Posts Tagged ‘do not be afraid’

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, June 25, 2017 — “What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light.” — “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”

June 24, 2017

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 94

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While walking on the water, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid.”

Reading 1 JER 20:10-13

Jeremiah said:
“I hear the whisperings of many:
‘Terror on every side!
Denounce! let us denounce him!’
All those who were my friends
are on the watch for any misstep of mine.
‘Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail,
and take our vengeance on him.’
But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion:
my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.
In their failure they will be put to utter shame,
to lasting, unforgettable confusion.
O LORD of hosts, you who test the just,
who probe mind and heart,
let me witness the vengeance you take on them,
for to you I have entrusted my cause.
Sing to the LORD,
praise the LORD,
for he has rescued the life of the poor
from the power of the wicked!”

Responsorial Psalm PS 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35

R. (14c) Lord, in your great love, answer me.
For your sake I bear insult,
and shame covers my face.
I have become an outcast to my brothers,
a stranger to my children,
Because zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
I pray to you, O LORD,
for the time of your favor, O God!
In your great kindness answer me
with your constant help.
Answer me, O LORD, for bounteous is your kindness;
in your great mercy turn toward me.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
“See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.
Let the heavens and the earth praise him,
the seas and whatever moves in them!”
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.

Reading 2 ROM 5:12-15

Brothers and sisters:
Through one man sin entered the world,
and through sin, death,
and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned—
for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world,
though sin is not accounted when there is no law.
But death reigned from Adam to Moses,
even over those who did not sin
after the pattern of the trespass of Adam,
who is the type of the one who was to come.

But the gift is not like the transgression.
For if by the transgression of the one the many died,
how much more did the grace of God
and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ
overflow for the many.

AlleluiaJN 15:26B, 27A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Spirit of truth will testify to me, says the Lord;
and you also will testify.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 10:26-33

Jesus said to the Twelve:
“Fear no one.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.
But whoever denies me before others,
I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

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From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

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“Fear no one.”  —  The words of Jesus from today’s Gospel according to Saint Matthew are so strong!  “Fear no one.”  We can only be free from fear and from fears if we truly believe in the Lord and live for everlasting life.

The first reading today is from the Prophet Jeremiah.  He had lots of people trying to end his life and to make his life difficult if he lived.  He tells us that even his friends had been working against him.  Yet he knows that God is with him and that he need not fear.  Of course, sometimes his enemies made his life difficult.  So to have God with us is not magic and we can still encounter very difficult situations.  But if our trust is in the Lord, we know that in the end, all shall be well.  That end may be after our death!  But the challenge is simply to cling to the Lord!

The second reading today is from the Letter to the Romans.  This reading tells us that sin has entered the world through one man, Adam, but that through another man, Jesus the Christ, the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.  The message is the same:  sin and evil and bad things will no triumph in the long run.  Rather, God will triumph and will vanquish all sin and evil.  To cling to this promise of the Lord is the challenge of our spiritual life!

Today’s Gospel is from the Gospel of Matthew.  We return to the words of Jesus:  “Fear no one.”  In today’s world, we Christians are more and more likely to encounter problems.  The values of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus and of the Church, are now being spurned in our world and called into question.  If we cling to these teachings and words, we are accused of being people of hate and of promoting “hate speech.”  This condition in our world will most likely only increase.  Christians are already the most persecuted group in the world.

We should not want to abandon our faith in order to avoid being reject, mocked, scorned and judged by others.  Most of us want a simple and quiet life to live in peace.  That simplicity and quietness may well be taken away from us today.  The challenge for us is to hold fast to the words of Jesus:  “Fear no one.”  That also means that we must cling to the teachings of the Lord Jesus without any fear or even without concern for what may happen to our lives.

Let us be ready to walk with the Lord to suffering and death, rejoicing that we are found worthy to suffer for clinging to the words and the teachings of the Lord Jesus.

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Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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25 JUNE, 2017, Sunday, 12th Week, Ordinary Time
THE LOSS OF FEAR OF GOD AS THE CAUSE OF AMORALITY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ JER 20:10-13; ROM 5:12-15; MT 10:26-33  ]

The fundamental message of Christianity is that Jesus is the Saviour of the World.  This is the Good News that we are called to proclaim.  Indeed, this is the gist of the message of St Paul when he wrote, “If it is certain that through one man’s fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift.”  For St Paul, the thought that Adam could have caused so many of us to sin, the death of Jesus will surely bring about greater grace for all.

However, in order that we grasp the centrality of the Christian message of salvation, we must be aware of our sinfulness.  Yet the real challenge in this century is that we are numb towards sin.  The world today suffers from a narcosis of sin.  Today, the world has lost all consciousness of sin.

Truly, we do not feel that we are sinners.  Most of us are quite contented with ourselves.  At most we might admit that we have some imperfections, after all, we are human.  But we have no sin.  That is to say, we never do anything that is wrong consciously.  Imperfection is a weakness. We are therefore exonerated.  Otherwise, most of us would blame society for the sins of the world.  We think that our sins are due to the environment or the structure of society.  This is not to deny that the environment does indeed lead us to sin.  In a secularized world, it is certainly more difficult to remain chaste in relationships and focus on God.  Sometimes people lament about the state of society today as if they are not part of society.  It would be a deception to exonerate ourselves completely for the reality of sin in our own lives and that of society since we are part of society.

Furthermore, today modern psychology seems to be suggesting that guilt is wrong and unhealthy for the person because it leads us to depression.  Of course we are not speaking of an over scrupulous kind of guilt that springs from some kind of neurosis.  We are talking about guilt that comes from the conscience which instinctively informs the person that what he is thinking or doing is wrong.  This conscience is erroneously identified with bad guilt when in fact, guilt is something given by God as an intuitive and instinctive indicator even before we can rationally understand our actions as being not in order.

Indeed, today, there is the emphasis on the “feel good” and “feel great” mentality.  The stress is on putting up a good image, dressing well, going for make-over.   It is very difficult to tell someone that he is wrong or that what he is doing is not the best.  No one wants to be told that he is wrong or that he is not good.  People only want to be affirmed.

This explains why Jeremiah was hated by his contemporaries.  He was inspired by God to warn the leaders that terrible disasters would befall them in the future if they continued to profane the temple and worship false gods. Their enemies would conquer them and they would be sent into captivity and exile in a foreign land.  Of course, the temple priests the nobles and the leaders were not pleased with such perceived curses from Jeremiah.

So instead of getting rid of their sin, they got rid of the irritant that became on obstacle to their remaining in their sins.  They persecuted Jeremiah and waited for an occasion to put him in prison.  Instead of watching their own actions and seeing whether Jeremiah was speaking the truth, they silenced the truth by silencing their hearts and watched for an occasion to cause Jeremiah to fall.   Isn’t this what we do as well?  Instead of praying for humility and trying to assess objectively what others say about us, we react by finding ways and means to destroy our perceived opponents.

What is the cause of all this?  It is the loss of the fear of God!  Of course, we are not speaking of a kind of servile fear of God where God is seen as a policeman waiting to catch us in our sins and mistakes.  We are speaking of a reverential fear of God who is the creator of all and has power over life and death; who is the Absolute Truth and does not tolerate falsehood; who is holiness and not compatible with sin; who is our deliverer and protector from all harm.  Godly fear is therefore not so much a kind of slavish fear but a reverential fear or awesomeness in the face of God’s holiness, mercy and love.  It is to give respect to his name, as the opening prayer suggests.

The paradox is that when God is no longer feared, then man begins to fear his fellowmen, nature and the world.  Why?  Without God, he feels that he is now fully in charge of the world and his own life. He has to protect his self-interests.  Thus, he manipulates his fellowmen and nature for his self survival. He sees others either as his enemies or competitors.  When we do not fear God, we do all kinds of things that destroy our fellowmen and they in turn take revenge on us.

When God is not respected as the principle of life and the source of Truth, man is confused and lost over what is right and wrong.  Indeed, what are the right values for society?  It appears that the answer to what is right or wrong is no longer dependent on some objective truth and values but what we perceive to be right or wrong.  So long as we agree that something is right, then we are right.  Thus, the truth is based on consensus and popular opinion.  Is there no objectivity in truth?  Does it mean that if we agree that cannibalism or euthanasia is permissible, then it is the right thing to do?  Man has made himself the sole judge as to what is right and wrong.

Indeed, the loss of the sense of sin is due to the fact that modern man has total disregard for God.  Since there is no sense of morality, of what is right or wrong, there is no need to seek forgiveness.  As a consequence, many of us do not feel the need for salvation either.  They think they are OK.  Nothing is wrong with them.  If there is anything wrong, it is the world or someone else.  As a consequence, he has no respect for the dignity of human life.  As St Paul pointedly said, “there was no law and so no one could be accused of the sin of ‘law-breaking’, yet death reigned over all from Adam to Moses, even though their sin, unlike that of Adam, was not a matter of breaking a law.”

To overcome the dullness of the conscience today, we need to preach Godly fear.    What is Godly fear?  Firstly, Godly fear is to see God as absolute truth, as Jesus said, “For everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear.” Truly, God will vindicate us in the end.  The truth will always be victorious at the end of the day.  No one can suppress the truth for long.  Time will reveal the truth to us.  God, who is on the side of truth and justice, will win the battle for us, if not soon or in this life, we can be sure that truth will prevail at the end of the day.

Secondly, Godly fear means our lives are in the hands of God so that we need “not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”  We must remember that happiness in life is more than just keeping our body intact.  Happiness is found in the soul, a good conscience.  If our conscience is not at peace, we will eventually fall sick as well because the body is the window of the Spirit.  The unhappiness and guilt in our soul will manifest itself in our sicknesses.  Indeed, many of our sicknesses are due to spiritual causes rather than physical.  If we compromise the truth, our conscience will haunt us not only in this life but in the next.

Thirdly, Godly fear means that God is on the side of truth as Jesus assures us, “So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.”  Yes, if we are truthful before God and truthful before man, if our conscience is clear, we never need to fear anyone because we have nothing to hide.  Fear of God and fear of man is always the consequence of shame and embarrassment. That is why we want to hide our sins and wrong doings.

Indeed, Godly fear will spur us to faith and action.  A healthy fear of God will lead us to value what is truly good and right.  It will give us wisdom and right judgment since we see everything from the perspective of God, of truth and of the ultimate end.  Such fear keeps us humble and obedient to His Word, relying on His power and grace.  Godly fear makes us have great respect for God’s commandment of love for everyone.  When we fear God, then we no longer fear the world, especially falsehood.

So let us be like Jeremiah and Jesus who entrusted their cause to God. So too, we can entrust our life to Christ.  Let us pray with confidence like the psalmist, knowing that God in His great love will answer our prayers for justice.  If the heavenly Father takes care of the insignificant sparrows, surely He will look after us.  Indeed, “the Lord is at my side, a mighty hero; my opponents will stumble, mastered, confounded by their failure; everlasting, unforgettable disgrace will be theirs.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Psalm 25

To you, Lord, I lift my mind!

My God, in you I trust;

do not disappoint me,

lest my enemies gloat over me.

Let not those who look to you be put on shame,

but shame the lawless in their scheming.

Make me know your ways, Lord,

and teach me your paths.

Guide me along the path of your truth,

and teach me well,

for you are God who will save me;

it is you I look to at all times.

Be mindful of your eternal compassion, Lord,

and your faithfulness;

they are as old as time itself

do not remember the sins of my youth;

but me, in your love remember me,

in keeping with your goodness, Lord.

the Lord is upright and good;

he points out the way to those who stray.

He guides the humble along the path of justice;

He teaches his way to the lowly.

All the ways of the Lord are love and truth

for those who keep their word

and abide by his precepts.

For your name’s sake, Lord,

wash away my sin,

great as it is.

If a man revere the Lord,

he will show him the path to take.

His soul will enjoy prosperity

and his children will inherit the land.

The friendship of the Lord is for those who revere him;

to them he reveals his covenant.

My eyes are forever fixed on the Lord;

it is he who frees my feet from the snare.

Turn to me and pity me,

lonely wretch that I am!

Relieve the anguish of my heart

and do away with all my pain.

Look upon my misery and anguish

and forgive me all my sins.

See how many are my foes,

my treacherous enemies who hate me.

Preserve my life and rescue me;

since I trust in you,

let me not be shamed.

Let integrity and righteousness watch over me,

for I wait on you.

Rescue Israel, O God,

from all its troubles.

 

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,

now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, June 19, 2017 — “Behold, now is a very acceptable time!” — “Go the extra mile.”

June 18, 2017

Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 365

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Jesus Teaches the People by the Sea by James Tissot

Reading 1 2 COR 6:1-10

Brothers and sisters:
As your fellow workers, we appeal to you
not to receive the grace of God in vain.
For he says:

In an acceptable time I heard you,
and on the day of salvation I helped you.

Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.
We cause no one to stumble in anything,
in order that no fault may be found with our ministry;
on the contrary, in everything we commend ourselves
as ministers of God, through much endurance,
in afflictions, hardships, constraints,
beatings, imprisonments, riots,
labors, vigils, fasts;
by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness,
in the Holy Spirit, in unfeigned love, in truthful speech,
in the power of God;
with weapons of righteousness at the right and at the left;
through glory and dishonor, insult and praise.
We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful;
as unrecognized and yet acknowledged;
as dying and behold we live;
as chastised and yet not put to death;
as sorrowful yet always rejoicing;
as poor yet enriching many;
as having nothing and yet possessing all things.

Responsorial Psalm PS 98:1, 2B, 3AB, 3CD-4

R. (2a) The Lord has made known his salvation.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
R. The Lord has made known his salvation.
In the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.
R. The Lord has made known his salvation.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.
R. The Lord has made known his salvation.

Alleluia PS 119:105

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
A lamp to my feet is your word,
a light to my path.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 5:38-42

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one to him as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,
hand him your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go with him for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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19 JUNE, 2017, Monday, 11th Week, Ordinary Time

TALL ORDER

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 Cor 6:1-10; Ps 98:1-4; Mt 5:38-42 ]

St Paul in the first reading reminds us that we are all God’s fellow workers in His vineyard, regardless what vocation we have in life.  By virtue of our baptism, which is our common vocation and calling, all of us have received the grace of God.  Yet, there is a real danger as St Paul urges us, “not to neglect the grace of God that you have received.”  Unfortunately, many of us take the graces and blessings of God for granted.  We forget that whatever the Lord has blessed us with; they are for the service of His kingdom and His people.  Regardless whether we are teachers, doctors, priests, entrepreneurs or government servants, we are called to use our talents and resources to build up the people of God.

The reality is that many of us are counter-witnesses to our faith.  If many have left the Church or do not join the Church, it is because we are not only not witnessing to Christ but worse of all, we are a scandal to non-believers and fellow Catholics.  That is why St Paul reminds us that we should “do nothing that people might object to, so as not to bring discredit on our function as God’s servants.” Indeed, many Catholics have left the Church because of the scandalous and contradictory lifestyle and unbecoming conduct of priests and religious. Lay leaders, ministry members and Church members are not exonerated.  Many are shocked and disgusted with how some active Church members behave towards their fellow Catholics; they are rude, arrogant, insensitive and always seeking glory and recognition, thinking about themselves more than others.

It is one thing to call ourselves the servants of God and another thing to be one. Many of us do not reflect the compassionate love and mercy of Christ.   Many of us call our spouse, our better half, but it is just empty words because if we really see them as our better half, we will always defer to our spouse. So too, many call themselves parents but they are more like disciplinary masters or financial controllers as they are totally disconnected with the lives of their children.  Some call themselves doctors but they do not put the saving of life above all other considerations.  Teachers are supposed to teach what is right, true and good but they impart the wrong messages to those under their care.

The scripture readings today provide us the high expectations required of God’s servants.  There are so many, as enumerated by St Paul.  So I would just single out a few for our consideration in today’s reflection.  Among these attributes, the first is that we must have a heart of compassion.  Jesus taught us, “If anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him.  Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away.”  St Paul wrote, “We prove we are God’s servants by our purity, knowledge, patience and kindness.”  Compassion for our brothers and sisters means that we need to be identified with them in their aspirations, struggles, joys and sorrows. It is from a spirit of compassion that our hearts are open to others.

Secondly, there must be generosity of heart.  This is the basic requirement for anyone who wants to serve God, whether as priests, religious or in Church ministry or NGO helping the poor and the marginalized. This generosity to serve, to give and to help is a pre-requisite.  If someone is not capable of generosity, he cannot be a servant of God.  No matter how talented he might be, or passionate about what he or she is doing, without generosity of heart, he would end up serving himself, not the people.  It is about himself, not others.

Thirdly, a servant of God must have a spirit of equanimity and detachment.  In other words, he sees everything from the perspective of love.  Things and possessions are only means by which we can help others.  They are not the ends themselves.  Whatever we have, we should not be not attached to them.  However, it does not mean that we be irresponsible with the gifts God has given to us.  We are merely stewards of God’s grace and blessings.  If we can use them for the good and service of others, then we are ready to part with our resources.  This is what St Paul meant when he wrote, “prepared for honour or disgrace, for blame or praise; taken for impostors while we are genuine; obscure yet famous; said to be dying and here are we alive; rumoured to be executed before we are sentenced.”  A servant of God is truly free only when he has a disinterested spirit with respect to things, resources, glory and honor. A person who is free from attachment to things is always joyful.  This is why St Paul could say that we are “thought most miserable and yet we are always rejoicing; taken for paupers though we make others rich, for people having nothing though we have everything.”

Fourthly, a servant of God must exercise “a love free from affection.”  In other words, our love is unconditional.   Romance and love for friends and our loved ones, whilst good, is mutual.  It is not the highest form of love because we receive as much as we give.  It is still a pagan love because we love those who love us.  But if we are servants of God, we are called to serve all peoples, regardless who they are. Like public and government servants, they are called to serve all regardless of race, language and religion.  To love without affection means to love without attachment and expectation of reward.  This is the highest form of love because it is “agape”, the love of God, given to all.  How many times have we been shown love and helped by strangers whom we would never be able to reciprocate or thank?  Such unconditional love makes the gift even more precious because we know that it was given to us without any strings attached.  It is pure love.

Fifthly, a servant of God must live “by the word of truth and by the power of God; by being armed with the weapons of righteousness.” He must be a man of integrity, live a just life and be fair to his fellowmen.  He stands up for the truth and he is not afraid to do the right thing, not the popular thing.  A leader who lacks impartiality, honesty and justice cannot be credible.  A true leader embraces all and does not practice favoritism and, least of all, do things to favor his own kind or for his personal interests and gain.

To do all these, we need the one virtue that will make us outstanding servants of God, namely, fortitude.  All the virtues mentioned are good but often we do not persevere, especially when we are persecuted, misunderstood, criticized or wrongly accused.  We give up serving and doing good simply because some people criticized our work.  We hear only negative voices that dampen our spirit and our resolve to get things done.  St Paul showed his valor when he said, “We prove we are servants of God by great fortitude in times of suffering:  in times of hardship and distress; when we are flogged, or sent to prison, or mobbed; labouring, sleepless, starving.”   Leaders must be willing to suffer for what is right and good even when grossly misunderstood.  If we are clear about our service and are free from personal gain or interests, we need not react to the negative criticisms and slanders of others.  Most likely, the reason is because what we are doing affects their personal interests.  That is why we must always serve with “purity, knowledge, patience and kindness.”  When we have nothing to profit from our service, there is nothing for us to defend.  This explains why Jesus could ask of us, “offer the wicked man no resistance.  On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”  One who is pure in service does not react to opposition but simply keeps his focus on his mission and vision.  He keeps his head above those who oppose him simply because he has nothing to lose.

Indeed, at the end of the day, as servants of God, we must not think that it is in our power to live this kind of life or to do the things we want to do.  Servants must allow their master to bring about what they have been told to do.  It will be the power of the master that makes things happen.  We are only servants and his instruments.  So like St Paul, we do not rely on ourselves to be worthy servants of God, but we rely on His grace which is promised to us.  “For he says:  At the favourable time, I have listened to you; on the day of salvation I came to your help.  Well, now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation.”  Again St Paul reminds us to live “by the word of truth and by the power of God.”  The psalmist declares; “Sing a new song to the Lord for he has worked wonders. His right hand and his holy arm have brought salvation. The Lord has made known his salvation; has shown his justice to the nations. He has remembered his truth and love for the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.”  It is the work of God, not the work of man!  As St Paul says, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.’  (2 Cor 11:30)

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
 

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Commentary on Matthew 5:38-42 from Living Space

We continue Jesus’ interpretations of some commands of the Mosaic Law as he pushes that law to a higher level of understanding.

“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is not, as it may seem to be saying, an encouragement to take revenge. It is part of what is known as the lex talionis by which punishment for an assault was to be restricted to not more than the suffering experienced. So Exodus 21:23-24 says: “You shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stroke for stroke.”

Jesus calls for a very different kind of response. He tells us to offer the “wicked man” no resistance.

He makes the famous recommendation to turn the other cheek. If a man would take your tunic, give him your cloak as well. If someone asks you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to the one who begs and do not turn away a borrower.

It is not surprising that even in Christian circles not a great deal of time is given to this text. Is it to be taken literally? Are we really to allow people to walk over us and offer no resistance at all?

I think the answer is both Yes and No.

For many in our “macho”-idealised world, turning the other cheek seems the ultimate in wimpishness and cowardice. It is certainly not the way of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone and countless other “heroes” on our cinema and TV screens. Can you imagine them turning the other cheek?

But Jesus did. During his trial before the Sanhedrin “they spat in his face and hit him with their fists; others said as they struck him, ‘Play the prophet, Christ! Who hit you then?’” (Matt 26:67-68). What was Jesus’ response? Silence. This was turning the other cheek. Was this weakness or was it strength? Which is easier to do under great provocation: to practise self-restraint and keep one’s dignity or to lash out in retaliation? By lashing out one comes down to the same level as one’s attackers. (This is quite different from self-defence.)

In another account of Jesus’ trial (John 18:22-23), after having given an answer to a question, “one of the guard standing by gave Jesus a slap in the face, saying, ‘Is that the way to answer the high priest?’ Jesus replied, ‘If there is something wrong in what I said, point it out; but if there is no offence in it, why do you strike me?’” Here Jesus does respond to the attack but on a totally different level. The physical and unreasonable attack on an unarmed person is actively responded to on the basis of reason and non-violence. Jesus is not a victim here; he is in control. And this is true of the whole experience of the passion. His executioners behave in the most barbaric way but he never loses his calm and dignity right up to the very end.

And that is why we worship him as our Lord and Master. He asks us to follow in his footsteps.

Revenge, in all its various forms, is the easier way, the more instinctive way but it is not the better way. The way of active (not passive) non-violence is, in the long run, far more productive, far more in keeping with human ideals and human dignity. We have more than enough evidence in our world of the bankruptcy of a never-ending cycle of violence and counter-violence. We see it in the Middle East, in Northern Ireland. Violence does not pay; revenge is not sweet.

The example of Jesus has been followed by a number of outstanding people in our own time. Gandhi in India, Martin Luther King, and Rosa Parkes who inspired him, in the US, Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Nazi Germany, Dorothy Day in the US, Jean Goss and Hildegard Meyer of the active non-violence movement in Europe… All of these people were actively involved in the correction of seriously unjust situations.

There is a striking scene in the film “To Kill a Mocking Bird” where the lawyer (played by Gregory Peck) has been defending a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. As a white man himself the lawyer earns the hatred and contempt of his fellow-whites for defending a “nigger” they have already condemned as guilty. In this scene one of the townspeople approaches the lawyer and spits into his face. The lawyer stands there, says nothing, and slowly wipes away the spit. For the film viewer the contempt immediately shifts to the man who spat. The positive non-action of the lawyer reveals the smallness of his assailant.

Turning the other cheek is not at all a sign of weakness. It requires great inner strength, self-respect and even respect for the dignity of one’s attacker. Jesus is calling us a long way forward and upward from “an eye for an eye”.

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From last year:
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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13 JUNE 2016, Monday, 11th Week in Ordinary Time
MISPLACED LOVE AND LOYALTY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 Kg 21:1-16; Mt 5:38-42 ]

In the first reading, we read about Queen Jezebel.  She is known as the wickedest lady in the Old Testament, together with her husband King Ahab.  Leaving aside the moral judgement on her actions, we must commend her for her total loyalty, commitment and love for her husband.  She would do anything to please her husband and to make him happy.  In today’s incident when Naboth refused to give Ahab his vineyard at any price, the king, like a pampered and spoilt child, wallowed in self-pity, anger and then fell into depression.  His wife seeing his condition and feeling sorry for him, said, “Get up and eat; cheer up, and you will feel better; I will get you the vineyard of Naboth of Jezreel myself.”  She must have been very devoted to the King and loved him much, so much so that she could not afford to see him suffering or sad.

This is true for many of us, whether as spouses or parents and even friends.  When we love someone, we want to make our beloved happy.  When we see them sad, suffering or hurting, we too are hurt and feel worried for them.  Indeed, when our loved one is sick or suffering from a prolonged illness or incurable sickness; or when our children are doing badly in their studies or suffer a failed relationship; or when our spouse is out of work or facing challenges at the work place, we feel much for them and wish we could alleviate their suffering and pain. For those whom we love, there is no sacrifice too big that we cannot make. Their joy and happiness is ours. Conversely, their sadness and discouragement is ours as well.  This is because we are so identified with them and for them.

