize that our sufferings are slight compared to what is ahead of us, both in this life and in the next.  When we view our struggles in the context of a greater good and outcome, not just for ourselves but for our loved ones and the good of humanity, we do not mind carrying the pain.   It is only when we carry the burden for ourselves, or for the burdens themselves, with reluctance and without understanding, that the burdens become even heavier than the actual reality.

For this reason, the gospel invites us to look at life from the perspective of Christ.  But what was Christ’s perspective? Jesus saw everything from the perspective of His Father. That was how He looked at life and ministry.  Yesterday, the gospel spoke of His intimate knowledge of the Father.  Indeed, in the gospel many times, Jesus spoke of the union of mind and will with His Father.  “The Father and I are one.”  (Jn 10:30)  The heart, the mind, the plan, the vision and the love of the Father was also that of Jesus.  So like the Father, Jesus suffered for the love of humanity, shared the same compassion and mercy with His Father for us all.

So if we want to view life like Jesus, we need to put on His yoke. This phrase ‘to put on His yoke’ is taken from the example of the yokes placed on the oxen so that they could plough the field.  The yoke however must be made to fit the neck of the oxen; otherwise they will suffer discomfort and pain.  This will only lessen their ability to perform the task happily and efficiently.  So when Jesus invites us to come to Him and “shoulder my yoke and learn from me”, He is showing the way to find rest for our souls by having a gentle and humble heart like His.   So we need to ask the next question.

How did Jesus carry His cross and burdens in life?  We read that He accepted His cross patiently, willingly and positively.  He embraced the cross as part of His mission to proclaim the mercy and goodness of God.  He saw it as the way to bring about the reconciliation between God and man.  Most of all, He trusted in the Father’s will and mercy.  He submitted Himself to the plan of His Father even though as a human being He might not always understand.  On the cross, we hear His cry for us and for His Father when He said, “Into your hands, I commend my spirit.” (Lk 23:46) Regardless of the situation, even if incomprehensible and apparently ridiculous, Jesus never failed to trust in the Father’s love and wisdom.  He trusted that His Father knew best.  Hence, He chose to do His Father’s will at all times.

Happiness is to accept our lot in life.  It is to follow and accept the will of God in our lives.  Rather than fighting against His will, we are to cooperate with the Lord’s plan for us.   By not fighting against His will, we will have more energy to face up to the challenges of life, surmount them and grow through them.  But many of us spend our whole life fighting against the will of God so much so we have no more energy to sustain ourselves and to respond to the responsibilities of life.   By denying the will of God for us, we end up bitter, unprepared, and we suffer more in the end.  Rather, we must make the best of whatever situation we find ourselves in.  Every crisis is an opportunity.  Every obstacle is a stepping stone.  Every mountain is for us to scale and reach the heights of life.  This is what it means when Jesus says that His yoke is easy.  The moment we adjust ourselves to the will of God, our lives will become comfortable.  Rather than desiring what we want, let us desire what we already have and what the Lord wants to give us along the way.  We cannot choose the crown without the thorns.  They are part and parcel of life.  The glory of the crown comes only because of the thorns.  The greater the challenges, the greater the joy of the triumph and the greater the growth that takes place.

Secondly, Jesus carried His cross in love and for love of His Father and usWhen there is love, the burden is light.  Jesus did all things for the love of His Father and for us.  So too, when we carry our crosses, not for ourselves but for our loved ones and for the good of humanity, we will find that it is worthwhile.  We cannot find happiness only when our sufferings are carried in vain or just for ourselves.  But when we do it for the love of God and humanity, we are given special grace and strength to carry them cheerfully and joyfully for the Lord.  There is a spiritual joy that comes from a suffering love.   So we need to ask, for whom and for what are we carrying the cross?  If it is only for our selfish desires and ambitions, the cross will be heavier, but when carried for love of others, it is much lighter because of the joy of knowing that we are bringing life and joy to others.

Thirdly, we are called to see our sufferings positively as redemptive suffering, like Jesus the suffering servantThat was how the Israelites viewed their sufferings and their exile.  They knew that their sufferings were the consequence of their sins and that they were meant not to destroy them but to build them up and to help them to return to their senses and come back to God. When we begin to see our sufferings positively instead of negatively, then new life will begin.  We will then use our energy to rebuild our lives and with renewed joy and hope.  Otherwise, when we are negative and look at life with despair and anger, we will have no more strength and spirit to look beyond our sufferings which are meant to help us to purify ourselves and grow in grace, love and strength.

Thirdly, joy and peace in the final analysis has nothing to do with success and accomplishments but a clear conscience, knowing that we have done the right thing, even when the whole world is against us.  The world can be upset with us but in our hearts we know that God is pleased with us.  So we are at peace and we can sleep and die in peace because we have followed our conscience.  As the psalmist says, “The path of the upright man is straight, you smooth the way of the upright.”

Consequently, if we want to put on the mind and heart of Christ, to shoulder His yoke and learn from Him, then we must seek the Lord and come to Him to learn from Him, like the Israelites and the apostles.  Like the psalmist, we must desire to come to the Lord to find instruction, inspiration, wisdom and direction.  “At night my soul longs for you and my spirit in me seeks for you; when your judgements appear on earth the inhabitants of the world learn the meaning of integrity.”

When we put on the mind of Christ then the prophecy will come true for us that there will be a new life and resurrection.  Truly, as the prophet assures us, “Your dead will come to life, their corpses will rise; awake, exult, all you who lie in the dust, for your dew is a radiant dew and the land of ghosts will give birth.”

