Posts Tagged ‘do not be afraid’

Morning Prayer for Friday, August 17, 2018 — I pray that I may live in the sunshine of God’s spirit

August 17, 2018

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To one who feels he is an atheist or agnostic, a spiritual experience seems impossible, but to continue as he is means disaster. Many find that to live on a spiritual basis is always a better alternative. We have to face the fact that we must find a spiritual basis in life because lack of power is our dilemma. Once we have found a power by which we can live, and it has to be a power greater than ourselves, we can have a better life in service to others. Have I found that power by which I can live?

Meditation for the Day

Sunshine is the laughter of nature. Live out in the sunshine. The sun and air are good medicine. Nature is a good nurse for tired bodies. Let her have her way with you. God’s grace is like the sunshine. Let your whole being be enwrapped in the Divine spirit. Faith is the soul’s breathing in of the Divine spirit. It makes glad the hearts of human beings. The Divine spirit heals and cures the mind. Let it have its way and all will be well.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may live in the sunshine of God’s spirit. I pray that my mind and soul may be energized by it.

Related:

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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17 AUGUST, 2018, Friday, 19th Week, Ordinary Time

CHOSEN BY LOVE FOR LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ EZK 16:1-15.60.63 OR EZK 16:59-63IS 12MT 19:3-12  ]

In the first reading, we read of the gracious and unconditional love of God for His chosen people.  This was what Moses said to the people, “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession.  It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you – for you were the fewest of all peoples.  It was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”  (Dt 7:6-8) Indeed as we read in the first reading, Israel was nobody.  They were slaves in a pagan land.  “But the Lord in His kindness and mercy, delivered them from their misery.  ‘I saw you struggling in your blood as I was passing, and I said to you as you lay in your blood: Live, and grow like the grass of the fields.’”

Our situation was like that of the Israelites.  Many of us came from very poor families.  Our forefathers did not enjoy the privileges we have today, education, nice houses, modern amenities, work and holidays.   But we have been chosen freely by love because of God’s generosity.  God purposely chose what is weak to shame the strong.  This is what St Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians.  “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.”  (1 Cor 1:26-29)

Indeed, we are what we are today because of the many people who have played a part in our lives, our parents, our guardians, our teachers, our friends and society at large.  Without their contribution, we would never have been able to form ourselves and be able to do what we do.  It is the caring and nurturing milieu that has shaped us.  For those of us who attended mission schools, it was the Catholic ethos and values that formed us in Christian character.  Through the ambience and people we grew up with, we have now become successful leaders and contributors to society.

Indeed, we have been chosen by love for love.  This is what the prophet Ezekiel said. “I loaded you with jewels, gave you bracelets for your wrists and a necklace for your throat.  I gave you nose-ring and earrings; I put a beautiful diadem in your head.  You were loaded with gold and silver, and dressed in fine linen and embroided silks.  Your food was the finest flour, honey and oil.  You grew more and more beautiful; and you rose to be queen.  The fame of your beauty spread through the nations, since it was perfect, because I had clothed you with my own splendour – it is the Lord who speaks.”  Truly, we were chosen by God because He is love and He wants to share in His love.  Because we are loved by God, in turn we are called to love others.  “Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.”  (1 Jn: 11f)

This is where the warning lies.   When we become successful in life, there is often this temptation for us to forget our origin.  This was why the prophet reminded the people of their origin. “By origin and birth you belong to the land of Canaan.  Your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.  At birth, the very day you were born, there was no one to cut your navel-string, or wash you in cleansing water, or rub you with salt, or wrap you in napkins.  No one leaned kindly over you to do anything like that for you.  You were exposed in the open fields; you were as unloved as that on the day you were born.”  This was the same reason why Jesus in speaking about marriage went back to the origin of God’s plan.  When they asked Jesus, “’Then why did Moses command that a writ of dismissal should be given in cases of divorce?’  It was because you were so unteachable’ he said ‘that Moses allowed you to divorce wives, but it was not like this from the beginning.”

What is the divine plan of God?  We are created for the purpose of love.  It is out of His love that we were created and redeemed.  It is because He loves us that He instituted the sacrament of marriage so that man would not be lonely.  “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” (Gn 2:18) Indeed, we are not chosen only for ourselves but for the love of God and for others.   We are called to love.  It is immaterial whether we are married or single.  We are called to love God and our fellowmen according to our vocation in life.  As Jesus said to the disciples who asked, “‘If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is not advisable to marry.’  But he replied, ‘It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted.  There are eunuchs born that way from their mother’s womb, there are eunuchs made so by men and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”

Love must be faithful.  “This is why a man must leave father and mother, and cling to his wife, and the two become one body.  So then, what God has united, man must not divide.”  Whether we are married or single, we must be faithful to the call to love.  We must be wholeheartedly convinced that our common vocation is to love.  Unless we look beyond ourselves to others, we will never be able to find life.   We must have this focus in life, which is to love and be loved.  Being focused and finding focus.

Love must also be fruitful.  When we love we are creative and proactive.  The Lord commanded us, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Gn 1:28) As we have received love, we must now love others.  As we have received life, we must be life-givers.  Once we were poor and deprived.  Now that we are better off, we must remember those who are without love and the opportunities of life.

Indeed, love is always grateful.  Like the psalmist, we must give thanks to God by praising Him in our lives by witnessing to His love and wonders at work in us. “Give thanks to the Lord, give praise to his name! Make his mighty deeds known to the peoples! Declare the greatness of his name.  Sing a psalm to the Lord for he has done glorious deeds; make them known to all the earth!  People of Zion, sing and shout for joy, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”  We must be careful that we are not carried away by our success.  This is what the prophet is warning us.  “You have become infatuated with your own beauty; you have used your fame to make yourself a prostitute; you have offered your services to all comers.  But I will remember the covenant that I made with you when you were a girl, and I will conclude a covenant with you that shall last forever.”  We must not become proud and arrogant, forgetting the many people who looked after us and cared for us when we were then so deprived and helpless.

Alas for those of us who have received and are ungrateful, we will suffer the consequences of self-centeredness and our sins.  Then history would repeat itself.  We will do what our parents did to us when they had no time for us and when they abandoned us or when they were unable to look after us.  The Lord invites us to repent,  “So remember and be covered with shame, and in your confusion be reduced to silence, when I have pardoned you for all that you have done – it is the Lord who speaks.”‘

Of course, we love not with our own strength but in and through Him alone.  This is the prayer of the psalmist.  “Truly, God is my salvation, I trust, I shall not fear. For the Lord is my strength, my song, he became my saviour.  With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”  We need to come to Jesus regularly to be strengthened by Him.  Alone, we do not have the capacity to love and to serve.  Only Jesus, the source of love can empower us to love selflessly and give ourselves for the greater good of society and humanity, especially the less privileged ones of society.

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

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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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Third Step Prayer (Alcoholics Anonymous)

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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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, August 10, 2018 — Whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully — We have everything we need

August 9, 2018

St. Lawrence in stained glass window by Franz Mayer & Co.. He is holding a palm branch, a symbol for martyrdom, and a griddle, the instrument of his death.

Saint Lawrence or Laurence (LatinLaurentiuslit. “laurelled“; 31 December AD 225[1] – 10 August 258) was one of the seven deacons of the city of RomeItaly, under Pope Sixtus II who were martyred in the persecution of the Christians that the Roman Emperor Valerian ordered in 258.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Lawrence

The year was 258 A.D. It was a difficult beginning for what would become the First Christian Millennium. Hostility against the early followers of Jesus Christ was growing. The barbarism and severity of pagan Rome had begun to reach a fever pitch. It would soon lead to a blood lust. The newborn Christian Church, faithful to the One who had given Himself for the life of the world, continued the work of His redemption.

 

Roman authorities charged Christians of that era with “odium humani generis” [hatred of the human race]. The Romans claimed to be citizens of a great empire, yet they practiced primitive forms of abortion as well as “exposure”, the killing of unwanted newborns.

