Posts Tagged ‘do not be afraid’

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, August 13, 2017 — Stretch but don’t Break! — Do not be afraid….

August 12, 2017

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 115

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Elijah’s offering is consumed by fire from heaven in a stained glass window at St. Matthew’s German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Charleston, South Carolina

Reading 1  1 KGS 19:9A, 11-13A

At the mountain of God, Horeb,
Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter.
Then the LORD said to him,
“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD;
the LORD will be passing by.”
A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains
and crushing rocks before the LORD—
but the LORD was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake—
but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire—
but the LORD was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this,
Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14

R. (8) Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD — for he proclaims peace.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.
R. Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
R. Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and prepare the way of his steps.
R. Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

Reading 2 ROM 9:1-5

Brothers and sisters:
I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie;
my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness
that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart.
For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ
for the sake of my own people,
my kindred according to the flesh.
They are Israelites;
theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants,
the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises;
theirs the patriarchs, and from them,
according to the flesh, is the Christ,
who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

Alleluia CF. PS 130:5

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I wait for the Lord;
my soul waits for his word.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 14:22-33

After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat
and precede him to the other side,
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 Peter,
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.”

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Reflection From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Many of us think of God and strong and powerful—and God is that.  But God also shows Himself to be weak and poor and powerless.  Today’s readings show us this God who is so powerful that He can be weak and poor for our sake.

The first reading is from the First Book of Kings and is about the Prophet Elijah—one of the greatest of prophets.  There are so many accounts of the strength of this Prophet and yet he relies completely on God.  Today this Prophet has fled to the holy mountain, Horeb, which is probably the same as Mount Sinai.  This mountain is where the 10 commandments were given to Moses.  It is a place of encounter between God and His people.

When we think of the 10 commandments being given, we think of thunder and lightning and enormous displays of strength and might.  Today, in the same place, God manifests Himself in a tiny, whispering sound.  This is the God who can be all powerful and also be insignificant and weak—all because He loves us just as He loved the Prophet Elijah.

The second reading is from the Letter to the Romans.  Here Saint Paul is telling us how he would willingly give up everything for the sake of the salvation of his own people.  We are given powerful words:  “They are Israelites; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.”

We are challenged to give our lives for our own people and for all peoples.  How much do we love?  How much do we care?  Has salvation become simply a private possession for me to have—and to ignore all others.  No, this cannot be.  We must be like Saint Paul and long for the salvation of all other peoples.

The Gospel from Matthew today is the wonderful account of Jesus walking on the water and then inviting Saint Peter—who said that he wanted this gift—so walk with him.  Saint Peter panics and lets fear get hold of him.  And he sinks.  “Do not be afraid.”  Pope Saint John Paul II often used those words to encourage others.  We also must learn not to be afraid.  Our faith will let us do amazing things.  The most amazing is simply believing.  From that faith, that belief, we are given strength for so many other things.  The most important is to love and to serve others with all our strength.  We must hear the words of Christ echo within us as we love and serve:  Do not be afraid.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites

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Some questions:

In moments of darkness and interior storms, how do I react? How are the presence and absence of the Lord integrated in me? What place does personal prayer and dialogue with God have in me?
What do we ask the Lord in a dark night? A miracle, that he frees us from this? A greater faith? In which attitudes am I similar to Peter?

Meditatio

Brief commentary

22. And at once he made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead to the other side while he sent the crowds away.
The multiplication of the loaves (14, 13-21) could have generated in the disciples triumphant expectations concerning the Kingdom of God. Therefore, Jesus orders them at once to get away. He ‘obliged’, usually a verb of strong significance. The people acclaim Jesus as a Prophet (Jn 6, 14-15) and wish to make him a political ruler. The disciples are easily drawn by this (Mk 6, 52; Mt 16, 5-12), there is the risk of allowing themselves to be drawn by the enthusiasm of the people. The disciples have to abandon this situation.

23. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came he was there alone. 
Jesus finds himself in front a situation in which the Galilean crowd becomes enthusiastic because of the miracle and runs the risk of not understanding His mission. In this very important moment, Jesus withdraws alone in prayer, as in Gethsemane (Mt 26, 36-46).

24. While the boat, by now some furlongs from land, was hard pressed by rough waves, for there was a head-wind.
This verse where the boat is noticed, without Jesus, in danger, can be close to verse 32 where the danger ceases when Jesus and Peter get into the boat.

25. In the fourth watch of the night he came towards them, walking on the sea. 
Jesus appears to his disciples in an extraordinary way. He transcends the human limitations, he has authority on creation. He acts as God alone can do it (Job 9, 8; 38, 16).

26. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’, they said, and cried out in fear. 
The disciples were struggling with the contrary wind, they had lived a very impressing day and now a sleepless night. At night (between three and six), in the middle of the sea, they were really terrified in seeing one coming towards them. They did not think in the possibility that it could be Jesus. Their vision is too human , and they believe in ghosts (Lk 24, 37). The Risen Lord though, has overcome the force of chaos represented by the waves of the sea.

27. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying. ‘Courage! It is me! Do not be afraid!. 
The presence of Jesus drives away all fear (9, 2.22). In saying “It is me” he evokes his identity (Es 3, 14) and manifests the power of God (Mk 14, 62; Lk 24, 39; Jn 8, 58; 18, 5-6). Fear is overcome by faith.

28. It was Peter who answered: ‘Lord, he said, ‘If it is you, tell me to come to you across the water’. 
Peter seems to want still another confirmation of the presence of Jesus. He asks for a sign.

29. Jesus said, ‘Come’. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water. 
Nevertheless, Peter is ready to run the risk, getting out of the boat and trying to walk on the agitated waves, in the midst of a strong wind (v. 24). He faces the risk of believing in the Word: ‘Come’.

30. But then noticing the wind, he took fright and began to sink: ‘Lord’, he cried, ‘save me!’ 
Perseverance is also necessary in the choice of faith. The contrary forces (the wind) are so many, that there is the risk of sinking. The prayer of petition saves him..

31. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. ‘You have so little faith, he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ 
Peter is not left alone in his weakness. In the storms of Christian life we are not alone. God does not abandon us even if apparently is absent and does nothing.

32. And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. 
As soon as Jesus got in the boat the forces of evil cease. The force of hell shall not prevail over it.

33. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said: ¡Truly, you are the Son of God.’ 
Now comes that profession of faith which had been prepared in the preceding episode of the multiplication of the loaves, purified by the experience of getting away from the Bread of eternal life (Jn 6, 1-14). Now Peter can also confirm his brothers in faith, after the trial.