Our God is merciful and compassionate.  We must never doubt His love for us.  He will never abandon us if we come to Him and shoulder His yoke, seek His heart and His will.  We too will find peace in our sufferings and in our pains for we will find His yoke easy and the burden light because His will is now ours.  Now, from the perspective of faith and love, everything fits nicely and so the burden is made lighter because the yoke is just right on our shoulder.

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

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St Kateri Tekakwitha

http://kateritekakwitha.net/kateris-trail/

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Statue of Kateri Tekakwitha. Reuters photo by Lucas Jackson
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The tomb of Kateri Tekakwitha at St. Francis Xavier Church, in Kahnawake, Quebec. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)
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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, December 9, 2015 — “For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

December 8, 2015

Wednesday of the Second Week of Advent
Lectionary: 183

Reading 1 IS 40:25-31

To whom can you liken me as an equal?
says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high
and see who has created these things:
He leads out their army and numbers them,
calling them all by name.
By his great might and the strength of his power
not one of them is missing!
Why, O Jacob, do you say,
and declare, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?Do you not know
or have you not heard?
The LORD is the eternal God,
creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint nor grow weary,
and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny.
He gives strength to the fainting;
for the weak he makes vigor abound.
Though young men faint and grow weary,
and youths stagger and fall,
They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength,
they will soar as with eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint.

Responsorial PsalmPS 103:1-2, 3-4, 8 AND 10

R. (1) O bless the Lord, my soul!
Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul!
He pardons all your iniquities,
he heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
he crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul!
Merciful and gracious is the LORD,
slow to anger and abounding in kindness.
Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our crimes.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul!

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold, the Lord comes to save his people;
blessed are those prepared to meet him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 11:28-30

Jesus said to the crowds:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
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Commentary on Matthew 11:28-30 From Living Space

In spite of what we at some times feel, both today’s First Reading and the Gospel remind us that our God is never far away, especially in times of trouble. In the Gospel Jesus makes this promise and gives an invitation. “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Jesus reaffirms what Isaiah says, that we have a caring and tireless God who takes looks after his own. “I am gentle and lowly of heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

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Jesus seems primarily to be referring to the burdens which the Mosaic Law laid on people, especially as interpreted by some of the Scribes and Pharisees. Under them, it was next to impossible not to put a foot wrong somewhere. And, as they saw it, perfection in the eyes of God was the scrupulous observation of the tiniest obligation.  us from all that. It does not mean that we do what we like but all is now reduced to simply one commandment, the commandment to love God and all our brothers and sisters unconditionally. That is not always easy but we will find that keeping the commandment of love has a liberating effect. It helps us to become the kind of people we were meant to be. In being a law-keeper, I take care of my own ‘perfection’. In following the law of love, I benefit but my brother or sister benefits too.

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Jesus does not say that if we go to him that we will have no more troubles, no more pain, no more disappointments… There will be “yokes” to carry but he will carry them with us.

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Someone has suggested that the ‘yoke’ that Jesus is referring to is a double yoke used for two oxen pulling together. Jesus then is saying that he carries the yoke together with us.

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Jesus never promises to take away pain. What Jesus does is to help us go through the pain. A life without any pain, without any failure or disappointment, a life without difficulty or challenge is no life. When children are so protected by doting parents that their every whim is answered and every negative feeling anticipated, what do we end up with? Spoiled brats.

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Jesus will not spoil us in that way. The challenges of life are necessary for us to grow and mature. But they are easier to bear when he carries them with us, when we know that we are never alone in our difficulties and sorrows. And, because of our own pains, we are in a much better position to help others carry their yokes of sorrow or pain or sickness. Strange as it may seem, it is probable that a world without pain would be a very selfish and individualistic one.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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09 DECEMBER 2015, Wednesday, 2nd Week of Advent
MAKING LIGHT OUR BURDENS IN LIFE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: ISAIAH 40:25-31; MATTHEW 11:28-30

How has life been treating you?  Do you find life to be nothing more than drudgery?  Are you heavily laden with the cares, anxieties and responsibilities of life?  Do you feel that your burden is too overwhelming and wish that the Lord would come and relieve you of your life soon?  Indeed, some of us are so weary, tired and weighed down by the struggles of daily life that we wish we could die soon so that we can rest in peace.   If you are feeling this way, then the prophet Isaiah assures us, “He gives strength to the wearied, he strengthens the powerless. Young men may grow tired and weary, youths may stumble, but those who hope in the Lord renew their strength, they put out wings like eagles. They run and do not grow weary, walk and never tire.”

How could this be?  Will we not grow weary and tire of the burdens of this life? In the first place, we must ask what these burdens are that have caused us to feel a load on our shoulders and this heaviness in the heart. Burdens come from three areas of life.   Basically, they belong to the past and the future.  It is not the present that is difficult but when we take the past and the future together, it is immensely heavy and intimidating.  Unfortunately, many of us live in our past and the future, forgetting the present joys and the moment.

In the first place, we are burdened by sin and guilt.  We cannot forgive the mistakes we have made in life.  Hence, we cannot move on.  The past continues to haunt us and accuse us of the follies we have made in life.  We cannot let go of the hurts we have caused to others, the betrayals in love and friendship, especially of our loved ones and family.  But we are burdened not only by our own sins; we are equally, if not more, enslaved by the sins others have committed against us.  We cannot forgive those who have sexually abused us, those who have caused us to lose our dignity because of slander and gossip; and those who have acted unjustly towards us, cheating us of our money, business secrets, etc.