First and Second century Rome was a challenging mission field for these early Christians. Rome proclaimed itself the shining example to the world of its age while it violated the Natural Moral Law and embraced debauchery. Sound familiar?

The day that Deacon Lawrence experienced his birth from death to life was an ominous and frightful day in ancient Rome. Four days earlier, the great Bishop of Rome, Sixtus, was arrested by soldiers of the emperor Valerian, along with his beloved deacons, and beheaded.

Valerian had issued an edict to the Roman Senate that all the Christian clergy-bishops, priests and deacons-were to be arrested and executed. There were so many holy people among the martyrs of early Rome. That makes it even more remarkable that the life and death of this one humble Deacon-Lawrence-is attributed with all of Rome becoming Christian.

Sentenced to death in the Emperor Valerian’s sweeping condemnation of all Christian clergy, Lawrence offended the Emperor  – and endeared himself to all Christians since then – by assembling before Valerian the real gold and silver of the Church, the poor.

According to the Christian tradition, Deacon Lawrence, knowing that the fervor of Valerians’ hatred was extending to all Christians who owned property, began to give it all away. He distributed the money and treasures of the Church to the city’s poor-believing the clear admonition of the Savior that they were blessed and especially loved by Him.

Valerian heard the news and wanted the treasure to satisfy his unbridled lust for worldly power. So, he offered Deacon Lawrence a way out of sure death. If he would show him where the Church’s great gold and silver were located, he would issue an order of clemency, sparing his life so that he could continue his work.

Valerian was delighted when the deacon asked for three days to gather all the gold and silver of the Church together in one central place! His pride and greed filled blinded him from seeing the truth.

For three days, Deacon Lawrence went throughout the city and invited all the beloved poor, handicapped, and misfortunate to come together. They were being supported by a thriving early Christian community who understood the Gospel imperative to recognize Jesus in the poor.

When Valerian arrived, Deacon Lawrence presented him with the true gold and silver of the Church, the poor! The emperor was filled with rage! Beheading was not enough for this Christian Deacon. He ordered Deacon Lawrence to be burned alive, in public, on a griddle. Witnesses recorded the public martyrdom. The deacon cheerfully offered himself to the Lord Jesus and even joked with his executioners!

The tradition records massive conversions to the Christian faith as a result of the holy life and death of one Deacon who understood the true heart of his vocation. He was poured out, like his Master, Jesus Christ the Servant, in redemptive love, on behalf of others. It is still said to this day that all of Rome became Christian as a result of the faithful life, and the death, of this one humble deacon. He was buried in a cemetery on the Via Tiburtina. On that spot, Constantine would later build a Basilica.

A special devotion to Lawrence, deacon and martyr, spread throughout the entire Christian community. Early Christians had no doubt that those who had gone to be with the Lord continued to pray for those who still struggled in this earthly life. They saw in Lawrence a great example of how to live, and how to die, faithful to the Gospel.

Years later, St Augustine reflected on the heroism of this great deacon in a sermon preached on his feast day, emphasizing that his life and death were an example for all Christians to emulate: “I tell you again and again my brethren, that in the Lord’s garden are to be found not only the roses of His martyrs. In it there are also the lilies of the virgins, the ivy of wedded couples, and the violets of widows. On no account may any class of people despair, thinking that God has not called them.”

The life and death of Deacon Lawrence speaks the timeless message of the Gospel to all who will listen.  Whether we are ever called to shed our blood in what has traditionally been called red martyrdom or simply called to offer our sacrifices daily in a continuous life of poured-out love, traditionally called white martyrdom, we continue the redemptive work of the Lord through our daily Christian lives and participation in the life of the Church.

The Deacon and martyr Lawrence offered himself fully to Jesus Christ – and shows us the way to do the same.

Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, Pray for us

https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=366

Feast of Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr
Lectionary: 618

Reading 1 2 COR 9:6-10

Brothers and sisters:
Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,
and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion,
for God loves a cheerful giver.
Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you,
so that in all things, always having all you need,
you may have an abundance for every good work.
As it is written:

He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.

The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food
will supply and multiply your seed
and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

Responsorial Psalm PS 112:1-2, 5-6, 7-8, 9

R. (5) Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.
Blessed the man who fears the LORD,
who greatly delights in his commands.
His posterity shall be mighty upon the earth;
the upright generation shall be blessed.
R. Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.
Well for the man who is gracious and lends,
who conducts his affairs with justice;
He shall never be moved;
the just one shall be in everlasting remembrance.
R. Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.
An evil report he shall not fear;
his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.
His heart is steadfast; he shall not fear
till he looks down upon his foes.
R. Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.
Lavishly he gives to the poor,
his generosity shall endure forever;
his horn shall be exalted in glory.
R. Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.

Alleluia JN 8:12BC

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness
but will have the light of life, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 12:24-26

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me.”
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Simon of Cyrene assisting Jesus to carry the cross
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Our very first thought upon reading in today’s Gospel “Whoever serves me must follow me” (John 12: 26) is we must accept our cross in order to achieve eternal life. No cross, no resurrection.
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Acceptance is the key. After that we try daily to do the “Will of God.”
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John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
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Lectio Divina From the Carmelites
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Reflection
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This passage contains solemn and crucial words concerning the modality with which the mission of Jesus and of his disciples “produces much fruit”. But in this solemn and central declaration of Jesus; “unless a wheat grain falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a large harvest” (v.24), it is inserted in that narrative context of 12, 12-36 where the encounter of Jesus as Messiah with Israel is narrated and the rejection of the Jews of his Messianic proposal.
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Which are the principal themes that describe the Messianism of Jesus?
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The Jews expected a Messiah who would be a powerful king, who would continue with the royal style of David and would restore to Israel its glorious past. Instead, Jesus, places in the centre of his Messianism the gift of his life and the possibility given to man to be able to accept God’s project on his life.
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The story of a seed.
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The gift of his life, as a crucial characteristic of his Messianism, Jesus outlines it with a mini parable. He describes a central and decisive event of his life drawing from the agricultural environment from where he takes the images to render his parables interesting and immediate. It is the story of a seed: a small parable to communicate with the people in a simple and transparent way: a seed begins its course or journey in the dark meander of the earth, where it is suffocated and withers but in the Spring it becomes a green stalk and in the Summer a spike charged with grain. The focal points of the parable are two: the production of much fruit; the finding of eternal life. The seed that breaks through the darkness of earth has been interpreted by the First Fathers of the Church as a symbolical reference to the Incarnation of the Son of God.
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In the ground it seems that the vital force of the seed is destined to get lost because the seed withers and dies. But then the surprise of nature: in the summer when the spikes turn golden, the profound secret of that death is revealed. Jesus knows that death is becoming imminent, threatens on his person, even though he does not see it as a beast that devours. It is true that it has the characteristics of darkness and of being ripped, but for Jesus it contains the secret force typical of child birth, a mystery of fecundity and of life.
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In the light of this vision one can understand another expression used by Jesus: “Anyone who loves his life will lose it and anyone who hates his own life in this world will preserve it for eternal life”. Anyone who considers his own life as a cold property to be lived in egoism is like a seed closed in itself and without any perspective of life. On the contrary who “hates his life”, a very sharp Semitic expression to indicate the renunciation of only fulfilling oneself applied to the axis of the meaning of an existence on the donation to others; it is only thus that life becomes creative: it is a source of peace, of happiness and of life. It is the reality of the seed that sprouts. But the reader can also get in the mini parable of Jesus another dimension, that of the “Passover”. Jesus knows that in order to lead humanity to the threshold of divine love he has to go through the dark way of death on the cross. On the trail of this life the disciple also faces his own “hour”, that of death, with the certainty that it will lead to eternal life, that is to say, to full communion with God.
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 In synthesis. The story of the seed is that of dying in order to multiply itself; its function is that of a service to life. The annihilation of Jesus is comparable to the seed of life buried in the earth. In Jesus’ life to love is to serve and to serve is to lose oneself in the life of others, to die to oneself in order to allow others to live. While his “hour” is approaching, the conclusion of his mission, Jesus assures his own with the promise of a consolation and of a joy without end, accompanied, by every type of disturbance or trouble.
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He gives the example of the seed that has to wither and of the woman who has to give birth in the pangs of child birth. Christ has chosen the cross for himself and for his own: anyone who wants to be his disciple is called to share his same itinerary. He has always spoken to his disciples in a radical way: «Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, will save it” (Lk 9, 24).
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Personal questions
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Does your life express the gift of yourself? Is it a seed of love that makes love be born? Are you aware that in order to be a seed of joy, so that there will be joy in the field of wheat grain the moment of sowing is necessary?
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Can you say that you have chosen the Lord if later you do not embrace the cross with him?
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When the hard struggle breaks out in you between “yes” or “no”, between courage and fear, between faith and unbelief, between love and egoism, do you feel lost thinking that such temptations are not suitable to those who follow Jesus?
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Concluding Prayer
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All goes well for one who lends generously, who is honest in all his dealing; for all time to come he will not stumble, for all time to come the upright will be remembered. (Ps 112,5-6)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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