5. For those who wish to go deeper into the text

Jesus, man of prayer

Jesus prays in solitude and at night (Mt 14, 23; Mk 1, 35; Lk 5, 16), during the time of meals (Mt 14, 19; 15, 36; 26, 26-27). On the occasion of important events: for Baptism (Lk 3, 21), before choosing the twelve (Lk 6, 12), before teaching how to pray (Lk 11, 1; Mt 6, 5); before the confession of Caesarea (Lk 9, 18); in the Transfiguration (Lk 9, 28-29), in Gethsemane (Mt 26, 36-44); on the Cross (Mt 27, 46; Lk 23, 46). He prays for his executioners (Lk 23, 34); for Peter (Lk 22, 32), for his disciples and for those who will follow him (Jn 17, 9-24). He also prays for himself (Mt 26, 39; Jn 17, 1-5; Heb 5, 7). He teaches to pray (Mt 6, 5), He manifests a permanent relationship with the Father (Mt 11, 25-27), sure that He never leaves him alone (Jn 8, 29), and always hears him (Jn 11, 22.42; Mt 26, 53). He has promised (Jn 14, 16) to continue to intercede in heaven (Rm 8, 34; Heb 7, 25; I Jn 2, 1).

6. Oratio: Psalm 33

I will praise Yahweh from my heart;
let the humble hear and rejoice.

Proclaim with me the greatness of Yahweh,
let us acclaim his name together.

I seek Yahweh and he answers me,
frees me from all my fears.

Fix your gaze on Yahweh and your face will grow bright,
you will never hang your head in shame.

A pauper calls out and Yahweh hears,
saves him from all his troubles.

The angel of Yahweh encamps around those who fear him,
and rescues them.

Taste and see that Yahweh is good.
How blessed are those who take refuge in him.

Fear Yahweh, you his holy ones;
those who fear him lack for nothing.

Contemplatio

Lord Jesus, sometimes we are full of enthusiasm and forget that You are the source of our joy: In the moments of sadness we do not seek you or we want your miraculous intervention. Now we know that you never abandon us, that we should not fear. Prayer is also our force. Increase our faith, we are ready to risk our life for your Kingdom.

http://www.ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-19th-sunday-ordinary-time

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Stay Focused!

 / 05:04 AM August 13, 2017
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The story is told about a monastery on a cliff that could only be reached via a suspended basket that was pulled upward by the monks. A tourist who was in this scary ride noticed that the rope was old and worn-out. In a trembling voice he asked the monk who was riding with him how often the rope was changed. The monk thought for a moment, and then said: “Whenever it breaks.”

In today’s gospel (Mt. 14, 23-33), the disciples are in a very scary ride on their boat that is being tossed about by the waves. But what terrifies them more is seeing a “ghost” walking on the water toward them. What scares them is something they cannot control, and someone they do not know. We, too, are scared by the uncontrollable and the unknown. What can make us overcome our fears? It is our faith, our focus on something or someone greater than ourselves that helps us stay afloat and move on.

What made Peter sink? As long as he was focused on his Master, he was all right. When he took his eyes off Jesus and began to focus on his surroundings, he started to sink. Our daily news is filled with stories of people who have become so focused on money, power, fame, and worldly pleasures, and  who sooner or later sink in shame, and into oblivion. Stay focused on the Master!

I wonder what the other disciples thought when Peter made the bold request that he be allowed to walk on the water? Perhaps some of them were inspired by his courage, or were critical of his nerve. Like them, often we encourage (“Wow! What courage!”) or criticize (“The nerve of this guy!”) those who do what we do not do, or dare not do.

Of course, we also ask what moved Peter to request his Master to let him walk on the water. Was it sincere faith? Was it pride? In the same manner, we, too, must always examine ourselves why we do the things we do. God sees the heart. It is only in quiet prayer that we, too, can really see what is in our hearts.

Are you a “sinker” or a “floater”? A sinker is one who tends to go down, while a floater is one who tends to stay afloat. But a sinker can also be a person who sinks or pulls down others, and a floater can be one who keeps other people afloat. Sinkers are good in criticizing. Floaters are good in encouraging.

It was such an encouraging and inspiring event to join the Priests’ Day sponsored by St. Bridget School of Batangas City last Aug. 7. According to Fr. Nonie Dolor, this worthy tradition was started in 1981 to help students and priests get to know and help each other. On behalf of my brother priests, and on behalf of Jesus Christ, our Eternal High Priest, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your prayers, support, and understanding.

On the lighter side, I think we finally found the answer to the puzzling question: Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? San Jose, Batangas, is known as the poultry and egg capital of the Philippines. If you approach it via the old highway from Lipa to Batangas City, you will see a big egg landmark on the left side of the road. But if you are coming from Batangas City to Lipa, you will see a big chicken landmark on the right side of the road. So, it all really depends on where you are coming from.

Think about this: “Learn to give all to God — your health, your family, your friends, your work, your worries, your fears, your finances, your hopes, your frustrations, your dreams, your weaknesses, and sins. When you learn to let go, you learn to be empty, and when you are empty, you can be replenished and be refilled aplenty.”

Inviting you to join a pilgrimage to Catholic shrines in Japan on Sept. 14-23. We start in Nagasaki, where the atomic bomb was dropped in World War II, and where many Christians were persecuted. The highlight of the trip will be a visit to Akita, where the Blessed Mother has been manifesting her messages and miraculous healing since 1973. Included also is a visit to different churches and shrines in Tokyo. For inquiries, please contact Executive Resources at 5238581 to 88 or 09176311903, or e-mail pilgrimagecenter@pilgrimage.ph or http://www.pilgrimage.ph.

A moment with the Lord: Lord, help us to stay focused on You so as not to sink and be drowned in the raging waters of this world. Amen.

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Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/106297/stay-focused#ixzz4pdxEXIGe
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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13 AUGUST, 2017, Sunday, 19th Week, Ordinary Time
FINDING FOCUS IN THE STORMS OF LIFE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 KGs 19:9.11-13PS 84:9-14ROM 9:1-5MT 14:22-33 ]

Like the disciples in the gospel we all battle with the storms of life.  They were “battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind.”  This is the reality of life.  All of us have storms in life, regardless whether we are young students in school or in tertiary institutions, working or retired at home.  This life is fraught with challenges.  This is true even when we are successful or when we do good.  As it is said, call no man at peace till he is dead, and that we must add “hopefully!”