Secondly, we are burdened by the perfection demanded by Christian life.  We know that we all fall short of what a Christian should be.  We want to live a holy and exemplary Christian life.  But the Old Adam is deeply latent in us and waiting to resurrect the moment we are weary or vulnerable.   So we are beset with our struggles against the capital sins, especially of pride, envy, anger, sloth, gluttony, lust and greed.   We find ourselves losing the battle against our human weaknesses so much so we feel hypocritical, especially when we are supposed to be “good and devout” Catholics.  We are ashamed that we have betrayed Christ.  But like St Paul, the more we try to meet the demands of the Law and what is expected of us, our faith become a religion, simply meeting the obligations of what the Church or the gospel asks of us.  When we break them, we live in fear of God’s displeasure, even punishment.  So religion is burdensome because it means having to do this and that, fulfilling this and that obligation.  Some of us in ministry also feel so burdened having to fulfill the conditions of membership.  With the demands upon our time from all sides, we simply feel like giving up completely and just let things be!

Thirdly, we are burdened by our responsibilities in life.  For those of us who hold responsibilities, the higher the office we hold, or the more people are dependent on us, whether as leaders, bosses or parents, the more we feel the load on our shoulders.  Heavy is the head that wears the crown.  There are always the anxieties for tomorrow.  We are aware that we need to protect and give our children a great future.  We worry about their studies, about their relationships and their health.  As parents, our worries for our family have no end.  Even when our children are married, we worry for their children and our grandchildren. There is no end to worrying! If we are leaders, we worry about how to grow the organization, how to strengthen the members and how to strategize.  Most of all, we have the headache of dealing with difficult members, be they family, colleagues at work or and church ministry.  We have to firefight in managing scandals, internal squabbling, jealousy, envy, backbiting and irresponsible people under us. This explains why people shy from holding office, especially public office because of the undue glare of the public’s eye and the accountability for everything that happens under their charge.  There is no peace for those who hold office, but then this is true for parents as well.

In the light of the burdens that we carry, how then can we be happy in life and not worry so much?  Jesus is our solution.  He invites us saying, “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest.  Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”   How does Jesus help us to lighten our load?  Does it mean that He will take away our crosses in life?  Surely not!  He Himself carried His own cross and instructed us to carry our crosses and follow after Him.  So the solution is not removing the crosses and the burdens in our lives.  The key is to consider how we carry them, our past, the future and our responsibilities.

The primary attitude that is required of us as Jesus said is to be gentle and humble of heart.  Humility, gentleness and love are the three keys to approaching the demands and trials of life.  Humility is the foundation.  Indeed, just earlier on, Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father saying, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”  (Mt 11:25f)   We need to be humble if we want to see life through the eyes of God and to have the wisdom to look at life in the right perspective.

Only with humility, can we see the greatness, beauty and love of God in creation and in our lives.  It is because of our pride that we want things always to be done our way.  We dictate to God what we need and how things should work out according to our narrow-minded thinking.   The first reading invites us to contemplate on the intricacies of creation, the beauty of God’s work, His majesty, wisdom and power.  This is what the Lord says, “To whom could you liken me and who could be my equal?  Lift your eyes and look. Who made these stars if not he who drills them like an army, calling each one by name? So mighty is his power, so great his strength that not one fails to answer.”   Truly, even science cannot fathom everything in creation in spite of all its achievements.  Pondering on the power of God and the transient things of nature, we should surrender and resign our lives to God.  So in our trials and sufferings, we must think that God does not care.  This was what God said to the ingrates, “How can you say, Jacob, how can you insist, Israel, ‘My destiny is hidden from the Lord, my rights are ignored by my God’? Did you not know? Had you not heard?”

Consequently, we must surrender our lives, especially our worries, to Him.  When Jesus invites us to carry His yoke and learn from Him, He is saying that as a carpenter, He knows how to make the yoke fitting for us.  When we carry the yoke, we need to have the right fitting, otherwise we hurt ourselves.  So too, let us trust that God has given the right crosses for us to bear in life.  Each one has his or her cross to carry.  None of the other crosses fit us.  So when we try to run away from our crosses and seek other crosses instead, this is where the misfit comes in and we suffer more eventually.  So to carry the yoke of Jesus is to accept the cross like Him and when we carry them rightly, in faith, the crosses will no longer be that heavy.  God knows our limits and our strengths.  He does not give us the cross without giving us His grace and strength.  When you look at your life, you know that He has always blessed you and helped you, as the psalmist says, “My soul, give thanks to the Lord and never forget all his blessings.”

Secondly, we need the attitude of gentleness.  Most of us are not gentle with ourselves and therefore harsh with others as well.  To be gentle is to learn to love ourselves, accepting our mistakes and limitations.   Pride, ambition and envy cause us to be hard on ourselves.  Perfectionists are never happy because their self-acceptance depends on their performance and what others say of them.  So we need to love ourselves and recognized our human frailties.  The psalmist reminds us that God is always forgiving and tolerant.  “My soul, give thanks to the Lord.  It is he who forgives all your guilt, who heals every one of your ills, who redeems your life from the grave, who crowns you with love and compassion. The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy. He does not treat us according to our sins nor repay us according to our faults.”  If God deals with us in this manner, then we should learn to forgive ourselves, our past mistakes and our sins.

