Posts Tagged ‘do not be afraid’

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, April 20, 2017 — The Miracle of Healing — “God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand”

April 19, 2017

Thursday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 264

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Peter and John heal the crippled man. LDS photo library

Reading 1  ACTS 3:11-26

As the crippled man who had been cured clung to Peter and John,
all the people hurried in amazement toward them
in the portico called “Solomon’s Portico.”
When Peter saw this, he addressed the people,
“You children of Israel, why are you amazed at this,
and why do you look so intently at us
as if we had made him walk by our own power or piety?
The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,
the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus
whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence,
when he had decided to release him.

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You denied the Holy and Righteous One
and asked that a murderer be released to you.
The author of life you put to death,
but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.
And by faith in his name,
this man, whom you see and know, his name has made strong,
and the faith that comes through it
has given him this perfect health,
in the presence of all of you.
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Now I know, brothers and sisters,
that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did;
but God has thus brought to fulfillment
what he had announced beforehand
through the mouth of all the prophets,
that his Christ would suffer.
Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away,
and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment
and send you the Christ already appointed for you, Jesus,
whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration
of which God spoke through the mouth
of his holy prophets from of old.
For Moses said:A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you
from among your own kin;
to him you shall listen in all that he may say to you.
Everyone who does not listen to that prophet
will be cut off from the people.
“Moreover, all the prophets who spoke,
from Samuel and those afterwards, also announced these days.
You are the children of the prophets
and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors
when he said to Abraham,
In your offspring all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
For you first, God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you
by turning each of you from your evil ways.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 8:2AB AND 5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (2ab) O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
or:
R. Alleluia.
O LORD, our Lord,
how glorious is your name over all the earth!
What is man that you should be mindful of him,
or the son of man that you should care for him?
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
or:
R. Alleluia.
You have made him little less than the angels,
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him rule over the works of your hands,
putting all things under his feet.
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
or:
R. Alleluia.
All sheep and oxen,
yes, and the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fishes of the sea,
and whatever swims the paths of the seas.
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia  PS 118:24

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Jesus Appears to the Disciples After the Resurrection by Imre Morocz

Gospel LK 24:35-48

The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way,
and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them,
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”

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Commentary on Acts 3:11-26 From Living Space

Immediately after the dramatic cure of the crippled beggar in the Temple, Peter takes the opportunity to address the crowds which had gathered round Peter, John and the healed beggar to explain the meaning of what they have just witnessed.

The scene takes place at “Solomon’s Portico”. This was a porch along the inner side of the wall enclosing the outer court, with rows of 27-foot high stone columns and a roof of cedar. So it was a roofed structure – somewhat similar to a Greek stoa. There was a common, but mistaken, belief that it dated back to Solomon’s time.

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Solomon’s Portico

The message that Peter now gives the amazed crowd gathering around is similar to other addresses in the early Church: 1, an explanation of what is happening; 2, the Gospel of Jesus Christ – death, resurrection and glorification; 3, a call to repentance and change of life, symbolised by baptism.

First, Peter makes clear that the healing that has just taken place before their eyes is not by his own power or that of his companion, John. They are not to be gaped at as having supernatural powers. What has been done has been through the power of Jesus, who has been empowered by the God they all believe in, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

He is the one his hearers “handed over” to Pilate. Here again we have this “handing over”, a phrase which runs like a refrain through the Gospel. And him whom they handed over was the “Holy and Righteous One”, indicating Jesus’ special relationship to the Father and his sinlessness which are in stark contrast to the guilt of the murderous Barabbas.

Pilate was only too anxious to let Jesus go, being aware of his innocence, but he yielded to the demands of the crowd and yielded to their choice of a convicted murder, Barabbas. In a pregnant phrase – “the Author of life you put to death”. Barabbas had taken away life and is freed; Jesus will be the source of life by being condemned to death. As the sequence of the Easter Sunday Mass says: Dux vitae mortuus regnat vivus, which when literally translated means: “The Leader of life, having died, reigns alive.”

Peter and his companions are witnesses that Jesus was raised again. And it was in the name of this same Jesus that the poor beggar has been restored to health and mobility.

God has “glorified” his servant through his resurrection and ascension. The word “servant” is reminiscent of the songs of the suffering servant in Isaiah (and which we read early in Holy Week), especially Is 52:13-53:12. Jesus himself spoke of being a servant when he washed his disciples’ feet and when he said that he had come to serve and not be served. All of this did not quite fit the image of the kind of Messiah the Jews were expecting.

And it is by faith in this very Jesus that the crippled beggar, a character well known to the crowds who came regularly to the Temple, has been “made strong” again. “Faith…has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.”

Peter excuses his hearers (as Jesus himself did), saying they did not fully realise at the time what they were doing. Yet, the sufferings of the Christ had long been foretold by the prophets. The early Christians saw the sufferings and death of Jesus clearly indicated in Old Testament prophecies. The Jews, however, did not expect a suffering and dying Messiah – quite the opposite. They saw in Isaiah’s Servant Songs their own suffering as a people.

Now it is not too late for them to ‘repent’ (there is that metanoia, metanoia again), that is, radically to change their ways and thus have their sin taken away. To ‘repent’ is not just to express sorrow; it involves re-establishing one’s close relationship with God and submitting totally to his Way. The nearest English equivalent is ‘con-version’, a ‘turning round’, which means, of course, a ‘turning towards’.

Jesus, after all, is the prophet who was foretold by Moses, who, Peter tells the crowd, had said: “The Lord God will raise up a prophet like myself for you, from among your own brothers; you must listen to whatever he tells you.” This is a loose quotation from Deuteronomy (18:15). In fact, at the time of Jesus, some Jews expected a unique prophet to come in fulfilment of this text. So early Christianity applied this tradition and text to Jesus and used them especially where Christian teaching seemed to diverge from traditional Judaism.

And indeed, says Peter, every prophet from Samuel down predicted what is now taking place before their eyes. Samuel was one of the earliest of the prophets and the one who anointed David, Jesus’ ancestor, as king. So the Jews in his audience are the heirs of the prophets’ messages, they are the heirs to the covenant first made way back with Abraham: “in your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed”.

It is time now for the people to acknowledge this sacred covenant, made new through Jesus Christ, and they will do that by their accepting Jesus as their Saviour and abandoning their sinful ways to walk the Way of Jesus.

Exactly the same applies to us.

Comments Off on Thursday of week 1 of Easter – First Reading

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http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1015r/
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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20 APRIL, 2017, Thursday within Easter Octave

FAITH IN THE RESURRECTION AS THE BASIS FOR HEALING MIRACLES

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 3:11-26; LK 24:35-48 ]

How did the early Church establish the truth of Jesus’ resurrection?  Firstly, the reality of the Risen Lord is made manifest in a miracle of healing.  St Peter made it clear that the healing of the crippled man was not “by our own power or holiness.”  Rather, “it is the name of Jesus which, through our faith in it, has brought back the strength of this man whom you see here and who is well known to you. It is faith in that name that has restored this man to health, as you can all see.”   The denial of any power on their part in the healing of the man means that the power came from somewhere.  Only if the Lord were alive, could there be healing.  Indeed, there are no healers except the Lord Himself who makes use of us as His instruments.

Consequently, the power to heal is dependent on whether we have faith in the Lord’s resurrection.  If the Lord had healed during His earthly ministry, we should expect Him to continue the same works He did when He was on earth.  In fact, we would expect Him to do more now because He is no longer limited by space and time.  If the Risen Lord is the Jesus of Nazareth, then surely the Lord would want to continue His healing works.  In fact, He had told the disciples earlier, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.  I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”  (Jn 14:12-14)

This explains why the gospel insists on the reality of Jesus’ resurrection; that He has a body as opposed to being simply a pure spirit.  The Lord said to them, “Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.”  And as if that was not sufficient, Jesus said to them, “’Have you anything here to eat?’ And they offered him a piece of grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes.”  Clearly, therefore, the resurrected Lord is the Jesus of Nazareth.  Indeed, this was something beyond their imagination.  “And as he said this he showed them his hands and feet. Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, and they stood there dumbfounded.”

Having faith in the resurrection means to say that God is triumphant in the end.  No one can hinder the plan of God.  The resurrection of our Lord is His vindication.  As St Peter said, “it is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, who has glorified his servant Jesus, the same Jesus you handed over and then disowned in the presence of Pilate, after Pilate had decided to release him. It was you who accused the Holy One, the Just One, you who demanded the reprieve of a murderer while you killed the prince of life. God, however, raised him from the dead, and to that fact we are the witnesses.”   The raising of Jesus is the proof that Jesus is Lord and Saviour.  Death could not imprison Him.  With the resurrection, it means there is nothing the Lord cannot do for us.

What is necessary for us is to surrender our lives in faith to the Risen Lord.  The question is whether we are willing to allow the Risen Lord to enter into our lives.  Do we have the faith of the apostles who healed in the name of the Risen Lord? They were so sure of Jesus’ presence and assistance that they did not have any doubt that Jesus would heal the crippled man.  Twice, they insisted on the necessity of faith. They said, “Through our faith in it, has brought back the strength of this man whom you see here and who is well known to you. It is faith in that name that has restored this man to health, as you can all see.”   Faith therefore is the key to access the power of the Risen Lord and for Him to act in our lives.  Without faith in His real presence, there can be no miracles in the Church or the sacraments.

Our faith in the Risen Lord is not just based on the testimony of the apostles but on the scriptures as well. The resurrection of our Lord, although a wholly other experience, yet it is not a total discontinuity with the faith of Israel.  In truth, it is the fulfillment of the prophecies of old.  This was what the Lord sought to explain and how the apostles justified the truth of the resurrection.  Moses prophesied this event when he said, “The Lord God will raise up a prophet like myself for you, from among your own brothers; you must listen to whatever he tells you. The man who does not listen to that prophet is to be cut off from the people. In fact, all the prophets that have ever spoken, from Samuel onwards, have predicted these days.”   Jesus in the gospel clarified the texts of the Old Testament as referring to Him.  “’This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me, in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms, has to be fulfilled.’ He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures.”

But with faith in Him, the Lord works marvelously in and through us.  This is the act of God’s goodness; that He would make use of us weaklings to do His work.  So like the psalmist, we can only rejoice and say, “How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth! What is man that you should keep him in mind, mortal man that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than a god; with glory and honour you crowned him, gave him power over the works of your hand, put all things under his feet.”  God counts us worthy to be His instruments of healing and grace.  Indeed, when I reflect on my own ministry, I feel completely unworthy and humbled at how God works in and through me.  There have been many times when I was at a loss as to what to preach, or what to write, but the Lord inspired me again and again.  There have been many situations when I felt so hopeless and helpless, but God showed Himself to be the Lord by coming to my rescue, again and again.  He indeed is the Lord and the mighty one.

Thus, with faith in the resurrection, “in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.”  Following the apostles, we must continue the work of healing which the Lord has begun.  Healing does not need to be confined to physical healing but also the healing of emotions, the mind, the heart and the soul.  That is why the proclamation of healing begins with repentance of our sins and the corollary experience of forgiveness.  When we repent of our sins, we remove the causes of our misery, brokenness and bondages.  By receiving forgiveness from the Lord, we are healed emotionally and spiritually.   When we are liberated from fear, pride and ego, then we can be totally open to God’s full healing grace, which in turn will also affect our physical healing as well.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/
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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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Jesus teaches us to trust in God and remain at peace. All the way back to the Old Testament we see stories of men and women just like us learning to trust in God and stop flying into fits of anxiety, fear, anger and the like. The faith of the followers of Moses is tested over and over again. But when they need food, manna arrives. When they need to escape from the enemy, the sea is parted. They complain most of the way but God always “has their back” and prevents their most terrible imagined disasters.
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Here, in today’s reading, Jesus Himself says “Why are you troubled?” and “Peace be with you.” In Monday’s readings, Mary Magdalene meets an angel who says, “Do not be afraid” and then sees someone she thinks is the gardener and he too says “Do not be afraid.”
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Christians live in the faith that teaches peace — and Jesus is the teacher. When we are filled with anxiety, fear, anger and the more destructive emotions — we need to take a time out to remember that God is always with us — and His Son constantly reminds us “Do not be afraid.”
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We have come to believe that “Do not be afraid” is one of the most often repeated messages in the Bible.
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If we live in a constant state of fear, we pray that someone will remind us: “You of so little faith….”
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The antidote to fear is faith.
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What is the secret of letting go? Christ saw everything in the light of God’s plan. “So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning with Jerusalem.” St Peter said the same thing, “Now I know, brothers, that neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing; this was the way God carried out what he had foretold, when he said through all his prophets that his Christ would suffer.” He trusted in the Father’s will. He saw the big picture. He knew that there was nothing that was outside the Father’s will.
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Related:
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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Last Year
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31 MARCH 2016, Thursday Within Easter Octave
ENCOUNTERING, SHARING AND ANNOUNCING THE GOOD NEWS
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SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 3:11-26; LK 24:35-48 ]What does the work of evangelization entail? Is it an attempt to propagate an ideology? Is it a matter of skills, techniques and strategizing? Is it a means to indoctrinate people or to proselytize? Is it a system of thoughts that we have arranged logically so that we can convince people of what we believe and the values we subscribe to?
Nay, the work of evangelization springs primarily from a personal encounter with the Risen Lord. This is the beginning and the pre-requisite of evangelization. This is what we read in the scripture readings. The disciples encountered the Risen Lord on the way to Emmaus during the sharing of scriptures and the breaking of bread. Then we are told how the Lord appeared to them showing them His hands and feet. He even ate a piece of grilled fish before their eyes, proving that He was no ghost, nor a hallucination on the part of the disciples, not a vision but truly His resurrected body. The consequence of such an encounter brings joy, peace and hope. “Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, and they stood there dumbfounded.”

After so great an encounter, the natural response is to share the Good News of the Risen Lord. In fact, the sure sign that you have had a personal encounter with the Risen Lord is your desire to share this encounter with others. The deeper the encounter, the greater is the enthusiasm to share with others about this experience. This is done without asking, without coercion and without obligation. Indeed, we know that those who have encountered the Risen Lord, like the women of Jerusalem, the disciples and apostles of Jesus, could not stop sharing their amazing encounter with the Risen Lord. Good News must be shared as those who receive them cannot contain them in their hearts.

Indeed, the great thing about being a Christian is that we have a group of fellow Christians whom we can share our experiences with. Every religious experience needs to be authenticated and strengthened. As Christians, we are not alone in our encounter with the Lord. When we start sharing our experiences, it is wonderful to have other Christians identify with us. Such fellowship among Christians strengthens faith and reinforces the truth of the resurrection encounter. This was what happened when the disciples at Emmaus shared with the apostles. As they recounted their story, they must have been so reassured to know that what they saw was confirmed by the apostles as well.

It is also important that in Christian sharing of their encounters with the Lord, His presence is manifested. We read how when they were sharing their story, the Lord appeared to them in their midst. “They were still talking about all this when Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you!’ In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost.” Very often, in the resurrection narratives, the Risen Lord is portrayed as coming from nowhere and then after manifesting Himself, disappeared to nowhere. He is also portrayed as passing through walls and doors; making Himself visible and invisible as He wishes. What is the lesson that the evangelist wants to share with us? Simply this, that whenever Christians gather together to share their faith with each other, the Lord is present always in their midst even when they do not see them with their eyes. In sharing their faith stories, the Lord will open their eyes, touch their hearts and move them to feel the reality of His presence among them. That was why the Lord told the disciples that whenever two or three are gathered together, He is among them. (Mt 18:20) Hence, we see the importance of faith-sharing among Christians. It is the failure to share our faith stories among ourselves that we begin to feel alone in our relationship with the Lord and very soon, we begin to doubt whether He is real at all. That was why the Lord said, “Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts?”

Through faith sharing too, we come to understand deeper our experience by turning to the scriptures. Again, to help the disciples ground their encounter; the Risen Lord referred them to the scriptures that foretold His coming and His paschal mystery. He opened their minds to understand the scriptures. Besides sharing faith stories, we must share and study the scriptures together if we are to grow in faith in the Risen Lord and deepen His presence in our midst because the Lord comes to us not just when we gather together but when we search the scriptures together in faith and love.

Arising from this deepening encounter and confirmation of the reality of the presence of the Risen Lord, the next natural development is to announce the Kergyma, that is, the Good News of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. This is what we read in the first reading when St Peter addressed the people who came “running towards Peter and John in great excitement, to the Portico of Solomon, as it is called, where the man was still clinging to them.” In obedience to our Lord’s command to announce the forgiveness of sins in His name, St Peter took the occasion of the miracle to make clear to them that the healing of the paralyzed man was not their work but that of the man, Jesus, whom they handed over to be crucified. “It was you who accused the Holy One, the Just One, you who demanded the reprieve of a murderer while you killed the prince of life. God, however, raised him from the dead, and to that fact we are the witnesses; and it is the name of Jesus which, through our faith in it, has brought back the strength of this man whom you see here and who is well known to you. It is faith in that name that has restored this man to health, as you can all see.”

It is significant that the preaching of the Good News was not a philosophical discourse on some doctrines or some lofty thoughts like Greek philosophy but it was about a miracle that happened before their very eyes. This is why the Church today cannot dispense with miracles and works of mercy in announcing the Good News, otherwise she has no power in her preaching because there is no Good News to show. Proclamation of the gospel in words without deeds will be reducible to mere propaganda of an ideology. As a consequence of a personal and direct preaching of the Risen Lord that they knew, the apostles could convict the hearts of their listeners. Effective proclamation of the gospel demands both the event and the interpretation of the event through the scriptures.

Yet, in laying the guilt upon them, St Peter was no anti-Semitist. He acknowledged their ignorance and did not lay blame on them. He justified them, saying, “Now I know, brothers, that neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing, this was the way God carried out what he had foretold, when he said through all his prophets that Christ would suffer.” What is important is not what happened in the past, because this was all God’s plan.

Instead of regretting our past mistakes, what is more important is that we humbly recognize our ignorance and repent, so that we can also receive the author of life. St Peter urged them, “Now you must repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, and so that the Lord may send the time of comfort. Then he will send you the Christ he has predestined, that is Jesus, whom heaven must keep till the universal restoration comes which God proclaimed, speaking through his holy prophets.” Truly, the goal of proclamation is to bring about a change of hearts.