Indeed, this was the case of Elijah.  He had just performed two great miracles by his efficacious prayers to God.  He had won victory over the false prophets of Baal and killed them.  Secondly, he performed the miracle of the rain as Israel was in drought, demonstrating the power of Yahweh and who the true God is.  Instead of being impressed, Queen Jezebel was enraged when she heard how Elijah destroyed her prophets.  She decided to eliminate Elijah and went for his life.  We can imagine the anti-climax that Elijah must have experienced after being elated at these two victories.  Victory turned to discouragement, fear and loneliness.  He had to flee for his life.  Alone and discouraged, he sought refuge in the desert.  He wanted to die and felt defeated and useless.  “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.”  (1 Kg 19:4b)  

Jesus in the gospel was battling with His life and mission as well.  Earlier on, He was informed of the death of His cousin, John the Baptist, who was beheaded by King Herod.  (cf Mt 14:1-9) We read that “when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself.”  (Mt 14:13)  He was thinking that what happened to John the Baptist and all the prophets before him would also happen to Him.  He sensed the danger of death ahead of Him.

In such moments as these, what we need to do is to withdraw.  This is the first stage of finding focus.  We cannot continue to fight the battle when we have lost our focus, our direction and our sanity.  When we are angry, disillusioned and resentful like Elijah, we cannot remain objective.  Instead of acting, we will just react to situations and people who are against us. If we retaliate like our opponents, then we will fare no better than them.  That was what Jesus did not do.  Instead, He retreated to find focus.

The first attempt to find rest in a deserted place failed because the people sought Him out, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.  But He did not give up easily.  When He found the next opportunity, He withdrew to pray. We too often find ourselves overwhelmed by problems and demands, one after another.  There will always will be an urgent need or thing to do but we must find the window for us to escape to pray as Jesus did.

So too God lead Elijah away from the troubles that were overwhelming him.  He came to comfort Elijah and led him through the desert to Mount Horeb, where He revealed Himself to Moses.  From Beersheba, Elijah walked through the desert to the Mountain of the Lord for 40 days and 40 nights, covering almost 250 miles.

The pilgrimage that Jesus and Elijah did was simply to enter into themselves.  It was a journey inward.  The pilgrimage did not start when Elijah reached Mount Horeb, it began from the moment he left Beersheba and all the way to the Mountain.  He needed time to process his feelings, his fears and his underlying motivations for all he did.  Indeed, the Lord challenged Elijah to look deeper into his resentment and disappointment   When asked by the Lord twice what was bothering him, he replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” (1 kg 19:10,14)  But that was not true.  Elijah was self-righteous.  He was engaged in self-pity.  He was not the lone true prophet as he claimed to be.  There were other good prophets too.  He thought too highly of himself.  We too often think that we are the only good people left when there are many more good people around us.

Indeed, the real pilgrimage we need to take is to become more aware of ourselves, our anger, feelings and motives.  To find focus in life, we need to withdraw from the hurly burly of life and enter inward to find ourselves, like Jesus and Elijah.  Only then can we find clarification.

From an inward journey, we must then take the upward journey to God. This is symbolised in Elijah going up to Mount Horeb and Jesus going up to the hills to pray. It was in the silence of the cave that Elijah heard the Lord speaking to Him.  God did not appear in the mighty works of creation as he thought he would, for God is often associated with earthquakes, fire, wind, lightning and thunder.  On the contrary, God came to him in a whisper.

How true! God often speaks to us in the silence and recesses of our hearts.   I know of many who encounter God when they are in deep contemplative prayer or when they “rest in the Spirit”.  Many of them testify to the peace, the healing and assurance they received during such moments of encountering the Lord.  In solitude and in silence, the Lord comes to our lives and put all things in perspective.  So we must look for God in silence; not turn to the pub, or alcohol, or social activities to drown our pains and frustrations.  They will only lead us to more problems and more frustrations.   But like Elijah and Jesus, we must make the inward journey into ourselves and then the upward journey to God.

From this upward journey, we are now ready to move out and make the outward journey. We note that after encountering God, Elijah was given a clear mission.  To Elijah the Lord told him. “You shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram.  Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha as prophet in your place.”  (1 kg 19:15f)  He would no longer be alone but he would have an assistant to help him in his mission.  Jesus too, after spending time with His Father, came to rescue the disciples from the storm.  “Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’  And as they got into the boat the wind dropped.”  With Jesus in their boat, there was calmness again.   With Jesus in our midst, there is no need to be afraid of anything.  With the assurance of His love, we can do everything in Him.

We too who have received the gospel must now do likewise.  Having encountered the Lord and been renewed in His love, we must now reach out to those who are lost in the storms of life.  We must help others to find focus, just as St Paul did in the second reading.  He was moved by God’s mercy and love for him.  He felt so much for his fellow Jews who rejected the gospel when they were the chosen people of God.  He said, “my sorrow is so great, my mental anguish so endless, I would willingly be condemned and be cut off from Christ if it could help my brothers of Israel, my own flesh and blood.”  Truly, only when we have encountered God’s mercy and love, will we also desire to share our experience with others as St Paul and Elijah wanted.

However, in this process, we must never take our eyes off Jesus again. This was the mistake of St Peter.  In his impulsive and spontaneous response, he asked the Lord, “’If it is you, tell me to come to you across the water … but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink.”   Indeed, those of us who have been renewed must never take our eyes away from the Lord.  We must not depend on our impulse to do great things for God.  Our spiritual life cannot be dependent on finding new highs and experiences all the time.  We cannot allow ourselves to be ruled by our heart and feelings alone.  Whilst it is important to be ruled by love, as Peter did, we also need to use our reason and discipline to help us overcome the trials of life.  The way of Christ is always through the cross and suffering.

Nevertheless, even if we sink again, let us also never forget that He will save us again, just as He put out his hand at once and held Peter saying, “Man of little faith, why did you doubt?”  Peter failed the Lord many times and betrayed Him.  But the great thing about Peter was not that he failed, but that he was humble enough to pick himself up again. Through his failures, he came closer to the Lord.  Through his failures, he learnt to be humble.   We too should not be afraid of failure but we must continue to rely on His grace and mercy.   He will not fail us even when we fail Him.  This is our God, the merciful and compassionate one.  All He asks of us is to have faith in Him and bring Him into our lives.