Yet, like Queen Jezebel, quite often our love is misplaced and so is our loyalty.  Whilst we should do everything in our power to help our loved ones, we must not destroy them in the process.  We are to help them to become better, not worse!  Our task is not just to help them get what they want but to help them to grow in grace, maturity, wisdom, knowledge and love.  Although the Queen demonstrated herself to be faithful to her husband and would do anything for him, even planning to take the vineyard by force through murder, this was not the right thing to do.  By so doing, she caused her husband to sin with her and inflict injustice on Naboth and ultimately bring harm to the family and the nation.  In truth, she was not helping her husband, but by pandering to his whims and fancies, she brought about his and her destruction.

Therefore, when we are helping our loved ones, we must do the good and the right thing, and not just because they need it or want it.  Doing the homework for our children is not helping them to learn and acquire knowledge.  Doing the work of our colleagues when it is their responsibility is not helping them to be efficient and competent. Giving in to the demands and wants of our children and spouse can cause them to be lazy, materialistic and self-centered.  So whilst it is important that we should love them and help them, we must do it in a way that is for their good, not just now, but the future.   Our task is to help them grow in love, generosity, kindness and responsibility.  We do not help them to do evil things like Queen Jezebel, or help them to do immoral things like stealing, cheating, getting drunk, getting involved in orgies and debauchery.  Rather, we must help them to be virtuous, by reflecting with them their wants and needs; accompanying them patiently in their growth and allowing them to mature in grace and wisdom.  This is the kind of help and love we should demonstrate, rather than spoiling them and eventually making them lazy, selfish and irresponsible.  If we love them this way, we do not love them in truth but ourselves more, because we cannot bear to see them being purified in love.

However, the gospel seems to contradict what we have just been saying.  The Lord tells us to give in to our enemies and not to take revenge.  He even suggested that we do more rather than seek mere natural justice.  He said, “You have learnt how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.  But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance.”  This principle in itself is not wrong but inadequate.  When this law was taught it was intended to be a guide to help those who administer justice.  The principle of an eye for an eye simply means that the punishment must fit the crime.  We should not punish a person more than the offence he has committed.  Thus, this principle offers a good guide in tampering justice with leniency.   In this way, we do not become over lenient or too harsh in imposing punishment on those who break the law.

But this principle cannot be applied literally, for it is only a guide.  In truth, an eye for an eye does not work because it is not truly fair.  Both eyes and teeth are different in each person.  Maybe one is losing his eyesight and the other still has a good eye. We remember the ludicrous example given by William Shakespeare in the play, “Merchant of Venice” where the man tried to exact a pound of flesh from one who could not pay his debt.  But the real problem was that if he were to cut a little bit more, then he would have caused a grave act of injustice as well.  The point is simply that in life, things are never that clear cut.

What is paramount for Jesus is that justice should be done by making the situation better, not worse like Queen Jezebel.  So Jesus is urging non-resistance towards our enemies because it will only make matters worse.  By taking revenge against each other, we will hurt not just our enemies but ourselves and the whole community.  There are some of us who want to take revenge.  They have no intention to heal the situation or to remedy a fault but their real intention is to make sure their enemies or those who have offended them to suffer.  This is not justice but revenge.

To improve the situation, what we need is to make our enemies our friends.  This is what Jesus meant when He said, “On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him.  Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away.”  By loving our enemies and accommodating them, we will cool down their anger and they will be more themselves.  So long as we are dealing with an angry man, there is no way to reason with him because he is vindictive and can only think of his pain and become oblivious to the suffering of others. This too is the same advice of St Paul when in the same vein he advised, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ So, if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom 12:19-21)  Otherwise, we will become evil, angry, revengeful and resentful like our enemies as well!   We will be no better than them.  Revenge can only escalate to more retaliations and even killings.

Thus, we see that in two different situations, the rules are applied differently.  With regards to our loved ones and friends, we must not destroy them by pandering to their selfish demands and expectations.   In this case, we need to be loving, charitable and yet firm in love. On the other hand, with our enemies, we must give in to them for the sake of peace and, more importantly, to win them over to our side.  Once we become their friends, then we can help them to grow in grace, forgiveness, generosity and charity.  Indeed, all are called to love and show mercy but we must never do anything for short term gains, but do it for the overall good of the person and the community.  Hence, love must be true and truth is expressed in love.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
 
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Pope: Learning From Refugees’ Hopes and Pain Dissolves Fear — “Jesus never promised us a blessed life without pain or suffering.”

June 18, 2017

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is calling for the faithful to not only welcome refugees, but to personally learn from their stories as a way to curb fears and “distorted” ideologies about them.

Francis made the appeal Sunday as he marked the U.N.’s World Day of Refugees, which will be celebrated on Tuesday.

Speaking from his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Francis prayed for all those who have lost their lives fleeing war and persecution. He said their stories of pain and hope are actually an opportunity for reciprocal understanding.

He said: “In reality, personal meetings with refugees can dissolve fears and distorted ideologies and become paths for growth in humanity.”

Francis’ four-year papacy has been marked by his profound solidarity with refugees and demand that countries build bridges of welcome, not walls.

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One can never do justice to telling the story of Padre Pio except to say, I think about him every day. He taught me: “If you are worried: pray.  Once you are praying, you can stop your worry.” Padre Pio had the stigmata.

“Pray, pray to the Lord with me, because the whole world needs prayer. And every day, when your heart especially feels the loneliness of life, pray. Pray to the Lord, because even God needs our prayers.”

– St. Pio of Pietrelcina
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“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”
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– St. Pio of  Pietrelcina
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A humble French priest is teaching me to find peace and growth in suffering

June 17, 2017

By Kimberly Cook | Jun 16, 2017

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If you haven’t started learning from him yet, you should

It was through several instances of spiritual struggle and discernment, sometimes in confession, that I heard mentioned again and again the name of a French priest and his very popular books on peace.

Fr. Jacques Philippe, a member of The Community of the Beatitudes since 1985, has dedicated his priesthood to spiritual direction, community formation, and preaching retreats.

And yet, Fr. Jacques’ consolidated treatises of these retreats are published in such small slim books, they hardly let on to the monumental lessons contained within.

It wasn’t until a priest actually put a copy of Searching for and Maintaining Peace into my hands that I began to understand just why the humble author’s words are touching so many lives. The manuscript of a mere 86 pages took me ages to complete, as the richness of each section was so intense, I often had to close the book for the night and digest the small portion I had just absorbed.

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I dog-eared many pages as a thought or enlightenment resonated so deeply within me that I knew I had to revisit it. The message was simple: I want and need peace, but peace can only be found in its fullness in Jesus Christ.

“As long as a person who must jump with a parachute does not jump into the void, he cannot feel that the cords of the parachute will support him, because the parachute has not yet had the chance to open. One must first jump and it is only later that one feels carried. And so it is in spiritual life.” – Searching for and Maintaining Peace, pg. 28

Providentially, this simple priest with his divine lessons came from France to speak at our parish just as I was finishing the book! His words came to life as he laid out the means to growing through trials and suffering. I found myself in a side pew writing feverishly and hoping I could absorb his wise words in person as well as I had in print.

Fr. Jacques’ message, again, was simple and clear: Although every trial in life is vastly different, each encounter is a trial of faith, hope or love.

Trials of faith cause me to ask why God has allowed this suffering to come to me. The difficulty can cause me to either rebel against God or trust and believe in him despite the darkness.

The trials of hope challenge my security. We so often put security in that which is fleeting or can change in an instant: health, ability, or even another person. Our trials expose our poverty. But this poverty is an opportunity to go beyond my human security and rely on God and his mercy.

The trials of charity challenge my capacity to love in truthfulness. Am I capable of loving another person regardless of their limitations and what I receive from them? If so, then I am able to experience a love that is more profound, greatly surpassing my love of self.

“Suffering makes us poor, but this is a grace because it destroys our pride.”

In every instance of suffering I am invited to accept the invitation for hope, deeper faith, and disinterested love. I must ask God what is the interior work he is calling me to do in the moment. My hope is found in the personal call addressed to me — an opportunity for deeper conversion.

God asks me to live and trust in the present moment alone, without trying to understand or resolve the past or future.

The hardest thing to accept in moments of trial is the lack of immediate answer or explanation. Yet in surrender and abandonment to God’s wisdom, I am able to attain peace and begin to understand how to live through the suffering. My capacity to love and understand others is deepened as well as my knowledge and acceptance of self. Regardless of my trials, I am still capable of loving, and all is not lost if I can still love.

“God can make very beautiful fruits grow through trials.”

Source: https://aleteia.org/2017/06/16/a-humble-french-priest-is-teaching-me-to-find-peace-and-growth-in-suffering/?utm_campaign=NL_en&utm_source=daily_newsletter&utm_medium=mail&utm_content=NL_en#link_time=1497587475

Interior Freedom Study Guide

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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, June 16, 2017 — “The surpassing power may be of God and not from us.” — “Be not driven to despair.”

June 15, 2017

Friday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 363

Reading 1 2 COR 4:7-15

Brothers and sisters:
We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.
We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying about in the Body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
For we who live are constantly being given up to death
for the sake of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since, then, we have the same spirit of faith,
according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,”
we too believe and therefore speak,
knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus
will raise us also with Jesus
and place us with you in his presence.
Everything indeed is for you,
so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people
may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 116:10-11, 15-16, 17-18

R. (17a) To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I believed, even when I said,
“I am greatly afflicted”;
I said in my alarm,
“No man is dependable.”
R. To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
O LORD, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;
you have loosed my bonds.
R. To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.
or:
R. Alleluia.
To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people.
R. To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia  PHIL 2:15D, 16A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Shine like lights in the world,
as you hold on to the word of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 5:27-32

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery.
But I say to you,
everyone who looks at a woman with lust
has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
If your right eye causes you to sin,
tear it out and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.
And if your right hand causes you to sin,
cut it off and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

“It was also said,
Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.
But I say to you,
whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful)
causes her to commit adultery,
and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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16 JUNE, 2017, Friday, 11th Week, Ordinary Time
EARTHENWARE VESSELS HOLDING THE TREASURE OF GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 Cor 4:7-15; Ps 115(116):10-11,15-18; Mt 5:27-32]

Man is a complex being.  He is a paradox to himself.   As a creature he is weak. He experiences his finiteness and limitations.  He is very fragile physically, psychologically and emotionally.  Just a sickness or some pain can upset his whole life.  He could die anytime.  Psychologically and emotionally, he is susceptible to what people think and say of him.  His self-confidence is much influenced by how others perceive him.  He is worried about his future.  He is afraid of pain, suffering and death.  As a result, he competes and defends his own interests.  Man is self-preservative.  Each one of us has a built-in defense mechanism.  We know we are sinners.  We are selfish, proud and greedy.

Yet man’s potential is unimaginable. Although finite, he has possibilities beyond human imagination.  This is because he is not only made of matter but he has a spirit.  He is able to think, to imagine and to change the environment.  He is aware that he is called to co-create with God and be stewards of this earth.   He is created in God’s image and likeness.  Most of all, in spite of his desire to protect himself, he is capable of love and is able to go beyond himself.  This explains why we are earthen vessels holding the treasure of God.  We are merely human beings but we are called to share in the life and the power of God without becoming gods ourselves.

The question is, how do we use our potentials and make sense of our weaknesses?  For those of us who are intelligent and talented, there is a danger of falling into pride.   We tend to rely on ourselves and give ourselves credit for what we do.  We think highly of our achievements. We begin to glorify ourselves. The sin of pride is the cause of the downfall of many.  And when we fail, we fall into despair.  

On the other hand, those who are weak can fall into low-self esteem.  They feel that they are not good enough.  They become negative of themselves and of others.  They feel easily rejected and unloved.  They become a source of trouble to others.   When we are negative towards ourselves, we cannot think of others.  A person who is insecure and suffers from low self-esteem is more concerned about what others think of him and his performance than how effectively he is reaching out to those whom he is serving.   Only those who are secure can focus fully on those whom they are called to minister.

How can we best harness the strength that comes from our weaknesses and avoid the pitfalls of pride?  We need to allow God to work in and through us.  God allows us to experience our finiteness so that we will never think too highly of ourselves.  Such inadequacies should not discourage us.  Rather, they keep us humble in service.  Indeed, our sinfulness and weaknesses teach us compassion.  Through our struggles we learn to help others, especially when we have overcome them ourselves.  St Paul in 2 Cor 1:3-7 says that it is through the mercy and consolation which we have received from Jesus that we are called to give mercy to others.   This is what we mean when we say Jesus carries our sins in His body.