The gospel is preached not to condemn or make people feel guilty but to enlighten them in their ignorance and failures so that they could repent and receive the fullness of life. That was why St Peter reminded them of how Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Moses. This is what God desires for us all, as St Peter said, “You are the heirs of the prophets, the heirs of the covenant God made with our ancestors when he told Abraham: in your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed. It was for you in the first place that God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/
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Commentary on Luke 24:35-48 from Living Space

We pick up from yesterday’s story of the disciples going to Emmaus. Back in Jerusalem they share their experience of the risen Jesus with their comrades who have also heard that Jesus has appeared to Simon Peter.

Suddenly Jesus himself appears in their midst. The fact that he comes suddenly, although the doors were locked, indicates that his presence is now of a different kind.

He wishes them peace. It is the ordinary Jewish greeting of ‘Shalom’ but one which has special meaning in this Easter context. Before his Passion Jesus had told his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Not as the world do I give it to you…” (John 14:27). The peace of the Risen Jesus is fully of messianic blessings.

In spite of what they had heard, they are terrified and think they are seeing a ghost. “What are you afraid of?” Jesus asks them. He shows them his pierced hands and feet. The Greeks mocked at the idea of bodily resurrection but Luke emphasises the physical reality of Christ’s risen body, that is, the wholeness of the person of the risen Jesus.

He invites them to come and touch him. Ghosts do not have flesh and bones. As he shows them the wounds in his hands and feet their fear turns to a mixture of joy and utter astonishment. They can’t believe their eyes. Jesus has to ask them to give him something to eat. Ghosts don’t eat and Jesus is no ghost, he is no disembodied soul. There is also an emphasis that death is not an escape from the body but that the whole person goes into the next life.

Jesus then goes on to explain, as he did with the Emmaus disciples, how all that had happened to him was fully in harmony with and the fulfilment of the Law, the prophets and psalms. Mentioning the three constituent parts of the Old Testament Jesus indicates that the Messiah was foretold through the whole of the Hebrew scriptures.

And out of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection comes the mission to proclaim reconciliation with God through Jesus to the whole word. “You are witnesses to this.” It is their mission to carry on the establishment of the Kingdom throughout the world. Or, as it is put here, “that repentance, for the forgiveness of sin, would be preached in the [Messiah’s] name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem”.

The Kingdom is being realised when people go through that process of radical conversion and change of life (‘repentance’ metanoia) which brings about a deep reconciliation of each one with God, with all those around them and with themselves, when all divisions fall away, when fear and hostility are replaced with a caring love for each other.

If we have not yet done so, let us become part of that great enterprise today.

Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1015g/

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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, April 17, 2017 — “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb — fearful yet overjoyed”

April 16, 2017

Monday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 261

Reading 1 ACTS 2:14, 22-33

On the day of Pentecost, Peter stood up with the Eleven,
raised his voice, and proclaimed:
“You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem.
Let this be known to you, and listen to my words.

“You who are children of Israel, hear these words.
Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God
with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs,
which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know.
This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God,
you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.
But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death,
because it was impossible for him to be held by it.
For David says of him:

I saw the Lord ever before me,
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted;
my flesh, too, will dwell in hope,
because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world,
nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.

My brothers, one can confidently say to you
about the patriarch David that he died and was buried,
and his tomb is in our midst to this day.
But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him
that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne,
he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ,
that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld
nor did his flesh see corruption.
God raised this Jesus;
of this we are all witnesses.
Exalted at the right hand of God,
he poured forth the promise of the Holy Spirit
that he received from the Father, as you both see and hear.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 16:1-2A AND 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

R. (1) Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence;
Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaPS 118:24

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Image result for jesus and mary magdela at the tomb, art, pictures

Gospel MT 28:8-15

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb,
fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce the news to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.
They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.
Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.
Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee,
and there they will see me.”

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Magdalene Mary recognises Jesus outside the tomb – by William Hole

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While they were going, some of the guard went into the city
and told the chief priests all that had happened.
The chief priests assembled with the elders and took counsel;
then they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers,
telling them, “You are to say,
‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.’
And if this gets to the ears of the governor,
we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”
The soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed.
And this story has circulated among the Jews to the present day.

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Lectio Divina:

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter Time
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Easter! Today’s Gospel describes the experience of the Resurrection which the disciples of Jesus had. At the beginning of his Gospel, in presenting Jesus, Matthew had said that Jesus is the Emmanuel, God with us (Mt 1, 23). Now, at the end, he communicates and increases this certainty of faith, because he proclaims that Jesus is risen (Mt 28, 6) and that he will be with us always, up to the end of time! (Mt 28, 20). In the contradictions of life, this truth is questioned, contested very much. Opposition is not lacking. The enemies, the chief priests of the Jews, defended themselves against the Good News of the Resurrection and sent word to say that the body had been stolen by the disciples (Mt 28, 11-13). This also happens today. On the one side, the effort of many persons to live and to witness to the resurrection. On the other side, so many evil people who fight against the resurrection and against life.
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• In the Gospel of Matthew, the truth of the Resurrection of Jesus is told through a symbolical language, which reveals the hidden sense of the events. Matthew speaks about the earthquake, of lightening and of the angels who announce the victory of Jesus over death (Mt 2-4). It is an apocalyptic language, very common at that time, to announce that finally the world had been transformed by the power of God! The hope of the poor, who reaffirmed their faith, was fulfilled: “He is alive in our midst!”
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• Matthew 28, 8: The joy of the Resurrection overcomes fear. On Sunday morning, the first day of the week, two women went to the tomb, Mary of Magdala and Mary of James, also called the other Mary. All of a sudden the earth trembled and an angel appeared as lightening. The guards who were guarding the tomb were so shaken up with fear that they were like dead men. The women were frightened but the angel encouraged them, announcing the victory of Jesus over death and sending them to go join the disciples of Jesus in Galilee. And in Galilee they would be able to see him again. Everything began there; they received the great revelation of the Risen Lord. The joy of the Resurrection began to overcome fear. Thus the announcement of life and resurrection begins in this way.
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• Matthew 28, 9-10: Jesus appears to the women. The women left quickly. In them there is a mixture of fear and of joy. These are sentiments typical of those who have a profound experience of the Mystery of God. Suddenly, Jesus himself went to meet them and said to them: “”Rejoice!” And they fell on their knees and adored him. It is the attitude of the one who believes and accepts the presence of God, even if it surprises and goes beyond the human capacity of understanding. Now, Jesus himself orders them to go and join the brothers in Galilee: “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee and there they will see me”.
• Matthew 28, 11-15: The astuteness or guile of the enemies of the Good News. The opposition itself which Jesus had to face during his life, springs up again now after his Resurrection. The chief priests meet and give money to the guards. They should spread the news that the disciples have robbed the body of Jesus, and this in order to avoid everything which is said about the resurrection. The chief priests do not accept the Good News of the Resurrection. They prefer to believe that it is an invention on the part of the disciples – men and women – of Jesus.
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• The significance of the testimony of the women. The presence of the women at the death, at the burial and at the resurrection of Jesus is significant. They are witnesses of the death of Jesus (Mt 27, 54-56). At the moment of the burial, they remain sitting before the tomb and, therefore, they can render witness of the place where Jesus was buried (Mt 27, 61). Now, on Sunday morning, they are there once again. They know that the empty tomb is truly the tomb of Jesus! The profound experience of death and resurrection which they had, transformed their lives. They themselves become qualified witnesses of the Resurrection in the Christian Communities. This is why they receive the order to announce: “Jesus is alive! He has risen from the dead!”
Personal questions
• Which is the experience of resurrection that I have in my life? Is there in me some force which tries to oppose the experience of the resurrection? How do I react?
• Today, which is the mission of our community, of us, disciples of Jesus? From where can we draw force and strength and courage to fulfil our mission?
Concluding Prayer
I bless Yahweh who is my counsellor,
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep Yahweh before me always,
for with him at my right hand,
nothing can shake me. (Ps 16,7-8)
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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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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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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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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore 
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17 APRIL, 2017, Monday within Easter Octave
INTELLIGIBILITY OF THE RESURRECTION
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 2:14. 22-33; MT 28:8-15]

Christian Faith stands or falls with our belief in the resurrection of our Lord.  Indeed, the resurrection of Christ is the foundational doctrine of Christian Faith.  All other doctrines of the Church depend on this sole doctrine.  Without the resurrection of Christ, there is no way for us to speak about the doctrines of the Incarnation, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity, Justification, Judgement and Resurrection on the Last Day, the efficacy of the Sacraments, the reality of our Lord in the Eucharist and the forgiveness of sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the infallibility of the Church under the leadership of our Holy Father.

Truly, if you have absolute faith in the resurrection of Christ, then we will never be afraid of tomorrow, the future and especially death.  Because in Jesus, hatred has been overcome by love, death by life.  We know there will always be a tomorrow no matter what happens to us.  We should never fear death because we know our life on earth is but a pilgrimage.  Upon death, we will enter into the fullness of life.  On the last day, we will be resurrected like Christ.  We will have our transfigured bodies.  We will still be able to eat like Jesus, be in communion with everyone, not just with our loved ones.  We can transport ourselves from one place to another, walk through doors like Jesus with our transfigured bodies.

How, then, can we be sure that our faith in the Risen Lord is credible? As the gospel suggests, some could say that the Lord’s body was stolen.  Maybe, they only saw a ghost, not the resurrected Lord.  The truth is that it is very difficult to prove the resurrection of our Lord because seeing the Risen Lord is something beyond human imagination and expectation.  It is too difficult to believe it is true.  Even the apostles and the disciples initially greeted the news of the resurrection conveyed by the women with disbelief.  For the women themselves, when they encountered the Risen Lord, they were filled with awe and amazement.    Most of all, they were filled with a joy that was indescribable.  This is what the gospel said,  “Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.  And there, coming to meet them, was Jesus. ‘Greetings’ he said. And the women came up to him and, falling down before him, clasped his feet.”

For this reason, we can understand why today many people in the world still do not believe in the resurrection of our Lord.  This should not be surprising.  Since they have not seen the Risen Lord, why should they believe?  Whilst it is true that we can explain the missing body of Jesus as mentioned in the Story of the Empty Tomb, it could be, as suggested by some skeptics, that the body was stolen.  Maybe, the disciples were hallucinating when they claimed they saw the Lord because they were missing Him.  Indeed, those who cannot understand the mystery of the resurrection, like the religious leaders during the time of Jesus, try to explain this mystery away by covering up the facts and offering other interpretations.  Only those who are ready to accept the power of God’s intervention can be more receptive to the possibility of the resurrection.  This was what St Peter tried to show the logical or reasonableness of their belief in the resurrection of our Lord.

Firstly, we take note that the first instruction of the Lord to the women was: “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee; they will see me there.”  The command to go back to Galilee where Jesus began His ministry and where the disciples were chosen and formed was important because the Risen Lord was not another reality or another person but the one and same Jesus of Nazareth, risen and transformed.  The One who had risen was identical with the Jesus of Nazareth.

This explains why St Peter took pains to show that the Risen Lord was Jesus of Nazareth, “a man commended to you by God by the miracles and portents and signs that God worked through him when he was among you, as you all know.”  So the Risen Lord is the Jesus of Nazareth.  In His earthly life, through His miracles, teachings and love for the people, it was the same God who “worked through Him.”  Jesus was truly sent by God for the salvation of His people.  This was recognized by the people who encountered Him.

Secondly, St Peter made it clear that the passion and death of Christ, although carried out by sinful and ignorant men, was within the plan of God.  The death of Jesus was not contrary to the His divine plan.  “This man, who was put into your power by the deliberate intention and foreknowledge of God, you took and had crucified by men outside the Law. You killed him, but God raised him to life, freeing him from the pangs of Hades; for it was impossible for him to be held in its power”.  Quoting from the psalm (16:9f) and the scripture, St Peter illustrated that this was foreordained by God. Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecy of King David. “But since he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn him an oath to make one of his descendants succeed him on the throne, what he foresaw and spoke about what the resurrection of the Christ: he is the one who was not abandoned to Hades, and whose body did not experience corruption. God raised this man Jesus to life, and all of us are witness to that.”  King David said, “And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad.  Even my body shall rest in safety for you will not leave my soul among the dead, nor let your beloved know decay. You will show me the path of life, the fullness of joy in your presence, at your right hand happiness forever.”

In fact, what he said was not new because Christ revealed to them the plan of God when He explained to the disciples at Emmaus.  “’Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’  Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.”  (Lk 24:25-27) Christ’s death was necessary to show that death need not be feared because the last word is not death but life.  By dying in His human body, Jesus died to death.  With death conquered, the resurrection shows forth the fullness of life.

Thirdly, we know that the resurrection is real because of the transformation of life.  St Peter after Pentecost told the crowd, “Now raised to the heights by God’s hand, he has received from the Father the Holy Spirit, who was promised, and what you see and hear is the outpouring of that Spirit.”  In other words, even if you do not believe that He is raised, we can see from the effects which are seen in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that the Father raised Jesus from the dead.  Now ascended on high, the Risen Lord bestows the same Spirit on all Christians so that we can have a foretaste of the risen life here.

In the light of the above, we can be confident that the witnesses to the Risen Lord are credible.  Even if the resurrection cannot be proven, the testimony is credible, faithful to the scriptures, and in continuity with the Jesus of Nazareth, in His teachings and life.  So the fact of the resurrection is credulous and faith invites us to submit to this revelation from God.

Finally, if the future of our life is to be with Christ and in Christ, then why are we still holding to the present life as if it is the fullness of life?  That is why St Paul himself quipped, “Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer.   I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.”  (Phil 1:20b-24)  Let us now live the resurrected life and now, so that we can enjoy the fullness of it hereafter.  To live the resurrected life is to live a life of love, freedom from all fear and anxiety, to take one day at a time knowing that the Lord will show us the way; knowing that He holds tomorrow and He holds our hands.

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

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, April 6, 2017 — “I will maintain my covenant with you and your descendants after you.” — “Whoever keeps my word will never see death.”

April 5, 2017

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Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Lectionary: 254

Reading 1 GN 17:3-9

When Abram prostrated himself, God spoke to him:
“My covenant with you is this:
you are to become the father of a host of nations.
No longer shall you be called Abram;
your name shall be Abraham,
for I am making you the father of a host of nations.
I will render you exceedingly fertile;
I will make nations of you;
kings shall stem from you.
I will maintain my covenant with you
and your descendants after you
throughout the ages as an everlasting pact,
to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.
I will give to you
and to your descendants after you
the land in which you are now staying,
the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession;
and I will be their God.”

God also said to Abraham:
“On your part, you and your descendants after you
must keep my covenant throughout the ages.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 105:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (8a) The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
Look to the LORD in his strength;
seek to serve him constantly.
Recall the wondrous deeds that he has wrought,
his portents, and the judgments he has uttered.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
You descendants of Abraham, his servants,
sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!
He, the LORD, is our God;
throughout the earth his judgments prevail.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
He remembers forever his covenant
which he made binding for a thousand generations –
Which he entered into with Abraham
and by his oath to Isaac.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.

Verse Before The Gospel  PS 95:8

If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.

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Stoning of Jesus by Buyenlarge

Gospel JN 8:51-59

Jesus said to the Jews:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever keeps my word will never see death.”
So the Jews said to him,
“Now we are sure that you are possessed.
Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say,
‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’
Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died?
Or the prophets, who died?
Who do you make yourself out to be?”
Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing;
but it is my Father who glorifies me,
of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’
You do not know him, but I know him.
And if I should say that I do not know him,
I would be like you a liar.
But I do know him and I keep his word.
Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day;
he saw it and was glad.”
So the Jews said to him,
“You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
before Abraham came to be, I AM.”
So they picked up stones to throw at him;
but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area.

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In “Strangers in a Strange Land,” Charles J. Chaput discusses the many difficulties Jesus faced — and how many Christians often also encounter life as “Strangers in a Strange Land.”
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In today’s readings, we are told that God never lets us down and always fulfills his covenants.
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Yet the Son of God is stoned by the people who throw him out of the village.
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We may also encounter this dichotomy, Bishop Chaput tells us, especially as we grow in our Christian faith. When our faith is strong we reject many areas of modern life — and the denizens of modern life may reject us in turn.
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The Gospels repeat over and over, “Do not be afraid.”
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Your reward is in heaven. And it is eternal.
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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06 APRIL, 2017, Thursday, 5th Week of Lent
WHO ARE YOU CLAIMING TO BE?

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ GN 17:3-9; PS 104:4-9; JN 8:51-59]

“Who are you claiming to be?” This is an important question directed not simply at Jesus but to us as individuals, as an organization, as Church and as a nation.  The real problem today is that we do not know who we are.  We are confused even over our identity as a human being.  What does it mean to be human?  Are we purely made of matter or spirit?  What does it mean to be male or female? What is marriage for us?  Of course, some also claim to be “gods”.  Atheists say there is no God but that we are gods, since God is created in the image of man.  New Age adherents say there is no God since we are all part of God.  So who are we?  What is our identity?

This was the same question posed to Jesus, “Who are you claiming to be?”  All this while, Jesus had been acting and teaching. He had healed the sick, delivered those who were possessed, multiplied bread for the multitude and even raised the dead back to life.  He preached the Word of God with authority, unlike the scribes and Pharisees.  He ate and drank with sinners and most of all, forgave sins. So who was He? This was the question Jesus also asked His disciples in Caesarea Philippi.  Some thought He was “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” (Mk 8:28)  Only Peter got the answer right and this was due to divine revelation as well, and not through His logical reasoning.  Peter confessed to Jesus saying, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Mt 16:16) And Jesus’ remark was, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.”  (Mt 16:17)

Indeed, in the gospel of John, Jesus alluded to His divine origin.  He made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that He came from the Father.  He said, “’I tell you most solemnly, before Abraham ever was, I Am.  Your father Abraham rejoiced to think that he would see my Day; he saw it and was glad.”  He was the One that Abraham was waiting for.  He was waiting for that day which he saw from afar when the promise of God that he would be “father of a multitude of nations” would be realized in Christ.  Through Christ, Abraham became the father of faith for many descendants who would then come to know God; and by so doing, enter into the one family of God.  All nations will become one in Christ.

But He also underscored that His identity originated from the Father.  No one can give himself any glory.  Only God can because everything comes from Him.  Thus, Jesus was saying that as the Son of the Father, all His glory came from Him alone.  Hence, He said, “If I were to seek my own glory that would be no glory at all; my glory is conferred by the Father, by the one whom you say, ‘He is our God’ although you do not know him.”  This is true for all of us.  We cannot know who we are without having our reference point in God.  We are not indispensable in this world.  We are contingent beings.  Our existence and life depends on God who is the source of life and love.  To think that we are independent of God is to fool ourselves that we are our own making.  Before we exist, God needs to bring us into this world, unlike Jesus who was from all eternity one with the Father.  The world can exist without us but the world cannot exist without God.