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Morning Prayer for Tuesday, August 7, 2018 — God’s spirit is always with you, His hand is on your shoulder — Anthony Hopkins on his Great Gift

August 7, 2018

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Never doubt that God’s spirit is always with you, wherever you are, to keep you on the right path. God’s keeping power is never at fault, only your realization of it. You must try to believe in God’s nearness and availability of His grace. It is not a question of whether God can provide a shelter from the storm, but of whether or not you seek the security of that shelter. Every fear, worry, or doubt is disloyalty to God. You must endeavor to trust God wholly. Practice saying: “All is going to be well.” Say it to yourself until you feel it deeply.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may feel deeply that all is well. I pray that nothing will be able to move me from that deep conviction.

Related:

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!

Image result for God's loving hand, art

Related:

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Sir Anthony Hopkins

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Each human being has a spark of God within him. Curing addiction can awaken this spark and create a spiritual experience — and a better person!

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, August 7, 2018 — Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted — All your lovers have forgotten you…

August 6, 2018

“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Image may contain: sky, swimming, outdoor and water

Jesus walks on water, by Ivan Aivazovsky (1888)

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Tuesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 408

Reading 1 JER 30:1-2, 12-15, 18-22

The following message came to Jeremiah from the LORD:
For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel:
Write all the words I have spoken to you in a book.

For thus says the LORD:
Incurable is your wound,
grievous your bruise;
There is none to plead your cause,
no remedy for your running sore,
no healing for you.
All your lovers have forgotten you,
they do not seek you.
I struck you as an enemy would strike,
punished you cruelly;
Why cry out over your wound?
your pain is without relief.
Because of your great guilt,
your numerous sins,
I have done this to you.

Thus says the LORD:
See! I will restore the tents of Jacob,
his dwellings I will pity;
City shall be rebuilt upon hill,
and palace restored as it was.
From them will resound songs of praise,
the laughter of happy men.
I will make them not few, but many;
they will not be tiny, for I will glorify them.
His sons shall be as of old,
his assembly before me shall stand firm;
I will punish all his oppressors.
His leader shall be one of his own,
and his rulers shall come from his kin.
When I summon him, he shall approach me;
how else should one take the deadly risk
of approaching me? says the LORD.
You shall be my people,
and I will be your God.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 102:16-18, 19-21, 29 AND 22-23

R. (17) The Lord will build up Zion again, and appear in all his glory.
The nations shall revere your name, O LORD,
and all the kings of the earth your glory,
When the LORD has rebuilt Zion
and appeared in his glory;
When he has regarded the prayer of the destitute,
and not despised their prayer.
R. The Lord will build up Zion again, and appear in all his glory.
Let this be written for the generation to come,
and let his future creatures praise the LORD:
“The LORD looked down from his holy height,
from heaven he beheld the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoners,
to release those doomed to die.”
R. The Lord will build up Zion again, and appear in all his glory.
The children of your servants shall abide,
and their posterity shall continue in your presence,
That the name of the LORD may be declared on Zion;
and his praise, in Jerusalem,
When the peoples gather together
and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD.
R. The Lord will build up Zion again, and appear in all his glory.

Alleluia  JN 1:49B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Rabbi, you are the Son of God;
you are the King of Israel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 14:22-36

Jesus made the disciples get into a boat
and precede him to the other side of the sea,
while he dismissed the crowds.
After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.
When it was evening he was there alone.
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore,
was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them, walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.
“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.
At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter said to him in reply,
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come.”
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him,
and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
After they got into the boat, the wind died down.
Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying,
“Truly, you are the Son of God.”

After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret.
When the men of that place recognized him,
they sent word to all the surrounding country.
People brought to him all those who were sick
and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak,
and as many as touched it were healed.

Or: MT 15:1-2, 10-14

Some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said,
“Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?
They do not wash their hands when they eat a meal.”
He summoned the crowd and said to them, “Hear and understand.
It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles the man;
but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.”
Then his disciples approached and said to him,
“Do you know that the Pharisees took offense
when they heard what you said?”
He said in reply, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted
will be uprooted.
Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind.
If a blind man leads a blind man,
both will fall into a pit.”

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Related:

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Commentary on Matthew 14:22-36 From Living Space

As soon as the people had been filled with the food that Jesus gave them, Jesus packs his disciples off in the boat to the other side of the lake. He sends the crowds away and then retreats to the mountain to pray all by himself.

We know from John’s account that the people wanted to make him a king. If Jesus wanted to take control of the crowd this was the moment; they were ready to follow enthusiastically. Jesus was indeed their king but not the kind they were expecting. He would draw the crowds to him in a very different way, hanging in shame on a cross.

It looks too as if he did not want his disciples to get any wrong ideas either. They must have been elated at their role in the extraordinary event of feeding more than 5,000 people. So, perhaps with a lot of grumbling, they are sent off even before the excited crowds have dispersed.

As they make their way across the lake in this dark mood, things get even worse. They run into a big storm and their boat is being tossed about like a cork. Then, out of the darkness, between 3 and 6 in the morning hours, they see Jesus approaching them across the water. Far from being delighted, they are terrified out of their wits. Superstitious men that they are, they think it is a ghost. Ghosts were very much a part of their world.

Words of encouragement come across the water: “Courage! It is I [Greek,ego eimi, ‘ego ‘eimi] = I AM]. Do not be afraid.” Jesus gives himself the very name of Yahweh; this is all the reassurance they need. Their God is with them.

Only in Matthew’s account of this story do we have Peter’s reaction. “Lord, if it really is you, tell me to come to you across the water.”

“Come!”

Peter gets out of the boat and goes towards Jesus. It is an act of love and faith/trust. But not quite enough. The power of the wind and waves gets stronger than his desire to be with Jesus. He begins to sink. “Lord, save me!” Jesus lifts him up, “How little faith/trust you have!”

As soon as Jesus and Peter get into the boat, there is a complete calm.

The rest of the disciples are overwhelmed: “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

We have here behind this story an image of the early Church, of which the boat and the disciples are a symbol. The surrounding water is the world and the wind and waves, the forces which threaten the tiny community. Jesus seems to be far away but he is not and he appears in the midst of the storm. Once he steps inside the boat, there is calm, not only because the surrounding storm has stopped but also because of the peace which the awareness of Jesus’ presence gives.

There is an added element in this story in that Peter, the leader of the community, comes hand in hand into the boat with Jesus. In time, the authority of Jesus will be passed over to him.

There is also, of course, in the calming of the storm an indication of Jesus’ real identity, expressed in the awe-filled words of the disciples, “Truly, you are the Son of God”, echoing Jesus’ own statement of “I AM”.