Until we forgive our mistakes, we cannot forgive others who have hurt us.  A big part of our burden is not letting go of our hurts.  We continue to nurse the pain in our hearts and in our minds.  This is the most unnecessary burden.  It is not life-giving and it is not empowering.  We will not only destroy others around us because of the bitterness in our hearts but we will be a prisoner of our hatred and anger.  So let us know that our brothers and sisters, like us, are weak in different areas and vulnerable to the temptations of the Evil One.  If we do not feel that way, then we have fallen into the sin of presumption and self-righteousness.

Finally, the burden will be light when we carry all of them like Jesus, not just in faith, in gentleness, but in love.  When Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest”, this is a not a rest from our duties and responsibilities, but the rest of the soul, because we carry them without fear of the future, the mistakes of the past and, most of all, with love in our hearts.  Anything that is done in life is still a sacrifice on our part, but it is a loving sacrifice.  Such sacrifices not only give life to those whom we serve but we give life to ourselves. Indeed, with faith, we will be like the Israelites, carried by the wings of the eagles knowing that “his understanding is beyond fathoming”; with humility, we will not stumble because we will walk in His ways; and with love, the Lord will renew our strength and we can “run and do not grow weary, walk and never tire.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, October 2, 2015 — Constant Contact With God.

October 1, 2015

Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels
Lectionary: 459/650

Its Guardian Angel Day!

Reading 1 BAR 1:15-22

During the Babylonian captivity, the exiles prayed:
“Justice is with the Lord, our God;
and we today are flushed with shame,
we men of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem,
that we, with our kings and rulers
and priests and prophets, and with our ancestors,
have sinned in the Lord’s sight and disobeyed him.
We have neither heeded the voice of the Lord, our God,
nor followed the precepts which the Lord set before us.
From the time the Lord led our ancestors out of the land of Egypt
until the present day,
we have been disobedient to the Lord, our God,
and only too ready to disregard his voice.
And the evils and the curse that the Lord enjoined upon Moses, his servant,
at the time he led our ancestors forth from the land of Egypt
to give us the land flowing with milk and honey,
cling to us even today.
For we did not heed the voice of the Lord, our God,
in all the words of the prophets whom he sent us,
but each one of us went off
after the devices of his own wicked heart,
served other gods,
and did evil in the sight of the Lord, our God.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 79:1B-2, 3-5, 8, 9

R. (9) For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
they have defiled your holy temple,
they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
They have given the corpses of your servants
as food to the birds of heaven,
the flesh of your faithful ones to the beasts of the earth.
R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
They have poured out their blood like water
round about Jerusalem,
and there is no one to bury them.
We have become the reproach of our neighbors,
the scorn and derision of those around us.
O LORD, how long? Will you be angry forever?
Will your jealousy burn like fire?
R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
Remember not against us the iniquities of the past;
may your compassion quickly come to us,
for we are brought very low.
R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
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. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.

AlleluiaPS 103:21

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Bless the LORD, all you angels,
you ministers, who do his will.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 18:1-5, 10

The disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?”
He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said,
“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,
you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Whoever humbles himself like this child
is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.
And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.“See that you do not despise one of these little ones,
for I say to you that their angels in heaven
always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”
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First Thoughts From Peace and Freedom
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Christ teaches us to pray by his many good examples of retiring to pray and meditate throughout his public life. Jesus also gave us “The Lord’s Prayer” during his Sermon on the Mount.
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Here, in today’s first reading, we have another King teaching us how to pray. King David cries out, “I have sinned grievously in what I have done. But now, LORD, forgive the guilt of your servant, for I have been very foolish.”
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Maybe all my prayers need to be just this honest and humble — always seeking forgiveness and guidance.
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The Bible tells us in 1 Thess 5:17 to “pray without ceasing.”
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Alcoholics Anonymous teaches everyone to seek a “constant contact with God” through prayer and meditation. (Step 11: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”)
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Holy Guardian Angels – Commentary on Exodus 23:20-23; Ps 90; Matthew 18:1-5,10 From Living Space

Coincidentally, the Gospel reading for today is the same as yesterday’s for the feast of St Therese of Lisieux. The emphasis yesterday was on the childlike qualities of Therese. For Jesus was saying that true greatness only comes to those who in a spirit of complete docility and trust submit themselves totally to the will of their Father in heaven.

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Today the focus is more on Jesus’ statement at the end of the reading where he says that the angels of children and all the ‘little ones’ in our society are in constant contact with God. The meaning is that those considered as of least consequence – children, the poor, the marginalised – are all very special in God’s eyes and, through their angels, can be sure of God’s loving concern.

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The First Reading is from the Book of Exodus. It comes from a long passage of commandments covering a wide range of issues which Yahweh gave to the Israelites. This happened after Moses had gone up Mount Sinai and spoken face to face with Yahweh. The passage, beginning with chapter 20, starts with the giving of the Ten Commandments. These are then followed by a long list of instructions on how the Israelites are to behave.

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Towards the end of Yahweh’s words (in chapter 23) we have the short passage which is today’s reading. It is a promise of God’s protection for his people as they continue their long and dangerous journey through the desert on their way to the Promised Land.

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“See, I am sending an angel before you, to guard you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared.” Here is the promise of Yahweh’s protection over his people. But they are warned to listen to the voice of the angel; there will be no forgiveness for their failure to obey, because Yahweh’s authority resides in his angel.

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But, if they follow Yahweh’s angel in everything, “I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes”. Their angel will go before them and will help them defeat the various peoples – Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites – who will try to prevent them reaching the goal promised them by God.