We too must carry the death of Jesus in us.  In other words, we must continue to die to ourselves.   We must accept our human weaknesses and limitations.  We must surrender ourselves entirely to the power of God at work in us as Jesus did on the cross when He surrendered His mission to the Father.  Only when we die to ourselves and allow God to work in us, will God then take over.   To carry the death of Jesus in us is to rely only on His grace alone.  After we have done all that can, we must surrender ourselves to His grace and power.  We must rest on the primacy of grace.  Indeed, like St Paul, we can also say, “we are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered; we see no answer to our problems, but never despair; we have been persecuted, but never deserted; knocked down, but never killed.”

The greatness of God is seen when people see how God works in us, not how well or how capable we are. When they know that we could not have accomplished what we did by our own strength and yet have done it, they will give glory to God, just as Mary said in the Magnificat, “For He has done great things for me.  Holy is His name.”  We have nothing to boast of ourselves except the power of  God.  Again this is what St Paul said, “You see, all this is for your benefit, so that the more grace is multiplied among people, the more thanksgiving there will be to the glory of God.”

In this way, our life can be a thanksgiving.  Unless we have experienced the liberating power of God’s love, we cannot offer ourselves as a thanksgiving sacrifice.  “I trusted, even when I said: ‘I am sorely afflicted,’ and when I said in my alarm: ‘No man can be trusted.’  O precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his faithful.  Your servant, Lord, your servant am I; you have loosened my bonds.”

How can our life be a thanksgiving?  We must now glorify Him with our lives.  This was what Jesus prayed in His priestly prayer when He asked the Father to glorify Him.  Jesus spent His whole life glorifying the Father by doing His will, manifesting His love, mercy and compassion by His words and works and, most of all, by His passion, death and resurrection.  We too must glorify Him in all that we say and do.  Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”  (Mt 5:16).

Hence, we must constantly seek to purify our love for God and for our fellowmen.  In the gospel, Jesus speaks of this purity of love.  “You have learnt how it was said: You must not commit adultery.  But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”   In other words, it is not enough not to commit adultery.  Even the wrong intention itself is already a sin because sin is already conceived in our hearts and waiting to give birth to action.  So we need to purify our love for God and for the service of our brothers and sisters.   It is the purity of motive that will empower us in love.

Secondly, we must avoid harming ourselves.  “If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell.  And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.”  Consider what is preventing us from allowing God to shine through our lives.   We must avoid the occasion of sin so that we will not be tempted into sin. To avoid the occasion of sin, we must think through the implications of our sins and the consequences.  In the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, one of the exercises is contemplation of hell.  What is the purpose of this exercise?  It is to consider the consequences of our sins for ourselves and for others.  Knowing the consequences, it prevents us from falling into sin.

Thirdly, we must not cause others to sin because we will hurt ourselves as well.  Jesus said,  “Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal.  But I say this to you: everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced women commits adultery.”  The best way to protect ourselves is to protect others.   When we hurt others, they will hurt us.  When we make them angry they will be vindictive.  In their desire to seek revenge, they will hurt us.  Causing others to sin because of our weaknesses and our selfishness will not only hurt our loved ones but ourselves as well.

Hence, the key to loving others is that we must love ourselves.  To love ourselves properly we must take care of ourselves.  We need to be faithful to our prayers and our intimacy with the Lord.  Basking ourselves in the Lord’s love is what will give us strength and consolation.  Unless, we spend quiet time with the Lord, contemplating on His love and on our lives, we will not be able to discern the will of God in all that we do.  When we do not make time for ourselves, we will eventually suffer burnt-out.  We must also ensure that we have sufficient rest, recreation and exercise.  We need to have a proper schedule for the day.  We need to plan our days well so that we will not waste time unnecessarily.   If we do not plan our time-table for the day, others will plan it for us.  If we have no program, then others will dictate our program.  Those who cannot say “no” are those without a program because they are waiting for their empty slots to be taken up.

All these are possible if only we have a real encounter with the Risen Lord.  St Paul wrote, “But as we have the same spirit of faith that is mentioned in scripture – I believed, and therefore I spoke – we too believe and therefore we too speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus to life will raise us with Jesus in our turn, and put us by his side and you with us.” Our faith in God’s power is founded on the resurrection.  With the resurrection, nothing is impossible. (1 Cor 1:8-10)  It was St Paul’s faith in the power of the resurrection that freed him from the fear of death and failures.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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• In yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus made a rereading of the commandments: “Do not kill” (Mt 5, 20-26). In today’s Gospel Jesus rereads the commandment “You shall not commit adultery”. Jesus rereads the law starting from the intention that God had, which was proclaimed centuries before on Mount Sinai. He seeks the spirit of the Law and does not close himself up in the letter.

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He takes up again and defends the great values of human life which constitute the background of each one of these Ten Commandments. He insists on love, on fidelity, on mercy, on justice, on truth, on humanity (Mt 9,13; 12,7; 23,23; Mt 5,10; 5,20; Lc 11,42; 18,9). The result of the full observance of the Law of God humanizes the person. In Jesus we can see what happens when a person allows God to fill his life. The last objective is that of uniting both loves, the building up of fraternity in defence of life. The greater the fraternity, the greater will be the fullness of life and greater will be the adoration given by all creatures to God, Creator and Saviour.

• In today’s Gospel, Jesus looks closely at the relationship man-woman in marriage, fundamental basis of human living together. There was a commandment which said: “Do not commit adultery”, and another one which said: “Anyone who divorces his wife, has to give her a certificate of divorce”. Jesus takes up again both commandments, giving them a new meaning.

• Matthew 5, 27-28: Do not commit adultery. What does this commandment require from us? The ancient response was: man cannot sleep with somebody else’s wife. This was demanded by the letter of the commandment. But Jesus goes beyond, surpasses the letter and says:“But I say to you, if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart”.

The objective of the commandment is reciprocal fidelity between man and woman who assume life together, as a married couple. And this fidelity will be complete only if both will know how to be faithful to one another in thought and in the desire and, will know how to reach a total transparency between them.

• Matthew 5, 29-30: Tear out your eye and cut off your hand. To illustrate what Jesus has just said, he states a hard word of which he serves himself on another occasion when he spoke of the scandal to little ones (Mt 18, 9 e Mc 9, 47). He says: If your right eye should be your downfall tear it out and throw it away: for it will do you less harm to lose one part of yourself than to have to have your whole body thrown into hell”. And he affirms the same thing concerning the hand. These affirmations cannot be taken literally. They indicate the radical nature and the seriousness with which Jesus insists on the observance of this commandment.

• Matthew 5, 31-32: The question of divorce. Man was permitted to give a certificate of divorce to the woman. In the discourse of the community, Jesus will say that Moses permitted this because the people were hard hearted (Mt 19, 8). “But I say to you: anyone who divorces his wife, give her a certificate of divorce; but I say to you: anyone who divorces his wife, except in the case of concubinage, exposes her to adultery and anyone who marries a divorced woman , commits adultery”.

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There has been much discussion on this theme. Basing itself on this affirmation of Jesus, the Oriental Church permits divorce in case of “fornication”, that is of infidelity. Others say that here the word fornication is the translation of an Aramaic or Hebrew word zenuth which indicated a valid marriage among people who were relatives, and which was forbidden. It would not be a valid marriage.

• Leaving aside the correct interpretation of this word, what is important is to see the objective and the general sense of the affirmation of Jesus in the new reading which is done of the Ten Commandments. Jesus speaks about an ideal which should always be before my eyes. The definitive ideal is: “to be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5, 48). This ideal is valid for all the commandments reviewed by Jesus. In the rereading of the commandment “Do not commit adultery”, this ideal is translated as transparency and honesty between husband and wife.

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Even more, nobody can say: “I am perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect”. We will always be below the measure. We can never merit the reward because we will always be below the measure. What is important is to continue walking on the road, turn our look toward the ideal, always! But at the same time, as Jesus did, we have to accept persons with the same mercy with which he accepted persons and directed them toward the ideal.

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This is why, certain juridical exigencies of the Church today, for example, not to permit communion to those divorced persons living a second marriage, seem to be more in agreement with the attitude of the Pharisees than with that of Jesus. Nobody applies literally the explanation of the commandment “Do not kill”, where Jesus says that anyone who says idiotto his brother deserves hell (Mt 5, 22). Because if it was like that we would all have the entrance into hell guaranteed and nobody would be saved. Why does our doctrine use different measures in the case of the fifth and the ninth commandments?

Personal questions

• Do you succeed in living honesty and transparency totally with persons of the other sex?

• How is this to be understood: “to be perfect like the Heavenly Father is perfect?”

Concluding Prayer

Of you my heart has said,
‘Seek his face!’ Your face, Yahweh, I seek;
do not turn away from me.
Do not thrust aside your servant in anger,
without you I am helpless.
Never leave me, never forsake me, God, my Saviour.
(Ps 27,8-9)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-matthew-527-32

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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10 JUNE 2016, Friday, 10th Week in Ordinary Time
RUNNING AWAY FROM OUR FEARS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 KINGS  19:9,11-16; MATTHEW 5:27-32 ]

We all have this defence mechanism in our human DNA to run away from our enemies and our fears.  When we are successful and doing well, we are elated.  But when trouble knocks at our door, we panic and react by running away from the challenges ahead of us.  It was the case of the Jews during the time of Jesus and the Israelites in the Old Testament. The teaching against adultery was directed at the fickle mindedness of married couples.  Instead of facing their sin of lust, they found excuses to declare a divorce.

In the first reading, Elijah was in this mode as well.  He had just won a huge success and was in high spirits when he defeated the 450 prophets of Baal and demonstrated the power of God.  After slaying them, he must have felt vindicated and took delight in his triumph over them, having eliminated the false prophets and purified the faith of Israel.  But this taste of victory did not last long, for when Queen Jezebel heard of it, she was furious and sent men to take his life.  As a result, the prophet Elijah had to flee for his life.  The sudden turn of fortune must have deflated his ego.  He could overcome 450 false prophets but he had to run from a woman, and furthermore, a foreign woman.

The truth is that when we run away from our fears instead of confronting them, we will destroy ourselves.  How do we run away from our fears?  

Firstly, we blame others for the situation we are in.  Instead of doing an appraisal of ourselves, we look for scapegoats.  When the Lord asked Elijah, “’What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He replied, ‘I am filled with jealous zeal for the Lord of hosts, because the sons of Israel have deserted you, broken down your altars and put your prophets to the sword. I am the only one left and they want to kill me.’”  He laid the blame on the sons of Israel and Jezebel.   As for himself, he was the only holy one among all the people of Israel for he said, “I, I alone, am left as a prophet of the Lord, while the prophets of Baal are four hundred and fifty.”  Only he was jealous for the House of the Lord!  We, too, like to blame people, the situation and the structure for our incompetence, our setbacks and the problems we have caused.  When confronted, we seek to justify ourselves and make ourselves to be the innocent, good and blameless party.

Secondly, from self-denial, he went into depression and despair.  We read earlier that after a day’s journey into the wilderness, he told the Lord, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.”  (1 kg 19:4)   In the face of failure, he began to wallow in self-pity.  Rather than taking up the challenge of defeating the enemies of God, he was playing the role of victim.  Deep within himself, he was angry with God that such a thing could happen to him when he was on the side of God.  He felt that God had abandoned him and so it was no longer worthwhile working for God and His people.  Hence, he asked for an early exit from the struggles of life.   How true for us too.  When things are going on well, we bask in our laurels.   We are full of zeal, excitement and passion.  But when we meet with obstacles, the lack of response, appreciation or failures, or worse, opposition, we want to give up.  We tender our resignation or ask to be transferred elsewhere.  That is why many are hopping from one ministry to another, one job to another, one parish to another because the leopard cannot change its spots or its territory!

What is needed is not to run away from our fears and enemies but to confront our greatest enemy, which is ourselves!  We can either see ourselves as our best friend or our worst enemy.  How do we see ourselves?  This is the crux of today’s lesson.  In the gospel, Jesus made it clear when He said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.”   Of course, we must avoid this literal interpretation.  The point underscored by the Lord is that if something is causing you to sin or to run away from yourself, your false self, then we must confront our fears, weaknesses and sins head on.  The failure to do so will result in us going to hell, both figuratively and literally.

How, then, do we confront ourselves?  We need to retreat like Elijah to the desert to face our demons, like the Lord who was in the desert battling with the devil who sought to surface the human desires of our Lord through the offer of food, power and glory.  And this battle must be fought alone.  It is significant that Elijah “got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there.”  (1 Kg 19:3)   He did not bring his servant with him into the wilderness but left him behind.  Indeed, if we want to face ourselves, we need to enter into the depths of our hearts.  We need total silence.  External silence must be kept if we were to hear the voice in our heart.  If we cannot keep external silence, we can never hear the real voice speaking to us deep in our hearts because the noise and voices of the world will drown that inner voice.