There is a brief epilogue at the end of our passage. The boat reaches the area of Gennesaret. The name refers either to the narrow plain, about four miles long and less than two miles wide on the north-west shore of the Sea of Galilee, north of Magdala, or to a town in the plain. Significantly for the work that Jesus was about to do, the plain was considered a garden land, fertile and well watered.

As soon as Jesus reaches the shore the crowds again gather in huge numbers especially to have their sick cured. So great was their faith that they asked only to touch the fringe of his garment. All those who did so (in faith) were healed.

Jesus had sent away the crowds earlier probably because of the late hour but also perhaps because of the mood of the crowd which was taking on political overtones not wanted by Jesus.

But now they are back to seek from him what he came to give them: healing and wholeness.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2183g/

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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Today’s Gospel tells us again to keep in mind one of the most often repeated lessons from Jesus: DO NOT BE AFRAID.
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The Gospel tells us “Do not be afraid” — but today the saints tell us also to “speak the truth.” These are rare things in the world today. Having a real relationship with God allows us to overcome our fears, ourselves and the drag of our modern society. Be alive and joyful as God expects from us. It seems as if “Do Not Be Afraid” is one of the most frequent messages in the Gospels. Link to some of the other scripture references to do not be afraid:
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If we love God we follow God’s commandments. Once we are doing those things we seek a stronger and stronger personal relationship with Jesus — and everything is OK.
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St. John Vianney is one wonderful saint we can all follow: just work hard and pray. Live simply. He ate small meals and slept on a small cot. Mostly he heard confessions and served as God’s instrument of forgiveness. We should all go to confession more and keep ourselves ‘clean.”
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From Catholic OnLine:
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Accustomed to the most severe austerities, beleaguered by swarms of penitents, and besieged by the devil, this great mystic manifested a imperturbable patience. He was a wonderworker loved by the crowds, but he retained a childlike simplicity, and he remains to this day the living image of the priest after the heart of Christ.

He heard confessions of people from all over the world for the sixteen hours each day. His life was filled with works of charity and love. It is recorded that even the staunchest of sinners were converted at his mere word. He died August 4, 1859, and was canonized May 31, 1925.

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=399

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Morning Prayer for Friday, August 3, 2018 — Stay in the Present Moment — Life is a gift to God — Get Help from Your Friends!

August 3, 2018

The only day you can tuly influence is today. The only moment you are working on is the present moment.

With God we are OK. Do not be afraid.

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Each moment of your day, which you devote to this new way of life is a gift to God. The gift of the moments. Even when your desire to serve God is sincere, it is not an easy thing to give Him many of these moments: the daily things you had planned to do, given up gladly so that you can perform a good service or say a kind word. If you can see God’s purpose in many situations, it will be easier to give Him many moments of your day. Every situation has two interpretations – your own and God’s. Try to handle each situation in the way you believe God would have it handled.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may make my day count somewhat for God. I pray that I may not spend it all selfishly.

Related:

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In other words: stay in the present moment.
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How come we refuse to believe?
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Book: The Sacrament of the Present Moment
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Get God To Help With Your Problem

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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 (That word “UNLESS” means this is something we cannot ignore…)
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On our Peace and Freedom web site, these are our three top “overnight reads” —

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Padre Pio
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“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”
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– St. Pio of  Pietrelcina
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John Paul The Great (Pope Saint John Paul II) carries his cross. What cross is yours? How are you doing carrying it the way Jesus taught us?
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Our Thanks to Father Benedict J. Groeschel C.F.R. — His books can be very helpful if you are seeking God in your life ….. He helped me more than he ever knew… He also suffered a lot his last few years…

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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, August 1, 2018 — “When I found your words, I devoured them, they became my joy and the happiness of my heart.”

July 31, 2018

For I am with you to deliver and rescue you says the LORD!

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Saint Alphonsus Liguouri, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 403

Reading 1 JER 15:10, 16-21

Woe to me, mother, that you gave me birth!
a man of strife and contention to all the land!
I neither borrow nor lend,
yet all curse me.
When I found your words, I devoured them;
they became my joy and the happiness of my heart,
Because I bore your name,
O LORD, God of hosts.
I did not sit celebrating
in the circle of merrymakers;
Under the weight of your hand I sat alone
because you filled me with indignation.
Why is my pain continuous,
my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?
You have indeed become for me a treacherous brook,
whose waters do not abide!
Thus the LORD answered me:
If you repent, so that I restore you,
in my presence you shall stand;
If you bring forth the precious without the vile,
you shall be my mouthpiece.
Then it shall be they who turn to you,
and you shall not turn to them;
And I will make you toward this people
a solid wall of brass.
Though they fight against you,
they shall not prevail,
For I am with you,
to deliver and rescue you, says the LORD.
I will free you from the hand of the wicked,
and rescue you from the grasp of the violent.

Responsorial Psalm PS 59:2-3, 4, 10-11, 17, 18

R. (17d) God is my refuge on the day of distress.
Rescue me from my enemies, O my God;
from my adversaries defend me.
Rescue me from evildoers;
from bloodthirsty men save me.
R. God is my refuge on the day of distress.
For behold, they lie in wait for my life;
mighty men come together against me,
Not for any offense or sin of mine, O LORD.
R. God is my refuge on the day of distress.
O my strength! for you I watch;
for you, O God, are my stronghold,
As for my God, may his mercy go before me;
may he show me the fall of my foes.
R. God is my refuge on the day of distress.
But I will sing of your strength
and revel at dawn in your mercy;
You have been my stronghold,
my refuge in the day of distress.
R. God is my refuge on the day of distress.
O my strength! your praise will I sing;
for you, O God, are my stronghold,
my merciful God!
R. God is my refuge on the day of distress.

Alleluia  JN 15:15B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I call you my friends, says the Lord,
for I have made known to you all that the Father has told me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 13:44-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”
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Reflection on Matthew’s Gospel
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Becoming a member of His kingdom, well trained for service He says, is like being a householder able to bring out of his treasure things new and things old, that is to say, being ready and equipped to share the glorious good news about Jesus with the world around us.  But the truth is, much as we wish to share the good news (evangelize) about Jesus with the world around us if we’re believers there are barriers and hindrances that hold us back from doing so with the joy that ought to characterize us.  There is fear, right?  We want people to like us.  We don’t want to lose friendships as we open our mouths to speak for our Savior.  There is pride.  We don’t like feeling vulnerable and we are rarely ever so vulnerable as when we pluck up the courage to talk to someone whom we have known well to say, “You need Christ.”  Sometimes there’s prejudice.  There are some people we simply don’t like and we don’t want to love them like that and we have hurdles in our own heart to overcome.  And we can add to that list many, many more barriers and hindrances to sharing the treasure that is Jesus Christ with the world.  But in verses 44 to 46 I think Jesus puts His finger on perhaps the great barrier and hindrance behind all others in our hearts if we are disciples of His, and that is that we value other things more highly than we value Him.  In these two short parables Jesus is exposing to our view the true worth of the kingdom of heaven, which, if we can grasp it, will change us, change what we value, and change what we live for.

Parables: A Time of Teaching for Kingdom Disciples

So let’s take a look at the passage together.  In verse 36 we learn that the crowds who had been attending Jesus’ ministry, His public ministry, have been left behind.  He’s now gone indoors with His disciples to teach them privately.  And so in 36 to 43 He explains to them the parable of the weeds and then there are, what, three or four more parables that He has for them privately.  He has taught the crowds and the disciples together a great deal but here now are a sequence of teachings that He reserves for them alone.  I think at least we can say these are particularly important for the disciples and for the life of discipleship.  He wants to be sure the disciples grasp this and these truths.  The two parables we are considering today in 44 through 46 are not especially complex, neither is their message particularly mysterious, and yet I think it’s not an exaggeration to say that the truths they contain stand at the heart of what to animate and energize our Christian lives so that these two smallest parables in the series in Matthew 13 are arguably the two most significant in shaping a Christian life that is trained well for kingdom living.  Let’s consider the two parables together for a few moments. They are, I’m sure, very familiar to many of us.