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Today, we pray that God’s ever-loving protection will be always with us and guide us on the right paths, help us always to follow the paths shown to us by Jesus our Lord.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/f1002r/

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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02 OCTOBER 2015, Friday, Holy Guardian Angels
FINDING FAITH AND BELIEVING IN THE REALITY OF ANGELS IN A SCIENTIFIC AGE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: EX 23:20-23; MT 18:1-5, 10

In a world of science it is difficult to speak of the existence of angels.  The premise of science is based on empirical evidence and observation.  Science does not deal with spirits as they are non-corporeal.  Hence, we Christians who believe in angels appear to non-believers to be rather childish and mythological.  We cannot see angels.  We do not even feel them, so how can we verify our claims that angels exist?  Indeed, how many of our Catholics really pray to their angels every day?  In the past, Catholics were taught at least to pray the prayer to the Guardian Angel, especially to Archangel Michael, for protection from the Evil One.  But today, such prayer to angels might sound superstitious.

Yet the Church’s official teaching is clear with respect to the existence, work and intercessory role of angels.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that “in the meantime, the whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of angels.”  (CCC 334)  “In her liturgy, the Church joins with the angels to adore the thrice-holy God. She invokes their assistance (in the funeral liturgy In Paradisum deducant te angeli… “May the angels lead you into Paradise…”). Moreover, in the “Cherubic Hymn” of the Byzantine Liturgy, she celebrates the memory of certain angels more particularly (St. Michael, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael, and the guardian angels).   (CCC 335)  “From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.”  Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.”  (CC 336)  Consequently, today’s commemoration of the Guardian Angels can help to strengthen our faith in God.

In the first place, the rejection of this celebration is very much connected with the secularized world that denies the reality of the spirit world.  This over emphasis on the material has reduced human beings to no more than a material animal.  This would result in the rejection that a human person is constituted of body and soul.  As a consequence, it means there is no need to believe in a world beyond death, since a human person disappears into nothingness at death.  He has “no soul” that lives on.  In other words, the human person is not immortal.  That being the case, committing suicide or practicing euthanasia would be the best way to end a meaningless life on earth, since with death, suffering ends.

Secondly, the rejection of angels is also an attempt to undermine the reality of evil spirits.  Belief in angels is a counterpart to the recognition of a spirits world. One cannot believe in the existence of evil spirits whilst at the same time reject the reality of angels, since Satan and his fallen angels were really angels.   Conversely, the rejection of evil spirits will also lead to a rejection of angels.  Perhaps, the lack of devotion and exposition of the reality of angels is the cause of skepticism in today’s world over the reality of evil spirits.  Many no longer believe in the work of Satan and evil spirits.  Some Catholics even think it is a farfetched reality and very rare.  Pope Paul VI warns us that the double smokescreen the Devil is using today is to deceive us into believing that he does not exist and to be ignorant of him.  In this way, we are no longer alert to the temptations and oppression of the Evil One.  This allows him to work in our lives unnoticed and thereby destroy us.  In truth, St Paul speaks of the different hierarchy of beings. He speaks of Christ as the head of all creation, “for in him were created all things in heaven and on earth; everything visible and everything invisible, Thrones, Dominations, Sovereignties, Powers” (Col 1:16)  And in his letter to the Ephesians, he warns us to “Put God’s armour on so as to be able to resist the devil’s tactics.  For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the Sovereignties and the Powers who orginate the darkness in this world; the spiritual army of evil in the heavens.” (Eph 6:10-12)

Faith therefore is required to believe in the angels.  The Gospel speaks of a child-like faith that is required of us.  Jesus said, “I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Most of all, Jesus warns us to “never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven.” It is therefore of a dogma of faith to believe in the existence of spirits, namely, angels and the devil.  Not having faith in angels will lead us to a denial of other truths of faith, namely, that God is pure Spirit; the existence of devils; our spiritual nature; and the truth about the bible as the inspired Word of God.  So a rejection of angels puts all other truths of faith in question.

In the light of such explicit and clear declaration of the existence of angels, both in scripture, Tradition and in the teaching of the magisterium, what kind of devotion is expected of us to our Guardian Angels?  In the first reading, we are told that they are God’s messengers sent to guard and lead us.   They are the ministering spirits of God who guide us in our daily life.  The Lord instructed Moses to tell the people thus, “I myself will send an angel before you to guard you as you go and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.”

Secondly, our Guardian Angels relay God’s message to us so that we can walk in the truth.  For this reason, we are called to be docile to the Word of God that is relayed through the angels.  The Lord said, “Give him reverence and listen to all that he says. Offer him no defiance; he would not pardon such a fault, for my name is in him. If you listen carefully to his voice and do all that I say, I shall be enemy to your enemies, foe to your foes. My angel will go before you and lead you to where the Amorites are and the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites, the Jebusites; I shall exterminate these.”  It behooves us especially in this scientific, technological and materialistic age to have a greater sensitivity to the world of spirits.  It is bad enough not to be conscious of the presence of the angels in our lives, but to be ignorant of the work of the evil spirits as if they are no longer a menace in the world is to think that the world is already completely redeemed and evil overcome.  Ignorance of the work of evil spirit causes us to fall into Satan’s snares without even knowing it.

Thirdly, since Angels are pure intellectual spirits, they can think, choose, and feel like us.  This means that we can communicate with the angels as we communicate with the saints.  For this reason, the Church invites us to pray to our Guardian Angels and seek the protection and help of the Archangels in our battle against the forces of evil.  Cultivating a devotion to the angels certainly can be a great help in our spiritual life as in the case of our devotion to Mary and the saints.  We should seek their help; ask for their prayers, protection and guidance.  Of course, we should also imitate their good examples of guarding and guiding people under our care; being messengers of the Good News to others and be healers and reconcilers in the world.  Like the angels, we are called to enlighten and inspire others by speaking God’s words and be the mouth piece of God.