For this reason, Jesus could claim that He knew God personally.  He said, “But I know him, and if I were to say: I do not know him, I should be a liar, as you are liars yourselves.”  Only Jesus who is from God can tell us who God is.  In the prologue, John wrote, “The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”  (Jn 1:17f)   Only Jesus who originates from God and is one with Him can reveal the Father to us.  That is why Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  (Jn 14:6)

But it is not enough for Jesus to claim that He is one with the Father.  The proof of His divine origin is seen in His obedience to the Father.  He said, “But I do know him, and I faithfully keep his word.”  In the final analysis, it is not what Jesus said that determines His divine origin but how He lived His life.  He was one with the Father in all things, doing His holy will and performing His works. He said, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”  (Jn 5:30)  “The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished.”  (Jn 5:20) Jesus also said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.”  (Jn 4:34)

In the light of the claims of Jesus, what is our response to Him?  How we accept Jesus will determine the claims we make for ourselves.  If we truly confess that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, of divine and human origin, then Jesus is for us the true man as well.  Jesus is both the revealer of God our Father and the revealer of our identity as man.  Like Him, we are called to do the will of God, be in union with Him in love, so that we too can serve and love like Him.  That is why Jesus said to the Jews, “I tell you most solemnly, whoever keeps my word will never see death.”   He was of course not speaking about biological death.  Rather, Jesus was speaking about a relationship that never dies, here in this life and hereafter.  Jesus reveals to us that the covenant made with Abraham is now fulfilled in Him because in Him, we now share a common faith in God; and we are brothers and sisters, since we are all children of God.

So, now we need to ask ourselves this question, “Who are we claiming to be?”  If we call ourselves Christians, then we must accept all that Jesus has taught us in the scriptures.  The scandal in the world today is that many call themselves Catholics but their lifestyle is anything but Catholic. They do not subscribe to the teachings of Holy Scripture and tradition on doctrines and morality.  They go against the teachings of the magisterium but want to be called Catholics.  We are not speaking about those who know that they fall short of what Christ is calling us to be.  We are referring to those who blatantly disagree with the teachings of Christ, the Bible and His Church. They pick and choose those doctrines and practices that they like.  We cannot call ourselves Christians or Catholics unless we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that the bible is the Sacred Word of God, inerrant in teaching us the truth about God, life and ourselves.  If we are not agreeable with what it means to be a Catholic, then who are we claiming to be? So only when we keep His word, believe in all that Jesus had revealed to us and walk in His footsteps, will we live life to the fullest here on earth and in heaven.

Not only as individuals, but we must also ask as Church, “Who are we claiming to be?”  If the Church is identified with Christ, then we must be the Sacrament of Jesus to the world.  If we obey the Church, it is because we believe that Christ rules through His appointed successors in the apostolic college.  He has promised that He would never abandon His Church until the end of time. (Mt 28:20)  So we can be confident of His guidance for He also assured us,   “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:18f)

As individuals or as Church, we must hear the Word of God and keep His word if we are to reclaim our identity as God’s children.   Like Jesus, we must be true to our identity.  Jesus refused to deny His true identity even in the face of trials and challenges. We too must not contradict our claims with a lifestyle that is opposed to what we believe.  Having the courage to stand up to what we claim, not just by words but by our being, will help us to restore the confidence of our people in the Church and in us.  But we can be consoled that God is faithful. “He remembers his covenant forever, his promise for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Commentary on John 8:51-59 from Living Space

Jesus continues to challenge the Jews about his identity. They continue to misunderstand the real meaning of what he says. “Whoever keeps my word will never see death.” This they can only understand in a literal sense.

But they do see the implication of the words that Jesus is claiming to be more than Abraham or any of the prophets. And they ask: “Who do you make yourself out to be?” This was the same question they asked of John the Baptist (John 1:22) who gave a very different answer.

Jesus makes it perfectly clear to them by talking of his “Father” and then saying that the Father is the one they call “our God”. But he continues by saying that they do not know the Father, although they may think they do. And they do not know the Father because they do not know Jesus. Jesus, however, knows him and keeps his word. Then comes the supreme provocation: “Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day: he saw it and was glad.” (This could be a reference to the joy following the unexpected birth of Isaac, when the promise was made to Abraham that his seed would be as numerous as the sands on the seashore and as the stars in the sky – Gen 17:7; 21:6)

To which the shocked Pharisees retort: “You are not fifty yet, and you have seen Abraham?” only to have Jesus make the ultimate claim: “I tell you most solemnly, before Abraham ever came to be, I AM.” Again we have Jesus using the term “I AM” of himself. He unequivocally identifies himself with Yahweh. The Pharisees are horrified by what they regard as terrible blasphemy. The term ‘came to be’ is used for all that is created, while ‘I AM’ is used only of the Word, co-eternal with the Father-God.

“They took up stones to throw at him…” They were not able actually to carry out their plan to kill him because his “time” had not yet come. Then come words of prophetic significance: “”Jesus hid himself and left the Temple.” It is a striking summary of Jesus’ role.

Jesus “hid himself”. In his humanity, the Godhead in Jesus, which he has just spoken about, was largely concealed (except to those with the eyes of faith). St Ignatius Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises speaks of the divinity being hidden during the terrible hours of the Passion. St Paul in his Letter to the Philippians speaks of Jesus “emptying” himself and taking the form of a slave.

And “he left the Temple”. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil guarding the Holy of Holies in the Temple split right open, revealing the sacred inner sanctuary to the world. God was no longer there, he had left the Temple. And he now dwells in a new Temple, not now a building but a people, the Church, the Body of the Risen Christ.

Source:  http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1055g/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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17 MARCH 2016, Thursday, 5th Week of Lent
ARE YOU SERIOUS ABOUT JESUS?

SCRIPTURE READINGS: Gn 17:3-9; Jn 8:51-59

In the gospel, we see Jesus refusing to succumb to the pressure of the religious leaders with regard to His true identity.  The gospel of today reaches its high point in the series of debate between Jesus and the Jews when He said in no uncertain terms who He really was.  He said, “I tell you most solemnly, before Abraham ever was, I Am.” In this statement, it was clear to the Jews and the religious leaders that He was putting Himself as equal to God because not only did He claim that He existed before time but that He is the “I Am.”  We must not forget that when God revealed Himself to Moses, He instructed Him to say “to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Ex 3:14)

Indeed, Jesus was not afraid to state His identity clearly and without ambiguity.  This was because Jesus knew His Father intimately.  He said, “If I were to seek my own glory that would be no glory at all; my glory is conferred by the Father, by the one whom you say, ‘He is our God’ although you do not know him.  But I know him, and if I were to say: I do not know him, I should be a liar, as you are liars yourselves.”   Because of the clarity of His own identity as the Son of the Father, His mission flowed from this identity.  Jesus was conscious that His work was to glorify the Father, not Himself.  Any glory given to Him was bestowed upon Him by the Father.   Jesus’ personal intimacy with the Father was the reason why He lived a life of total obedience to the Father.  This was what He said, “But I do know him, and I faithfully keep his word.”

In the first reading too, we read how God was faithful to Himself.  He did not contradict His identity and being.  To be faithful to oneself is to be true to the promises that we make.   Our words and actions must manifest our being.  The promises that He made to Abraham, He fulfilled eventually.  He promised Abraham, posterity, land and nation; and all these were fulfilled by the time of King David.  More than that, He promised perpetuity of the covenant and this was realized in Christ.  This was what Jesus meant when He said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to think that he would see my Day; he saw it and was glad.”  That is why the psalmist praised God for His fidelity to the Covenant. “He remembers his covenant forever, his promise for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac.”

The key to keeping the Word of God and being faithful to our Lord therefore follows the same process.  Do we know who we are?  Do we know our identity?  Are we truly disciples of Christ?  Are we Christians?  Are we Catholic?  If we claim that we are Christian Catholics, do we proudly affirm ourselves as such even in the face of opposition and ridicule by the world as Jesus did? In fact, we read that because of His divine claim, “they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself and left the Temple.”  Stoning of course was the penalty for blasphemy as commanded by Moses.  The reality is that not only do Catholics fight shy of their identity but worse still, they do not live out their identity.  The irony today is that Catholics who are living a very secular life and holding secular and worldly values in contrast to the gospel would proudly say that they are Catholic, much to our embarrassment!

Clarity of our identity therefore is very much indissolubly related to our faith in Jesus. Thus, He said, “I tell you most solemnly, whoever keeps my word will never see death.”  We cannot keep His word unless we first believe in Jesus.  Faith in Jesus is the pre-requisite in keeping His word.  The real question that Catholics and those who claim to be Catholic is whether they believe in Jesus.  This was what the Jews asked, “Are you greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? The prophets are dead too.  Who are you claiming to be?”

If we believe that Jesus truly comes from the Father and that He speaks on behalf of God and acts on His behalf, then we must believe in Him and obey His Word so that we can find life.  But the tragedy is that many call themselves Catholics yet they do not base their life and values and thinking on Christ.  The way they think is like the world, certainly not Christian at all, in their values, lifestyles and faith.  They are counter-witnesses because they are counterfeits.  This explains why such Catholics will not find life.  Instead they are opposing the Church, the Magisterium’s teachings and questioning the truth of the bible in a way as if they are our enemies.  Instead of taking direction from the Lord, they take direction from the world.   Instead of judging the way God judges, we judge the way the world judges.  This is not how the psalmist prayed, “You are justified in your sentence and blameless in your judgment.”  (Ps 51:4)

So the warning of Jesus is clear.  If we believe in Him, then we must keep His word and we will not see death.  This death is not biological death but a living death.  Those of us who listen to the world, not the Good Shepherd’s voice, will, as Jesus said, “die in their sins.”  Those who are slave to sin will not live a life of peace and joy because they are filled with fear, anger, unforgiveness, hatred, revenge, greed, envy, gluttony and pride.  If we live an authentic life, are faithful to our Christian identity and values as taught by Christ, then we will find life.  We will then rejoice with Abraham.  God is faithful to His covenant but we must respond accordingly if His covenant were to be fulfilled in us. “God said to Abraham, ‘You on your part shall maintain my Covenant, yourself and your descendants after you, generation after generation.’”

Indeed, let us rejoice with Abraham, knowing that we are God’s children. God is faithful to His covenant.  So too, God will bless us if we too cling to the Lord in faith like Abraham.  We need to place our faith in Jesus so that our hope in God will not falter, especially in times of trouble.  The psalmist encourages us, “Consider the Lord and his strength; constantly seek his face. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, the judgements he spoke.”  So in faith, let us stand up for Jesus.  Let us be like Him, ready to stand up for our beliefs and for the truth so that we can be set free.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Our Covenants
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There are many covenants in the Bible, some between people and some between God and people. There are 6 basic covenants made by God and with His people. Covenant comes from the Latin word “convenire” which means to come together. A covenant is basically an agreement between people, or between God and His people, that binds one to the other. This is much different than a contract, which involves the exchange of goods or services for money. A good way to remember this distinction is to examine Holy Matrimony between a husband and a wife, and contrast that with prostitution. In the former, the two become one flesh at the marriage ceremony, with vows taken before God, each other, the priest, friends, and family, and they have sexual relations with each other that are holy and good. In the latter, money exchanges hands for sex. A covenant can be thought of as a sacred family bond, taken with an oath before a higher power, whereas a contract can be thought of as an agreement to pay someone for services rendered, which involves a promise to each other, rather than an oath. BIG DIFFERENCE. Covenants most often involve a ceremony with witnesses, invoking God, and a communal meal. The covenant therefore unites flesh and blood, as well as ensuring a common family name.

So why did God decide to make covenants with mankind? Well, we are God’s family, and through sin, we have separated ourselves from the eternal love of God, preferring instead the temporary pleasures of this world. Hell awaits us if we fail to unite ourselves to Him while we are still alive. To help show us the way, God our loving Father initiated 6 major covenants in the Bible to bring us back into His family.

Learn more about covenants and their connection to the number “seven” and the sacraments.

Notice the 4 things similar in these covenants – A blessing, a condition/curse, a sign, and the resultant form of God’s family.

God’s Covenants with man

First, is God’s covenant with Adam and Eve. God created Adam and Eve to be joined together as one flesh:

Genesis 2:23-24: Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman,because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh”

Malachi 2:14: You ask, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness to the covenant between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.

The Blessing – Their descendants will fill the earth and subdue it.

The Condition/Curse – Do not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil/death will result.

The Sign – The Sabbath – Keep it holy

The Family Form – Marriage

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See more at: http://www.catholicbible101.com/covenantsinthebible.htm

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, April 5, 2017 — “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

April 4, 2017

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Jesus Cleansing the Temple, by Carl Heinrich Bloch

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Lectionary: 253

Reading 1 DN 3:14-20, 91-92, 95

King Nebuchadnezzar said:
“Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,
that you will not serve my god,
or worship the golden statue that I set up?
Be ready now to fall down and worship the statue I had made,
whenever you hear the sound of the trumpet,
flute, lyre, harp, psaltery, bagpipe,
and all the other musical instruments;
otherwise, you shall be instantly cast into the white-hot furnace;
and who is the God who can deliver you out of my hands?”

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Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar
“There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you
in this matter.
If our God, whom we serve,
can save us from the white-hot furnace
and from your hands, O king, may he save us!
But even if he will not, know, O king,
that we will not serve your god
or worship the golden statue that you set up.”King Nebuchadnezzar’s face became livid with utter rage
against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
He ordered the furnace to be heated seven times more than usual
and had some of the strongest men in his army
bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
and cast them into the white-hot furnace.

Nebuchadnezzar rose in haste and asked his nobles,
“Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?”
“Assuredly, O king,” they answered.
“But,” he replied, “I see four men unfettered and unhurt,
walking in the fire, and the fourth looks like a son of God.”
Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed,
“Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,
who sent his angel to deliver the servants who trusted in him;
they disobeyed the royal command and yielded their bodies
rather than serve or worship any god
except their own God.”

Responsorial Psalm DN 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56

R. (52b) Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;
And blessed is your holy and glorious name,
praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages.”
R. Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
R. Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.”
R. Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you who look into the depths
from your throne upon the cherubim;
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.”
R. Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven,
praiseworthy and glorious forever.”
R. Glory and praise for ever!

Verse Before The Gospel SEE LK 8:15

Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart
and yield a harvest through perseverance.

Gospel JN 8:31-42

Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him,
“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham
and have never been enslaved to anyone.
How can you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.
A slave does not remain in a household forever,
but a son always remains.
So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free.
I know that you are descendants of Abraham.
But you are trying to kill me,
because my word has no room among you.
I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence;
then do what you have heard from the Father.”

They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.”
Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children,
you would be doing the works of Abraham.
But now you are trying to kill me,
a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God;
Abraham did not do this.
You are doing the works of your father!”
So they said to him, “We were not born of fornication.
We have one Father, God.”
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me,
for I came from God and am here;
I did not come on my own, but he sent me.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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05 APRIL, 2017, Wednesday, 5th Week of Lent
FIDELITY UNTO DEATH
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ DANIEL 3:14-20,91-92,95; JOHN 8:31-42]In the first reading, we are certainly edified by the courage of the three young men in showing their fidelity to God.  Clearly, for them, God alone deserves obedience even unto death.  No other being on earth could command such respect and obedience, not even the great King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar.  Before the King, they were adamant in not worshipping any other god than the Lord.  They told the King, “Your question hardly requires an answer: if our God, the one we serve, is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace and from your power, O king, he will save us; and even if he does not, then you must know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue you have erected.”  Not only did they did not fear the King, but they did not fear death and more, being burnt to death in the fiery furnace.  With great confidence and faith they walked into the fire, confident that God would be equally faithful to them as they were to Him.  It was immaterial whether God would save them from the fire or otherwise.  Even if God did not save them, they would remain faithful to Him even unto death.

Such kind of unconditional and absolute non-questioning faith is very rare in the world. Many of us are faithful to God provided He does what we tell Him to do.  How many of us are willing to accept the will of God in bad times? The truth is that even though God has blessed us many times before, we easily forget His love and graciousness towards us.  The moment we are down or in trouble and if the Lord does not come to our help, we begin to doubt His love and His fidelity to us.  Instead of submitting to His holy will, we take things into our own hands.  We might even turn to the false gods in our lives.  For many of us, God, in order to be our God, must be at our beck and call.  In truth, God is our servant and we are His master.

Lesser still today, are people who are ready to stand up for the truth.  Most people are diffident in their faith.  Today, it is not fashionable to have a religion, much less to be a Catholic.  If you were to ask most people about their religion, the proud and right thing to say would be, “I am a free thinker.”  Few would publicly acknowledge themselves to be disciples of Christ.  Fewer still, would speak up for their faith and the truth of what Jesus taught.  We all want to be accepted by the world.  We want to be popular and considered wise by the world.  We are so desperate to be accepted that our faith in God today is considered a very private matter and it would be seen as inappropriate even to mention our faith in public.  Indeed, martyrs for Christ are few today.  Many are not ready to die for Christ and for the truth of the gospel.

If that were the case, then, as Jesus said, we are slaves.  Like the Jews we too would say, “We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone; what do you mean, You will be made free?’” We can be some nobility or influential people, yet we are slaves because we need the approval of the world.  So long as our happiness is dependent on what people think and say about us, we can never be happy.  We are slaves to public opinion and the crowd.   The irony of life is that some of the so-called famous and powerful people of the world, in Church, society and the corporate world, are the most insecure and dependent on the world.  Jesus made it clear that those who live in sin are slaves; “I tell you most solemnly, everyone who commits sin is a slave. Now the slave’s place in the house is not assured, but the son’s place is assured. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

Christ has indeed made us free by His readiness to live in freedom.  Jesus was ready to stand up for the truth. In the gospel, we can see the mounting opposition against Him.  His ministry was causing the Jewish leaders uneasiness.  This opposition will intensify over the days. Regardless of the tide against His popularity, He went ahead to do what He had been told.  Jesus could give Himself completely even when others were against Him, because He was clear that the Father sent Him.  He said to them, “If God were your father, you would love me, since I have come here from God; yes, I have come from him; not that I came because I chose, no, I was sent, and by him.”  Jesus was fully conscious of His identity as the Son of the Father.