Secondly, we need to face our demons and fears not simply through self-introspection but to hear the voice of God.   Again, this was what Elijah did.  When he reached Mount Horeb, he sought the voice of the Lord, the Word of God.  It was clear that God did not choose to reveal Himself through signs and wonders this time.   He was not in the mighty wind, nor the earthquake or the fire but in the sound of a gentle breeze.  Some people only want to see God in spectacular events, healings, miracles, concerts, showmanship, etc but the truth is that God speaks loudest to us when He whispers into the ears of our hearts.  If we cannot hear or see God, it is because we are often looking in the wrong places.  It is in the gentle voice, in the silence of our hearts, in the calmness of the environment, in the stillness after the storm that God will reveal to us our true motives and who we really are, as He did with Elijah.

And the question God will ask us as He did with Elijah is, “What are you doing here?”   In other words, the Lord was helping Elijah to face the real fears and demons that he was fleeing from.  He blamed the people for his woes and the false prophets.  He assigned his predicament to the fact that he was the only one faithful to the Lord.  However, the Lord exposed his sin of arrogance and presumption as coming from his pride.  He was not the only one who was filled with zeal for the Lord or the only one who remained true to the pristine faith of Israel.  Indeed, the Lord said, “Go, go back the same way to the wilderness of Damascus. You are to go and anoint Hazael as king of Aram. You are to anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king of Israel, and to anoint Elisha son of Shaphat, of Abel Meholah, as prophet to succeed you.”   There were others who were also faithful to Yahweh.  Indeed, the Lord added, “Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”  (1 Kg 19:17f)   So Elijah was not the only true prophet.  In our zeal, sometimes we think we are the savior of the world. We think we are the only righteous one and the holy one of God!  Most of us think so highly of ourselves, failing to realize that we have fallen into the sin of self-righteousness. Because we have an exaggerated appreciation of ourselves, when we suffer, we feel that we are the victims and others are the oppressors.  We do not know that we also have our own inadequacies and are responsible for the current predicament as well.

So today, the Lord is telling us to face our fears and demons.  We should not run away from them or justify ourselves.  In true humility, let us recognize that we are prone to temptations, especially the sin of presumption.  To overcome our fears, we must see ourselves with the eyes and heart of God.  How we see ourselves will determine how we respond to others.  A negative or false understanding of self will lead to a corresponding distortion in the way we look at the situation and at other people.  The eyes and the hands work together.  What delight the eyes will cause the hands to obtain what is seen. So it is important how we see because it also affects our hearts.

In the final analysis, the most effective way to overcome evil and sin in our lives is to stop focusing on ourselves.  Elijah was focusing on himself under the pretext of focusing on the people of Israel and the purity of the faith.  The more we focus on ourselves, our needs, our pride, our ego, the more we sin.  To overcome lust, one does not sit down and start thinking about our lust.  All the person has to do is to go out and do some good works so that he is distracted from attending to his selfish needs or allowing the thought of lust to develop in his mind and heart.   We can overcome our fears and demons by good works and good thoughts.  Sadness and depression enter into our hearts only because we are licking our wounds.  But if we reach out in service and in love; and fill our minds with noble thoughts, we will find peace and true freedom.  This is what St Paul exhorts us, “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”  (Phil 4:8f)

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
 
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Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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The first time I became completely confused by my Vietnamese family, the only helper I could think of that might have a solution was the Vietnamese priest.

When I explained at length my dilemma, he gave me the best four word advice I’ve ever heard:

“Listen with your heart,”  he said.

I had no idea my heart had ears. In fact, I’d pretty much forgotten about my heart entirely (a common American illness).

So now, I give that advice out to other, like me, who sometimes forget why they are hear on this earth. We’re here to serve others.

And to get them what they need, we need to listen with our heart.

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One can never do justice to telling the story of Padre Pio except to say, I think about him every day. He taught me: “If you are worried: pray.  Once you are praying, you can stop your worry.” Padre Pio had the stigmata.

“Pray, pray to the Lord with me, because the whole world needs prayer. And every day, when your heart especially feels the loneliness of life, pray. Pray to the Lord, because even God needs our prayers.”

– St. Pio of Pietrelcina
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“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”
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– St. Pio of  Pietrelcina
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Prayers of Hope, Words of Courage by Nguyễn Văn Thuận

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

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

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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!
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Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry: Survivors of Super Typhoon  “Yolanda” march during a religious procession in Tolosa in Leyte on November 18, 2013, over one week after the supertyphoon devastated the area. AFP/Philippe Lopez

Pain, Suffering, Addiction and Spiritual Growth — Resources

June 15, 2017

A friend asked us for a quick update on our spiritual journey — Here are some resources for others to consider….

Related:

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Above: This is the life of the average American man. At the bottom (the biggest part) is sex, drugs and rock and roll. As we move up, through the years, God hopes we are growing spiritually and throwing out things that get us into trouble. When we get to the top, He hopes we can reach out closer to Him. Many of us choose to fail….

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Research Going Badly: I tried everything before I tried to allow God to find me!

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The Brain and Being Human:

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, June 12, 2017 — The Beatitudes — “Jesus never promised us a blessed life without pain or suffering.”

June 11, 2017

Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 359

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Jesus teaches the Sermon On The Mount By Carl Heinrich Bloch

Reading 1 2 COR1:1-7

Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
and Timothy our brother,
to the Church of God that is at Corinth,
with all the holy ones throughout Achaia:
grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of compassion and the God of all encouragement,
who encourages us in our every affliction,
so that we may be able to encourage
those who are in any affliction
with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.
For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us,
so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow.
If we are afflicted,
it is for your encouragement and salvation;
if we are encouraged,
it is for your encouragement,
which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer.
Our hope for you is firm,
for we know that as you share in the sufferings,
you also share in the encouragement.

Responsorial Psalm PS 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (9a) Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Alleluia  MT 5:12A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Rejoice and be glad;
for your reward will be great in heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 5:1-12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.
Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

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Reflection from The Abbot in The Desert
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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Seek the Lord!  This the message today we can hear loudly and clearly is this:  Seek the Lord.  It is expressed in all three of the readings and we must take some time to listen to what God is telling us!

We Christians today like to be comfortable and to be well off.  There is nothing wrong with that by itself, but when we are willing to water down the Word of God in order to maintain a comfortable life style, then we must recognize that we are betraying Jesus as our Lord.  None of us wants to be a “fanatic,” someone so obsessive about his or her religion that all we do is irritate others.  On the other hand, we must be able to stand up for the truth of the teachings of Scripture and of our Catholic Church.  When we find ourselves compromising because we don’t want to bother others, then we are betraying our Lord once again.

The Gospel from Saint Matthew today gives us what we call the Beatitudes.  The sayings of Jesus reflect what it is to follow the Lord:  poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, clean of heart, peacemakers, persecuted for the sake of righteousness, insulted for Christ, persecuted for Christ, and evil spoken about us because of Christ.  This is a pretty strong list of characteristics for us!

The implication today is that we must give our whole being to God.  We must follow Jesus with all of our strength.  When we fail, we must get up and start again.  Compromising with anything less than Jesus simply means following the world and its values and not following our Lord.

My sisters and brothers, this Sunday invites us to renew our commitment to the Lord Jesus.  Let us walk in His ways and accept all the suffering that will bring to us.  We want to be in His kingdom now and forever.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

https://christdesert.org/

Related:

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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12 JUNE, 2017, Monday, 11th Week, Ordinary Time
HAPPINESS COMES FROM SUFFERING FOR THE SAKE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 Corinthians 1:1-7; Matthew 5:1-12  ]

We all seek happiness in life.  Indeed, St Thomas Aquinas tells us that no one can live without joy.  Today, Jesus gives us the beatitudes as the blueprint to happiness.  But the happiness that is offered by Jesus is different from the happiness that is sought by the world.

We must not confuse worldly happiness with true blessedness.  For the world and the Jews, happiness is identical to the blessings of success, wealth, power and freedom from suffering.  But if we study the beatitudes carefully, Jesus never promised us a blessed life without pain or suffering.   For Jesus, a blessed life is a life lived for God and for His people.  To be blessed is to be identified with His people, since the heart of God is always for His people.  Hence, a blessed life is to feel for and with others, and putting others before self.

For this, we need to acquire the spirit and mind of Jesus as summarized in the beatitudes. Within this context we can better appreciate why the beatitudes speak of our thirst for justice and mercy; and why we are called to gentleness and mourning.  Indeed, only those who have purity of heart can see God.  Peacemakers are called sons of God.    Above all, the key to identify ourselves with God and with others is the spirit of poverty.  For only when we are available and docile, can we be one with God and with the sufferings of our fellowmen.  Thus, all spiritual writers speak of the first beatitude as the key to all the beatitudes.  Thus seeking these attitudes is to seek the heart of God.

But quite often, we forget the objective of the beatitudes is for the sake of the proclamation of the gospel and the extension of the Kingdom of God.  Significantly, the beatitudes at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount serve as the blueprint to the realization of the Kingdom.  The beatitudes must be seen from the perspective of witnessing for Christ, the proclamation of the Kingdom and our identification with the poor or those outside the Kingdom life. Twice, Jesus mentioned the beatitudes in the context of the Kingdom of heaven.  He said, “Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right: theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Then again, He said, “Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.”

This perspective of seeing the beatitudes is important, lest we take the beatitudes out of context and reduce them to mere guidelines for personal sanctity and fail to see the evangelical dimension of the beatitudes. We must view the beatitudes in the larger context of the establishment of the Kingdom of God, and the formation of a community of love.  So the primary intention of these beatitudes is not simply guidelines for personal holiness and sainthood, but a necessary disposition for the proclamation of the Kingdom, especially in the face of opposition.

Consequently Christian happiness will always entail suffering until the Kingdom of God is established.  It is helpful to call to mind that within this context; even the saints, including Mary and Christ, still suffer for us since they thirst for the happiness, that is, the salvation of everyone.  But this suffering is within the context of love.  Such sufferings will not lead us to self-pity or depression because we suffer not for ourselves but for love of others.  True love always entails suffering.  It is true – what God desires is mercy, not sacrifice.  But when we practice mercy, it always entails sacrifice on the part of those who give mercy.  It means the willingness to forgive, to let go and be compassionate.  Indeed, if we do not suffer, it is difficult to believe that we ever loved.  If we are afraid of suffering, then we are afraid to love.  If there is no suffering in our lives, then we are loving ourselves more than others.

Thus, we can identify with the suffering of St Paul on account of his apostolate.  He considered his sufferings as a consolation because he knew he was suffering for Christ, with Christ, and for the good of the people.  Indeed, only when we view our suffering in the light of the Kingdom, can we find joy in suffering. He said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, a gentle Father and the God of all consolation, who comforts us in all our sorrows, so that we can offer others, in their sorrows, the consolation that we have received from God ourselves.”

What is this consolation he himself received?  It is the contemplation on the sufferings of Christ.  Hence, he said, “Indeed, as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so, through Christ, does our consolation overflow?  When we are made to suffer, it is for your consolation and salvation.  When, instead, we are comforted, this should be a consolation to you, supporting you in patiently bearing the same sufferings as we bear.  And our hope for you is confident, since we know that, sharing our sufferings, you will also share our consolations.”  Truly, St Paul understood that it was for the sake of Christ that he bore his sufferings, and he invited the Corinthians who suffered for their faith to do the same.

When we suffer for the Kingdom, we can find joy and strength because we suffer with the saints for the good of humanity and in turn be an inspiration to others. We take inspiration and encouragement from St Paul in his sufferings for the apostolic mission.  Surely, none of us have suffered as much as St Paul in his missionary endeavours.  He had been rejected, persecuted, humiliated and hurt more than anyone of us.  So let us take St Paul as our model in giving ourselves completely to whatever has been entrusted to us.  In this way, the conclusion to the beatitudes is appropriate and in fact the climax of the beatitudes when Jesus said, “Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.”

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

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

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From Last Year…

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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06 JUNE 2016, Monday, 10th Week in Ordinary Time
LIVING A BLESSED LIFE ENTAILS SERVING GOD AS OUR LORD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [MATTHEW 5:1-12  ]All of us seek happiness in life, yet few of us have found it.  Why?  Because we seek happiness according to the ways of the world.

The world’s pursuit of happiness is epitomized in the person of King Ahab in today’s first reading. [1 KGS 17:1-6]

But the gospel’s way to happiness is different from that of the world’s.  Jesus gave us a blueprint of what a blessed life is like in the beatitudes.  The values proffered are just the opposite of the world’s.  The beatitudes speak of a blessed life which is the life of God, the life of Mary and the life of Jesus.

So what is this blessed life?  And how can one live this blessed life?  It is a life lived in love and service for others.  Blessedness therefore has to do with a life of authentic relationship with God, others and self.   When we examine the beatitudes, we find that all of them pertain to the way we should relate with God, ourselves and others.