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

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, August 8, 2017 — “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

August 7, 2017

Memorial of Saint Dominic, Priest
Lectionary: 408

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Jesus Walking on the Water by Norbert McNulty

Reading 1 NM 12:1-13

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses on the pretext
of the marriage he had contracted with a Cushite woman.
They complained, “Is it through Moses alone that the LORD speaks?
Does he not speak through us also?”
And the LORD heard this.
Now, Moses himself was by far the meekest man on the face of the earth.
So at once the LORD said to Moses and Aaron and Miriam,
“Come out, you three, to the meeting tent.”
And the three of them went.
Then the LORD came down in the column of cloud,
and standing at the entrance of the tent,
called Aaron and Miriam.

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The LORD guided them with a pillar of cloud — and at night by fire

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When both came forward, he said,
“Now listen to the words of the LORD:

Should there be a prophet among you,
in visions will I reveal myself to him,
in dreams will I speak to him;
not so with my servant Moses!
Throughout my house he bears my trust:
face to face I speak to him;
plainly and not in riddles.
The presence of the LORD he beholds.

Why, then, did you not fear to speak against my servant Moses?”

So angry was the LORD against them that when he departed,
and the cloud withdrew from the tent,
there was Miriam, a snow-white leper!
When Aaron turned and saw her a leper, he said to Moses,
“Ah, my lord! Please do not charge us with the sin
that we have foolishly committed!
Let her not thus be like the stillborn babe
that comes forth from its mother’s womb
with its flesh half consumed.”
Then Moses cried to the LORD, “Please, not this! Pray, heal her!”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 51:3-4, 5-6AB, 6CD-7, 12-13

R. (see 3a) Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
For I acknowledge my offense;
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned;
and done what is evil in your sight.”
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
That you may be justified in your sentence,
vindicated when you condemn.
Indeed, in guilt was I born,
and in sin my mother conceived me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not off from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

AlleluiaJN 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.

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The blind leading the blind by James Tissot

Or  MT 15:1-2, 10-14

The following text may be substituted,
especially in Year A when the above Gospel is read on Monday.

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.

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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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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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08 AUGUST, 2017, Tuesday, 18th Week, Ordinary Time
SPEAKING OUT AGAINST THE LORD’S APPOINTED LEADERS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ NUM 12:1-13Ps 50:3-7,12-13Mt 15:1-210-14 ]

In the first reading we read that Moses was the Lord’s appointed leader.  This was what the Lord said of him, “If any man among you is a prophet I make myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream.  Not so with my servant Moses: he is at home in my house; I speak with him face to face, plainly and not in riddles, and he sees the form of the Lord.”  Such was the great trust and love the Lord had showered upon Moses, His servant.

But some were not happy with Moses.  As usual, leaders would speak ill of other leaders.  They like to discredit other leaders so that they would be seen in a better light.  Miriam and Aaron, the relatives of Moses, spoke against him “in connection with the Cushite woman he had taken. (For he had married a Cushite woman.) They said, ‘Has the Lord spoken to Moses only? Has he not spoken to us too?’”  In these words, we hear the undertones of their discontentment.  It was not so much that Moses married a Cushite woman even though there could be some grounds for it as inter-marriages were forbidden later.  But before that, no such prohibition existed.  At any rate, God did not defend Moses on his marriage to an alien woman.

Jesus said to Miriam and Aaron, “How then have you dared to speak against my servant Moses?”  Is it wrong to criticize our leaders? In the gospel, Jesus was always criticizing the Jewish leaders, the Pharisees and the Scribes. In the gospel today, in response to the Jewish leaders’ complaint that His “disciples break away from the tradition of the elders” because “they do not wash their hands when they eat food’, Jesus said, “What goes into the mouth does not make a man unclean; it is what comes out of the mouth that makes him unclean.”   And the disciples told the Lord, “Do you know that the Pharisees were shocked when they heard what you said?”

Jesus was not against tradition.  Human beings create traditions as a way to express themselves.  No religious institution is spared from traditions.  We have Roman Catholic tradition, Orthodox tradition, Methodist tradition, Anglican tradition, etc.  Each organization and institution will have their traditions to regulate the conduct of the members and to help them to express their values through practices.   So traditions, even though man-made, are good and helpful for the community.

But traditions must serve the truth or the laws of the bible and ultimately the service and love of God and our fellowmen.   Traditions cannot be a law unto themselves, but they are placed there to serve the laws.  This means that traditions can change and must change according to the needs of the time.  Even in the bible, we see how traditions and practices changed over time, whether it is with regard to marriage, ablutions, food restrictions, slavery, etc.  Small traditions that are not divinely ordained but man-made have a place in the expression of our faith and the community.  However, foundation traditions passed on by the Lord cannot be changed because they are critical to the faith.  This is called Tradition with a capital “T”, and singular.  It refers to the basic doctrines of the faith, like the Passion, Death and the Resurrection of our Lord, the Trinity, the Eucharist, the Sacraments, the Priesthood, etc.  These do not change with time, unlike those traditions that serve to enhance the Tradition of the Church.

In the final analysis, Jesus made it clear that whatever traditions we have must serve God and humanity;  “Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and so passes on?  But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.  These are what defile a man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”  (Mt 15:17-20)

So we can criticize leaders provided our motives are clear.  What God was unhappy about was the way they maligned the character of Moses.  They were jealous of Moses’ authority.  They envied his position.  Instead of dealing with their own insecurity, they found an excuse to denigrate Moses and weaken his authority over the people.   Indeed, this is often the case of many of us who are not happy with our leaders.  We think we are better than them.  We feel we should be sitting in their chairs and holding their offices.  Those who are not elected or appointed to the office would often find trouble and means to discredit the leader so that they could be appointed or be seen to be better than the leader.  Instead of examining their motives, they find reasons to bring down the authority of the leader.  This is very true in politics, in the corporate world and even in religious institutions.  Envy and jealousy can cause much backbiting, slander and division.

So for those of us who wish to criticize our leaders, we must be sure that we are objective and do not have an axe to grind or because we have unmentioned or unconscious motives that spring from pride, recognition, power, glory and envy.  Before we criticize the appointed leaders, we must purify our intentions so that we speak not with the intention of destroying the leaders or diminishing their authority but to help them to serve better. The motive must be constructive, not destructive.  And for this reason, unhappiness with the leaders should be dealt with behind closed doors and through dialogue which helps both parties to understand each other better.  Often, criticisms are made because of one-sided information or even skewed and distorted information that lead people to make presumptuous judgment on the actions of their leaders.  If we are sincere, such criticisms are always made with charity and humility.