Jesus was faithful to His mission unto death.  He knew He was sent by the Father.  Such was the commitment of our Lord.  Like the three young men, Jesus too was unwavering in His fidelity to the Father.  He would not bend before His enemies.  Standing up for His Father meant that He had to carry the cross and face death.  Like the three young men, He was ready to meet His executioners.  But there is a great difference.  Although God spared Isaac from being sacrificed by Abraham, God did not spare His own Son.   Although God spared the lives of the three young men and sent His holy angel to prevent the flames from consuming them, He did not spare Him from the passion and the crucifixion, even to the extent of experiencing the Father’s “infidelity” to Him by abandoning Him on the cross.  The cry on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me” is the cry of one who was in the depths of Sheol, for when God is not present, there is no life.  All is darkness. Jesus went through the depths of hell.  Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Jesus would also have said, “if our God, the one we serve, is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace and from your power, O king, he will save us; and even if he does not, then you must know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue you have erected.”

How then can we, like the three young men and our Lord, be faithful to our calling and, most of all, to our Christian identity as Christ’s disciples?  We must regain our identity as God’s children.  Jesus told the Jews, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do as Abraham did. As it is, you want to kill me when I tell you the truth as I have learnt it from God; that is not what Abraham did. What you are doing is what your father does.”  If we truly love God, we would only do what pleases Him and makes Him happy.  If we are disobedient, it means that we lack the love for God in our hearts.  Our relationship with God is one of slavery, one of fear of His punishment, one of use when He is our dispensing machine, and not one of friendship, much less that of father-son.  Just as when we love someone, we would want to do everything to please him or her; so too in our relationship with God as well.  “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again.”  (Jn 10:17)

Secondly, we must let the Word of God enter into our heart and mind.  “If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples, you will learn the truth and the truth will make you free.”  If we want to grow in fidelity to the Lord, to ourselves and to those whom we have committed ourselves, we need to read prayerfully the Word of God, listening to it in our heart, searching for the will of God by listening to His voice.  Unless, we pray the Word of God daily, our lives cannot change.  Growing in self-awareness, understanding who God is, His love and mercy for us in the passion and death of His son,  will help us to treasure our real identity as sons and daughters of God.  Only in this truth, knowing it in our heart and not our head, will we be set free, for then we will no longer fear.  We know that God will triumph in the end.  All things will work out for good even if we cannot avoid the cross and even death.  God will send us His holy angels to protect us, as  Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: he has sent his angel to rescue the servants who, putting their trust in him, defied the order of the king, and preferred to forfeit their bodies rather than serve or worship any god but their own.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Nebuchadnezzar by Artist William Blake, 1757-1827
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This is a copper engraving coloured with pen, ink and water colour.

In the 1790s William Blake made a series of prints on oppression. One of them was about the great Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar.

Nebuchadnezzar had a dream he did not understand so he asked his Jewish advisor Daniel to explain it. Daniel said he would be punished, and the punishment would end after seven years when he would acknowledge the supreme power in heaven.

Lo and behold: so it happened. Nebuchadnezzar became an outcast who was reduced to animal state. He ate grass, got claws like a bird, and his hair became like an eagle’s feathers. After seven years he looked up to heaven and praised the almighty — and immediately he returned to his old human state.

http://www.artbible.info/art/large/623.html

 

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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• The reflection on chapter 8 of the Gospel of John continues today. In the form of concentric circles, John deepens the mystery of God which envelopes the person of Jesus. It seems like a repetition, because he always goes back to speak of the same point. In reality, it is the same point, but every time at a more profound level. Today’s Gospel treats the theme of the relationship of Jesus with Abraham, the Father of the People of God. John tries to help the communities to understand how Jesus places himself within the whole history of the People of God. He helps them to perceive the difference that existed between Jesus and the Jews, and also the Jews and the others, all of us are sons and daughters of Abraham.

• John 8, 31-32: The liberty which comes from fidelity to the word of Jesus. Jesus affirms to the Jews: “If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples; 32 you will come to know the truth and the truth will set you free”. To be a disciple of Jesus is the same as opening oneself to God. The words of Jesus are in reality words of God. They communicate the truth, because they make things known as they are in the eyes of God and not in the eyes of the Pharisees. Later, during the Last Supper, Jesus will teach the same thing to the disciples.

• John 8, 33.38: What is it to be a son or a daughter of Abraham? The reaction of the Jews is immediate: “We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone: what do you mean: You will be set free?” Jesus repeats and confirms making a distinction between son and slave and says: “Everyone who commits sin is a slave. The slave has no permanent standing in the household, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free”. Jesus is the son and remains in the house of the Father. The slave does not live in the house of the Father. To live outside the house, outside of God means to live in sin. If they would accept the word of Jesus they could become sons and attain liberty. They would no longer be slaves. And Jesus continues: “I know that you are descended from Abraham; but you want to kill me, because my word finds no place in you”. The distinction is immediately very clear: “What I speak of is what I have seen at my Father’s side, and you too put into action the lessons you have learnt from your father”. Jesus denies to them the right to say that they are sons of Abraham, because their works affirm the contrary.

• John 8, 39-41ª: A son of Abraham fulfils the works of Abraham. They insist in affirming: “Our father is Abraham!” as if they wanted to present to Jesus a document of their identity. Jesus repeats: “If you are sons of Abraham do the works of Abraham! 40 Now, instead you are seeking to kill me, because I have told you the truth heard from God; Abraham has not done this. 41 You do the works of your father”. Between the lines, he suggests that their father is Satan (Jn 8, 44). He suggests that they are sons of prostitution.

• John 8, 41b-42: If God was your Father, certainly, you would love me, because I have my origin in God and I come from Him; I did not come of my own accord, but he sent me”. Jesus repeats the same truth using diverse words: “Whoever comes from God listens to the words of God”. The origin of this affirmation is from Jeremiah who says: “Within them I shall plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I shall be their God and they will be my people. There will be no further need for everyone to teach neighbour or brother, saying: ‘Learn to know Yahweh!’ No, they will all know me, from the least to the greatest, Yahweh declares, since I shall forgive their guilt and never more call their sin to mind” (Jr 31, 33-34). But they will not open themselves to this new experience of God, and because of this they will not recognize Jesus as the one sent by the Father.

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Personal questions

• Liberty which submits itself totally to the Father. Does something of this type exist in you? Do you know persons who are like that?

• Which is the deepest experience in me which leads me to recognize Jesus as the one sent by God?

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Concluding Prayer

May you be blessed, Lord, God of our ancestors,
be praised and extolled for ever.
Blessed be your glorious and holy name,
praised and extolled for ever.
Blessed on the throne of your kingdom,
exalted above all, glorified for ever. (Dn 3,52.54)

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Source:  http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-john-831-42

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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16 MARCH 2016, Wednesday, 5th Week of Lent
THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: Daniel 3:14-20.91-92.95; John 8:31-42

Freedom is intrinsic to humanity.  We all want to be free.  The world seeks freedom from domination and slavery.  Yet the irony today is that the freedom that is being sought is not freedom but slavery.  In the name of freedom, what they are promoting is lawlessness.  Freedom does not mean that we can do what we like.  Freedom does not mean that we sin as much as we like.  This is not freedom.  Rather, when sin has control over us, it compels us to do what it wants us to do.   We lose our freedom to our passions, our greed, anger, lust, envy, pride and gluttony.  When someone has no control over his passions, he cannot be said to be free but a slave to sin.  This was what Jesus told the Jews, “I tell you most solemnly, everyone who commits sin is a slave.”

Besides being slave to our sins we can also be slave to traditions and inheritance.  The Jews were so proud that they had Abraham as their father.   Based on their race and the fact that they were descendants of Abraham, they felt that they were justified before God.  They answered Jesus: “We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone; what do you mean, ‘You will be made free’?”  Indeed, that is how many of us Catholics live our lives.  We do not live the gospel but think that just by being Catholic, we are saved.  Just because of inheritance or by belonging to a certain race or church is no guarantee that we are saved unless we share the faith.

So what is true freedom?  It is when we no longer live in fear of death, of what others say about us, and of ourselves.  True freedom means that we can live our lives in love and service, even to the extent of dying for others.   A person who has overcome the need for freedom from freedom itself is truly free.  This was the case of the three men in the first reading.  They were not fearful of the King or even of imprisonment or execution by being burnt to death in the fiery furnace.  They were only fearful of God and trusted that God would rescue them.  They told the King, “if our God, the one we serve, is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace and from your power, O king, he will save us; and even if he does not, then you must know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue you have erected.”  This is the irony of life.  Those of us who live in so called democratic countries and are supposedly free, live as slaves of people’s opinions, of anti-life culture and of our sins.  Jesus, although a prisoner of Pilate, acted like a free man as He was fearless even when threatened with death. He remained free when mocked and scourged.

So a person is truly free when he is free for the service of God.  This is what the Lord meant when He said, “Now the slave’s place in the house is not assured, but the son’s place is assured. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”  As God’s son, we belong to Him.  We have a permanent place in the heart of God.  But if we behave as slaves of sin, then we need to ask as Jesus asked them, who our father is.  He told the Jews, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do as Abraham did. As it is, you want to kill me when I tell you the truth as I have learnt it from God; that is not what Abraham did. What you are doing is what your father does…If God were your father, you would love me, since I have come here from God; yes, I have come from him; not that I came because I chose, no, I was sent, and by him.”  So the question we have to ask is, whether God is truly our Father.  If He were our Father, then we would not be like the Jews who did not follow Abraham in doing God’s will.  We would listen to the voice of the heavenly Father in and through Jesus.

How can we find true freedom today if not in Jesus?  “To the Jews who believed in Him, Jesus said: ‘If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples, you will learn the truth and the truth will make you free’.”   If we were to seek freedom, we must first believe in Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Faith in Jesus entails that we are ready to listen to Him through the Word of God.   Without allowing the Word of God to take root in our hearts and to read with faith and love, then His word would have no home in us.  The real sadness among many Catholics is that many of us do not read and pray over the scriptures daily.  We like to be involved in Church ministry, and talk about God and theology, but we do not spend time every day to soak ourselves in the Word of God.  Without a keen listening to the Word, no one can grow in faith and knowledge of the truth.

Of course, discipleship is more than just listening to the Word of God.  It is about acting on what we have heard and read.  It means an active listening of the Word and then putting it into practice.  Are our life’s decisions, the values that we have and choices that we make, whether with regard to entertainment, information, work, business, etc, dictated by the bible, or are our choices influenced by the mass media and what the world is advocating?  Unfortunately many of us only profess in name that we are Catholic but we put the Church to shame when we advocate values that are totally against the teachings of scripture and the Church. How could we call ourselves disciples of Christ if what we say, think and do are not in union with Jesus’ mind and heart but according to our own views and preferences?

The three young men put us all to shame in the way they lived out their faith.  They were both figuratively and literally not burnt by the fire because their hearts and conscience were already purified.  Only those who are burnt here and now; and will be burnt upon death in hell are those whose conscience is not at peace.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were true to their conscience and to themselves.  This was because they were true to God in the first place.  They also did not want to deceive the King in pretending to worship the statues created by him.  That is why the king was impressed by them and found faith even in their God.  He exclaimed, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: he has sent his angel to rescue the servants who, putting their trust in him, defied the order of the king, and preferred to forfeit their bodies rather than serve or worship any god but their own.”

How many of us would stand up for our faith the way the three men did and bring glory to the Lord?  How many of us are afraid to take a stand for Christ among our friends because we do not want to lose our popularity?  How many of us would rather compromise our faith and values at work because we want to get on in the world or are fearful of being persecuted? In many ways, we still kill Jesus today because of our betrayal in the way we live our faith.  As a consequence, we have not only misled others but we have become counter-witnesses to our belief.  The Church is not credible because we have too many Catholics who are not disciples but simply nominal Catholics who stand on the sidelines, one foot in the Church and the other foot in the world.  Until the day when our Catholics imbue themselves with the Word of God and let that become the light of their lives, the Church continues to suffer credibility in the eyes of the world.  Could we say with the psalmist, “You are blest, Lord God of our fathers. To you glory and praise for evermore” by our lives and our words?

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Related:

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Commentary on John 8:31-42 From Living Space

The contentious dialogue between Jesus and the Jews continues. There are some sayings here which we would do well to reflect on deeply.

“If you make my word your home, you will indeed be my disciples, you will learn the truth and the truth will make you free.” The Pharisees take umbrage at that statement. As descendants of Abraham they were never slaves to anyone. In fact, in the long history of their people, the Jews were almost continuously enslaved to invading powers. However, the slavery Jesus speaks about is the slavery of sin.

In responding to Jesus’ words, how many of us who want to be disciples of Christ have truly made his word our ‘home’? How many of us have to admit that we are not really very familiar with Jesus’ word in the New Testament? Yet we cannot truly follow him unless we are steeped in that word.

Again, how many of us really believe that the truth about life that is communicated to us through Jesus makes us genuinely free? How many of us experience our commitment to Christianity as a liberation? How many have left the Church because they felt suffocated and wanted to be free? What freedom were they looking for? For many being a Christian is sacrificing freedom in exchange for a promise of a future existence of pure happiness. We can say with confidence that, if we do not find being a Christian a liberating experience here and now, we do not really understand the true nature of our Christian faith.

“If God were your father, you would love me, since I have come from God.” To know Jesus, to love Jesus, to follow Jesus is the way to God and it is in God and only in God that we will find true happiness, freedom, and peace. But the only way to know the truth of that statement is to experience it personally.

Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1054g/

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Commentary on Dan 3:14-20, 91-92, 95 From Living Space

Our lives find their centre in God; all else takes second place.

Today’s reading comes from a different section of a passage we already saw on Tuesday of the 3rd Week in Lent.

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had built a golden statue and commanded all his subjects to bow down in adoration before it as a test of loyalty. (Not unlike the requirement that the early Christians had to bow down before an image of the emperor as a sign of abandoning their faith in Christ as Lord.)

Three young Jewish men in the service of the royal court and who were particular favourites of the king for their outstanding qualities refuse to worship the statue. They prefer death rather than turn their back on their God.

In his anger, the king threatens to have them thrown into a white-hot furnace from which no god will save them. The young men calmly reply that either their God will save them, because he can, but, even if he does not, they will still remain steadfast in their trust of God.

The king, now even more angry, has them thrown into a furnace which has been made seven times hotter.

Later, when he makes enquiries, the king finds that the three young men in the company of a fourth are walking unscathed in the fire. The pagan king is deeply moved by what he sees. First, he is filled with admiration for the God that delivered them from certain death and, secondly, he deeply respects the young men who disobeyed him and were ready to sacrifice their lives rather than turn their back on their God. “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego,” he exclaims.

The reading is linked with the Gospel in which Jesus speaks of those who are truly descendants of Abraham. If those attacking him were true descendants, then they would recognise Jesus as truly the Son of God. As it is, they show they are not true descendants.

Reflecting on the First Reading I might ask: What are the idols in my life? Is there anything in my life which I would find very difficult to sacrifice if God asked me to give it up? Is there any thing or any person in my life which comes between God and myself?

Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1054r/

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, March 29, 2017 — “They shall not hunger or thirst, nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them….”

March 28, 2017

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Lectionary: 246

I bless the Lord:  O Lord my God, how great you are!  You are robed with honor and majesty and light!

Reading 1 IS 49:8-15

Thus says the LORD:
In a time of favor I answer you,
on the day of salvation I help you;
and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people,
To restore the land
and allot the desolate heritages,
Saying to the prisoners: Come out!
To those in darkness: Show yourselves!
Along the ways they shall find pasture,
on every bare height shall their pastures be.
They shall not hunger or thirst,
nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them;
For he who pities them leads them
and guides them beside springs of water.
I will cut a road through all my mountains,
and make my highways level.
See, some shall come from afar,
others from the north and the west,
and some from the land of Syene.
Sing out, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth,
break forth into song, you mountains.
For the LORD comforts his people
and shows mercy to his afflicted.

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 145:8-9, 13CD-14, 17-18

R. (8a) The Lord is gracious and merciful.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful.
The LORD is faithful in all his words
and holy in all his works.
The LORD lifts up all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful.
The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful.

Verse Before The Gospel JN 11:25A, 26

I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord;
whoever believes in me will never die.

Gospel JN 5:17-30

Jesus answered the Jews:
“My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.”
For this reason they tried all the more to kill him,
because he not only broke the sabbath
but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.

Jesus answered and said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own,
but only what he sees the Father doing;
for what he does, the Son will do also.
For the Father loves the Son
and shows him everything that he himself does,
and he will show him greater works than these,
so that you may be amazed.
For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life,
so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.
Nor does the Father judge anyone,
but he has given all judgment to the Son,
so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.
Whoever does not honor the Son
does not honor the Father who sent him.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word
and believes in the one who sent me
has eternal life and will not come to condemnation,
but has passed from death to life.
Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here
when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God,
and those who hear will live.
For just as the Father has life in himself,
so also he gave to the Son the possession of life in himself.
And he gave him power to exercise judgment,
because he is the Son of Man.
Do not be amazed at this,
because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs
will hear his voice and will come out,
those who have done good deeds
to the resurrection of life,
but those who have done wicked deeds
to the resurrection of condemnation.

“I cannot do anything on my own;
I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just,
because I do not seek my own will
but the will of the one who sent me.”

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom

The counterintuitive propositions of the Gospels.

Society tells us: be strong. Seek money. Show off your skills. Rise to the top.

Jesus tells us: be humble. Become totally dependent upon the father. Seek out and do service for the marginalized.

Embraces all his creatures.

Eat my body. Drink my blood.

Can we follow him? Can we imitate him? There is little in the way of reward here on earth…..

Do not be afraid…

The Gospels also say, “No matter what you encounter, be joyful. Your reward shall be in heaven.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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29 MARCH, 2017, Wednesday, 4th Week of Lent

THE FOUNDATION FOR DOING GOOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Is 49:8-15; Ps 144:8-9,13-14,17-18; Jn 5:17-30]

Today, the liturgy continues with the theme of joy in expectation of the feast of the resurrection, albeit in the shadow of hostility and death.  “Shout for joy, you heavens; earth, exult! Mountains, break into joyful cries! For Yahweh has consoled his people, is taking pity on his afflicted ones.”  In the first reading, we read the consoling words of the Lord to the Israelites who felt forsaken and abandoned in their exile at Babylon, “Can a woman forget her baby at the breast; feel no pity for the child she has borne? Even if these were to forget, I shall not forget you.”   On the day of salvation, the Lord would restore Israel.  “Along the roadway they will graze, and any bare height will be their pasture. They will never hunger or thirst, scorching wind and sun will never plague them; for he who pities them will lead them, will guide them to springs of water. I shall turn all my mountains into a road and my highways will be raised aloft.”

This promise of the Lord of course was fulfilled in Jesus who is the Suffering Servant prophesied in the first reading.   The words spoken to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah aptly applies to Jesus when God said, “I have formed you and have appointed you to be the covenant for a people, to restore the land, to return ravaged properties, to say to prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’” In the last few days, the gospel narrated how Jesus manifested Himself as a life-giver.  He told the story of the Prodigal Son and the mercy of His Father whom He sought to imitate.  He said, “I tell you most solemnly, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees the Father doing: and whatever the Father does the Son does too.”