A blessed life in the first place entails a life that is lived in total dependence on God.  God is the foundation of this life.  A person who lives from God and in Him will never fear about his future or about his life.  This is the kind of life that Jesus lived. That is why He could say, “How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Only when we are deeply rooted in the love of God, can we surrender our lives to Him in faith.

Secondly, a blessed life is a life of integrity.  Only a man who is at peace with himself can find real happiness in life.  This is what Jesus asks of us when He said, “Happy the pure in heart: they shall see God.”  He also declared, “Happy the gentle: they shall have the earth for their heritage. Happy those who mourn: they shall be comforted. Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied.”  Truly, those who live a life of purity before God, are contrite for their sins and seek to do the right and just things in life will find themselves at peace as they have a clear conscience before God and man.  He is able to live such a life even in the face of persecution, for his strength comes from his deep trust in divine protection.  Indeed, Jesus Himself who was persecuted and maligned for helping the poor and the sinners understood this deep inner peace.  He could thus say, “Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right: theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Thirdly, a blessed life of integrity must flow into a life of love and compassion for others.  A man who has seen God and is conscious of his own needs and pain will naturally be open to the wounds and pains of his fellowmen.  Yes, he will be merciful when he sees the sufferings of others.  Recognizing the pain of division and disunity, he seeks to be a peacemaker in reconciling opposing forces and, most all, he is a champion of the underdogs and the oppressed.  Rightly so, Jesus said, “Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.”

The first reading provides us a living example of such a person in the life of Elijah.  In fact, his name itself is symbolic for it means “Yahweh is my God.”   It is significant that he came from Tishbe, a town beyond the Jordan.  Being born poor in a remote region of the country, he was protected from the pagan influence and learnt to depend on God alone for his security.  Hence, we can understand why Elijah was so staunchly protective of his faith and felt responsible for keeping the purity of the faith of Israel against such alien contamination and false compromises.  He spent his whole life seeking to restore the covenant and reform the sins of Israel, not just against God because of the worship of Baal and the fertility gods, but also against injustice and immorality.

Elijah was a man of deep faith who knew the power of the word of God.  Inspired by the Spirit, he spoke the Word of God from his heart without mincing his words.   He was totally confident when he prophesied that no rain or dew would fall on Israel for three and a half years.  St James held him up as a model of a man of faith. (Cf James 5:17).   Because of his prayers, drought came to Israel.

Elijah in many ways followed Christ in being a witness to God even in the face of intense opposition and persecution.  He remained persistent in his faith, unwavering in his devotion to God and courageous in opposing the false prophets.  Because of his fidelity, God the Faithful One protected Elijah and sustained him by providentially sending the ravens to feed him in his hunger in the desert.  Because he had borne God’s burden, the Lord would also bear his burden.

Jesus who preached the beatitudes Himself lived them in His very own life.  That is why His is a blessed life; a life lived for God, with Him and for His fellow brothers and sisters.  Let us take Jesus and Elijah as our models in faith as we strive to live authentic lives of integrity, fidelity and charity.

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

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Commentary on Matthew 5:1-12 From Living Space

Sermon on the Mount

Today we begin reading from Matthew’s gospel and will continue to do so for several weeks to come. We begin with chapter 5 and the Sermon on the Mount.

In reading Matthew’s gospel we need to remember that it was directed primarily at a readership with a Jewish background and in this it differs greatly from Mark. One of Matthew’s aims is to present Jesus as the new Moses, transcending but not putting aside the law given to the Israelites by the first Moses. And, as the law of Moses is contained in what we call the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, so the law or teaching of Jesus is presented uniquely in this gospel by five long discourses.

The first of these is the Sermon on the Mount and it consists mainly of the qualities which are expected of a follower of the new Law and the new Moses, Jesus.

It begins with what we call the Eight Beatitudes. It could be said that these have been greatly under-rated in the life of the Christian churches, Catholic and otherwise. Most people tend to see the centre of Christian living in the Ten Commandments and yet they really belong to the Hebrew Testament, they are part of that Law which the coming of Jesus did not nullify but transcended. They are, of course, still valid as moral guidelines but, in many ways, they fall far short of what is presented by Jesus in the Beatitudes.

It would seem, in fact, that Matthew is presenting the Beatitudes as taking over the role of the Commandments and this is indicated by the prominent place they have in forming the opening of the first discourse. They are, as it were, a manifesto of Jesus’ message and his call to see the world in his way. They express the necessary attitudes of those who belong to the Kingdom. Those who have these attitudes already have entered that Kingdom.

Perhaps a few words about the ‘Kingdom’ are in order. In many ways, Matthew’s gospel can be called ‘a Gospel of the Kingdom’. The phrase that Matthew consistently uses, however, is ‘Kingdom of heaven’. For many people this can be misleading because it causes them to think that Jesus is talking about the next life, our life in ‘heaven’. So that the Beatitudes are interpreted as conditions to be observed by those who want to go to heaven after they die.

This, I believe, would be a serious misreading of the text. Matthew uses the term ‘kingdom of heaven’ because, mindful of the Jewish background of his readers, he does not like to mention the name of God directly. He uses other circumlocutions in the course of his gospel to get around using God’s name. As when he has Jesus say, “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them.” By using the passive in the second half of the statement, he avoids mentioning the Doer, God. The other gospels have no hesitation in talking about the ‘Kingdom of God’ and that is what Matthew also means.

What is this kingdom? It is not a place. The Greek wordbasileia(basileia) is an abstract word which means ‘kingship’ or ‘reign’ rather than ‘kingdom’, which suggests a territory. ‘Kingship’ or ‘reign’ on the contrary suggests power. To belong to the Kingdom or Kingship of God, then, is to put oneself fully, consciously and deliberately under the power of God, to experience that power and be empowered by it. That power is above all the power of agape-love.

When we say in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your Kingdom come”, we are not talking about a future life after death but praying that people everywhere put themselves under the loving power of God. That is made clear by the petition immediately following: “Your will be doneon earth…” Our first call as Christians is to belong to, to enter that Kingdom and not just to be a member of the Church.

The Church is, in so far as it is faithful to the call of Christ, part of the Kingdom but the Kingdom extends far beyond the membership of the Church. The Church is, as it were, the sacrament or visible sign of the Kingdom. As examples, I would suggest that people like Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama are people who are very much full of the spirit of the Kingdom, more so, I dare to say, than many of us who are baptised. It is significant, I think, that Gandhi was particularly fond of the Beatitudes and identified with them.

It is time now to look at today’s text.

It begins with Jesus seeing the crowds and going up a hill. Moses, too, delivered God’s law from an elevated place, Mount Sinai. In neither case can we identify the actually mountain or hill, although traditionally, of course, a hill in Palestine has been called the Mount of the Beatitudes.

In the traditional way of a teacher, Jesus sits down to teach. We see him doing the same in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:20). He is joined by his disciples and it is not clear whether they were the primary object of his teaching or that the crowds were also included. The teaching, of course, is directed to followers and, in particular, to those reading the gospel.

Jesus begins the discourse with the wonderful words of the Beatitudes. There are eight of them, each one beginning with the words, “Happy are those…” ‘Happy’ is a translation of the Greek adjective makarios (makarios) which includes not only the idea of happiness but also of good fortune, of being specially blessed. So we can translate it as “Blessed indeed are those…” or “Fortunate indeed are those…”

It is important to realise that being a follower of Christ is intended to be a source of deep happiness and a realisation that one is truly fortunate to have discovered this vision of life.

At a first reading, the Beatitudes seem to fly in the face of commonly accepted ideals of the good life. It takes a deeper reading to see their inner truth.

How happy are the poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The Gospel in general shows great concern for the poor, that is, all those people who are deprived of what they rightfully need to lead a life of decent dignity. Why should the poor be particularly blessed? As people living in deprivation, obviously they are not. But in terms of the Kingdom they are blessed because in the Kingdom, where love, compassion and justice prevail there is no place for such inequality. The Kingdom is an environment of interlocking relationships where people take care of each other and where the resources of all are shared according to the needs of all. The Kingdom is a place of blessings and happiness for the poor because it spells the end of their poverty. The poor are the “little ones” that Jesus speaks about as qualification for entering the Kingdom. They are the “last” who will be first. And, while ‘poverty’ in a wider sense can be applied to all, Jesus is thinking especially of the material simplicity that he expects from his disciples, a poverty which he himself experienced with “nowhere to lay his head”. Wealth can only mean depriving the needy of what they should have.

Matthew is unique in using the term ‘poor in spirit’. It is a significant addition. While the Gospel in speaking of the poor is mainly and rightly concerned with the materially poor, Matthew’s phrase can broaden the concept. Because, in reality, there are many other ways in which people can be deprived and regarded as poor. We are more sensitive to this in our own day with our deeper insights into psychological and sociological factors. People can, although materially well off, be literally poor in spirit. That is, they have little spirit, very little happiness, lives of full of stress and anxiety and anger and resentment. These are all the result of our highly competitive, each-person-for-himself society which is everything that the Kingdom is not. Taken in that sense, the Beatitude applies to a very large number of people.

Happy the gentle; they shall have the earth for their heritage.

The word ‘gentle’ is variously translated as ‘meek’, ‘lowly’, ‘humble’. The Greek word comes from the noun prautes (prauths). The beatitude is reminiscent of a phrase in Psalm 37: “The humble shall have the land for their own to enjoy untroubled peace.”

Probably ‘gentle’ is the better rendering. It suggests someone who is kind and caring and not particularly assertive and dominating. In our rough and tumble society such people normally get pushed aside and can thus be classed among the ‘lowly’ and the ‘humble’.  But they are not necessarily ‘meek’, which suggests people who allow themselves to be trampled on. Rather they belong to those who subscribe to active non-violence. That is, they will never resort to any form of violent behaviour to achieve their goals but they are active and pro-active, not passive – or meek. We think of people like Martin Luther King and Dorothy Day. To be ‘gentle’ in this sense requires a great inner strength and, of course, in the Kingdom there is a very desirable need for such people. It is there that they will come into their own.

In some texts this Beatitude is interchanged with the following and sometimes it is presented as an addition to the first about the “poor in spirit” where “gentle” is understood as “lowly” cf. Ps 37:11). In this case there would only be seven Beatitudes, a more biblical number.

Happy those who mourn; they shall be comforted.

Mourning and happiness would seem to be contradictory to each other. It does not say what the mourning might be about. It could be the death of a family member or a loved one. But it could be something quite different altogether.

Again we have to see the beatitude in the context of the Kingdom. There, those who mourn – for whatever reason – can be sure of experiencing the comfort and support of their brothers and sisters. That is something that they cannot be always sure of in a world where people are too busy taking care of their own immediate interests. Mourning by itself is never a happy experience but it can become a blessing when surrounded by the right people as their love and concern are poured out.

Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right; they shall be satisfied.

‘What is right’, ‘what is just’. Justice is done when each person is accorded what belongs to them. A just world is a world of right relationships; in the Kingdom that is realised. And so, those who truly hunger and thirst to see justice done in our world for every single person will see their dreams and hopes come to fruition.

It is a hunger and thirst which everyone of us should pray to have. Only when we all have that hunger and thirst will justice be achieved and the Kingdom become a reality. We have made progress over the years but we still have a long, long way to go.

Happy the merciful; they shall have mercy shown them.

Mercy, compassion, the ability to forgive fully. The Kingdom is a world full of mercy and forgiveness. And just as we will be ready to forgive others we will find that others will be ready to forgive us when we fail in our responsibilities towards others. In the Lord’s Prayer, which is a prayer of the Kingdom, this is what we ask for: “Forgive us our sins because we forgive the sins of those who have offended us.” In fact, it is impossible for those who belong to the Kingdom to be offended and forgiveness comes easily to them.

That does not mean, of course, that we condone every wrong. The question of justice always remains. But condemning wrong does not exclude healing wounds caused by the hurt which wrongdoing causes.

And mercy understood as compassion is a particularly desirable quality in a Kingdom person. Such a person not only experiences pity for those who suffer but knows how to enter into and empathise with what they are going through. This was a quality found again and again in Jesus himself.

Happy the pure in heart; they shall see God.

‘Pure’ here is not referring primarily to sexual purity. The pure in heart are those whose vision is totally free of any distortion or prejudice. They see things exactly as they are. As a result, they have little difficulty in recognising the presence and the action of God in the people and the environment around them.

This purity of heart, this ability to be able to see with perfect clarity is truly a gift. It requires a high level of integrity on our part; but the rewards are enormous.

Happy the peacemakers; they shall be called children of God.

Surely one of the most beautiful of the beatitudes and the one we would all love to have applied to ourselves. In a world so full of divisions and conflicts of all kinds the role of the peacemaker is so much needed. It is something we can all do, starting in our own homes, then in our working places and the wider society. It is something we can do as individuals and in groups, as parishes and churches.