For those of us who are leaders under scrutiny and critique, we must also take such criticisms positively and sincerely search our conscience to see where we have failed and where we can change and do better.  Leaders are not beyond reproach. They too must listen to the prophets sent by the Lord to assist us.  Instead of being defensive and reactive, we should be humble, like Moses.  We read that “Moses was the most humble of men, the humblest man on earth.”  Instead of retaliating against Miriam and Aaron, he was quiet.  He did not fight back but humbly suffered the harsh critique against him.  He was ever forgiving and interceded for Miriam, “O God, please heal her, I beg you!”

But there is also a warning.  For those of us who are quick to judge and condemn the appointed leaders of the Lord, we will also be judged accordingly.  As Jesus in the gospel said, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”  (Lk 6:37f)  For judging Moses and making rash remarks, Miriam was punished by the Lord.  “The anger of the Lord blazed out against them.  He departed, and as soon as the cloud withdrew from the Tent, there was Miriam a leper, white as snow! Aaron turned to look at her; she had become a leper.”

Similarly in the gospel, Jesus warned leaders who do not act rightly or are themselves ignorant and blind.  “Any plant my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.  Leave them alone.  They are blind men leading blind men; and if one blind man leads another, both will fall into a pit.”   If leaders do not live up to the trust of God for the office given to them, they would be removed eventually.   And if leaders themselves are blind, ignorant and still very broken, it is more likely that instead of leading their sheep, they might bring them to perdition.  So leaders must ask themselves whether they are in a position to lead because of the lack of integrity and wisdom in their own lives.

Whether we are critics or leaders who are criticized, let us turn to God for mercy and forgiveness.  Leaders surely have their failures and those who are very critical of leaders often do so without charity or out of selfish interests.  Hence, like Aaron, we must cry out to God, “Help me, my lord! Do not punish us for a sin committed in folly of which we are guilty.”   With the psalmist, we pray, “Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness. In your compassion blot out my offence. O wash me more and more from my guilt and cleanse me from my sin. My offences truly I know them; my sin is always before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned; what is evil in your sight I have done.  That you may be justified when you give sentence and be without reproach when you judge, O see, in guilt I was born, a sinner was I conceived.”   Indeed, only God can pass the sentence; not us.  Only God who knows all and reads the intentions of our hearts can judge justly and with mercy.  And that was what He did, He lightened the punishment of Miriam to just a week of alienation outside the camp before He healed her. (cf Num 12:14f)  We too must turn to the Lord for mercy and forgiveness for our lack of humility, integrity and compassion.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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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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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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The Gospel today describes the difficult and tiresome crossing of the sea of Galilee in a fragile boat, pushed by a contrary wind. Between the discourse of the Parables (Mt 13) and of the Community (Mt 18), there is once again, the narrative part (Mt 14 to 17). The discourse of the Parables calls our attention again on the presence of the Kingdom. Now, the narrative part shows the reactions in favour and against Jesus provoked by that presence. In Nazareth, he was not accepted (Mt 13, 53-58) and King Herod thought that Jesus was a sort or reincarnation of John the Baptist, whom he had murdered (Mt 14, 1-12).
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The poor people, though, recognized in Jesus the one who had been sent by God and they followed him to the desert, where the multiplication of the loaves took place (Mt 14, 13-21). After the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus takes leave of the crowd and ordered the disciples to cross the lake, as it is described in today’s Gospel (Mt 14, 22-36).
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• Matthew 14, 22-24: To begin the crossing asked by Jesus. Jesus obliges the Disciples to go into the boat and to go toward the other side of the sea, where the land of the pagans was. He goes up to the mountain to pray. The boat symbolizes the community. It has the mission to direct itself toward the pagans and to announce among them the Good News of the Kingdom also, which was the new way of living in community. But the crossing was very tiring and long. The boat is agitated by the wave, because the wind is contrary. In spite of having rowed the whole night, there is still a great distance left before reaching the land.
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Much was still lacking in the community in order to be able to cross and go toward the pagans. Jesus did not go with his disciples. They had to learn to face together the difficulties, united and strengthened by faith in Jesus who had sent them. The contrast is very great: Jesus is in peace together with God, praying on the top of the mountain, and the Disciples are almost lost there below, in the agitated sea.
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• The crossing to the other side of the lake symbolizes also the difficult crossing of the community at the end of the first century. They should get out of the closed world of the ancient observance of the law toward the new manner of observing the Law of love., taught by Jesus; they should abandon the knowledge of belonging to the Chosen People, privileged by God among all other peoples, for the certainty that in Christ all peoples would be united into one Only People before God; they should get out from isolation and intolerance toward the open world of acceptance and of gratitude. Today also, we are going through a difficult crossing toward a new time and a new way of being Church.
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A difficult crossing, but which is necessary. There are moments in life in which we are attacked by fear. Good will is not lacking, but this is not sufficient. We are like a boat faced with the contrary wind.
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• Matthew 14, 25-27: Jesus comes close to them but they do not recognize him. Toward the end of the night, that is between three and six o’clock in the morning, Jesus goes to meet the Disciples. Walking on the water, he gets close to them, but they did not recognize him. They cried out in fear, thinking that it was a ghost. Jesus calms them down saying: “Courage! It is me! Do not be afraid!” The expression “It is me!” is the same one with which God tried to overcome the fear of Moses when he sent him to liberate the people from Egypt (Ex 3, 14). For the communities, of today as well as for those of yesterday, it was and it is very important to be always open to novelty: “Courage. It is me!. Do not be afraid!”
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• Matthew 14, 28-31: Enthusiasm and weakness of Peter. Knowing that it is Jesus, Peter asks that he also can walk on the water. He wants to experience the power which dominates the fury of the sea. This is a power which in the bible belongs only to God (Gn 1, 6; Ps 104, 6-9). Jesus allows him to participate in this power. But Peter is afraid. He thinks that he will sink and he cries out: “Lord, save me!” Jesus assures him and takes hold of him and reproaches him: “You have so little faith! Why did you doubt?” Peter has more strength than he imagined, but is afraid before the contrary waves and does not believe in the power of God which dwells within him. The communities do not believe in the force of the Spirit which is within them and which acts through faith. It is the force of the Resurrection (Eph 1, 19-20).
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• Matthew 14, 32-33:Jesus is the Son of God. Before the waves that come toward them, Peter begins to sink in the sea because of lack of faith. After he is saved, he and Jesus, both of them, go into the boat and the wind calms down. The other Disciples, who are in the boat, are astonished and bowed before Jesus, recognizing that he is the Son of God: “Truly, you are the Son of God”. Later on, Peter also professes the same faith in Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” (Mt 16,16). In this way Matthew suggests that it is not only Peter who sustains the faith of the Disciples, but also that the faith of the Disciples sustains Peter’s faith.
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• Matthew 14, 34-36: They brought all the sick to him. The episode of the crossing ends with something beautiful: “Having made the crossing they came to Gennesaret. When the local people recognized him they spread the news through the whole neighbourhood and took all who were sick to him, begging him just to let them tough the fringe of his cloak. And all those who touched it were saved”.
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Personal questions
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• Has there been a contrary wind in your life? What have you done to overcome it? Has this happened sometimes in the community? How was it overcome?
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• Which is the crossing which the communities are doing today? From where to where? How does all this help us to recognize today the presence of Jesus in the contrary waves of life?
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Concluding Prayer
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Keep me far from the way of deceit,
grant me the grace of your Law.
I have chosen the way of constancy,
I have moulded myself to your judgements. (Ps 119,29-30)
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From 2016:

Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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02 AUGUST 2016, Tuesday, 18th Week of Ordinary Time
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JESUS SAVES

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  JER 30:1-2, 12-15, 18-22; MT 14:22-36 OR MT 15:1-2, 10-14  ]

The scripture readings today clearly demonstrate the mercy and compassion of God to save His people from all situations of life, including sins and the consequences of sin.  He has come to forgive us our sins, heal us and restore us to fullness of life, both as individuals and as a community.  The psalmist says, “Let this be written for ages to come that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord; for the Lord leaned down from his sanctuary on high. He looked down from heaven to the earth that he might hear the groans of the prisoners and free those condemned to die.”

In the first reading, we read of the mercy and compassion of God.  The people of Israel in their arrogance during their time of prosperity forgot all about God, His laws and the Covenant.  The people were divided.  The poor were oppressed and the rich were living off the poor. There was great social injustice. Above all, they turned to foreign gods instead of worshipping the Lord.  As a consequence, they were conquered by the Babylonians and were exiled.  The prophet reminded the people not to look upon their misery as God abandoning them.  Rather, the punishments inflicted on them by their enemy were permitted by God so that they could turn back to Him.  The truth, as the Lord said, was that their sinfulness had gone beyond redemption.  “Your wound is incurable, your injury past healing. There is no one to care for your sore, no medicine to make you well again.  All your lovers have forgotten you; they look for you no more.”

In the gospel Jesus, as the fulfillment of the Old Testament, came to restore the Kingdom of God.  He is the compassion and mercy of God in person.  We read at the beginning of the gospel how Jesus in His compassion and consideration for the safety of His disciples sent them away. “Jesus made the disciples get into the boat, and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away.”  This was because, as St John’s gospel noted, the people wanted to make Him king after seeing the miracle of the loaves.  That would have caused political tensions with the Romans and the authorities.  So in order to calm the situation, He got the disciples out of the scene and quietly “went up into the hills.”

However, when He knew that His disciples were in a crisis, He came to their rescue.  Although they were professional and experienced fishermen, they were “battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind.”   Knowing their predicament, “he went towards them, walking on the lake.”  Even in His desire to be alone to think through His ministry arising from the misunderstanding of His messiahship as a political revolutionary, Jesus came to the help of His disciples in their time of need.  He felt the need to give them assurance as He “called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I!  Do not be afraid.’”  Indeed, the Lord demonstrated His mercy and compassion with this one desire to save all.

The compassion of Jesus is once again seen when Jesus reached the shore at Genesaret: “the whole neighbourhood…took all that were sick to him, begging him just to let them touch the fringe of his cloak.  And all those who touched it were completely cured.”  Jesus did not stop them from coming to Him even though they came only for a physical cure.  However, Jesus did not come just to save our bodies but our souls as well.  He came to give us eternal life through His word and our union with the Father.  But He allowed the people to come to Him for healing nonetheless, knowing that at this point the only way for them to encounter the presence of God was through His presence and His healing power. He did not drive them away or scold them for their superstition.  Rather, He adapted Himself to the spiritual maturity of His people as it was thought that by touching the tassels of a holy man they would be healed.  He knew that conversion is not the result of preaching alone but also through good deeds and works of compassion. This is the only way to let people know and be convinced that God really cares for them.

What, then, is needed for us to be healed by the Lord?  Firstly, we need to grow in humility.  Without this virtue, we will be too proud to turn to the Lord.  That is why God allows us to suffer tragedy and disappointments in life so that we know our place in the world.  Otherwise, some people may think that they are gods!  The mercy of God at times is ironically given through suffering.  The Lord said to Israel, “Why bother to complain about your wound.  Your pain is incurable. So great is your guilt, so many your sins, that I have done all this to you.”    Most of us will come to realize our nothingness and finiteness only when we are in a crisis.  So long as life is good to us and we are doing well, we think that success and happiness is our creation.  It is only when we are stripped of everything, including our health and freedom, that we come to realize that man is not so mighty after all.  We are powerless in the face of illness and death.  Yet, through our sufferings, we gain our sobriety and, humiliated by the Lord, we turn back to him.

Secondly, if we want to be saved, we need to have confidence in the Lord. We are assured that the moment we return to the Lord in faith and confidence, He will once again hear our prayers.  “The nations shall fear the name of the Lord and all the earth’s kings your glory, when the Lord shall build up Zion again and appear in all his glory. Then he will turn to the prayers of the helpless; he will not despise their prayers.”  Indeed, even as the Israelites suffered much during their exile, they were given hope of restoration to something even greater than they had. “Now I will restore the tents of Jacob, and take pity on his dwellings:  the city shall be rebuilt on its ruins, the citadel restored on its site.”  Not only will the city and temple be restored by Ezra and Nehemiah but they would once again gather together as the People of God and their rulers restored to power.  Of course, the fullness of this restoration is in Christ who is the Universal King, the Son of David.  But like St Peter we need to cry out for help with fervor and humility.

Thirdly, the faith that is needed is a confession of Jesus as the Son of God.  Jesus said, “’Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’  And as they got into the boat the wind dropped.  The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’” This is the height of the Christian profession of faith. Indeed, with that little faith in Him, as in the case of St Peter, the Lord will come to our help.  He does not expect us to have total faith for Him to cure or heal us.  But at least, like St Peter, we must in faith cry out to Him for help.