The works of Jesus was done in union with the Father.  He said, “My father goes on working, and so do I.”  So like the Father, Jesus gave life to the Court Official’s son who was on the brink of death.  Yesterday, we read how Jesus healed the paralyzed man and forgave his sins.  This is justified by the fact that “the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he does himself, and he will show him even greater things than these, works that will astonish you. Thus, as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son gives life to anyone he chooses.”   The authority and powers of Jesus to heal, raise and forgive were given by the Father.  Jesus saw Himself as acting on His behalf.

On this basis, Jesus claimed identification with the Father!   And the Jews knew what He was implying.  “That only made the Jews even more intent on killing him, because, not content with breaking the Sabbath, he spoke of God as his own Father, and so made himself God’s equal.”   By healing on the Sabbath and giving the basis for doing good works of mercy on the Sabbath, in imitation of His Father, Jesus was making implicit claims that He was God.  They were fully aware that Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah, the Son of Man mentioned in the Book of Daniel, chapter 7.  The miracles He performed were messianic signs, especially the raising of the dead, curing the lame and giving sight to the blind. He was thus seen as making a blasphemous claim to be the Son of God.

Secondly, He claimed to speak the Word of God.  He said, “I tell you most solemnly, whoever listens to my words, and believes in the one who sent me, has eternal life; I tell you most solemnly, the hour will come – in fact it is here already – when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and all who hear it will live.”   He is the Word of God in person.  If He were to speak God’s words, then it means that one has to believe in Him and all that He said.  It means that we need to accept Him as the Way, the Truth and the Life.   Only by accepting Jesus, can we find life, not just life after death but life on this earth.   In following the path that Jesus set out for us, the way of love and humble service, in obedience to the Father’s will, in everything, we will live the fullness of life.  Hence, for such a person, “without being brought to judgement he has passed from death to life.”

Thirdly, Jesus claimed to be the Judge as well, a position reserved for the Father.  He said, “For the Father, who is the source of life, has made the Son the source of life; and, because he is the Son of Man, has appointed him supreme judge.  Do not be surprised at this, for the hour is coming when the dead will leave their graces at the sound of his voice: those who did good will rise again to life; and those who did evil, to condemnation.  I can do nothing by myself: I can only judge as I am told to judge, and my judging is just.”   Jesus could judge only because He is holy and perfect like the Father.  Because He is the Word of God, He could judge with full knowledge and understanding.   He judges with love and compassion, as the psalmist says. “The Lord is kind and full of compassion, slow to anger, abounding in love. How good is the Lord to all, compassionate to all his creatures.”  So the judgement of Jesus is founded on truth, love and compassion.  In speaking of Himself as the judge, He takes the place of God.

How could Jesus dare to make such claims of divinity and authority to act on behalf of the Father?  How could He be so confident and courageous to make such claims at the risk of courting death?  How is it that He was not afraid of being misunderstood, condemned or opposed? How do we explain the confidence in Jesus if not because of His intimate relationship with the Father? 

This identity with the Father is based on a mutual union between the Father and the Son.  This union with the Father must be seen as a union of mind and heart.  Jesus performed everything in union with the Father, based on the union of mind and will.  Jesus would not do anything except in alignment with the Father’s will.  He reiterated, “I can do nothing by myself: I can only judge as I am told to judge, and my judging is just, because my aim is to do not my own will, but the will of him who sent me.”   Jesus’ obedience to the Father was not a reluctant obedience or simply a submission of will. Rather, His obedience was the consequence of a union of will and love.  As Jesus said to the disciples, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.” (Jn 4:34)  Jesus loved His Father because of His Father’s love for Him.  He lived and died for His Father.  He said, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”  (Jn 10:17f)

What about us?  What is the basis for our good works?  What is the basis for living a life of love and truth?  Is it based on purely humanitarian reasons, simply because we feel the sufferings of our fellowmen or because of moral obligation to contribute to society because we have been beneficiaries?   In truth, many of us do good out of guilt, or at most out of responsibility because of our conscience.  Of course, some do out of love for their fellowmen but many help because of fear of condemnation or at least to gain respect and honour from the world.

In the case of Jesus, His good works came from His identification with the compassion and love of His Father.  His union with the Father was the cause of His mission to humanity.  As the psalmist says, “The Lord is faithful in all his words and loving in all his deeds.  The Lord supports all who fall and raises all who are bowed down. The Lord is just in all his ways and loving in all his deeds. He is close to all who call him, who call on him from their hearts.”  So it was out of the love of the Father in Him that He went about doing good so that the Father could be seen through Him. This too must also be the source of our strength in doing good. We must not be like the pagans.  “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  (Mt 5:46-48)

So today, we need to return to the ancient times when Catechumens were instructed more intensely during this time.  At this mass, salt would be placed in their mouths so that they would receive the Word of God and be the salt of the earth.  They too would be given the creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Four Gospels so that they will become more identified with the Lord in how they live their lives.  For those of us who are baptized, let us renew our appreciation for the love of God in Christ as we contemplate on His passion.  We must come to know the identity of Jesus more and more so that we can truly be identified with Him in mind and in heart as Jesus is with the Father.

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Related:

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“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

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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Commentary on John 5:17-30 From Living Space

Let us not be afraid or cast down; God is on his way in the person of Jesus

Today’s Gospel follows immediately on yesterday’s story of the healing of the crippled man by the pool. That passage had ended with the words: “The Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this [i.e. the healing] on a sabbath.” We might point out, as with some other sabbath healings, that there was absolutely no urgency to do the healing on a sabbath for someone who had waited 38 years. It is just another indication of the divine authority with which Jesus works.

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So Jesus’ reply is direct and unapologetic: “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.” Because Genesis speaks of God resting on the seventh day (the origin of the Jewish sabbath), it was disputed whether God was in any way active on the sabbath. Some believed that the creating and conserving work of his creation went on and others that he continued to pass judgement on that day. In any case, Jesus is claiming here the same authority to work on the sabbath as his Father and has the same powers over life and death.

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The Jewish leaders are enraged that Jesus speaks of God as his own Father. They want to kill him. They understand by his words that Jesus is making himself God’s equal. Jesus, far from denying the accusation, only confirms it.

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“A son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will also do.” This saying is taken from the model of an apprentice in a trade. The apprentice son does exactly what his father does. Jesus’ relation to his Father is similar. “For the Father loves his Son and shows him everything that he himself does, so that you may be amazed.” And “just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes” – and whenever he wishes. And such giving of life is something that belongs only to God. As does the right to judge, which Jesus says has been delegated to him.

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Jesus is the perfect mirror of the Father. The Father is acting in him and through him. He is the Word of God – God speaks and acts directly through him. God’s Word is a creative Word. Jesus, like the Father, is life-giving, a source of life.

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The right to judge has been delegated by the Father to the Son. And to refuse to honour the Son is to refuse the same honour to the Father. In everything Jesus acts only according to the will of his Father and does what his Father wants.

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Jesus, then, is the Way, the Way through whom we go to God. For us, there is no other Way. He is God’s Word to us and for us.

Source http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1044g/

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I cannot fathom what it must have been like for You Lord. Most of our hearts cried out for salvation while others could not, having been bound and gagged by Sin.

Your love for us was so great that You promised to come save us, prepared us for Your coming and then fulfilled Your promise to us. What did we do? How did we welcome You? We turned our backs on You, We mocked You, plotted to kill You and eventually did.

Knowing all this You still came seeking out Your lost sheep. You brought light into our darkness, living water to quench our thirst, bread from heaven to nourish bodies and souls. With Your precious blood You washed us so that we can stand spotless before our heavenly Father. How great is our God!

Our lives are nothing without You and without You there is no relationship with our heavenly Father. All love, peace and joy comes from You for in You is life eternal. May we always seek to do our Father’s Will. Amen

Source http://catholicjules.net/2014/04/01/on-todays-gospel-395/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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 Reflection

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• The Gospel of John is different from the other three. It reveals a more profound dimension which only faith is able to perceive in the words and gestures of Jesus. The Fathers of the Church would say that the Gospel of John is “spiritual”, it reveals what the Spirit makes one discover in the words of Jesus (cf. Jn 16, 12-13). A beautiful example of this spiritual dimension of the Gospel of John is the passage which we are going to meditate on today.

• John 5, 17-18: Jesus explains the profound meaning of the healing of the paralytic. Criticized by the Jews for having cured on Saturday, Jesus answers: “My Father still goes on working, and I am at work too!” The Jews taught that no work could be done on Saturday, because even God had rested and had not worked on the seventh day of creation (Ex 20, 8-11). Jesus affirms the contrary. He says that the Father has always worked even until now. And for this reason, Jesus also works, and even on Saturday. He imitates his Father! For Jesus the work of creation is not finished as yet. God continues to work, unceasingly, day and night, holding up the Universe and all of us. Jesus collaborates with the Father continuing the work of creation in such a way that one day all may be able to enter into the eternal rest that has been promised. The reaction of the Jews was violent. They wanted to kill him for two reasons: because he denied the sense of Saturday and for saying he was equal to God.

• John 5, 19-21: It is love which allows the creative action of God to shine and be visible. These verses reveal something of the relationship between Jesus and the Father. Jesus, the Son, lives permanently attentive before the Father. What he sees the Father do, he does it also. Jesus is the reflection of the Father. He is the face of the Father! This total attention of the Son to the Father makes it possible for the love of the Father to enter totally into the Son and through the Son, carry out his action in the world. The great concern of the Father is that of overcoming death and to give life. It is a way of continuing the creative work of the Father.

• John 5, 22-23: The Father judges no one; he has entrusted all judgment to the Son. What is decisive in life is the way in which we place ourselves before the Creator, because it radically depends on him. Now the Creator becomes present for us in Jesus. The plenitude of the divinity dwells in Jesus (cf. Col 1, 19). And therefore, according to the way in which we are before Jesus, we express our position before God, the Creator. What the Father wants is that we know him and honour him in the revelation which he makes of himself in Jesus.

• John 5, 24: The life of God in us through Jesus. God is life, he is creating force. Wherever he is present, there is life. He becomes present in the Word of Jesus. The one who listens to the word of Jesus as a word that comes from God has already risen. He has already received the vivifying touch which leads him beyond death. Jesus passed from death to life. The proof of this is in the healing of the paralytic.

• John 5, 25-29: The resurrection is already taking place. All of us are the dead who still have not opened ourselves to the voice of Jesus which comes from the Father. But “the hour will come” and it is now, in which the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who will listen, will live”. With the Word of Jesus which comes from the Father, the new creation begins; it is already on the way. The creative word of Jesus will reach all, even those who have already died. They will hear and will live.

• John 5, 30: Jesus is the reflection of the Father. “By myself I can do nothing; I can judge only as I am told to judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me”. This last phrase is the summary of all that has been said before. This was the idea that the community of the time of John had and diffused regarding Jesus.

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, March 27, 2017 — “There shall always be rejoicing and happiness.”

March 26, 2017

Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Lectionary: 244

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Jesus Life More Abundantly by Greg Olsen

Reading 1  IS 65:17-21

Thus says the LORD:
Lo, I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
The things of the past shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness
in what I create;
For I create Jerusalem to be a joy
and its people to be a delight;
I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and exult in my people.
No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there,
or the sound of crying;
No longer shall there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not round out his full lifetime;
He dies a mere youth who reaches but a hundred years,
and he who fails of a hundred shall be thought accursed.
They shall live in the houses they build,
and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 30:2 AND 4, 5-6, 11-12A AND 13B

R. (2a) I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
I will extol you, O LORD, for you drew me clear
and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O LORD, you brought me up from the nether world;
you preserved me from among those going down into the pit.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
Sing praise to the LORD, you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger lasts but a moment;
a lifetime, his good will.
At nightfall, weeping enters in,
but with the dawn, rejoicing.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
“Hear, O LORD, and have pity on me;
O LORD, be my helper.”
You changed my mourning into dancing;
O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.

Verse Before The Gospel  AM 5:14

Seek good and not evil so that you may live,
and the LORD will be with you.

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Jesus healing the royal official’s son at Capernaum by Joseph-Marie Vien, 1752.

Gospel  JN 4:43-54

At that time Jesus left [Samaria] for Galilee.
For Jesus himself testified
that a prophet has no honor in his native place.
When he came into Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him,
since they had seen all he had done in Jerusalem at the feast;
for they themselves had gone to the feast.

Then he returned to Cana in Galilee,
where he had made the water wine.
Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum.
When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea,
he went to him and asked him to come down
and heal his son, who was near death.
Jesus said to him,
“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”
The royal official said to him,
“Sir, come down before my child dies.”
Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.”
The man believed what Jesus said to him and left.
While the man was on his way back,
his slaves met him and told him that his boy would live.
He asked them when he began to recover.
They told him,
“The fever left him yesterday, about one in the afternoon.”
The father realized that just at that time Jesus had said to him,
“Your son will live,”
and he and his whole household came to believe.
Now this was the second sign Jesus did
when he came to Galilee from Judea.

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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LEAVING THE PAST IN HOPE OF THE FUTURE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ISA 65:17-21; PS 29:2,4-6,11-13; JN 4:43-54]

We have just passed the halfway mark of Lent.  The feast of the resurrection is less than three weeks away.  It is therefore appropriate that the liturgy begins to focus on Christ who is the Resurrection and the life.   In the last three weeks, the emphasis was on repentance, renunciation of sins and spiritual exercises.  Presuming that we have taken the call to repentance seriously, we must now focus not on the past but on the future.  The spiritual exercises are not ends in themselves.  God does not want us to suffer.   As He told us before, we do not fast till the bridegroom is taken away from us.  (cf Mt 9:15)

So the purpose of the spiritual exercises is to make it possible for us to enter into a new life.  The first reading speaks of this hope when the Lord said, “Now I create new heavens and a new earth.  Be glad and rejoice for ever and ever for what I am creating, because I now create Jerusalem ‘Joy’ and her people ‘Gladness’.  I shall rejoice over Jerusalem and exult in my people.”   It is not about penance and mortification.  Those are the means, not the end.  Indeed, this is what the Lord always wanted for us, that we will always be a rejoicing people.

We are asked to leave our past behind. There is no point in always going back to the past.  “The past will not be remembered, and will come no more to men’s minds.”  How can we leave the past behind if not because of the future?  Those who have no hope for the future will keep going back to the nostalgic past or the hurtful past.  They will always either be lamenting the good old days or recalling the painful events of the past.  In truth, the good old days were not all that good, and the painful events were not as bad as they remember them today.  So long as we cling to the past, the future cannot be brought into the present.

Anticipating the future with hope will, however, help us to erase the past.  In life, only when we think of what is possible in the future, can we then let go of the past.  Like in a marriage, when we think of the future of our children and the hope of a happy family, we will be able to let go of the mistakes of our spouse.  Indeed, those who live with hope of a better tomorrow will always be ready to let go of the past, no matter how painful, hurtful or disappointing it might have been.  Those who give up on the future are those who live without hope.

If we are feeling thus, then we must turn to the source of our hope.  The gospel tells us that Jesus is our Hope. We can be sure that the man was desperate for the life of his son.  He stayed in Capernaum, 26 km away from Cana.  He must have travelled all the way there to look for Jesus to heal his son.  Parents would do anything to save their children.  He came to Jesus believing that only He could cure his son who was at the point of death.  The man said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”   We too must turn to Jesus, the life giver, if we desire to live with hope for the future.  Only Jesus can provide us with real hope for a better life.

But this requires faith in Him.  Jesus was upset that His countrymen would not believe unless they “see signs and portents.”   There are some people who are like that, always seeking for one sign after another, miracle after miracle.   Those who are crazy over signs and miracles show that they lack faith.  It is like those people who need to be reassured of our love all the time by our gifts.  When we do not give them anything, they begin to feel insecure of our love. They are always asking for affirmation and confirmation of our love.

Today, we need to trust Jesus unconditionally. This was what the court official did.  Jesus did not want to go with him to Capernaum, not because it was too far away, but because He wanted pure faith from the man.  So He told the man to “Go home, your son will live.”  That was all the assurance he needed.  So in faith the man went home, believing in Jesus’ promise to heal His son.  We read that “while he was still on the journey back his servants met him with the news that his boy was alive.”   And he was told that “the fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.”   And “this was exactly the time when Jesus had said, ‘Your son will live’.”   We must not repeat the same mistake of the Jews in always seeking for reassurance.  The evangelist noted, “on his arrival the Galileans received him well, having seen all that he had done at Jerusalem during the festival which they too had attended.”  Their reception of Jesus depended on His performance of the miracles.

Will we also have the courage to believe in Jesus even when things seem impossible?  When we pray, do we truly believe that Jesus can heal or solve our problems?   Do we believe against the odds that with Jesus, nothing is impossible and that He knows best?  To have faith in Jesus is to surrender our lives to Him.   To have faith in Jesus is to trust that whatever happens to us, He knows best.   Faith in Jesus is to trust in His power to save, perhaps not always in the way we want.  What if the court official had refused to go back and insisted that Jesus returned with him to heal the child?  By the time Jesus arrived, the child might have already died.  So too, we need to have confidence in the Lord.

So the question we need to ask ourselves today is whether we truly believe that Jesus is the Lord of life.  The psalmist said, “I will praise you, Lord; you have rescued me and have not let my enemies rejoice over me. O Lord, you have raised my soul from the dead, restored me to life from those who sink into the grave.”   If Jesus is the Lord of life, then we can entrust ourselves to Him.  The healing of the court official’s son and the changing of water into wine earlier on in Cana were signs of His identity as the Lord.  Just as He was the seventh jar of wine, so the boy was healed at the seventh hour.  In other words, Christ is the perfection of joy and the fullness of life as well.

Today, we must imitate Mary in Cana and the Court Official who responded to the Lord in faith.  Mary too did not know how Jesus would help the wedding couple when the wine ran out.  She left it entirely for the Lord to figure it out for she knows that Jesus was a man of compassion and would not leave them in the lurch.  “The Lord listened and had pity.  The Lord came to my help.  For me you have changed my mourning into dancing: O Lord my God, I will thank you for ever.”   Like the court official, we just trust that Jesus knows best in every situation.