And, how true that, as peacemakers, we can be called ‘children of God’! The Letter to the Ephesians speaks beautifully of Jesus as making peace, breaking down walls between people, by his death on the cross (Eph 2:14ff).

Finally, Happy are those who are persecuted in the cause of right; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Most people would hardly regard being persecuted, which could involve prison, torture and death, as a source of happiness. But it is not the persecution that triggers the happiness but the reason why it is willingly undergone.

Right from the beginnings of the Church, as described in the Acts of the Apostles, Christians rejoiced to be found worthy to suffer with and like their Lord in the proclamation of his message and way of life. That way of life was so precious to them, such a source of meaning, that they were more than willing to give their lives to defend it.

In prison, they sang songs and prayed as later the civil rights leaders (most of them committed Christians) in the United States would sing “We shall overcome” as they rode the paddy wagons to jail. It is a much more painful experience to compromise with our deepest convictions in order to avoid criticism or physical suffering. They are indeed, as Jesus says, the successors to the great prophets of the Hebrew Testament.

Happy are those who with integrity can stand by their convictions whatever the cost.

Some people have seen in these Beatitudes a portrait of Jesus himself and certainly they should be the portrait of every Christian and of every Kingdom person. They are the charter people everywhere (and not just Christians) are called to follow. They go far beyond what is demanded of in the Ten Commandments. The Commandments are not so difficult to follow and, in so far as several of them are expressed in the negative (‘Thou shalt not…’), they can be observed by doing nothing! There is no way, however, that people can ever say they observe any Beatitude to the fullest. They always call us to a further and higher level.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2102g/

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The Good Samaritan by Walter Rane

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As Christians Are Killed in The Middle East, Asians Tell Us Never To Give Up Hope — “Christ is Always With Us”

May 29, 2017

My own hope dissipates sometimes, as we read the headlines from around the world. Muslims killing Christians. North Korea threatening nuclear war. The global environment worsening by the day. China still torturing and in denial about human rights.

Yet my own Asian-Christian brothers and sisters re-awaken me every time, with messages of prayerful hope.

I hear my friend Thomas, who converted to Christianity in Kerala, India where he grew up many years ago.

St. Thomas the apostle, also known as Didymus, arrived in the shores of Kerala, India in 52 AD, preaching the gospel. My friend Thomas, heard that same gospel in Kerala in the 1950s, and became a Catholic.

“He ran home,” his wife told me, “And said he found the answer to all our problems. He said the entire family was going to convert. And we did.”

Soon they moved to Ethiopia to live among other Christians and teach. Then they moved to the United Sates and “went to church every day.”

“We never lost hope. Jesus says, ‘Do not be afraid.'”

Others email me their stories, from Vietnam, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Taiwan, Korea and elsewhere. The messages from the Gospels are always there: Hope, Charity, Devotion, Prayer, Service to others. And often there is something more: a kind of quite, dignified defiance.

“We will never submit,” one recently wrote to me. “They can’t kill us all. Even if they could; we’d win.”

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

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Related:

 (Includes the story of Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan)

“He Leadeth Me” by Fr. Walter Ciszek

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Father Jacques Hamel was killed in his church while saying Mass, July 26, 2016. Martyrs are still with us today.

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Francois Murad, a Catholic priest, was kidnapped and beheaded by jihadist fighters in Syria, June 2013

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Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, the last catholic Bishop of Saigon before the Communists took over, kneeling while praying in prison

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Philippines — Survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan march during a religious procession in Tolosa on the eastern Philippine island of Leyte on November 18, 2013

Related: Sanctity of Human Life

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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, May 29, 2017 — “In the world you will have hardship, but be courageous: I have conquered the world.” — Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may find peace in me.”

May 28, 2017

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Reading 1, Acts 19:1-8

It happened that while Apollos was in Corinth, Paul made his way overland as far as Ephesus, where he found a number of disciples.

When he asked, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ they answered, ‘No, we were never even told there was such a thing as a Holy Spirit.’

He asked, ‘Then how were you baptised?’ They replied, ‘With John’s baptism.’

Paul said, ‘John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance; but he insisted that the people should believe in the one who was to come after him — namely Jesus.’

When they heard this, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus,

and the moment Paul had laid hands on them the Holy Spirit came down on them, and they began to speak with tongues and to prophesy.

There were about twelve of these men in all.

He began by going to the synagogue, where he spoke out fearlessly and argued persuasively about the kingdom of God. He did this for three months.

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Responsorial Psalm, Psalms 68:2-3, 4-5, 6-7

You disperse them like smoke; as wax melts in the presence of a fire, so the wicked melt at the presence of God.

The upright rejoice in the presence of God, delighted and crying out for joy.

Sing to God, play music to his name, build a road for the Rider of the Clouds, rejoice in Yahweh, dance before him.

Father of orphans, defender of widows, such is God in his holy dwelling.

God gives the lonely a home to live in, leads prisoners out into prosperity, but rebels must live in the bare wastelands.

God, when you set out at the head of your people, when you strode over the desert.

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Gospel, John 16:29-33

His disciples said, ‘Now you are speaking plainly and not using veiled language.

Now we see that you know everything and need not wait for questions to be put into words; because of this we believe that you came from God.’

Jesus answered them: Do you believe at last?

Listen; the time will come — indeed it has come already — when you are going to be scattered, each going his own way and leaving me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.

I have told you all this so that you may find peace in me. In the world you will have hardship, but be courageous: I have conquered the world.

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Commentary on John 16:29-33 from Living Space

The disciples now claim to understand exactly what Jesus is talking about, although it is doubtful that they really do.  It will not be until later on that the full meaning of Jesus’ words will be grasped by them.

They are impressed that Jesus can answer their questions even before they are formulated.  “Because of this we believe that you came from God.”  Yet, perhaps they are speaking too soon.

Jesus questions the depth of their belief.  Very soon, in spite of their protestations now, they will be scattered in all directions and leave Jesus alone and abandoned.  Of course, Jesus will not be alone; the Father is always with him even at the lowest depths of his humiliation.  Even when he himself will cry out: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

He tells them all this, not to discourage them, but so that they can find peace.  There will be many troubles facing them in the coming days and indeed in the years ahead.  They are not to worry: Jesus has conquered the world, not in any political or economic sense but in overcoming the evil of the world.  His disciples can share in that victory, as long as they stay close to him and walk his Way.

These words obviously have meaning for us especially if we are experiencing difficulties of any kind in our lives.  The peace we seek is available if we put ourselves into Jesus’ hands.  He knows; he has been through more than anything we are ever likely to have to experience.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1072g/

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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We see in today’s reading the “laying on of hands.”
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We also see this in 1 Timothy 4: 14-16:
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“Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.”
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Read more on the “laying on of hands”:
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And:
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Neglect Not The Gift Within You

Paul reminds Timothy two times about the gift (Charisma) that was given unto him, that he was not to neglect it and to stir it up. We see it once in 1Ti 4:14 and again in 2Ti 1:6.

1Ti 4:14-15 KJV  Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.  (15)  Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.

2Ti 1:6-7 KJV  Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.  (7)  For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

When we read 2Ti 1:6 we see that Paul is encouraging Timothy to stir up the gift. The phrase “stir up” was translated from the Greek word anazōpureō (an-ad-zo-poor-eh’-o), and it simply means to re-enkindle, in other words don’t let the flame of this gift that was bestowed upon you to turn into smoking coals and glowing embers, but instead keep it burning with a great fire blazing; and if you have let it become those glowing embers, then use those embers to re-enkindle the fire. I think that Paul had seen Timothy slacking off or just simply not using the gift as often as he should have. But why would he have not used the gift? What kept him from excelling with it so that the profiting or advancement of it could appear to all?

In vs 7 immediately after Paul encourages Timothy to stir up the gift he reminds us that God has not given us the spirit of fear. I think Paul noticed that Timothy was not using his gift because fear kept him from using it. Paul had to remind Timothy that he has not been given a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. This fear could have been a fear of man or perhaps afraid of what one would think of this “Charisma” he showed and how it was used for the Glory of God. I believe that fear being the opposite of faith was smothering the fire of this gift inside of Timothy, it kept him from using the gift to its fullest potential and excelling with it. Whether this gift was for healing, working of miracles, teaching, prophesying, etc.,. it is not known, but it is clear that he needed to be reminded to use it and stir it up!

Paul’s reminder to Timothy is to us as well. I encourage you to not neglect the gift and stir it up (re-enkindle) it. Do not let fear keep you from excelling with the gift, be not luke warm with it, nor afraid to be Charismatic! This gift is given by the grace and favor of God upon your life for His purposes to be fulfilled. Now excel with it so the advancement and profiting of it will appear before all so He is glorified!

Be blessed with His perfect Love and Peace,
Pastors & Psalmist Gary and Rhonda Petzoldt

http://www.lilybandmusic.com/neglect-not-the-gift-in-you-and-stir-it-up/

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Prayer to Put Ourselves Into His Hands
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection• The context of today’s Gospel continues to be the environment of the Last Supper, an environment of fraternity and of farewell, of sadness and of expectation, in which is mirrored the situation of the communities of Asia Minor at the end of the first century. In order to be able to understand the Gospels well, we can never forget that they give the words of Jesus not as if they had been registered in a CD to transmit them literally. The Gospels are pastoral writings which seek to embody and update the words of Jesus in the new situations in which the communities find themselves in the second half of the first century in Galilee (Matthew), in Greece (Luke), in Italy (Mark) and in Asia Minor (John)..

In the Gospel of John, the words and the questions of the disciples are not only those of the disciples, in fact, they reveal the questions and problems of the communities. They are the mirror in which the communities of that time as well as those of today are recognized with their sadness and their anguishes, with their joys and their hopes. And they find light and strength in the answers of Jesus.

• John 16, 29-30: Now, you are speaking plainly. Jesus had told his disciples: The Father himself loves you, because you have loved me, and you have believed that I come from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world and now I am leaving the world to go to the Father (Jn 16, 29-30). Listening to this affirmation of Jesus, the disciples answered: “Now you are speaking plainly and not using veiled language. Now we see that you know everything and need not wait for questions to be put into words. Because of this we believe that you came from God”.

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The disciples think that they have understood everything. Yes, truly they got a true light to clarify their problems. But it was still a very dim light. They got the seed, but at that moment, not knowing the tree. The light or the seed was the fundamental intuition of faith according to which Jesus is for us the revelation of God, who is Father: “Now we believe that you came from God.“ But this was only the beginning, the seed. Jesus himself was and continues to be the great parable or the revelation of God for us. God reaches us and reveals himself to us. But God does not enter into any schema. He exceeds all, goes beyond our schema and gives us the unexpected surprise which, sometimes, is very painful.

• John 16, 31-32: You are leaving me alone and yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. Jesus asks: Do you believe at last? He knows his disciples. He knows that there is still much lacking for the understanding of the mystery of God and of the Good News of God. He knows that in spite of the good will and in spite of the light that they have just received in that moment, they still have to face the unexpected and painful surprise of the Passion and Death of Jesus. The small light that they got is not sufficient to overcome the darkness of the crisis: Behold, the time will come, indeed it has come already, when you are going to be scattered , each one going his own way and leaving me alone; and yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.

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This is the source of certitude of Jesus and through Jesus, this is and will be the source of certitude for all of us: The Father is with me! When Moses was sent to liberate the people from the oppression of the Egyptians, this being his mission, he received this certainty: “”Go! I am with you” /Ex 3, 12). The certainty of the liberating presence of God is expressed in the name that God assumes at the moment of the beginning of the Exodus and of the liberation of his people: JHWH, God with us: This is the name for all time (Ex 3, 15). A Name which is present more than six thousand times only in the New Testament.

• John 16, 33: Courage, I have conquered the world! And now we have the last phrase pronounced by Jesus who anticipates the victory and which will be a source of peace and of strength for the disciples of that time, as well as for all of us, up until now: I have told you all this so that you may find peace in me. In the world you will have hardship, but be courageous, I have conquered the world”. With his sacrifice out of love, Jesus conquers the world and Satan. His disciples are called to participate in the struggle and the victory. To feel the courage which he gives is already to overcome the battle”. (L.A. Schokel)

For Personal Confrontation

• A small light helped the disciples to take a step farther, but it did not light the whole journey. Have you had a similar experience in your life?

• Courage, I have conquered the world! Has this phrase of Jesus helped you some times in your life?