Finally, salvation is given only to those who keep their eyes on Jesus.  The problem with St Peter and all of us is that when we have difficulties in life, instead of looking toward the Lord for solution, wisdom and strength, we either turn to our fellowmen, our “horses and chariots” or, worse still, turn to ourselves and descend further into depression because of fear and anxiety.  St Peter was doing well until he took his eyes off the Lord and focused on the waters.  Indeed, if we were to walk a tightrope, we do not look down because we would be struck with fear because of the height.  Rather, we must look straight so that we can maintain our balance.  So, too, in our faith journey our eyes must always be kept on the Lord at all times.   With Jesus in the center of our lives, in our boats, we will never have to fear because He will give us the calmness and sobriety to think through and battle the trials of life.  And even if, like St Peter, we fail half-way in our faith in Him, the Lord will come to our aid.  He will not allow us to fail if we put our trust in Him.

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The Storm Burdened under the stress and anxiety from days of pondering and searching for the Messiah, Peter, soon to be the apostle, was working diligently casting his nets. Suddenly, supernatural power engulfed him and he heard a voice flow all around him. This voice cleared Peter’s weary and distraught mind and filled his very being with comfort.

One man, a Nazarene, had spoken: “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” The power with which these words overshadowed the fishermen dissolved any doubt in his mind as to who the person was.

Peter had found him. This was the Messiah of Israel. As he felt the awesome power of the Christ, he immediately forsook his nets and followed the “perfect” stranger… Months later, Peter would again experience this identifying power and assurance. When sailing upon the Galilean Sea one night, a gale of hurricane force swept upon the disciples. As they attempted to steady their small boat, the seasoned fishermen realized that their very lives were in danger.

Suddenly, without warning, they saw a sight that caused them to temporarily forget about the storm at hand. Their fear was replaced with genuine horror as they saw what seemed to be an apparition walking upon the water. The person was not effected by the elements! Was it a spirit?

The water did not swallow him and his clothes did not blow in the wind! They cried, “It’s a ghost!” Then a calm voice sounded above the rage of the storm, “Be Not Afraid, It Is I”.

Suddenly, Peter remembered the first time he felt the power of the voice of Jesus. It was on dry land when He had called him by saying “Come, Follow Me….” Peter knew if it were him, he could tell it again by this power a second time. He spoke, “Lord, if it is you, bid me `Come’ unto you on the water.” Then the figure standing upon the sea spoke with the same power… “COME.” It was Him!

Again Peter felt the awesome power of God envelope him and lift him from the boat and out onto the water. He took one step, two steps, and then another, each time stepping on the power of the word of Christ Jesus, bidding him “Come”.

Each step carried Peter closer and closer to the Creator of the Universe, the Lamb of God. The words of Him that spoke the world into being now with power and authority led Peter beyond the distance of his ability to swim back. As he looked around, his face broadcast these words…”I don’t believe this!”

According to the testimony etched in his expression, Peter began to sink. He fearfully cried out, “Lord save me!” Jesus stretched forth his hand and lifted him up from the sea and then walked him back to the boat where He asked him “Why did you doubt?”

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, July 29, 2017 — “We will do everything that the LORD has told us.” — “Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.”

July 28, 2017

Memorial of Saint Martha
Lectionary: 400/607

Image result for Moses, art

Moses by Joseph Dawley

Reading 1 EX 24:3-8

When Moses came to the people
and related all the words and ordinances of the LORD,
they all answered with one voice,
“We will do everything that the LORD has told us.”
Moses then wrote down all the words of the LORD and,
rising early the next day,
he erected at the foot of the mountain an altar
and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel.
Then, having sent certain young men of the children of Israel
to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice young bulls
as peace offerings to the LORD,
Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls;
the other half he splashed on the altar.
Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people,
who answered, “All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do.”
Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying,
“This is the blood of the covenant
that the LORD has made with you
in accordance with all these words of his.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 50:1B-2, 5-6, 14-15

R. (14a) Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
God the LORD has spoken and summoned the earth,
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
From Zion, perfect in beauty,
God shines forth.
R. Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
“Gather my faithful ones before me,
those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
And the heavens proclaim his justice;
for God himself is the judge.
R. Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
“Offer to God praise as your sacrifice
and fulfill your vows to the Most High;
Then call upon me in time of distress;
I will rescue you, and you shall glorify me.”
R. Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.

Alleluia JN 8:12

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Image result for Jesus and Martha, art

Jesus with Martha and Mary

Gospel  JN 11:19-27

Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother [Lazarus, who had died].
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

Or LK 10:38-42

Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.”

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Related:

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

For Saturday, July 29, 2017

St Martha

THE SPRING AND THE STREAM

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 JN 4:7-16LK 10:38-42]

The story of Mary and Martha has often been portrayed as a choice between contemplation and action. Mary seems to have chosen the way of contemplation whereas Martha chose the way of action.  But in truth, we know that contemplation and action are not mutually exclusive.  On the contrary, they are in fact complementary.  Indeed, for most of us today, we are called to be contemplatives in action.

That is to say, we are called to be first and foremost contemplatives so that we might be authentic activists for the Lord.  The truth is that the needs of the world cannot be addressed by us unless we are transformed by the Lord first.  For this reason, Mary spent time with the Lord at His feet, listening to Him.  It was not that Mary was unconcerned with the need to practise hospitality.  On the contrary, Mary gave Jesus the highest degree of hospitality by giving Him her whole attention.  After all, what is the meaning of hospitality if not to make a person feel at home and welcomed.  And this, Mary gave to Jesus just by listening to Him.  Indeed, to spend time with another person is to accord that person the highest level of hospitality that can be given.

This was not the case for Martha.  She did not know Jesus as well as Mary did.  She thought that the best way to attend to Jesus was to attend to His needs rather than to attend to Him.  And because she did not have an intimate relationship with Jesus, she became anxious, upset and competitive.  Her complaints to Jesus about Mary were signs of insecurity in her.  She was actually jealous of Mary that she seemed to enjoy a closer relationship with Jesus than her.  Hence, she wanted Jesus to know that she was more caring than Mary.  Not only that, she condemned Mary for not giving hospitality the way she did.  Inevitably, a person who lacks a relationship with another will try to substitute it with things and actions.  Martha as an activist, was insecure and restless because her works were not founded in a deep relationship with Jesus.  Instead of spending time with the Lord, she wanted to impress Jesus by doing things for Him rather than allowing Jesus to impress her.