Indeed, with faith in the Lord, we will never fear death as well, and even when we live, we live to the fullest.  The promise of the prophet in the first reading appears to be unrealistic.  “No more will the sound of weeping or the sound of cries be heard in her; in her, no more will be found the infant living a few days only, or the old man not living to the end of his days.  To die at the age of a hundred will be dying young; not to live to be a hundred will be the sign of a curse.  They will build houses and inhabit them, plant vineyards and eat their fruit.”  Is such a long life possible?  Of course, only if man does not destroy the order of creation and upset the biological, social and human ecology of life.

Most of the problems of humanity are the consequences of our not respecting creation.  It is the abuse of creation and the human body, like deforestation, pollution, uncontrolled killing of animals and fishes, over eating, over working without rest and a lack of a balance lifestyle that brings destruction to creation, causing man to be sick and die early from diseases like cancer, heart diseases, sexual diseases, hypertension, etc.  When we do not live a balanced life, we bring stress and division with our fellowmen wherever we go because we fail to recognize the importance of right relationship, moderation and respect for others.

But if we believe in Jesus, then we should live a simple life like Him, and use that life not to hoard things or allow our selfish pleasures to destroy our body, mind and spirit.  Rather, we will use the resources well for our good and well-being and the good of others.  This is what it means to believe in Jesus.   We must live a life of love and service, doing what we can, making time for God, for family and loved ones, and for the service of humanity.  If we walk the way of Jesus, then we will have fullness of life.  Joy and gladness are for those with pure hearts.  If we live without guilt and anger or greed, we will be at peace.   Ambition, unlawful and unrestrained pleasures, greed and egotism rob us of our happiness in life.  If we live a life of detachment, nothing can cause us to be unsettled or deprived. Simply living our lives responsibly with integrity will give us the peace and joy of life.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Jesus — I am the light of the world — Art By Greg Olsen
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Commentary on John 4:43-54 from Living Space

This week we begin a semi-continuous reading of John’s gospel. Today, Jesus brings the promise of new life, now and in the future. Today’s Gospel follows immediately on the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman. Jesus now goes back to Galilee from Samaria.

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In spite of what Jesus had said earlier about prophets not being welcomed in their own place, he was received well, because they had seen what Jesus had done in Jerusalem during his recent visit there.

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He returns to Cana, where he had performed his first sign, changing water into wine. A high official comes to ask Jesus to cure his son who is dying. Jesus’ first reaction is negative.

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He complains of people just looking for miracles, signs and wonders. The man ignores Jesus’ remarks and repeats his request for Jesus to come and heal his son before he dies.

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This, in itself, indicates the level of the man’s faith in Jesus. This is always the basic requirement for healing to take place. Jesus ignores the invitation to go to the man’s house.

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In the Synoptics it is the centurion who tells Jesus it is not necessary to go to his house. That was because he was a Gentile and knew that Jesus should not go there. (It is not certain if John’s account is another version of that story.)

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Here Jesus simply says: “Go home, your son will live.” The man believed what Jesus said and set off for his home. Before he gets home the official’s servants are coming out to tell him that his son is alive and well.

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On further enquiries, the father learns that the fever subsided just at the moment when Jesus promised that the boy would live. It was also the moment when the man, trusting in Jesus’ word, began his journey home.

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John tells us that this is the second of the seven “signs” that Jesus did. Its clear message is that Jesus brings life, eternal life that begins now. In John, eternal life begins as soon as we attach ourselves in total trust to Jesus and to his Way. Lent is a good time for us to renew our pledge to walk along his Way and to ask for a deep level of faith to do so.

The seven Signs in John are:

  1. The changing of water into wine at the marriage feast in Cana (2:1-11)
  2. The healing of the royal official’s son (4:46-54) [Today’s reading]
  3. The healing of a man who is crippled at the Bethesda pool (5:1-18)
  4. Feeding of the 5,000 (6:1-15)
  5. Jesus walking on the water (6:16-21)
  6. Healing of the man born blind (9:1-41)
  7. The raising of Lazarus (11:1-44)

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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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07 MARCH 2016, Monday, 4th Week of Lent
THE JOY OF NEW LIFE COMES THROUGH FAITH IN CHRIST AT HIS WORD
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Isa 65:17-21; Ps 30: 2 & 4, 5-6, 11-12a, 13b; Jn 4:43-54We have just completed the first part of the season of Lent and entered into the second part.  Whereas the first part of Lent focused on the themes of spiritual life, the second part directs our attention to Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.   Hence, the theme of faith, especially in Jesus as the Messiah and His power to give life in anticipation of His passion and resurrection, is dominant during the next three weeks of Lent.

In the first reading, Isaiah prophesied the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the restoration of Israel.  The word that is used is “create.”  This reconstruction is portrayed in the context of the creation of a new heaven and a new earth.  Firstly, there will be no more untimely deaths.  Secondly, there will also be peace, security and success.  Indeed, the plan of God is more than just a reconstruction but a total re-creation.  Yes, it is His desire to “create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight.”  This final prophecy of Isaiah certainly invites us to anticipate the joys of Easter, when new life is promised to us.

This is reaffirmed in today’s gospel message when St John recorded for us the second sign or mighty work of Jesus.  By healing the son of the official, Jesus demonstrated that He is the healer and the one who gives life.  This was the assurance of Jesus when He told the official, “Go home, your son will live.”  We too can look to Jesus for new life.  He has the power to make all things new for us, even in apparent hopeless situation.

However, for this new creation and new life to be a reality, we need to strengthen our relationship with the Lord.  This relationship with Jesus will determine the depth of our faith in Him.  What is faith?  Faith is to believe in Jesus.  It is very significant that the gospel story begins with Jesus leaving Samaria, where, we are told, “many of the Samaritans in that town believed in Jesus.” (Jn 4:39).  In contrast, when He arrived in Galilee, “the Galileans received him well, having seen all that he had done at Jerusalem during the festival…”  It is important to note that whereas the Samaritans believed in Jesus, the Jews in Galilee only welcomed Him, and only because they had seen His miracles.  Nothing is said about their believing.  There is a world of difference between giving Jesus a warm reception and having faith in Him.

In so doing, St John is highlighting the faith of the non-Jews, who showed greater faith in Jesus, than His fellowmen.  The Samaritans and the government official who were non-Jews, believed on Jesus’ word alone, without witnessing a miracle.  Whilst it is true that this was one instance when His own countryman did not reject Him, yet the reception given to Him based on His works of wonders did not tantamount to faith in Him.  Hence, He rebuked the crowd more than the official when He said, “So you will not believe unless you see signs and portents!”  Indeed, genuine faith in Jesus cannot be based on miracles but on His word and promises.  In the following two sequences, in the cure of the paralytic (5:1-47) and the multiplication of loaves (6:1-15), we see how miracles did not produce faith but rejection.

Hence, we need to reflect on the kind of relationship we have with Jesus.  Is our relationship with Jesus dependent on miracles and getting what we want from Him, or is it dependent on our faith in Him as the Christ?  Do we simply think well of Jesus, or do we confess from our hearts that He is the Christ?  During this season of Lent, are we simply welcoming Jesus, or do we have faith in Him? Today, we are called to imitate the faith of the pagan official.  What kind of faith did the official have? 

Firstly, it was a humble and courageous faith.  As a royal official, he swallowed his pride and traveled a long distance of twenty miles from Capernaum to see Jesus, someone who had no status except that of a carpenter in Nazareth. He was in need and was not bothered about what people would say.  Faith cannot survive so long as there is pride and fear of losing one’s reputation in life.  He was not afraid of risking his reputation by coming to Jesus for help.

Secondly, we are told that he had a persevering and growing faith.  He was not easily discouraged.  Even when he was reprimanded for seeking signs and wonders, he did not take offence.  He did not give up in despair.  Instead, he recognized that his faith needed to grow.   His faith, like many of us, is an imperfect faith.  Quite often, we too expect God to work miracles in our lives, according to how we want it to happen.  We do not trust that somehow Jesus would solve the problems we have in His own time and in His own way.  What is required is faith and trust in His wisdom.  We must not seek for signs but simply rely on His words.  We must carry on with our lives and trust that Jesus will, in His time, come to our help.  Indeed, the psalmist invites us to place our total trust in God for he is our refuge.

Hence, when Jesus declined to go back with him to heal the child personally, he accepted in faith the assurance of Jesus’ words, “Go, your son will live.” It must have been very hard for him to turn away and walk twenty miles home without Jesus, save for these words of assurance.  Truly, the height of faith is a trusting faith.  He was not afraid that he might return home to find that his son was not cured, thus making him a laughing stock with his people.  Indeed, we read “while he was still on the journey back his servants met him with the news that his boy was alive.”  Thus, it is clear that the royal official believed in Jesus even before he knew the miracle was performed.  The miracle only reinforced his faith in Jesus.  It is the essence of faith that we must believe; that whatever Jesus says or promises us, is as good as true.

Finally, we are told “he and all his household believed” in Jesus.  It was certainly not easy for him, a pagan, to come to accept Jesus as the Messiah, the anointed One of God, and bring others to faith.  Indeed, a man of faith will generate faith among others.  This was true for the Samaritan woman and the royal official. Conversion is therefore the consequence of encountering Jesus in person and surrendering ourselves in faith to Him.  Only this kind of faith can bring about new life.  Let us pray for this personal experience of Jesus as our Messiah so that we can tell people what we have heard and seen.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” — Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, March 25, 2017

March 24, 2017

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
Lectionary: 545

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Annunciation By Filippo Lippi 1449–59

Reading 1 IS 7:10-14; 8:10

The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying:
Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God;
let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky!
But Ahaz answered,
“I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!”
Then Isaiah said:
Listen, O house of David!
Is it not enough for you to weary people,
must you also weary my God?
Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us!”

Responsorial PsalmPS 40:7-8A, 8B-9, 10, 11

R. (8a and 9a) Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
Sacrifice or oblation you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
To do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
Your justice I kept not hid within my heart;
your faithfulness and your salvation I have spoken of;
I have made no secret of your kindness and your truth
in the vast assembly.
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

Reading 2 HEB 10:4-10

Brothers and sisters:
It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats
take away sins.
For this reason, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight.
Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll,
behold, I come to do your will, O God.'”

First he says, “Sacrifices and offerings,
holocausts and sin offerings,
you neither desired nor delighted in.”
These are offered according to the law.
Then he says, “Behold, I come to do your will.”
He takes away the first to establish the second.
By this “will,” we have been consecrated
through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Verse Before The Gospel JN 1:14B

The Word of God became flesh and made his dwelling among us;
and we saw his glory.

Gospel LK 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

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Annunciation, By Fra Angelico, 1438
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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THE PERFECT SACRIFICE OF LOVE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ IS 7:10-14,8-10; PS 39:7-11; HEB 10:4-10; LK 1:26-38]

The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord each year falls between the Lenten and Easter season.  At first thought, it might seem to be rather inappropriate to celebrate this solemnity within the Lenten season.  Yet this feast that we are celebrating is so intimately linked with the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This is because both the feasts of the Annunciation and that of the passion and death of the Lord celebrate the sacrificial offering of God.

Indeed, the feast of the Annunciation celebrates that moment when the second person of the Trinity who was eternally with the Father before the creation of the world took human flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.   The moment Mary consented to God’s will, God the Son became man in Jesus Christ.  For Jesus, it was an act of self-emptying.  As the letter of St Paul to the Philippians says, Christ Jesus, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”  (Phil 2:6-8)   Indeed, Jesus offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice, for twice, He emptied Himself; first, of His divinity, and then of His humanity on the cross by His death.  By so doing, Jesus fulfilled the will of His Father, for His “will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.”

But not only are we celebrating the perfect sacrifice of Christ, we are also celebrating the perfect sacrifice of the love of the Father.  For the Father to give Himself in His Son, it was also an act of perfect self-emptying.  The Father did not reserve the Son to Himself but gave Him up for us all.  St Paul wrote, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?”  (Rom 8:32)  Such was the generosity of God.  Again, St John wrote, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  (Jn 3:16)  Together with Jesus, the Father sacrificed Himself for the love of humanity.  In both instances, it was an act of self-emptying.

The scripture readings of today make it clear that the perfect sacrifice is to offer oneself to God.  The letter of Hebrews says,  “Bulls’ blood and goats’ blood are useless for taking away sins, and that is what Christ said, on coming into the world: You wanted no sacrifice or obligation, prepared a body for me. You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin; then you said, just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book, ‘God here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’”  God does not need all our external sacrifices.  The psalmist says, “You do not ask for sacrifice and offerings, but an open ear.  You do not ask for holocaust and victim. Instead, here am I.”  All other sacrifices we offer are but an expression of the giving of oneself, but they are just a giving of a small part of what we have.  Few of us could be like the widow who gave all she had to the Temple treasury.

So what we are called to imitate in today’s celebration is the total giving of God the Father in Christ Jesus.  Mary for us is that perfect exemplar of what it means to give oneself totally to God in faith and trust.  The sacrifice of God is matched by the sacrifice of Mary.  God wants to give Himself completely to humanity by assuming our human flesh.  But He needs our cooperation.  Mary was asked to cooperate with God to bring forth the savior. In spite of all her fears, anxieties and lack of clarity on her future, she said “yes” to God without hesitation.  “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me.” By so doing, she was giving up her body and soul to God in obedience to His divine will.

Doing God’s will is more than just saying a single “yes”. This first answer required Mary to confirm to God’s will at every moment of her life.  This is true of every vocation, whether it is marriage, priesthood or a commitment we make to someone, like assuming an office.  Saying ‘yes’ is not so difficult but living out the ‘yes’ at every moment of the day and of the year is very daunting and challenging.  To say that we offer ourselves to our spouse or to the Church or to society is much easier said than done.  It calls for a total and daily dying to self.  Saying ‘yes’ is a lifelong commitment.  Jesus reminds us, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 16:24f)  And that was what Mary did from the moment of the annunciation.  She gave herself each moment to the developments that followed, from the time of Joseph’s discovery of her pregnancy to the birth of Jesus, in His public ministry when He was misunderstood, till His death on the cross at Calvary.  At every moment, Mary said, “Thy will be done.”

Today, we are called to do likewise and follow Mary in giving ourselves to the Lord by doing His holy will.  The author of Hebrews reiterates this truth.  “You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will.”  This means that we must be ready to say ‘yes’ to God in whatever we do.  We must not be like King Ahaz who insisted to do things his way in spite of the warning of the prophet Isaiah.  In his fear and anxiety that his kingdom would fall to the combined forces of Israel and Syria, he made an alliance with Assyria.  Even though he was offered a sign to confirm that it would not be so, he refused out of arrogance.  Hence, the Lord said, “Listen now, House of David: are you not satisfied with trying the patience with men without trying the patience of my God, too? The Lord himself, therefore, will give you a sign. It is this: the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us’.”

Doing His will is of course impossible without faith.  We all face many challenges in life each day.  I am sure we are often at our wits end, trying to resolve our financial woes, the incorrigible ways of our loved ones at home, the politics in the office, the scandals that we see in our organization, etc.  That is why we need faith in order to do the will of God.  Mary shows us what faith in God is all about.  It was this faith that gave her the confidence to believe in the impossible.  The angel assured her, “”The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people call barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.”  Faith means to allow God’s grace to work on us in our lives.

As we celebrate the solemnity of the Annunciation, let us contemplate on their obedience to God’s will and the offering of themselves to the service of God and the plan of God’s salvation. We can do this most effectively by contemplating on the lives of Mary and Jesus as both are so intertwined.  There are two well-tested devotions in the Church that have inspired lives and moved hearts to be in union with the Lord and with Mary.  Firstly, we have the devotion to the Stations of the Cross.  This is a powerful devotion, for as we contemplate on His love for us on the cross, our hearts will be moved to love Him and to love our fellowmen, especially our enemies, as He did.  The other devotion of course is the Holy Rosary.  St John Paul II even wrote an apostolic letter encouraging us to contemplate on Christ and our Blessed mother by praying the rosary.  To make the contemplation of Christ’s sacrifice and that of Mary complete, He wisely added in the Luminous Mysteries.  Only by contemplating on the face of our Lord and the life of Mary, could we find strength also to offer ourselves completely to the Lord, doing His will at every moment in our lives.  So, together with Jesus and Mary especially during this season of Lent, let us renew our commitment to the Heavenly Father. “In the scroll of the book it stands written that I should do your will. My God, I delight in your law in the depth of my heart.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Rejoice!

This is a really strange greeting from God to his creature; it seems hard to explain and perhaps even senseless. And yet, for centuries it resonated in the pages of Sacred Scripture and thus also on the lips of the Hebrew people. Rejoice, be glad, exult! Many times the prophets had repeated this gentle breath of God and had shouted the silent beat of his heart for his people, his remnant. I read this in Joel: “Land, do not be afraid; be glad, rejoice, for Yahweh has done great things… (2: 21-23); in Zephaniah: “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! Yahweh has repealed your sentence” (3: 14); in Zechariah: “Sing, rejoice, daughter of Zion, for now I am coming to live among you – Yahweh declares!” (2, 14).

I read and listen to it, today, I say it also in my heart, in my life; a joy is announced to me, a new happiness, never before experienced. I rediscover the great things that the Lord has done for me; I experience the freedom that comes from his pardon: I am no longer sentenced, but graced forever; I live the experience of the presence of the Lord next to me, in me. Yes, He has come to dwell in our midst; He is once more setting up his tent in the land of my heart, of my existence. Lord, as the Psalm says, you rejoice in your creatures (Ps 104: 31); and I too rejoice in you, thanks to you, my joy is in you (Ps 104: 34).

● The Lord is with you

These simple and enlightened words pronounced by the angel to Mary, liberate an all-powerful force; I realise that these words alone would suffice to save my life, to lift me up again from whatever fall or humiliation, to bring me back when I go astray. The fact that He, my Lord, is with me, keeps me alive, gives me courage and trust to go on being. If I am, it is because He is with me. Who knows but that the experience of Isaac told in Scripture might not be valid for me, the most beautiful thing imaginable that could happen to a person who believes in and loves God, when one day Abimelech came to Isaac with his men to tell him: “It became clear to us that Yahweh was with you” (Gen 26: 28) and then asked to become friends and form an alliance.

Would that the same thing might be said of me; would that I could show that the Lord is truly with me, in my life, in my desires, in my affections, in my choices and actions; would that others might meet Him through me. Perhaps for this, it is necessary for me to absorb more the presence of God, for me to eat and drink of Him.