Finally, we are called in a special way to protect the little ones just as Jesus exhorts us.  “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.  See that you never despise any of these little ones.”  Let us protect our babies from being aborted; take care of our children well, nurture them with love and guide them in the right values; and most of all, do not scandalize them or abuse their trust in us, making them lose faith in God’s love and in humanity.

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection• Today’s Gospel presents a text taken from the Discourse of the Community (Mt 18,1-35), in which Matthew gathers together some phrases of Jesus to help the communities of the first century to overcome the two problems which they had to face at that moment: the leaving or going away of the little ones because of the scandal caused by some (Mt 18, 1-14) and the need of dialogue to overcome the internal conflicts (Mt 18, 15-35)..The discourse of the Community treats of several themes: the exercise of power in the community (Mt 18, 1-4), the scandal that excludes the little ones (Mt 18, 5-11), the obligation to struggle to bring back the little ones, for their return (Mt 18, 12-14), fraternal correction (Mt 18, 15-18), prayer (Mt 18, 19-20) and pardon (Mt 18, 21-35). The accent is placed on acceptance and on reconciliation, because the basis of fraternity is the gratuitous love of God which accepts us and forgives us. It is only in this way that the community will be a sign of the Kingdom.

• In today’s Gospel we meditate on the part that speaks about the acceptance of the little ones. The expression, the little ones, or the least does not only refer to children, but rather to persons who are not important in society, including children. Jesus asks that the little ones be at the centre of the concern of the community, because “The Father does not want any of these little ones to be lost” (Mt 18, 14).

• Matthew 18, 1: The question of the disciples which results in the teaching of Jesus. The discip0les want to know who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. The simple fact of asking this question indicates that they have not understood well the message of Jesus. The response of Jesus, that is, the whole discourse of the Community, serves to make us understand that among the followers of Jesus the spirit of service, of dedication of pardon, of reconciliation and of gratuitous love, without seeking one’s own interest, have to be a priority.

• Matthew 18, 2-5: the fundamental criterion; the one who makes himself as little as this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. “Then Jesus called to himself a child and placed him in the middle”; the disciples want a criterion so as to be able to measure the importance of persons in the community. Jesus responds that the criterion is the little ones! Children are not important in society; they do not belong to the world of the great.

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The disciples, instead of growing towards the heights and toward the centre, should grow down and toward the periphery! In this way they will be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven! And the reason for this is the following: “anyone who welcomes one little child like this, in my name, welcomes me!” The love of Jesus for the little ones cannot be explained. The children have no merit; they are loved by their parents and by all because they are children. This is a pure gratuitous love of God which is manifested here and which can be imitated in the community of those who believe in Jesus.

• Matthew 18, 6-9: Do not scandalize the little ones. The Gospel today omits verses 6 to 9 and continues in verse 10. We give a brief key for the reading of these verses, from 6 to 9. To scandalize the little ones means: to be for them a reason for the loss of faith in God and of the abandonment from the community. The excessive insistence on the norms and on the observance, as some Pharisees did, caused the little ones to go away, because they no longer found the liberty that Jesus had brought. Before this, Matthew keeps very strong phrases of Jesus, such as the one of the mill stone put around the neck, and the other one, “Alas for those who cause scandal!”

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This is a sign that at that time the little ones no longer identified themselves with the community and looked for another refuge. And today? In Brazil alone, every year, approximately one million persons abandon the historical churches and go to the Pentecostal ones. And these are the poor who do this. They leave because the poor and the little ones do not feel at home in their house! Which is the reason? To avoid this scandal, Jesus orders to cut the foot or the hand and take out the eye. These affirmations of Jesus cannot be taken literally. They mean that it is necessary to be very demanding in the struggle against scandal which drives away the little ones. We cannot, in any way, allow that the little ones feel marginalized in our community; because in this case, the community would not be a sign of the Kingdom of God. It would not belong to Jesus Christ. It would not be Christian.

• Matthew 18, 10: The angels of the little ones are always in the presence of the Father. “See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in Heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in Heaven”. Today, sometimes we hear the question, “But, do the angels exist or not? Perhaps they are an element of the Persian culture, where the Jews lived for long centuries during the exile of Babylonia? It is possible. But this is not the important thing, this is not the principal aspect.

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In the Bible the angel has a different significance. There are texts which speak about the Angel of Yahweh or of the Angel of God and then suddenly they speak of God. They exchange one for the other (Gen 18, 1-2. 9.10.13.16: cf. Gen 13, 3.18). In the Bible the Angel is the face of Yahweh turned toward us. The face of God turned toward me, toward you! It is the expression of the most profound conviction of our faith, that is, that God is with us, with me, always! It is a way of making God’s love concrete in our life, even up to the smallest detail.

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Personal questions

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• Are the little ones accepted in our community? Do the poorest people participate in our community?

• The angels of God, the Guardian Angel, many times the Angel of God is the person who helps another person. Are there many angels in your life?

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Concluding prayer

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Lord, you created my inmost self,
knit me together in my mother’s womb.
For so many marvels I thank you;
a wonder am I,
and all your works are wonders. (Ps 139,13-14)

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http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-guardian-angels-matthew-181-510

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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, February 5, 2014 — “Pray without ceasing” — Seek a “constant contact with God”

February 4, 2014

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King David in Prayer, by Pieter de Grebber (c. 1640).  “I have sinned grievously in what I have done. But now, LORD, forgive the guilt of your servant, for I have been very foolish.”