The first in verse 44 is the parable of the man who finds treasure hidden in a field.  He immediately, surreptitiously buries the treasure once he has found it once again, sells everything he has to raise the asking price for the property, and purchases the field, all so that he might gain the treasure.  The second parable, 45 to 46, is very similar.  This time it is a merchant who is searching for fine pearls; presumably this is how he makes his living in the world – he trades fine pearls.  And one day he finds a uniquely precious pearl that he simply must have and he liquidates all his assets in order to obtain this one great prize.  I want you to notice three things with me in these two parables.  First, the varied beneficiaries of the kingdom; the varied beneficiaries of the kingdom.  Then secondly, the incomparable value of the kingdom and finally, the expulsive power of the kingdom.  The varied beneficiaries, the incomparable value, and the expulsive power of the kingdom.

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure (left) paired with the Parable of the Pearl (right) on a stained glass window in Scots’ Church, Melbourne.

I. The Varied Beneficiaries of the Kingdom

Let’s think about the varied beneficiaries of the kingdom first of all.  In the first parable Jesus tells us about a man who finds treasure in a field.  It still happens actually, sometimes.  I was reading about a tenant farmer in Hoxne in Suffolk in England, a man called Peter Wattling. He lost his hammer in the field.  He hires his friend, Eric Laws, with a metal detector to go looking.  Instead of finding a hammer they discover the largest horde of fifth century Roman artifacts in the world, worth about five million dollars.  The only treasure my family has ever found using a metal detector was a quarter that my youngest son swallowed and we tracked its way on its progress through his abdomen!  My point is, treasure in a field is something of a fantasy, isn’t it?  “X marks the spot” to our minds – finding buried treasure.  But in Jesus’ day, think about where He lives.  Palestine was a war-torn region and so His scenario in verse 44 is much less exotic or would have been to His original hearers.  That people hid their valuables in their field for security if the owner died before he could recover it he may well have taken his secret with him to the grave.

In this case, the thing to notice is that the man who found the treasure is not the owner of the field.  All the other details of the parable actually are shaped by this one prevailing fact.  The man, probably a hired farmhand working the land on behalf of the landowner, does not possess the field in which the treasure is found.  According to rabbinic law, if a man lifts the treasure from its hiding place he was now legally bound to hand the treasure over to the one who owns the land.  But if he can purchase the field then the land and everything in it, including the treasure, would legally belong to him.  In other words, this man’s entire situation and the whole of the parable depends upon his economic standing, his status. He is not a wealthy landowner; he is hired help.  On the other hand, in the second parable in verse 45, the central character is not a poor hired laborer but a wealthy merchant.  He makes his living in what was then the lucrative trade in fine pearls.  They were in great demand in Jesus’ day.  You could get a poorer quality pearl from the Red Sea. The best came from the Persian Gulf or even as far away as India and Sri Lanka, which means that a merchant who deals in fine pearls would have to travel widely, extensively, to track down the best products.  In this case, after searching who knows how long and traveling who knows how far, the merchant has at last found a pearl worth more than anything else.  This man, he’s set in striking contrast, isn’t he, with the man who finds the buried treasure.  This one is wealthy rich.  He travels internationally in pursuit of his business interests; the other is a poor hired laborer, eking out his crust, working with his hands.

Both, however, are beneficiaries of the kingdom.  Both find treasure.  Or notice another contrast between these two men.  The first man is simply busy about his tasks when, all by accident as it were, he discovers the treasure hidden in the field.  He has no metal detector; he’s not out looking for treasure.  He’s not thinking about treasure.  He expects no changes in his circumstances at all.  He’s plowing the field when his plow hits something that doesn’t sound like a rock and his world is turned upside-down in an instant, all of a sudden to his utter surprise.  On the other hand, the second man, he knows treasure.  He’s been seeking it with diligence and vigor.  This is what he does for a living; this is his life.  Pearls are his great business and he’s dedicated himself to finding them.  And he’s seen plenty of them over the years when suddenly all his searching comes to an end.  He doesn’t need to search anymore; he finds one pearl he can retire on, a pearl worth more than everything else he has or has ever possessed.

The Nature of the Kingdom and Those Who Belong to It

These are the beneficiaries of the kingdom – diverse, different, unalike.  These are the people of God.  These are disciples.  Some are rich and some are poor.  Some go looking for answers and perhaps search for a long time when, at last by God’s grace, they find the pearl of great price, the Lord Jesus, to the salvation of their souls.  And others are oblivious to the true poverty of their lives until the treasure lands in their lap, all unlooked for, and God takes hold of them and makes them His own.  I think there’s an important lesson for us there about the nature of the kingdom and those who belong within it.  We don’t all look alike and our stories don’t all sound alike and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  Covenant children raised in the church never knowing a day away from the embrace of their Savior and those who are converted by God’s grace from no background at all.  Black and white, rich and poor, Ivy League scholars and high school dropouts, high profile citizens and nobodies from nowhere are the types who belong in the kingdom through faith in Jesus.  There are no types who, if they trust in Jesus, do not belong in His kingdom, which means of course, it means of course that you have a place here.  You have a place here if you believe in Jesus.  There are no outsiders and there are no insiders in the kingdom of heaven.  “There is neither Jew or Greek, slave nor free; there is no male or female.  You are all one in Christ Jesus” – Galatians 3 and verse 28.  So if today you trust in Christ you have a home here among the people of God, regardless of where you went to school or didn’t go to school, or how much you make or how long you’ve been on welfare, you have a home here regardless of how you speak or the color of your skin.  If you are a believer in Jesus Christ your face fits in the gallery of beneficiaries of the kingdom of heaven and this is your place.  The varied beneficiaries of the kingdom.

II. The Incomparable Value of the Kingdom

And then notice secondly the incomparable value of the kingdom.  Notice what the two men, with very different means available to them, do.  They sell all they have to buy the field and buy the pearl. You see what they’ve done, right?  They’ve done a careful cost-benefits analysis, they’ve placed the total worth of everything in their lives on one side of the scales and the total value of the treasure, of the pearl, on the other, only to find the benefits of possessing the treasure, the total worth of the pearl, far, far outweighs everything they have or could ever gain and far outweighs the costs of obtaining the treasure.  Jesus Christ, having Him, knowing Him, enjoying the forgiveness that He can provide, having our consciences made clean through His blood, being adopted into His family, made heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another, being guided in all our confusions, comforted in all our sorrows, rebuked in all our wanderings, preserved through all our dangers, and brought safely home at last, all of that makes Jesus Christ infinitely precious so that all who have Him can say about the Scriptures through which our Jesus speaks to us, “They are more precious to us than gold,” Psalm 19 and verse 10.  And we can say to Him, “Whom have I in heaven but You?  There is nothing on earth that I desire beside You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but You Lord Jesus, You are the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  You’re my treasure.  You are the pearl of great price, more valuable to me than anything else.”

The Brilliance of Christ and the Utter Poverty of the World

Let me commend Jesus to you.  Especially today if you’re not a believer in Him, besides Jesus all the dazzling bobbles our world runs after seem dull.  The luster is gone from the gold of this world’s treasure.  Its brilliance tarnished, its value debased beside the unending worth of Jesus Christ.  His value never depreciates but we will spend eternity, brothers and sisters, we will spend eternity discovering the true dimensions of His infinite worth to the unending satisfaction of our hearts.  To live without Jesus is to walk through the world in black and white.  To live without Jesus is to live in utter poverty, needlessly, because there’s treasure for you in Jesus Christ. 

See more:

https://www.fpcjackson.org/resource-library/sermons/the-parables-of-the-hidden-treasure-and-the-pearl-of-great-value

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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1 AUGUST, 2018, Wednesday, 17th Week, Ordinary Time
THE PEARL OF LIFE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ JER 15:1016-21MT 13:44-46  ]

What is the value of a pearl?  Why do people seek after pearls, diamonds and all kinds of exquisite stones?  Why do such pearls and stones fetch so much money?  Women, particularly, love pearls and diamonds.  In truth it is nothing but a stone.  You cannot eat it!  But it brings an aesthetic joy that cannot be measured in material not even in financial terms.   Or else why would people spend thousands of dollars or even millions to acquire such pearls and stones?  So the pearl stands for exceptional beauty that gives joy to the eyes and raises the mind to the higher things of life, the wonders of creation.  It gives much pleasure just to hold it or to wear it.