Let me go to the school of Scripture, to read and re-read some passages where the voice of the Lord tells me again and again of this truth and, while He speaks, to be transformed, ever more in-dwelt. “Remain for the present in that country; I shall be with you and bless you” (Gen 26: 3). “To Joshua son of Nun, Yahweh gave this order: Be strong and stand firm, for you are to be the one to bring the Israelites into the country which I have promised them on oath, and I myself shall be with you” (Dt 31: 23). “They will fight against you but will not overcome you, because I am with you to save you and rescue you” (Jer 15: 20). “The angel of Yahweh appeared to him and said: Yahweh is with you, valiant warrior!” (Judges 6: 12). “Yahweh appeared to him the same night and said: I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I shall bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake” (Gen 26: 24). “Be sure, I am with you; I shall keep you safe wherever you go, and bring you back to this country, for I shall never desert you until I have done what I have promised you” (Gen 28: 15). “Do not be afraid, for I am with you; do not be alarmed, for I am your God. I give you strength, truly I help you, truly I hold you firm with my saving right hand” (Is 41: 10)

● Do not be afraid

The Bible is packed with this pronouncement full of kindness; like a river of mercy, these words are found throughout the sacred books, from Genesis to the Apocalypse. It is the Father who repeats to his children not to be afraid, because He is with them, he will not abandon them, he will not forget them, He will not leave them in the hands of their enemies. It is like a declaration of love from God to humanity, to each one of us; it is a pledge of fidelity that is relayed from hand to hand, from heart to heart, and finally comes down to us. Abraham heard these words and after him his son Isaac, then the patriarchs, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon and, with them, Jeremiah and all the prophets. No one is excluded from this embrace of salvation that the Father offers his children, even those furthest from him, most rebellious against him. Mary knows how to listen to these words and knows how to believe full of faith, in an attitude of absolute surrender; She listens and believes, welcomes and lives for us too. She is the strong and courageous woman who opens herself to the coming of God, letting go of all fears, incredulity and a closed spirit. She repeats these same words of God in our lives and invites us to believe like her.

● You enjoy God’s favour

“Lord, if I enjoy favour in your sight…”. This is the prayer that time and time again comes out of the lips and hearts of those who seek refuge in the Lord; the Scriptures tell us about such people, we come across them in our crossroads when we know not where to go, when we feel hounded by solitude or by temptation, when we experience abandonment, betrayals, heavy defeats of our own existence. When we no longer have anyone and we fail to find even ourselves, then we too, like them, find ourselves praying by repeating these same words: “Lord, if I enjoy favour in your sight…”. Who knows how often we have repeated these words, even alone and in silence. But today, here, in this simple passage of the Gospel, we are forestalled, we are welcomed in anticipation; we need no longer plead, because we have already found everything that we always sought and much more. We have received freely, we are overwhelmed and now we can overflow.

● Nothing is impossible to God

I have nearly come to the end of this strong journey of grace and liberation; I now come across a word that shakes me in my depths. My faith is being sifted; the Lord is testing me, scrutinising me, testing my heart. What the angel says here in front of Mary, had already been proclaimed many times in the Old Testament; now the time has come for the fulfilment, now all the impossible things come to pass. God becomes man; the Lord becomes friend, brother; the distant is very close. And I, even I, small and poor as I am, am given to share in the immensity of this gift, this grace; I am told that in my life too the impossible becomes possible. I only have to believe, to give my consent. But this means that I have to allow myself to be shattered by the power of God; to surrender to Him, who will transform me, free me and renew me. Not even this is impossible. Yes, I can be reborn today, here and now, by the grace of the voice that has spoken to me, that has reached me even to the very depths of my heart. I seek and transcribe the passages of Scripture that repeat this truth. And as I write them, as I re-read them and say them slowly, devouring every word, and what they say takes place in me… Genesis 18: 14; Job 42: 2; Jeremiah 32: 17; Jeremiah 32: 27; Zechariah 8: 6; Matthew 19: 26; Luke 18: 27.

● Here I am

Now I cannot escape, nor can I avoid the conclusion. I knew from the beginning that here, in this word, so small and yet so full, so final, that God was waiting for me. The appointment of love, of the covenant between Him and me had been fixed precisely on this word, just a gentle voice, just a kiss. I am unsettled by the richness of the presence I feel in this “Here I am!”; I need not make much effort to recall the number of times that God first pronounced and repeated these words to me. He is the ‘Here I am’ made man, absolutely faithful, unforgettable. I only need to tune into him, only find his footprints in the sand of my poverty, of my desert; I only need to welcome his infinite love that never ceases to seek me, to stay close to me, to walk with me wherever I go. The ‘Here I am’ has already been pronounced and realised, it is already real. How many before me and how many today have experienced this! I am not alone. I still remain silent, listening before I reply…

“Here I am!” (Is 65: 1) God repeats; Mary replies, “Here I am, I am the servant of the Lord”; and Christ says, “I come to do your will” (Ps 39: 8)…

A TIME OF PRAYER: PSALM 138

Ref. Father, into your hands I commend my life.

Yahweh, you examine me and know me,
you know when I sit, when I rise,
you understand my thoughts from afar.
You watch when I walk or lie down,
you know every detail of my conduct.
A word is not yet on my tongue before you,
Yahweh, know all about it.
You fence me in, behind and in front,
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such amazing knowledge is beyond me,
a height to which I cannot attain.
Where shall I go to escape your spirit?
Where shall I flee from your presence?
If I scale the heavens you are there,
if I lie flat in Sheol, there you are.

You created my inmost self,
knit me together in my mother’s womb.
For so many marvels I thank you;
a wonder am I, and all your works are wonders.
You knew me through and through,
How hard for me to grasp your thoughts,
how many, God, there are!
If I count them, they are more than the grains of sand;
if I come to an end, I am still with you.
God, examine me and know my heart,
test me and know my concerns.
Make sure that I am not on my way to ruin,
and guide me on the road of eternity.

CLOSING PRAYER

Father, you came down to me, you have come to me, you have touched my heart, you have spoken to me and promised joy, presence and salvation. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, who overshadows me, I, together with Mary, have been able to say to you yes, the ‘Here I am’ of my life for you. Now there remains only the force of your promise, of your truth: “You are to conceive and bear Jesus”. Lord, here is the womb of my life, of my being, of all that I am and have, open before you. I place all things in you, in your heart. Enter, come, come down again, I beg you, and make me fruitful, make me one who gives birth to Christ in this world. May the overflowing love I receive from you find its fullness and truth in touching the brothers and sisters that you place beside me. May our meeting, Father, be open, a gift to all. May Jesus be the Saviour. Amen.

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-annunciation-lord

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, March 12, 2017 — “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you.” — “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

March 11, 2017

Second Sunday of Lent
Lectionary: 25

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Transfiguration of Jesus —  Jesus warned them that his glory and his suffering were to be inextricably connected

Reading 1 GN 12:1-4A

The LORD said to Abram:
“Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk
and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.

“I will make of you a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
so that you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you
and curse those who curse you.
All the communities of the earth
shall find blessing in you.”

Abram went as the LORD directed him.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22.

R. (22) Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

Reading 2 2 TM 1:8B-10

Beloved:
Bear your share of hardship for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God.

He saved us and called us to a holy life,
not according to our works
but according to his own design
and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began,
but now made manifest
through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus,
who destroyed death and brought life and immortality
to light through the gospel.

Verse Before The Gospel CF. MT 17:5

From the shining cloud the Father’s voice is heard:
This is my beloved Son, hear him.

Gospel MT 17:1-9

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
Jesus charged them,
“Do not tell the vision to anyone
until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

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Homily From The Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, NM
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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

The transfiguration of Jesus is one of the great mysteries of our faith.  We are not entirely sure what happened at that point, but we do know that Jesus changed in front of His disciples in a way that they could sense the power of God flowing through Him.  The voice that they hear confirms that this is something from heaven and confirms the role of Jesus and the reality of Jesus as Son of God.

Jesus is the Son and Abram is also a son of God in the first reading, from Genesis.  God promises to Abram that he will become a great nation.  As with so many promises of God, the reality is greater and feels different from what people might have expected.

The second reading, from the Second Letter to Timothy, gives us another insight:  He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus.  So often we are tempted to think that we must become holy, but rather it is God who makes us holy.  For sure, we must cooperate.  That is our work.

“All we have to do is cooperate.”

This brings us back to the Gospel from Matthew.  It is almost impossible for us to imagine the effect of the transfiguration on the three Apostles, Peter. James and John.  We can say truly that they were out of their minds!  But out of their minds and into faith in Jesus.

We are invited today to go out of our minds and trust completely in the Lord.  Let us walk these days of Lent so that we may share in the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord. Jesus.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

http://christdesert.org/News/Abbot_s_Homily/

Related:

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All three Synoptic Gospels tell the story of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-9; Luke 9:28-36). With remarkable agreement, all three place the event shortly after Peter’s confession of faith that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus’ first prediction of his passion and death. Peter’s eagerness to erect tents or booths on the spot suggests it occurred during the Jewish weeklong, fall Feast of Booths.In spite of the texts’ agreement, it is difficult to reconstruct the disciples’ experience, according to Scripture scholars, because the Gospels draw heavily on Old Testament descriptions of the Sinai encounter with God and prophetic visions of the Son of Man. Certainly Peter, James and John had a glimpse of Jesus’ divinity strong enough to strike fear into their hearts. Such an experience defies description, so they drew on familiar religious language to describe it. And certainly Jesus warned them that his glory and his suffering were to be inextricably connected—a theme John highlights throughout his Gospel.

Tradition names Mt. Tabor as the site of the revelation. A church first raised there in the fourth century was dedicated on August 6. A feast in honor of the Transfiguration was celebrated in the Eastern Church from about that time. Western observance began in some localities about the eighth century.

http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1099

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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BEAR THE HARDSHIPS FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOOD NEWS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ GN 12:1-4; PS 32:4-5,18-20,22; 2 TIM 1:8-10; MT 17:1-9 ]

All of us have dreams.  The future is born of dreams.  What we are enjoying today is the result of the dreams of our forefathers.  Much progress has been made in the scientific and technological world because people dare to dream the impossible dream.  It is important that we have our own dream.  We live on because of our dreams.  Without dreams, life would be meaningless.  We would just drift through the life, living in the past, without zeal and passion.

Abraham in the first reading was given a great dream for his people.  He heard the Lord telling him, “Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name so famous that it will be used as a blessing.”  Upon the reception of this dream, Abraham set out, not knowing clearly where this would lead him to.  All he knew was that God had a big plan for his people.   It was a dream for a better life than what they were already having.  

In the second reading too, we read of the dream of St Paul.  He wrote, “This grace had already been granted to us, in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time, but it has only been revealed by the Appearing of our savior Christ Jesus. He abolished death, and he has proclaimed life and immortality through the Good News.”  St Paul’s dream was to offer life and immortality to all.  In preaching the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, his dream was that all who come to Him will find fullness of life, joy and peace. The Good News that St Paul taught is that the Father loves us in Christ Jesus and we are saved by His death and resurrection.  All that is needed is faith in Him, given through grace.  We are saved not because we are good or because of good works but purely by the grace of God.

In the gospel, the Lord was given a dream, a preview of what was to take place.  He had a vision. “There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them; they were talking with him.”  God revealed to Jesus the future glory that had always been His.  This is the glory that is to be shared with us.  When we follow Jesus we too will be transfigured in time to come.  Through this experience, Jesus was affirmed to be the New Law and the final prophet.  He is the new Moses and the new Elijah.

Today, the dream of the universal Church is the New Evangelization, of making the Good News relevant to Catholics and understood by those who are searching for truth, love and life.  We are called to proclaim the Good News, which in today’s terms is to show forth the compassionate face of God in Christ Jesus.  Whereas Pope Emeritus Benedict underscored the love of God in Christ, the thrust of Pope Francis is to concretize this love of God in His mercy.

Indeed, more than ever, in this harsh world today, where competition is tough and we are rewarded for the good work we do and punished mercilessly for the mistakes we make, we need to proclaim the mercy of God.  This is the reason why Pope Francis wants us to go beyond the rigid laws and change the image of the Church as an institution that is cold and without a heart.   Pope Francis wants the world to encounter God’s compassionate love in Christ Jesus who comes to forgive us all our sins, to give us courage and hope, not to condemn us but to save us from perdition.   Accordingly, it is important to go back to the spirit of the laws rather than just insisting on the letter of the laws.

The Good News therefore is directed principally at the poor, those who are spiritually poor and those who are materially poor.  He wants the Church to move out of her comfort zone and to be with the poor.  Many Catholics have stopped coming for mass.  Some have left the Church completely.  Many of us are struggling in our sins, especially those related to lust, greed, envy, pride and anger.  The Church must show herself to be inclusive.  Not everyone can live up to the ideals of the gospel yet.  The Church, being a Church for sinners, should welcome all those who are struggling to live up to the teaching of Christ.  The divorced, people of same sex orientation, the sick and the poor must find a home in the Church.  This is the essence of the Good News, that Jesus loves us all, including the sinners.

But realizing our dreams for the Church and the country is not easy.  When we seek to make changes, inevitably, we are faced with opposition, not so much from without as from within.  This was the same for Abraham, Christ and for Paul. People oppose change for many reasons.  Some oppose it because the vision of their leaders is not their vision.  Some feel threatened because of the change of status quo and their comfort zone is affected.  Others are constrained by their strict dogmatic beliefs and feel that the Church is abandoning her traditions and the truth of the gospel.  Some are not able to feel with those who are marginalized in Church and even at home. Leaders too suffer much opposition from those people who are not happy with our attempts to bring the Church forward because their convenience is compromised.

So what must we do in the face of opposition?  We must not forget the dream before us.  In times of trials and difficulties, we must keep the dream clear in our minds.  Once we lose our dream, we lose hope.  St Paul was always conscious of his dream to be with Christ one day in heaven.  “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”  (2 Tim 4:8)  Abraham too, in his long journey to the Promised Land, trusted in God and hoped in Him.   “

We must think of the greater good of the future of humanity, Church and society.  Our forefathers sacrificed much for us.  Without their sacrifices, we will not be where we are today,  As the letter of Hebrews says,  “And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”  (Heb 11:39f)  Abraham was a rich man with many flocks of animals.  He was living a comfortable life.  There was no need for him to venture out because when the call came, he was already 76, past retirement age!

Secondly, we must rely on the power of God’s grace.  St Paul wrote, “With me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy – not because of anything we ourselves have done but for his own purpose and by his own grace.”   This was his secret to peace and joy in his ministry.  Pope Francis says that “if there is a problem, I write a note to St. Joseph and put it under a statue that I have in my room. It is a statue of St. Joseph sleeping. And now he sleeps on a mattress of notes! That’s why I sleep well: it is the grace of God.”

We must pray fervently and with faith.  Pope Francis says, “I love the breviary so much and never leave it. Mass every day. The rosary … When I pray, I always take the Bible. And my peace grows. I do not know if this is the secret … My peace is a gift of the Lord.”  Prayer is the only way to find true peace of heart.  The psalmist tells us, “The Lord looks on those who revere him, on those who hope in his love, to rescue their souls from death, to keep them alive in famine.  Our soul is waiting for the Lord.  The Lord is our help and our shield.”

Finally, we must bask ourselves in the love of God as Jesus did.  “He was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud covered them with shadow, and from the cloud there came a voice which said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.’”  So too did St Peter, for the experience was so profound that he wanted to keep it with him forever. Thus he suggested, “Lord, it is wonderful for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”  Indeed, later on, St Peter again recounted this experience when he wrote, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”  (1 Pt 1:16)  This transfiguration experience was both for Jesus and for the apostles so that they could face the future trials ahead of them.  

So let us be a blessing to others and to the world.  The Lord said to Abraham and to us all.  “I will bless those who bless you. I will curse those who slight you. All the tribes of the earth shall bless themselves by you.”   Let us hold our dreams high as Paul did.  He said, “This grace had already been granted to us, in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time, but it has only been revealed by the Appearing of our saviour Christ Jesus.”  We already have a foretaste of it.  We have seen for ourselves what the gospel can do for us.  It is not that we have not yet seen it, albeit not in its fullness.   Let us pray for the courage, the wisdom and strength to bring the Church forward and to bring the Good News to all, especially the poor, marginalized, those living in darkness and walking in the valley of death.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Pope John Paul II Homily on The Transfiguration on March 7, 1993  — He sees the transfiguration as a foretaste of our Christian victory over death:

“Jesus took Peter, James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them” (Mt 17:1-2)

“Lord, it is good that we are here”

Mt 17:4

We can imagine the three disciples’ astonishment at the vision. They were used to seeing Jesus in the humble aspect of his daily humanity and how great must have been their awe and emotion at seeing the splendor of a transfigured Jesus! Peter’s offer to pitch three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah, expresses his desire to make this moment of grace and uncontainable joy last as long as possible.

“Lord, it is good that we are here”! On Tabor Jesus gave his favorite disciples an anticipation of the glory of the resurrection, a glimpse of heaven on earth, a taste of “paradise”.

While Peter “was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him”‘ (Mt 17:5). It is a true manifestation of God, which recalls the “theophanies” experienced by the patriarchs of old, and it is similar to what took place on the banks of the Jordan after the Redeemer’s baptism. As then, here too a trinitarian presence is revealed: the voice of the Father, the person of the incarnate Son and the shining cloud, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, like the dove which rested on Christ when he was baptized by his fore-runner. The Apostles’ emotions change: their joy is replaced by a great fear; they fall prostrate to the ground. “Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and do not be afraid’. And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone” (Mt 17:7-8).

Transfiguration shows goal of our existence.

The mystery of the transfiguration takes place at a very precise moment in Jesus’ preaching, as he begins to confide to the disciples the necessity of his going up “to Jerusalem and suffer greatly. . . and be killed and on the third day be raised” (Mt 16:21). Reluctantly they hear the first announcement of the passion and before stressing it again and confirming it, the divine Master wants to give them a proof of his total rootedness in the will of the Father so that they do not waver in the face of the scandal of the cross. In fact, the passion and death will be the way through which the heavenly Father will have his “beloved Son” achieve glory, risen from the dead. From now on this will also be the disciples’ way. No one will come to the light except through the cross, the symbol of the suffering which afflicts human existence. Thus the cross is transformed into an instrument for the expiation of the sins of all humanity. United with his Lord in love, the disciple participates in his redemptive passion. Therefore, in today’s reading St. Paul exhorts Timothy in these words: “Bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God. He saved us and called us to a holy life” (2 Tm 1:8-9). For the believer suffering is nothing but a temporary passage, a transitory condition. Jesus, the Apostle stresses, “has destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel” (2 Tm 1:10).

The goal of our existence is therefore as shining as the transfigured countenance of the Messiah: in him is salvation, happiness, glory, unlimited love of God. How, therefore, could we not be prepared to suffer for such a goal? It finds meaning in our effort to conform our weak nature to the demands of goodness. It takes into consideration the physical and spiritual limitations of our person and of our daily social relationships, unfortunately marred by selfishness and sin, which make our spiritual journey taxing.