Memorial of Saint Agatha, Virgin and Martyr Lectionary: 325

Reading 1 2 sm 24:2, 9-17

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King David said to Joab and the leaders of the army who were with him, “Tour all the tribes in Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba and register the people, that I may know their number.” Joab then reported to the king the number of people registered: in Israel, eight hundred thousand men fit for military service; in Judah, five hundred thousand.
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Afterward, however, David regretted having numbered the people, and said to the LORD: “I have sinned grievously in what I have done. But now, LORD, forgive the guilt of your servant, for I have been very foolish.” When David rose in the morning, the LORD had spoken to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying: “Go and say to David, ‘This is what the LORD says: I offer you three alternatives; choose one of them, and I will inflict it on you.’” Gad then went to David to inform him. He asked: “Do you want a three years’ famine to come upon your land, or to flee from your enemy three months while he pursues you, or to have a three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider and decide what I must reply to him who sent me.” David answered Gad: “I am in very serious difficulty. Let us fall by the hand of God, for he is most merciful; but let me not fall by the hand of man.” Thus David chose the pestilence. Now it was the time of the wheat harvest when the plague broke out among the people. The LORD then sent a pestilence over Israel from morning until the time appointed, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beer-sheba died. But when the angel stretched forth his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD regretted the calamity and said to the angel causing the destruction among the people, “Enough now! Stay your hand.” The angel of the LORD was then standing at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. When David saw the angel who was striking the people, he said to the LORD: “It is I who have sinned; it is I, the shepherd, who have done wrong. But these are sheep; what have they done? Punish me and my kindred.”
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Responsorial Psalm ps 32:1-2, 5, 6, 7

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R. (see 5c) Lord, forgive the wrong I have done. Blessed is he whose fault is taken away, whose sin is covered. Blessed the man to whom the LORD imputes not guilt, in whose spirit there is no guile. R. Lord, forgive the wrong I have done. Then I acknowledged my sin to you, my guilt I covered not. I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,” and you took away the guilt of my sin. R. Lord, forgive the wrong I have done. For this shall every faithful man pray to you in time of stress. Though deep waters overflow, they shall not reach him. R. Lord, forgive the wrong I have done. You are my shelter; from distress you will preserve me; with glad cries of freedom you will ring me round. R. Lord, forgive the wrong I have done.
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Gospel mk 6:1-6

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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 Joseph 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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Jesus Teaching in the Temple By Gustave Dore
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First Thoughts From Peace and Freedom
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Christ teaches us to pray by his many good examples of retiring to pray and meditate throughout his public life. Jesus also gave us “The Lord’s Prayer” during his Sermon on the Mount.
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Here, in today’s first reading, we have another King teaching us how to pray. King David cries out, “I have sinned grievously in what I have done. But now, LORD, forgive the guilt of your servant, for I have been very foolish.”
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Maybe all my prayers need to be just this honest and humble — always seeking forgiveness and guidance.
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The Bible tells us in 1 Thess 5:17 to “pray without ceasing.”
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Alcoholics Anonymous teaches everyone to seek a “constant contact with God” through prayer and meditation. (Step 11: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”)
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How many times did Jesus pray in the Bible?
http://jesusalive.cc/ques204.htm
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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 Reflection
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The Gospel today speaks of the visit of Jesus to Nazareth and describes the mental obstinacy of the people of Nazareth, who do not want to accept him. (Mk 6, 1-6). Tomorrow the Gospel describes the openness of Jesus toward the people of Galilee, shown through the sending out of his disciples on mission (Mk 6, 7-13).
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Mark 6, 1-2ª: Jesus returns to Nazareth. At that time Jesus went to his home town, and his disciples accompanied him. “With the coming of the Sabbath, he began teaching in the Synagogue”. It is always good to return to one’s own home town and to find the friends. After a long absence, Jesus also returns and, as usual, on Saturday, he goes to the Synagogue to participate in the meeting of the community. Jesus was not the coordinator of the community, but even if he was not he takes the floor and begins to teach. This is a sign that persons could participate and express their own opinion.
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Mark 6, 2b-3: Reaction of the people of Nazareth before Jesus. The people of Capernaum had accepted the teaching of Jesus (Mk 1, 22), but the people of Nazareth did not like the words of Jesus and were scandalized. For what reason? Jesus, the boy whom they had known since he was born, how is it that now he is so different? They do not accept God’s mystery present in Jesus, a human being, and common as they are, known by all! They think that to be able to speak of God, he should be different from them! As we can see, not everything went well for Jesus.
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The persons who should have been the first ones to accept the Good News were precisely those who had the greatest difficulty to accept it. The conflict was not only with foreigners, but also, and especially with his own relatives and with the people of Nazareth. They refused to believe in Jesus, because they could not understand the mystery of God embracing the person of Jesus. “From where do all these things come to him? And what wisdom is this which has been given to him? And these miracles which are worked by him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joseph and Jude and Simon? His sisters too, are they not here with us?” And they would not accept him, they do not believe in Jesus!
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The brothers and the sisters of Jesus. The expression “brothers of Jesus” causes much polemics among Catholics and Protestants. Basing themselves on this text and in others, the Protestants say that Jesus had more brothers and sisters and that Mary had more sons! The Catholics say that Mary had no other sons. What should we think about all this? In the first place, the two positions, that of Catholics and that of the Protestants, both have arguments taken from the Bible and from the tradition of their respective Churches. Therefore, it is not convenient to discuss this question with arguments drawn only from reason. This is a question of profound convictions, which have something to do with the faith and with the sentiments both of Catholics and of Protestants. An argument taken only from reason cannot succeed to change the conviction of the heart! On the other hand, it irritates and draws away!
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Even when I do not agree with an opinion of another, I should always respect it! And we, both Catholics and Protestants, instead of discussing on texts, we should unite to struggle in defence of life, created by God, a life which has been so disfigured by poverty and injustice, by the lack of faith. We should remember other phrases of Jesus: “I have come in order that they may have life and life in abundance” (Jn 10, 10). “That all may be one, so that the world may believe that you, Father, has sent me” (Jn 17, 21). “Who is not against us, is for us” (Mk 10, 39.40).
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Mark 6, 4-6. Reaction of Jesus before the attitude of the people of Nazareth. Jesus knows very well that “nobody is a prophet in his own country”. And he says: “A prophet is despised only in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house”. In fact, where there is no acceptance or faith, people can do nothing. The preconception prevents this. Even if Jesus wanted to do something, he cannot, and he is amazed at their lack of faith. For this reason, before the closed door of his community “he began to make a tour round the villages, teaching”. The experience of this rejection led Jesus to change his practice. He goes to the other villages and, as we shall see in tomorrow’s Gospel, he gets the disciples involved in the mission instructing them as to how they have to continue the mission.