Concluding Prayer

Protect me, O God, in you is my refuge.
To Yahweh I say, ‘You are my Lord, my happiness is in none
My birthright, my cup is Yahweh;
you, you alone, hold my lot secure. (Ps 16,1-2,5)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-john-1629-33

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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29 MAY, 2017, Monday, 7th Week of Easter
WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A TRUE BELIEVER OF THE LORD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS  19:1-8; JOHN 16:29-33 ]

“His disciples said to Jesus, ‘Now you are speaking plainly and not using metaphors! Now we see that you know everything, and do not have to wait for questions to be put into words; because of this we believe that you came from God.’ Jesus answered them: ‘Do you believe at last?” This is a good question for all of us as well.   Do we truly believe that Jesus is Lord?

We all claim to believe in Jesus.  But the truth is that for most of us, our faith is more of an intellectual assent or cultural practice than a conviction of the heart.  So like the disciples, we pay lip service to the Lord.  Our faith is not from the heart but from the head.  Worse still, for many of us who are nominal Catholics, faith is but a culture or a tradition.  It is not based on a personal conviction of our Lord.   For many of our young people, they are at church because their friends are there.

When we replace knowledge with belief in terms of conviction of the heart, then of course in times of trials and difficulties, we will abandon the Lord, like the disciples.  The Lord said, “Listen; the time will come – in fact it has come already – when you will be scattered, each going his own way and leaving me alone.”  Indeed, many of us will abandon Jesus in our lives.  What we profess with our lips we deny by our actions.  In times of trouble and difficulties, we give up easily, whether in marriage or in the priesthood.  Many of us lack perseverance in doing good and especially in ministry. We resign when we do not agree with the leader or the group.   And we say we have faith in Jesus and we love Him!  This was the case of the apostles before Easter.  They too betrayed the Lord and abandoned Him.

This is because we do not really love Jesus from our hearts.  Which mother or father would abandon a difficult child?   They will continue to carry the burden of looking after them because they love them.  When we love, we are ready to die for a person.  No sacrifices are too difficult to make for those whom we love.   For our friends, we are ready to die for them but few would die for an ideology.   St Paul said in no uncertain terms, “unless you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will not be saved.  For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.”  (Rom 10:9f)

In contrast we have Jesus who truly believed and showed His belief not in words but in action.  He was ready to die for the Father and for His people.  This is because He loved.  Where did He get His strength to sacrifice Himself for His Father and His people if not the fact that He knew that the Father was with Him.   He was one with the Father in mind and will.  He said, “In the world you will have trouble, but be brave: I have conquered the world.” 

How did He conquer the world if not by the strength and love of His Father?  “And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.”  It is His personal intimacy and faith in the Father’s love that kept Him at peace even in trials.  This is the basis of peace for Jesus. He was not afraid of death or what was ahead of Him.  Hence, He said, “I have told you all this so that you may find peace in me.”  Indeed, when we know that someone is with us, we will find the strength to carry on. What we need is a supportive and encouraging spouse, teacher, friend or a mentor.   When a child senses the presence of the parents, he is at rest.  People need to feel the presence of God in their lives if they are to find the strength and the courage to endure the sufferings and tribulations of life.  Like a child, we need to be held and to hold so that we can feel the presence of someone supporting us in love.

How do we find peace?   How can we overcome the world?  Only if we also know that the Lord is with us.  So how is He with us?  After the feast of the Ascension, we tend to think that He is away from us.  This is of course is not true.  The great thing about the Ascension is that although He has returned to His Father to receive His glory, yet, He remains with us.   Just as in the incarnation, He is with us but never left the Father.  Today, He is with us in the Holy Spirit. He is the love of God poured into our hearts.  Through the Spirit of Jesus, we share in His courage, peace, love and joy.

How can we receive the Holy Spirit?  We need to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  This was what St Paul told the disciples at Ephesus. It is not enough to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.  Giving up sins alone will not give us joy.   We need to be filled with the Spirit of Jesus who is the presence of God in us.  We need to know that He is with us in our trials.  We need the presence of the Risen Lord to encourage us.  Then we can find peace and joy.   The Holy Spirit makes present the Risen Lord by filling us with His love.

This explains why those who have a renewal of the Holy Spirit in their lives are filled with joy.  Like the early Christians, “the moment Paul had laid hands on them the Holy Spirit came down on them, and they began to speak in tongues and to prophesy. There were about twelve of these men.”   St Paul himself went “to the synagogue, where he spoke out boldly and argued persuasively about the kingdom of God. He did this for three months.”  In the case of the apostles, before Pentecost, they were afraid and hid in the Upper Room.   But after receiving the Holy Spirit, they became powerful witnesses of our Lord, full of courage and conviction.

Indeed, we all need to encounter the presence of the Lord today.  This also explains why popular religiosity and devotions are so much sought after by our faithful because they need to feel the presence of God, to see and to touch.   The Holy Spirit in a special way fills us with His warmth, love and presence so that we can be empowered to witness to the Lord.  With the psalmist, we sing, “But the just shall rejoice at the presence of God, they shall exult and dance for joy.  O sing to the Lord, make music to his name; rejoice in the Lord, exult at his presence.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, May 16, 2017 — Stoning of Paul — “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.”

May 15, 2017

Tuesday of Fifth Week of Easter
Lectionary: 286

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Stoning of Paul

Reading 1 ACTS 14:19-28

In those days, some Jews from Antioch and Iconium
arrived and won over the crowds.
They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city,
supposing that he was dead.
But when the disciples gathered around him,
he got up and entered the city.
On the following day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.

After they had proclaimed the good news to that city
and made a considerable number of disciples,
they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch.
They strengthened the spirits of the disciples
and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying,
“It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships
to enter the Kingdom of God.”
They appointed presbyters for them in each Church and,
with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord
in whom they had put their faith.
Then they traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia.
After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia.
From there they sailed to Antioch,
where they had been commended to the grace of God
for the work they had now accomplished.
And when they arrived, they called the Church together
and reported what God had done with them
and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.
Then they spent no little time with the disciples.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 145:10-11, 12-13AB, 21

R. (see 12) Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Making known to men your might
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is a kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
R. Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
or:
R. Alleluia.
May my mouth speak the praise of the LORD,
and may all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.
R. Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia SEE LK 24:46, 26

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Christ had to suffer and to rise from the dead,
and so enter into his glory.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 14:27-31A

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me tell you,
‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’
If you loved me,
you would rejoice that I am going to the Father;
for the Father is greater than I.
And now I have told you this before it happens,
so that when it happens you may believe.
I will no longer speak much with you,
for the ruler of the world is coming.
He has no power over me,
but the world must know that I love the Father
and that I do just as the Father has commanded me.”

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First Thoughts From Peace and Freedom

There is nothing new in the themes presented in today’s readings.

It may come as some surprise to our society that wants nothing to do with pain and suffering that pain and suffering can have meaning in our lives. In fact, not to many human being escape pain and suffering.

Jusus tell us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” This may be one of the most frequent teachings in the Gospels.

Related: (Pain and Suffering)

Do not be afraid:

Over and over again in the scripture we see the words “do not be afraid.” God expects us to know and believe that he has our back!
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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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Related:
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Praise Jesus for St. Teresa of Ávila who gave us one of the simplest and finest prayers, “Let Nothing Disturb You” –
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Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.
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Nada te turbe;
nada te espante;
todo se pasa;
Dios no se muda,
la paciencia todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta.
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St Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) as a Young Woman (detail) by François Gerard (1827)
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Related:
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore 
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16 MAY, 2017, Tuesday, 5th Week of Easter
THE PEACE OF A CHRISTIAN

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 14:19-28; PS 144:10-13,21; JOHN 14:27-31 ]

Jesus said to His disciples, “Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.”  We all look for peace.  We are tired because every day, we have to fight so many battles.  There is conflict and tension at home, at work and in church.  People are not talking or they are gossiping and there is much bitterness.  Trying to reconcile and deal with misunderstandings, accusations and mediating the different parties is exhausting.  Sometimes, we look for peace in terms of finding rest from our work and our business.  We are drained out by responsibilities and by our commitments.  So the world’s notion of peace is freedom from stress and from human conflicts.

But this is not the kind of peace that Jesus has come to offer us.  The peace we just mentioned is the peace of the world.  The peace of Christ is very different.  It does not mean that we will be free of troubles, problems, challenges and difficulties.  It does not mean that we can rest, do nothing and be free from all responsibilities of life.  Peace is not retirement from work and from life.  Peace is not escapism from the world of real life.

On the contrary, peace comes from a greater commitment to our work and responsibilities.   Peace comes from continuing the mission of Christ to proclaim the Good News to all, like St Paul and Barnabas.  Peace comes from saying ‘Yes’ to Jesus.  Indeed, this was the peace of Paul.  His conscience was clear.  His life was so full of hazardous events.  But he never stopped fulfilling the mission entrusted to him.   Even when he faced so many enemies wherever he went, he did not give up his responsibility of proclaiming Christ to the people.  He was totally focused.  It is hard to believe that he was stoned almost to death and yet “he stood up and went back to the town.”  St Paul was not afraid of death or of his enemies.  He was willing to face death and suffering.  By overcoming the fear of death and suffering, he was fearless in proclaiming the Good News, for nothing could hinder him.   Without wasting any time, the next day, he continued his journey to preach the Good News elsewhere.  There was no time to lament, to moan or to complain.  Such was the peace that St Paul experienced.  A peace that came from doing God’s will in proclaiming the Good News to all.

Peace comes from surrendering our work and mission to the Lord.  We read that “In each of these churches they appointed elders, and with prayer and fasting they commended them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.”  Wherever they went, they would commend what they intended to accomplish to the grace of God.  We should not be too concerned whether our ministry is successful or not, whether it bears fruit or otherwise.  Success is the work of God and His grace.  Our task is to do our best in the ministry and be faithful to our vocation.  So long as we seek to do our best, we should be contented to entrust the work we do to God.  If He wants to bless our work and ministry, we are grateful.  But even if He does not, we trust in His divine wisdom and plan for us.  Paul never thought that any accomplishment was due to their hard work alone but he knew that he was just a servant of God.  It is the Lord who accomplishes His plan in and through us.

Peace comes from knowing that the Lord is helping us to fulfill His mission well.  “On their arrival they assembled the church and gave an account of all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the pagans. They stayed there with the disciples for some time.”  The great joy of a priest and for anyone of us is to feel that we have made a difference in the lives of others.  This peace of knowing that we have done our part and fulfilled our duty and responsibility to our loved ones and those entrusted to us should bring us great satisfaction.  This is a peace that is the consequence of overcoming all the trials of life.  It is a peace that comes from the conquest of evil and falsehood.

Peace comes from loving the Father unto death.  This was the peace of Jesus.  Jesus told the disciples, “I have told you this now before it happens, so that when it does happen you may believe. I shall not talk with you any longer, because the prince of this world is on his way. He has no power over me, but the world must be brought to know that I love the Father and that I am doing exactly what the Father told me.”  Jesus at the last supper was prophesying about His imminent death.  He knew that the power of evil would manifest itself and apparently win the victory over Him. But Jesus was very confident that His Father would vindicate Him.  Jesus refused to submit to the power of evil and the temptations of the Evil One.  He withstood the temptations of the Devil and overcame sin by dying on the cross.  By so doing, He revealed His utter love for the Father by His total obedience to His will.

Peace comes from the assurance of the future.  “They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith. ‘We all have to experience many hardships’ they said ‘before we enter the kingdom of God.’”   St Paul never gave false hope when inviting them to become Christians.  There are some Catholics who invite others to become Christians or to join some church organization or ministry, but fail to forewarn them of the challenges and trials ahead of them.  So like Jesus, St Paul was outrightly honest about the trials of the Christians.  But in the same breath, he offered hope.  He did not talk about the sufferings but he focused on the future of what was to come.  If we suffer only for the present, we feel discouraged.  But the sufferings we are going through is to prepare us for the future.  For the sake of the future, we can tolerate the sufferings of the present.  We follow “Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  (Heb 12:2)

So the peace that comes is for the greater good of the certain future that is promised to us.  This was what St Peter wrote to the Christians as well. “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls.”  (1 Pt 1:6-9) That is why we should be happy when our loved ones, like Jesus, have to return to the Father.  Jesus said, “If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father.”   So too if we love our loved ones, when the time comes for them to return Home, we should not prevent them from doing so simply because we want them for ourselves.  We should not prevent them from entering into the fullness of their rest and reward.  We will miss them, just like the apostles.  But it is important that they find their ultimate rest in the bosom of the Lord.

Most of all, peace comes from the assurance of His presence in our midst.  Jesus told the disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me say: I am going away, and shall return. If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”  We never suffer alone.  A Christian does not need to suffer alone because the Father is with him in His Son and the Holy Spirit.  Jesus is giving us the Holy Spirit to be with us so that He can lead us to the fullness of truth and life.  To know that the Lord is with us, we can overcome all trials and all difficulties.  “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Rom 8:37-39)  Let us therefore find our peace in Christ’s love and His presence in us in the Holy Spirit.

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