Within this context, we can better appreciate the parables of today’s gospel.  Both parables speak of the treasure that one finds, either deliberately or by chance.   In the case of the first parable, the man found it by chance whereas in the second instance, the man was seeking it.  In whichever case, the lesson remains that if one finds such a treasure, one will give up everything he or she has and buys it.  When something is a treasure to you, you would do all you can to acquire it, regardless of the cost, be it material or otherwise.   As Jesus says in the gospel, “where your treasure is, there your heart also.”  (Mt 6:21).

So what is your pearl in life?  What is your treasure?  Is your treasure the Kingdom of God?  Again, what is the kingdom of God if not to bask ourselves in His love and in His word.  This was the experience of Jeremiah in the first reading.  “When your words came, I devoured them: your word was my delight and the joy of my heart; for I was called by your name.”   He was seduced by the Word of God.  Listening to the Word of God, he was filled with joy, an attraction that was irresistible.  This is true for all of us who have fallen in love with God and His word.  The more we read the bible, the more we are glued to the Word because His word gives us life, inspiration, encouragement, direction, joy and hope.  Indeed, those who discover the love of God or the power of His word will never be the same again.

But the Kingdom of God is not mere enjoyment, unlike one who finds a pearl of great value and beauty.  The kingdom of God consists also in doing His holy will once we have listened to His word.  Like the merchant in the parable or the man who found the treasure and sold everything to buy it, Jeremiah too gave his life to God by becoming His prophet.  In and out of season, he proclaimed the Word of God to His people out of love for them because he could see disaster ahead of them if they did not repent of their sins.  We too must seek to do His holy will in life if we want to find peace.  Doing God’s will is the only way to find true peace of mind and heart.  There is no greater freedom in life than to know that we are doing His will.    

How can we find this treasure?  There are two ways.  The first is by chance and the other way is to search for it.  In the first parable, the man found the treasure by chance. How true for some of us who found God by chance or rather, by grace.  God came into our life unexpectedly.  Something happened in our life.  It could be a retreat we did not plan to attend; a church we did not expect to enter, or a miracle in our lives.  But when we did, at that moment, we knew that God is real and He is beyond words and description.  At some moment in our life too, we came to realize that this is our vocation, our calling in life.  We are led into doing something passionately for God and for our fellowmen, within or without the church.   This is truly grace.  Because we did not expect, the transformation is miraculous.  

In the second instance, like the merchant, we actively search for God and for His holy will.  For most of us, this would be the way to discovering God and finding our vocation in life.  This calls for deliberate study, discernment, prayer and consultation.  So one cannot simply just say that God has not spoken to them.  At times, God wants us to cooperate with His grace by making use of our natural resources.  Quite often, we find God in the process of doing our work.  When we give ourselves completely to what we are called to do, and in the process of doing it, God will show us what else He wants us to do.  Like the merchant, we must give ourselves wholeheartedly to what we are doing now, our responsibility, and when the time is opportune, the Lord will show us the next step that we should take. 

However, finding God and our vocation or His holy will is not the end.  Like Jeremiah, we need the strength and grace to complete His will.  More often than not, there will be trials ahead of us.  We will face opposition even when doing good, like Jeremiah.  Even when we try to live a peaceful life, others will find trouble for us because our life is a reproach to them.  More so when we have to do the right thing and expose the hypocrisy of our members and leaders.  We will find that we have more enemies simply because we want to do the will of God and proclaim His word of truth and love to the world.  In such moments, we will be like Jeremiah who, under persecution, became angry and disillusioned.  In pain, he cried out, “Woe is me, my mother, for you have borne me to be a man of strife and of dissension for all the land.  I neither lend nor borrow, yet all of them curse me and avenge me on my persecutors.  Your anger is very slow: do not let me be snatched away. Realise that I suffer insult for your sake.” He was also disappointed with the Lord and said to Him, “Lord, God of hosts. I never took pleasure in sitting in scoffers’ company; with your hand on me I held myself aloof, since you had filled me with indignation.  Why is my suffering continual, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Do you mean to be for me a deceptive stream with inconstant waters?”  Indeed, sometimes doing the right thing, the just thing and being misunderstood, ridiculed, ostracized, opposed and slandered is so hurtful.  So much so like Jeremiah, we feel like giving up and throwing in the towel.

Where then do we find strength to carry on in such a situation?  The Lord told Jeremiah to humble himself and refrain from harsh words that do not come from Him.  “If you come back, I will take you back into my service; and if you utter noble, not despicable, thoughts, you shall be as my own mouth. They will come back to you, but you must not go back to them. I will make you a bronze wall fortified against this people. They will fight against you to save you and to deliver you. It is the Lord who speaks.” Instead we must come back to the Lord again and again for inspiration and encouragement.  Indeed, we must return to our first love, our first encounter with the Lord or come back to the Word of God daily and the Eucharist so that we can find the food and bread of life to carry on, fulfilling our responsibilities, doing His holy will and giving ourselves fully to our vocation.  If we persevere each day of our life, we might suffer now and then, but we will find the pearl of peace, joy and love with us always.

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

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Morning Prayer for Sunday, July 29, 2018 — Deliver Us From Temptation

July 29, 2018

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“God will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able, but with the temptation He will also find a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” If you have enough faith and trust in God, He will give you all the strength you need to face every temptation and to overcome it. Nothing will prove too hard for you to bear. You can face any situation. “Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” You can overcome any temptation with God’s help. So fear nothing.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may face every situation without fear. I pray that nothing will prove too hard for me to bear.

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29 JULY, 2018, Sunday, 17th Week, Ordinary Time

THE POWER OF SHARING

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 Kgs 4:42-44Ps 145:10-11,15-18Eph 4:1-6Jn 6:1-15 ]

There is so much division in society and the world at large, not because of poverty but inequality in the distribution of wealth and resources.  There is a great gap between the rich and the poor.  Half of the world’s wealth belongs to the top 1%.  The top 10% of the rich hold 85% of the world’s wealth and the bottom 90% hold the remaining 15% of the world’s wealth.  In truth, the resources of the world are enough for the whole world.  The real injustice is that the rich are getting richer and the poor becoming poorer.  When that happens, resentment, envy, hatred, crimes and murders take place.

This explains why in the 18th and 19th century, communism was the ideology that inspired many people in their attempts to bring about a greater equality among peoples.  Of course, from hindsight, we know that state communism and state economy did not work either.  It also breeds corruption among the officials, as we see in some communist countries.  The truth is that men are selfish and greedy because of our wounded nature.  So even enforced sharing of wealth did not work because of the sins of humanity.

Nevertheless, this necessity of sharing is not new.  Right at the beginning of the Church, the primitive Church grew because of voluntary sharing of resources.  The early Christians knew that only love could unite peoples of every nation and every strata of society. Thus in the early Christian community, we read from the Acts of the Apostles, “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.  Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”  (Acts 2:44-47)

This spirit of sharing in the early Church was certainly inspired by Christ Himself.  Indeed, living the resurrected life of Christ means to share in His Spirit.  This is what St Paul wrote in the second reading.  “Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, through all and within all.”  It is sharing a common faith through baptism, a common belief that God is the Father of all, and that we are one Body of Christ, sharing a common Spirit and driven by the one and same hope that inspired the Christians to live and work as one.

This spirit of sharing is clearly demonstrated in the life of Jesus.  In the gospel, Jesus taught His disciples on the power of sharing in faith.  When “Jesus saw the crowds approaching” He said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?’ Philip answered, ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.’”   From the outset, Jesus wanted Philip to know that money and resources were not the only way to resolve this issue of feeding everyone.  “He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do.”  Indeed, the sad situation in the world is not that we do not have enough resources to feed all the peoples of this world.  We have more than enough if only we share more equitably what we have.