Finally, the transfiguration offers us prospects for a change which is both fundamental and supernatural, of a victory and proclamation of the passover of Christ, an announcement of the cross and resurrection. It is the transfigured Christ, the Christ whom after his resurrection the Apostles and so many other witnesses of his resurrection will see with their own eyes. They are witnesses of the newness of the world inaugurated by his resurrection and foretold by his transfiguration.

Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus has given us the means to be victorious in fighting the good fight of faith in fidelity to his word and humble adherence to the cross. Assiduously listening to the Gospel, celebrating the saving mystery in the sacraments and the Eucharistic liturgy, we become capable of proclaiming and bearing witness to Christian newness with a generous, prompt readiness. Not by ourselves, however, but as part of the Body of Christ which is the Church, the universal sacrament of salvation. The Church is the great community of those who believe in Jesus Christ, led by the Pastors he has chosen. In his love for mankind he constituted the Twelve as his witnesses and entrusted to them the task of safe-guarding the faith and continuing his work under the guidance of Peter. The Apostles and their successors gave life to the particular Churches, foremost among which is our Church of Rome, the Diocese of Peter’s Successor.

http://faithleap.org/Transfiguration_of_the_Lord.htm

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Homily from the Abbot *(Homily from 2013)

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Lent is about transfiguration!  It is not just our Lord Jesus who becomes transfigured.  Rather, all of us can be transfigured if we want the path that He has shone us by His life, death and Resurrection.

The Book of Genesis today gives us the beginning of the story of Abraham, our faith in faith.  Abraham begins as Abram and hears God speaking to him, calling him to leave his own country and his people.  Abram is to live for God alone.  This never means that Abram will be without other people in his life or that he will not love other people.  It only means that God is first and that Abram will try to do God’s will to the best of his ability.  This is also what God is asking of you and of me today:  leave on an inner journey, go with God, do God’s will not matter how uneasy it may make us.

Saint Paul gives this same advice to Timothy in the second reading today, from the Second Letter to Timothy:  He called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus.

The secret of any spiritual life is to seek God’s will and then to try to do that will with as much faithfulness as possible.  We are humans and weak and most of us are not saints, but we can keep on trying to do the will of God.  Lent is a time to strengthen our resolve by becoming more aware of God’s love for us.

The Gospel of Matthew today gives us an account of the transfiguration of Jesus.  No one is really sure what happened to our Lord at the transfiguration.  It is as though the divine nature of our Lord cannot be contained and begins to break through.  Later in Christian spirituality, it comes to be recognized that this divine nature is also ours by adoption and can also begin to manifest itself in us if we  strive to be faithful.

Lent is the time of transfiguration for us!  We plead with the Lord in this time of Lent to transform us, to transfigure us, to help do His will with joy.  At times, we rebel against the Lord and then we plead for His mercy, but always trusting completely in His love and in His will to save us and transform us.  Lord, have mercy on us!  We are sinners and we trust in you!  May your love transform us.

http://christdesert.org/News/Abbot_s_Homily/

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Coming Into Contact With God — All We Have To Do Is Cooperate — A Spiritual Reflection of the Lenten Season

March 10, 2017

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

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

We search and search but still find the world wanting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, March 8, 2017 — Soul Searching During Lent

March 7, 2017

Wednesday of the First Week in Lent
Lectionary: 226

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Jonah — when he is “all washed up” he hits “rock bottom.” Then he is open to the miracle….

Reading 1 JON 3:1-10

The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:
“Set out for the great city of Nineveh,
and announce to it the message that I will tell you.”
So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh,
according to the LORD’s bidding.
Now Nineveh was an enormously large city;
it took three days to go through it.
Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing,
“Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,”
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast
and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When the news reached the king of Nineveh,
he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe,
covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes.
Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh,
by decree of the king and his nobles:
“Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep,
shall taste anything;
they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water.
Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God;
every man shall turn from his evil way
and from the violence he has in hand.
Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath,
so that we shall not perish.”
When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.

Responsorial Psalm PS 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19

R. (19b) A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.

Verse Before The Gospel JL 2:12-13

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart
for I am gracious and merciful.

Gospel LK 11:29-32

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them,
“This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgment
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it,
because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here.”

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Jonah and The Whale, by Robin Spry Campbell
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Commentary on Luke 11:29-32 From Living Space

Today’s readings are about doing penance for our sins and they are linked by the name of Jonah.

In Mark’s gospel the crowds are often shown as recognising God’s presence in Jesus better than the Scribes and Pharisees do. In Luke, however, they are sometimes shown as people curious to see signs and wonders but without any real commitment to following Jesus.

So today we are told that “the crowds got even bigger” and Jesus spoke to them. But what he said was not very flattering. “This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign.” The only sign they will get will be the sign of Jonah. Jesus, like Jonah, is a call to repentance and radical conversion. And Jesus implies that many of his listeners are not ready or willing to hear that call. They don’t need any signs; Jesus has been giving them an abundance of signs through his teaching and healing work.

On the judgment day, they, the chosen people of God, will be surprised to see the Queen of the South rise up because she, pagan that she was, came a long distance to listen to the wisdom of Solomon – and Jesus is someone far superior to Solomon. They will be surprised to see the people of Niniveh, pagans that they were, rise up because they repented at the preaching of Jonah – and Jesus is far greater than Jonah.

We too, who claim to be God’s People, may be surprised to see who will be called to God’s side on judgment day because they heard and followed God’s word according to their capacity. The question is: where will we be on that day? Thomas A Kempis, the writer of a famous medieval treatise, called The Imitation of Christ, asked that very same question. He was worried about whether he would persevere in serving Christ to the very end of his life. He said he was told in answer to his prayer: “Do now what you would like to have done then, and you will have nothing to worry about.”

Where will I be on the Day of Judgement? The answer to that question can be decided by me this very day and every single day from now on.

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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TRUE REPENTANCE PRESUPPOSES A HUMBLE AND CONTRITE HEART

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ JONAH 3:1-10; PS 50:3-4,12-13,18-19; LUKE 11:29-32 ]

The message of Lent is a call to repentance as a prerequisite for the new life that Christ is offering us at Easter.  This is the first and essential step to take if we are to avail ourselves of the New life of Christ.  Otherwise, at the end of this Lenten season, there will be no experience of resurrection for us as we remain buried in our grave covered by sins.  But not many are ready to repent, just as many resisted the prophets of old when challenged to repent.  If Jesus was rejected then, should we be surprised that when we invite people to repent, they harden their hearts even more.

Ironically, the most difficult people to invite to repent are the new scribes and Pharisees of our days. These are the priests, religious and pious, active church members.  They live in self-righteousness.  We preach to everyone that they must repent but we ourselves are not repenting of our sins.  It seems the message of repentance is directed at everyone but ourselves.  We are more concerned about others repenting than we ourselves.  Perhaps this is because those of us who are supposedly religious and pious are so exposed to sacred things that we get jaded and lose the sense of the sacred.  It becomes a profession, doing and saying “religious” things perfunctorily without sincerely believing in what we say.  And because of the lack of honest and humble self-examination of conscience, we think we are quite holy anyway and that we have not committed any big sins, unlike the rest of the world. This was the case of the religious leaders in today’s gospel who rejected our Lord.

Then there are the real sinners who desire repentance but do not do anything about it.  They know they are living sinful lives.  They know that their life is not in order.  They know they are hurting themselves and others.  They know the law but they cannot obey the law.  In the depths of their heart they may desire to come back to God.  Alas, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.   They cannot find the impetus or strength to renounce their sins and turn back to God.

Why is it that people are not heeding the call to repentance?  The first reason is pride.  This is the cause of blindness, as in the case of the leaders of Israel.  Their pride was hurt and they were not willing to admit that they too were sinners.  They put up a good show for others to see.  Jesus was a threat to them.  Even with all the miracles and signs that Jesus performed, they could not see that Jesus was the Messiah.  When we are proud, we want to see things our own way.  We would not accept the Word of God.  Our ego often gets in the way of our welcoming the simple message of repentance that is preached.  We see this in the case of the Ninevites.  When they heard the message of the prophet Jonah, they immediately repented.  “They proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least. The news reached the king of Nineveh, who rose from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth and sat down in ashes.”

The second cause of blindness is selfishness.  When we think only of ourselves, we cannot see the bigger picture.  Many of us are absorbed in our own needs and desires.  In our selfish pursuit of those things that entice and attract us, we do not weigh the cost of procuring those things.  That is why people cheat, steal and rob.  Many eat, smoke and drink excessively, causing hurt to themselves and their loved ones.  Indeed, one who cannot see beyond oneself will only do things for short term gains but long term pain.   Because of ambition and greed we ruin our health and integrity.

Then there is the third reason for blindness.  It is simply ignorance.  Many of us are hurting ourselves and our loved ones without knowing it.  Some parents think that if they have plenty of money, their children will be happy when what they really want is a loving family and the loving presence of their parents.  Some of us are slaves to pleasure and enjoyment, apparently oblivious to the consequences of our actions. We pursue dangerous activities but do we spare a thought for our loved ones who might have to look after us when we suffer a bad accident, and become crippled for life.  Do we really consider if what we do is really and truly good for us and our loved ones?  Do the means bring about the end that we desire, which is a loving and happy united family?

How, then, can we begin the path to repentance?  One way is fear, like the Ninevites.  For fear of the punishment of God, they repented. Well, this is not a bad motive but it is not the highest motive for true repentance.  If we repent out of fear of punishment, then when that possibility is taken away, we fall back into sin.  It is like little children who would only do what we tell them out of fear of punishment.  This way of thinking shows a lack of maturity in our decisions.

The only way to repent is as the responsorial psalm says, “A humbled, contrite heart, O God, you will not spurn.”  What is required simply is a humble heart that recognizes the sins committed, the hurts we have done to God, our fellowmen and ourselves.  Only true humility can bring a person to contrition.   When we think of the pain and suffering we have caused to others because of our sins, we will then repent.  When we steal, do we ever think how much we are depriving the person and his loved ones of their needs?  When we are unjust in our actions, do we spare a thought that someone is suffering because we have not been fair?

The most powerful motivating factor for repentance of heart is when we truly love God, our loved ones, our fellowmen and ourselves.  That is why Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”  (Lk 10:27)  True conversion must be motivated by love not by fear.  When we begin to understand how our sins affect others and hurt them, especially when they love us so much, then we will be contrite.  The more we fail in love towards our loved ones, the greater the contrition.  So being conscious of the love of God for us, especially in Christ Jesus’ death on the cross, should cause us to feel sorrow for our sins because our sins hurt the heart of God when He sees us hurting ourselves and His people.  Being conscious of the sufferings and anxieties of our loved ones because of our foolish acts will help us to avoid doing the wrong things.

Consequently, if we are seeking a new life in Christ, we must spend these weeks of Lent contemplating on the love and mercy of God in Christ; and the love of our loved ones so that we can be filled with compunction for our sins.   When we start thinking of all that we have done or failed to do, then we will feel remorse for our negligence or wrong done to them.  We need to withdraw to the desert during this Lenten season and spend time reviewing our relationship with God, with others and even the way we treat ourselves.  Are we doing justice to the life that God has given to us and the talents that He has blessed us with?  By coming to consciousness of our failings, we too can then pray, “Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.  In your compassion blot out my offence.”

Truly, the grace of repentance is given to all.  We need not wait for the penitential service to go for confession.  Whenever we are properly prepared and are ready, that is, having a humble and contrite heart, then we should go for the sacrament of reconciliation.  In fact, it is more effective to go for individual confession as you can confess your sins properly and be instructed by the confessor. If penitential service has been proven ineffective as a means of experiencing God’s mercy and effecting a true change of heart, it is because many go for the service without preparation.  They simply went for confession.  They did not hear the Word of God.  They did not spend time reflecting on their life, on all that they had done or failed to do.  So most go for a quick confession without serious and prolonged preparation. Such confession is more like going to a laundry service without any intention to keep the clothes clean for long.

Let us not miss out this grace of repentance.  We should individually make time to go through our life.  We have a few weeks to do so.  Reading the Word of God daily as provided in the mass text, and applying it to our lives will help us to come to a state of awareness and contrition.  Let us not delay but start now.  Give yourself at least half an hour of prayer and reflection every day.  Take note of your sins and your struggles so that when the time comes for confession, you are ready with a contrite heart.   And when you confess sincerely from your heart, you will be washed clean and God’s presence will return to you.  You will experience His joy, His love and, most of all, a new life.   Do not wait or delay longer, otherwise you will be condemned, as Jesus says in the gospel, by the Ninevites and the Queen of the South.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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From Peace and Freedom and  “The Anawim Way: Liturgical Meditations”
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We saw in previous readings that although the Lord invites everyone to the banquet, not everyone accepts his call. Once we do accept the Lord, we enter into the fullness of life which the Lord intends for us. One of the best gift of our life in service to the lord is true freedom, about which Paul reflects today in the first reading: “It was for liberty that Christ freed us.”
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This freedom is a gift from God and is not a product of our own self-reliance. It does not come from our obedience to the laws of God. Real freedom come from obedience to the will of God through faith.
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Our freedom is a gift with strings attached: once we accept our freedom we have responsibilities. Once we accept freedom from God we must use it to His greater purpose and not for selfish things. We must use our freedom in the service of others! By free will we shape our lives for the good of God or toward evil things. But is we choose sin; we revoke out freedom and return to the “yoke of sin.”
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What does the story of Jonah mean to you? .
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Here at Peace and Freedom, Jonah teaches us that “we are never all washed up.” As long as there is one breath of life in us we can ask for the All Merciful Lord to forgive us. Just recently, at the bedside of a dying man I think I heard the words of Jonah when my friend used his last breath to say, “Lord, Have Mercy On My Soul.”
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John Francis Carey
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The yoke of slavery:
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Photo from “Secrets of the Dead – The Lost Diary of Dr. Livingstone”
Dramatized scene of slave in yoke.
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Clearly no human being would choose for himself “the yoke of slavery….”  So why do we sin?
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What is your “yoke of slavery”? Drugs? Sex?
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What the heck is “The Sign of Jonah”?
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Answer: The phrase “sign of Jonah” was used by Jesus as a typological metaphor for His future crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus answered with this expression when asked by the Pharisees for miraculous proof the He was indeed the Messiah. The Pharisees remained unconvinced of Jesus’ claims about Himself, despite His having just cured a demon-possessed man who was both blind and mute. Shortly after the Pharisees accused Jesus of driving out demons by the power of Satan, they asked Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
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For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:38-41).
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To fully appreciate the answer the Jesus gave, we must go to the Old Testament book of Jonah. In its first chapter, we read that God commanded the prophet Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and warn its people that He was going to destroy it for its wickedness. Jonah disobediently ran from the Lord and headed for the city of Tarshish by boat. The Lord then sent a severe storm that caused the crew of the ship to fear for their lives. Jonah was soon thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish where he remained for “three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:15-17).
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After the three-day period, the Lord caused the great fish to vomit Jonah out onto dry land (Jonah 2:10).It is this three-day motif that Jesus was referring back to when He spoke of the sign of Jonah. Jesus had already been producing miracles that were witnessed by many. Jesus had just performed a great sign in the Pharisees’ presence by healing a deaf man who was possessed of a demon. Rather than believe, they accused Jesus of doing this by the power of Satan. Jesus recognized their hardness of heart and refused to give them further proof of His identity.
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However, He did say that there would be one further sign forthcoming, His resurrection from the dead. This would be their final opportunity to be convinced.Jesus’ paralleling of the Pharisees with the people of Nineveh is telling. The people of Nineveh repented of their evil ways (Jonah 3:4-10) after hearing Jonah’s call for repentance, while the Pharisees continued in their unbelief despite being eyewitnesses to the miracles of Jesus. Jesus was telling the Pharisees that their unbelief was culpable given the conversion of the people of Nineveh, sinners who had received far less evidence than the Pharisees themselves had witnessed.But what are we to make of the phrase “three days and three nights”?
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Was Jesus saying that he would be dead for three full 24-hour periods before he would rise from the dead? It does not appear so. The phrase “three days and three nights” need not refer to a literal 72-hour period. Rather, according to the Hebrew reckoning of time, the days could refer to three days in part or in whole. Jesus was probably crucified on a Friday (Mark 15:42). According to the standard reckoning, Jesus died at about 3 p.m. (Matthew 27:46) on Friday (day 1). He remained dead for all of Saturday (day 2) and rose from the dead early on Sunday morning (day 3).
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Attempts to place Jesus’ death on Wednesday to accommodate a literal 72-hour period (while possible) are probably unnecessary once we take into account the Hebrew method of reckoning of each day as beginning at sundown. So it seems that the expression “three days and three nights” was used as a figure of speech meant to signify any part of three days.
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God would often use signs (or miracles) in the Bible to authenticate His chosen messenger. The Lord provided Moses with several miraculous signs in order to prove to others that he was appointed by God (Exodus 4:5-9;7:8-10; 19-20). God sent down fire on Elijah’s alter during Elijah’s contest with the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:36-39). He performed this miracle to prove that the God of Israel was the one true God. Jesus himself would perform many miracles (or “signs”) to demonstrate His power over nature (Matthew 4:23; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 8:22-24; John 6:16-24). The “sign of Jonah” would turn out to be Jesus’ greatest miracle of all. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead would be God’s chief sign that Jesus was Israel’s long awaited Messiah (Acts 2:23-32) and establish Christ’s claims to deity (Romans 1:3-4).
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Homily Ideas for Luke 11: 29-32
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We who claim to be God’s People, may be surprised to see who will be called to God’s side on judgment day because they heard and followed God’s word according to their capacity. The question is: where will we be on that day? Thomas A Kempis, the writer of a famous medieval treatise, called The Imitation of Christ, asked that very same question. He was worried about whether he would persevere in serving Christ to the very end of his life. He said he was told in answer to his prayer: “Do now what you would like to have done then, and you will have nothing to worry about.”

Where will I be on the Day of Judgement? The answer to that question can be decided by me this very day and every single day from now on.

The only day that I can get right is this day: today.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1014g/

Related:

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 (“Stay in the present moment.”)

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See also:

Fr. Mullady is the author of “Man’s Desire for God” and “Christian Social Order.”

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Christian Social Order — book

“Christian Social Order” gives readers an understanding of how Christianity was an essential part of the growth of world social order. During the current years of disorder due to the Islamic State and other, this is a great time to encounter this wonderful book.

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On The Theology of Death By Karl Rahner

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From Henri “The Incomparable”

Book: Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen. Lent os the time for soul searching, cleaning house and return….

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