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Personal questions
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Jesus had problems with his relatives and with his community. From the time when you began to live the Gospel better, has something changed in your relationship with your family, with your relatives?
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Jesus cannot work many miracles in Nazareth because faith is lacking. And today, does he find faith in us, in me?
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Concluding prayer
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How blessed are those whose offence is forgiven, whose sin blotted out. How blessed are those to whom Yahweh imputes no guilt, whose spirit harbours no deceit. (Ps 32,1-2)
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How blessed are those whose offence is forgiven, whose sin blotted out. How blessed are those to whom Yahweh imputes no guilt, whose spirit harbours no deceit. (Ps 32,1-2)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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“No prophet is without honor except in his native place, among his own kindred, and in his own house.”  This is one of the most poignant statements made by Jesus. We can easily identify with the sentiments of Jesus when He uttered these words, for like Jesus, we are often distressed over the apparent lack of openness of our fellow human beings in accepting us for what we are because of their prejudices, especially those closest to us.

On the other hand, taking on the perspectives of the villagers of Jesus’ time, we too can identify with them.   We all know it is difficult to accept someone from our own kind telling us what to do, especially if that person is deemed to be inferior to us in age, status, education or experience. The question we need to confront ourselves is, why is it so difficult to accept authority from our own peers or people of our own kind?

The first reason is simply pride.  This is perhaps the real reason.  When we examine the gospel text, indeed, we find that Jesus’ townsfolk and relatives were not rejecting His knowledge, wisdom and power.  Rather, we are told that they found Him ‘too much’ for them.  What is the reason?  Because they knew Him when He was a little boy; He was just one of them; only the son of a carpenter.   So for them to accept Jesus’ teachings and to admit that He was wiser and more knowledgeable than them, would mean that they would have had to acknowledge His superiority (and their own inferiority).  That of course would not do!   It is the same for us too.  It is very difficult for some of us, for example, to be told what to do by someone more junior to us, whether in terms of age or status.  It is a threat to our ego and security.

But there could be another reason.  It is what we call prejudice.  But this word has been used so often that we have become prejudiced to the word itself.  So instead of calling it prejudice, we adopt the biblical language by calling it the lack of faith.  This lack of faith of course is simply the lack of openness to the newness of someone or something.   It is to have a fixated and static view of a situation.  It is to live in the past.

This happens when we hang on to our old mental models of people, things and situations, forgetting that nothing remains constant.   Hence, parents often forget that their children have grown up.  Some parents continue to treat their grown-up sons and daughters as if they were still little children.  This was what the townsfolk and relatives of Jesus did.  They forgot that Jesus was no longer the little boy in Nazareth; that He has grown up.  Their out-dated impressions of Jesus prevented them from being open to the new Jesus before their eyes. They were prejudiced.

But the price of being prejudiced is the price of missing out on opportunities for life and growth.  The gospel tells us that Jesus could work no miracles for them since their minds were closed.  Similarly, when we are closed to people and situations, we miss out on opportunities for gaining new wisdom and the experience of miraculous deeds.  We become the real losers in life when we refuse to see the newness in others.

Finally, for those of us who face rejection like Jesus, we can learn not to get bitter or angry.  Instead, He only felt sorry for them, for He had nothing to lose. The rejection by His own people did not prevent Jesus from living out His life and His love.  He did not engage in any form of self-pity.  Instead, He was open to other avenues and opportunities.  So, rather than offering His love and message to people who were prejudicial and disinterested, He offered His message to neighbouring villages instead.

This is the kind of attitude we should adopt.  If people are not interested in what we have to offer, we need not react with resentment, we need not force our goodness on them, rather we should simply take them to others who can appreciate them.   We need not allow our enthusiasm to be life-givers to be dampened simply because one group cannot accept us, because there are many others who are waiting to receive the good news.  Thus, whether as messengers or recipients of the good news, so long as we adopt a fundamental openness to what others can offer us and what we can offer them, we will always be faith-filled and growing people.   

http://www.csctr.net/05-february-2014-wednesday-4th-week-ordinary-time/

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