To demonstrate the power of sharing, He took up the boy’s offer of five barley loaves and two fish.  It is ironical that it took a boy to teach the adults what it meant to trust in God and to share what they had, however little it might be.  When used by God, that little can produce much more than we can imagine.  The boy teaches us that generosity requires faith.

Without faith in God and trust in His divine providence, we will not be able to give our wealth away, much less if we have limited resources like the boy.  This boy was so generous.  He gave all that he had even though it was little.  It was because of his faith in divine providence. This is how children act, always in trust and in faith.  No wonder Jesus taught us, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  (Mt 18:3)

Next, we read that after saying a prayer of thanksgiving to the Father, He “gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted. When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, ‘Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.’ So they picked them up, and filled twelve hampers with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves.”  How did it happen?  What caused the food to multiply?  And we read that there were 5000 men, excluding the women and children.  There are two possible explanations.  One was that the bread literally multiplied as they broke the bread and gave out the fish.

However, there is another interpretation to this miracle.  Some scholars suggested that perhaps this was not what really happened because at the end of the miracle, the evangelists did not record the amazement of the people as they would always do for the other healing miracles.  So some suggested that the real miracle was in Jesus transforming the hearts of the people.  As it is said, the real miracle is not changing things but changing hearts.  So when Jesus took the five loaves and two fish and started sharing, the rest of them took out what they brought and shared as well.  In those days, there were no hawker centers or restaurants.  Most people would carry with them their food when they went out of the house for a long period, especially to faraway places like the desert.  This explains why the boy had five loaves and two fish to share with Jesus.  So when the others saw the generosity of the boy and our Lord, they took out all their food and shared with the rest.  Obviously, they brought much more food than they could consume, hence the leftovers.

Truly, this is the real miracle and power of sharing. When we begin to share the little that we have, others who are selfish and insecure will be inspired by our act of generosity and do the same.  What we need are leaders who are willing to sacrifice their resources and themselves for the service of others.  Only sharing can build community and unite peoples.  This is true leadership.  A leader can unite his people only when he is generous and giving because he inspires his followers to make the same sacrifice for the greater good of others.

Not only did Jesus share His resources, but He came to give His entire life as well.  Today’s gospel is the background for the discourse of Jesus on the Eucharist when He would later teach His disciples what it meant to give.  True giving is more than just giving something that is outside of us.  True giving entails giving ourselves, our entire body, soul and spirit for the service of God and of our fellowmen.   Jesus declared, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”  (Jn 6:51)  St Paul remarked, “He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?”  (Rom 8:32)

We too must give up our lives for others as Jesus did if we are to fulfill the commandment that He gave us.  “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  (Jn 13:34f)  This was why the Prophet Elijah also instructed his servant to share the twenty barley loaves given to him with a hundred people.  “’Give it to the people to eat’ he insisted, for the Lord says this, ‘They will eat and have some left over.’  He served them; they ate and had some over, as the Lord had said.”

Jesus was indeed the New Moses in teaching us the true meaning of giving.  This was hinted by the Evangelist in his mention that this incident happened just before the Passover and that Jesus went up the hills.  Let us learn to be like Jesus, a leader in sharing, giving and loving.  Only by giving our limited resources for the use of others, can we build a community that is loving, caring and supportive.  This is the only way to become a gracious society that is united and peaceful. Let us therefore not be selfish in sharing what we have with the poor, the Church and the larger community in our country.  Let us not be stingy in giving donations and most of all, let us not evade paying our taxes because this is the way we support the entire people in our country.  Those who have more must give more.  This should be the principle of taxation so that there will be greater equality among all peoples and a more proportionate distribution of wealth and resources for all.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Morning Prayer for Sunday, July 22, 2018 — God’s power grants us a future of unlimited power to do good works

July 22, 2018

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“And greater works than these shall ye do.” Each individual has the ability to do good works through the power of God’s spirit. This is the wonder of the world, the miracle of the earth that God’s power goes out to bless the human race through the agency of so many people who are actuated by His grace. We need not be held back by doubt, despondency, and fear. A wonderful future can lie before any person who depends on God’s power, a future of unlimited power to do good works.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may not limit myself by doubting. I pray that I may have confidence that I can be effective for good.

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, July 22, 2018 — “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture.”

July 21, 2018
Through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father

The Good Shepherd

You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.

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Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 107

Reading 1 JER 23:1-6

Woe to the shepherds
who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture,
says the LORD.
Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel,
against the shepherds who shepherd my people:
You have scattered my sheep and driven them away.
You have not cared for them,
but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.
I myself will gather the remnant of my flock
from all the lands to which I have driven them
and bring them back to their meadow;
there they shall increase and multiply.
I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them
so that they need no longer fear and tremble;
and none shall be missing, says the LORD.Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David;
as king he shall reign and govern wisely,
he shall do what is just and right in the land.
In his days Judah shall be saved,
Israel shall dwell in security.
This is the name they give him:
“The LORD our justice.”
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Image result for In verdant pastures he gives me repose, Psalm 23, pictures, art

Responsorial Psalm PS 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
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Image result for In verdant pastures he gives me repose, Psalm 23, pictures, art

Reading 2EPH 2:13-18

Brothers and sisters:
In Christ Jesus you who once were far off
have become near by the blood of Christ.For he is our peace, he who made both one
and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh,
abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims,
that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two,
thus establishing peace,
and might reconcile both with God,
in one body, through the cross,
putting that enmity to death by it.
He came and preached peace to you who were far off
and peace to those who were near,
for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Alleluia JN 10:27

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

Gospel MK 6:30-34

The apostles gathered together with Jesus
and reported all they had done and taught.
He said to them,
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
People were coming and going in great numbers,
and they had no opportunity even to eat.
So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.
People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.
They hastened there on foot from all the towns
and arrived at the place before them.When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.

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Reflection from The Abbot, Monetary of Christ in the Desert

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Today we have leaders who lead astray and leaders who don’t help the people.  Always we have had the same.  The Scriptures are filled with stories of these types of leaders in the Old Testament but also in the New Testament.  What kind of a person am I?  That is the challenge of the readings today.

The first reading is from the Prophet Jeremiah.  He tells us that the leaders of the people mislead them.  The leaders have scatter them and driven them away.  For us who live today, at times we wonder what type of things these leaders have done.  If we read the Scriptures, it is clear that the leaders were doing then what so many leaders do at all stages of history.  The leaders begin to look for their own good, for their own power, for their own importance.  Our humanity seems to remain constant throughout all of history.  The number of leaders who have been great because of their true and deep concern for the people are very few.

Always these readings are meant to challenge us.  What values do we have?  Do we truly seek the good of others and make their good more important than our own?  Do we follow the Lord Jesus?

The second reading is from the Letter to the Ephesians.  We can listen to this one phrase of today’s reading:  “Through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.”  Far too often we forget that God listens to us.  When we think about God and really work at praying to God, then we sometimes pay attention to the fact that God listens to us.  More than that, God works always for our good.  Our God is not a God who is far away from us, but a God who stoops down to listen to us and who always is there for us, even when we are not aware of Him.  God does not lead us astray.  Rather, when we go astray, God is there leading us back and seeking to find ways to love us.

The Gospel today is from the Gospel of Saint Mark.  Jesus clearly wants to have time for Himself, time to pray, time to be alone.  Yet when Jesus sees the people, His heart is moved to be with them.  “When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”

It is more important to be with the people and to show them the road to life than to be off by oneself, even in prayer to God.  On the other hand, we know that Jesus always seeks out time for prayer.  Even if Jesus does not get the time that He was hoping for, nevertheless, He always is praying.  We are not usually so consistent and far too often we push people out of our lives so that we can pray.  We are invited to become more and more like Jesus:  never pushing the people out of our lives but always finding time to pray.

Let us be women and men who always serve the Lord Jesus, the Father and the Spirit in all we do!  Let us abandon ourselves so that we may serve others, each is his or her own way.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Beside Still Waters

Beside the still waters He leadeth my soul,..
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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2 JULY, 2018, Sunday, 16th Week, Ordinary Time
A CHURCH ON MISSION IN FOSTERING UNITY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Jer 23:1-6Ps 23:1-6Eph 2:13-18Mark 6:30-34 ]

In the first reading from the prophet Jeremiah, we read of the indictment against the shepherds of Israel.  The kings were not looking after the people’s interests. They were corrupt and irresponsible. Hence the Lord warned the shepherds, “Doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of my pasture to be destroyed and scattered.   You have let my flock be scattered and go wandering and have not taken care of them.”   Indeed, today, we need leaders who can unite and guide our people to the right pasture.  The world is much divided and our peoples too.   We are divided not just politically, but the economic divide between the rich and the poor are widening.  We are also facing a cultural and religious divide, as we see in the tensions between the conservatives and the liberals.

Most of all, this disunity begins with the family, which is being threatened by attempts to redefine marriage and the family institution.  When married couples no longer have a safe haven to allow their marriage to be purified and strengthened over time, their marriage are being built on sand.  When children no longer have stable families and loving parents to raise them up, they grow up insecure, wounded, resentful and incapable of holding on to a mature and faithful, loving relationship in future.

Fostering unity is one of the most important tasks of a leader.   However, this unity cannot be a false unity based on superficial compromises.  This is the temptation of the world today.  We are building a unity not based on strong foundation that can withstand the changing circumstances of our times, values that are eternally valid to every human person.  Such values include integrity, honesty, truth, love, peace, joy, fidelity, justice, equality, compassion, freedom, dignity of the human being and the intrinsic value of human life from the beginning of conception until the end.  When values are based on relativism, subjectivism and pragmatism, we can no longer found any real unity since it is based not on some objective truth but personal preferences.

In the second reading, our Lord shows leaders the way to foster unity.  The whole mission of Christ on earth was to reconcile man with God and man with man.  As the Good Shepherd, He was to fulfill the promise of God to the people of Israel as prophesied through Jeremiah and Ezekiel.  This shepherd, as the Lord said, will gather all of them back as one.  “But the remnant of my flock I myself will gather from all the countries where I have dispersed them, and will bring them back to their pastures.”  After the exile, the Lord would gather His people scattered over the nations and bring them back to Israel.  This was to be fulfilled in Christ Jesus who was the promised Messiah.

But not only Israel, the Lord wants to reunite humanity into one people, one family of God in His Spirit.  This is what St Paul envisaged for the Church.  “In Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ.”  The barrier between the Jews and the Gentiles was removed by Christ’s death because by His death, we are all reconciled with God.  Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, all of us are united in Him, sharing in the one Spirit given to all.  “Through him, both of us have in the one Spirit our way to come to the Father.”

Secondly, building unity requires leaders to be honest and have integrity.  “See, the days are coming when I will raise a virtuous Branch for David, who will reign as true king and be wise, practising honesty and integrity in the land.”  Without living a life based on truth and love, without living a life of integrity between what we say and what we do, we cannot be instruments of unity.   People will lose trust in us.  Indeed, credibility in leaders is what is lacking in the world today because many leaders lack integrity.  What they say in public is not how they live their lives.  Many leaders are corrupt, greedy, unscrupulous, seek to enrich themselves and are power hungry.

Thirdly, fostering unity requires a compassionate heart for each other.  In the gospel, Jesus invited His apostles whom He sent out on mission to take a break from their busy and hectic ministry.  “You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat.”  Jesus showed His compassion for His disciples who worked hard in the ministry, attending to the needs of the people who were hungry for the Word of God and to be touched and healed by the mercy of God.  It was therefore right that the disciples took a rest so that they could be recharged with the love of God in solitude, prayer and fellowship.

Yet, sometimes, as shepherds of Christ, we need to go beyond ourselves when there is a greater need, as in the case of Jesus. We read that “as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.”   A compassionate heart is never calculative.  There will be times when we are asked to stretch beyond ourselves to reach out to those in need, to give guidance and help to those in need.  Jesus, whilst recognizing the disciples’ need for much rest, was willing to compromise His right to attend to those who were so desperately seeking God’s Word and healing grace.  He had no heart to turn them away.

But what is even more significant in today’s gospel is that this mission of restoring unity in humanity is an ongoing mission.  As leaders wherever we are, in Church, in community, in our offices and in our homes, there is no rest, so to speak, in fostering unity.  Indeed, the disciples thought that they could rest after a long journey in mission, only to find that there was no rest in the mission of proclaiming the Good news.   This mission of bringing unity and peace to humanity is always ongoing, because of the sins and selfishness of man.  The unity among peoples is fragile and can be broken any time.  We need constant vigilance and effort to build unity among all men, whether in our own family, among ourselves as a Christian community, among peoples of different religions in inter-religious dialogue and among peoples of different cultures.

However, this does not mean that we are forever working in the apostolate without making time for prayer and solitude.  Taking a rest is more than just physical rest, which is included.  But the rest that Jesus wants us to take is to make time to be with Him so that we can find inner peace and solitude in the work that we do.  We should not separate prayer and solitude from our apostolic work.  Praying itself is part of this apostolic work that we do.  In fact, it is an essential part of our apostolic work.  Without first being connected with God, finding our joy and strength in Him, there is no good news to proclaim except an ideology and an ambition to accomplish.  But being involved in the apostolic work is never done in a hurry, haste or with irritation, but with calmness and peace of mind and joy in our hearts.

Indeed, the individual must first be established in unity before he or she can be an agent of unity for others.  He or she must first live an integrated life, which means caring for his or her body, soul and spirit.  Unless he learns to take care of his body and spirit, he will find himself living a fragmented life.  What he says or believes, contradict what he does.  Indeed, some leaders are easily agitated, anxious and ambitious.  Such leaders appear to be working from their insecurity and their needs rather than out of their overflowing joy and love for those whom they are serving.  When we look at Jesus and the great saints, especially St Teresa of Calcutta, do we see them feeling anxious, edgy or irritable when they serve and reach out to the people of God?  What we see in them in calmness, peace and joy exuding from their hearts.  Indeed, they go forth with joy, a missionary joy inspired by the Holy Spirit.  The joy of Jesus sprang from His communion with the Father, and the joy of Christian missionaries from their union with Christ and their fellow Christians.

Once we are integrated, we must then find communion with others as well.  We are never asked to be in the mission alone.  We are called to be with each other and for each other.   Jesus sent His disciples out in mission two by two, and formed the college of apostles so that they could act together as His body.  Thus, we must first be in communion with each other before we can become agents of communion in the world.  We are called to be a community of missionary disciples the way Jesus gathered the disciples together to share and support each other in their spiritual life and in their apostolic work. It is only when we have an evangelizing community that is supportive of each other, that we are able to bear fruits.  Indeed, when members of religious communities and church organizations care for each other, stand by and support each other, they truly become an evangelizing community because the joy they have will overflow, reaching out to others.  Such apostolic service is pure love and joy, without anxiety, impatience and ambition.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Morning Prayer for Friday, July 20, 2018 — Help Others and Live according to the dictates of your conscience

July 20, 2018

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While we’re in this lifeboat, trying to save each other and ourselves and from the threats around us — We must be truly and sincerely helpful to each other.

Meditation for the Day

Carry out God’s guidance as best you can. Leave the results to Him. Do this obediently and faithfully with no question that if the working out of the guidance is left in God’s hands, the results will be all right. Believe that the guidance God gives you has already been worked out by God to produce the required results according to your case and in your circumstances. So follow God’s guidance according to your conscience. God has knowledge of your individual life and character, your capabilities and your weaknesses.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may live according to the dictates of my conscience. I pray that I may leave the results to God.

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