Yes, between action and contemplation, the latter must come first.  Thomas Merton in his book “contemplatives in action” illustrates this beautifully when he wrote of the “spring and the stream.”  According to him, unless the waters of the spring are living and flow outwards, it remains but a stagnant pool.  If the stream is disconnected with the spring which is its source, then the stream would dry up.

Contemplation then, is the spring of living water, and the stream that flows out to others is the action that we perform. If action does not flow from an interior source in prayer, it becomes barren, competitive, selfish and anxious.  However if prayer does not flow into action, it is cut off from life.  That is why in the case of Mary, she was unmoved by what Martha said.  She did not retaliate or react.  She knew what was really important then, and she continued to be at the Lord’s feet.

Let us learn from Mary to be more courageous in spending time with the Lord.  It may seem to be a real waste of precious time which can be used for doing more things for the Lord.  Yet, what truly pleases God is not what we do but who we are.  And who we are as God meant us to be, can happen only when we open our hearts fully to Him so that He can transform us from within through the power of His love.  And when transformed, then the love of Jesus will flow out from us to others, doing what our Lord did for others.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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http://www.catholic.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

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Commentary on Luke 10:38-42 From Living Space

Today we find Jesus in the home of the sisters, Mary and Martha. We know that they have a brother named Lazarus. We meet the sisters again, showing the same characteristics as in this story, in John’s account of the raising from death of their brother (John 11:1-44). They lived in Bethany, a village about 3-4 km from Jerusalem and it seems that Jesus was a familiar visitor to the house for at the time of Lazarus’ illness Jesus is told: “Your friendLazarus is sick.”

The story of Martha and Mary is, in a way, a contrast to the previous story about the Good Samaritan. It restores a balance in our following of Christ. The story about being a neighbour could lead us to think that only if we aredoing things are we loving God.

Martha was a doer to the point of being a fusspot. Martha, we are told, was “burdened with much serving”. Serving is something that Jesus himself did constantly and he urged his followers to do the same. But it should not be a burden. And, after Martha had complained about her sister, Jesus told her that she was “anxious and worried about many things”. A true servant does not experience anxiety and worry. It signifies a lack of peace.

Because Mary seemed to be doing nothing, Martha saw her as idling and even selfish. Martha must have been somewhat surprised when Jesus said that Mary had “chosen the better part” which would “not be taken from her”.

What was that better part? Was Mary just sitting at the feet of Jesus and doing nothing? No. We are told that she was “listening to him speak”. Listening to his message is something Jesus tells his disciples and the crowd they need to be doing all the time. And we have mentioned before that listening involves understanding, accepting and assimilating that message so that it becomes part of our very selves

If we do not spend time listening to him, how can we know that our activity is properly directed? It is easy for us Christians to be very busy but are we busy about the right things?

To answer that question we have to stop to listen, to discern and to pray. And, ultimately, the highest form of activity in our lives is contemplation, being in conscious contact with God and his Word. If I find myself saying that I do not have time to give some time to prayer or contemplation each day, then there is a serious imbalance in my priorities and in my understanding of what it means to love and serve my God.

This story blends nicely with the parable of the Good Samaritan which went before it. Taken together they express what should be the essence of Christian living – action for others that is guided by what we learn in contemplation. This was the pattern of Jesus’ own life – he spent long hours bringing healing to people’s lives (being a neighbour) but also retired to quiet places to be alone in communion with his Father. The same pattern must be ours too. We call it being “contemplatives in action”.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2273g/

 

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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29 JULY 2016, Friday, St Martha
PRAYER AND INTIMACY WITH THE LORD GIVES JOY TO MINISTRY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1JN4, 7-16; LK 10:38-42 (Alt JN 11:19-27)  ]We tend to pit Mary against Martha as if one is better than the other.  This is because of what Jesus said about Mary, that she “has chosen the better part” and “it is not to be taken from her.”  In truth, we have to take the whole episode in perspective.  The gospel text is not teaching us that it is a greater thing to be a contemplative than an activist.  There can be no real opposition between these two.  Both are necessary in Christian life and are meant for the service of the Church and the mission of Christ.  Rather, the issue lies in the question of priority.

The mistake of Martha is not because she was active in serving Jesus.  Practising hospitality is a manifestation of love and concern.  Indeed, in the Church, we need people who are committed to service.  Giving ourselves to the service of the Church and the Christian community is an expression of our love for God.  However, this is not always the case.  Even though one might apparently be very much engaged in the service of God, we cannot always be sure or claim that it is a manifestation of our love for God.

So what is the sign that although we are doing the work of God, we are no longer working for God but for other less noble reasons?  When we become restless and agitated!  Restlessness and anxiety are signs that we are more concerned with our ego, our desire to please and earn the recognition and appreciation of our fellowmen than the desire to serve God.  In other words, we are seeking attention and self-esteem.  This was the case of Martha.  Jesus gently chided her not because it was wrong that she was busy preparing and making Him comfortable.  Nay, it was because she “was distracted with all the serving.”  She no longer experienced the joy of service.  That she subtly began to seek for Jesus’ attention and appreciation was demonstrated in her cry to the Lord saying, “Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself?  Please tell her to help me.”

Indeed, when we begin to fret and worry, we are no longer serving the Lord but we have become more anxious about our achievements.  Our focus is no longer on the Lord nor even the people we serve but on ourselves, our performance and the impression we make on others.  As a result, we become irritable, insecure, jealous and restless.  For Martha, her fear of rejection even led her to complain about Mary in order to boost her status before the Lord.  In complaining about Mary, Martha was implying to Jesus that she was a better person than Mary.  When a person becomes fearful and insecure, he or she would even belittle others in order to boost his or her ego.  Such service that results from self love of course could not bring Martha joy.  She became a slave to her pride and fears.

We, too, often fall into such situations as well.  As priests, we are often worried about what others think of us when we preach or when we assume an office.  We are worried about the projects that we have started.  We become ambitious and tend to compare ourselves with others.  When we feel that others are doing better than us, we then become jealous and envious.  This is true for people involved in so-called works of humanitarianism.  Apparently, they are serving the world by their voluntary service.  Yet, quite often, such involvement in community service is rendered in a condescending manner.   It is given in such a way that the giver seems to be greater than the recipient.  We serve or give out of pity rather than empathy and compassion.

What is the root of the problem?  It is because our ministry is not grounded in love.  We are not capable of love.  This is a reality we must first come to realize.  We are not able to love as we should.  Our love is conditional and not selfless even if we want to love selflessly.  Within this context, 1Jn4:7 provides the key to authentic service.  St John wrote, “My dear people, let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love.”

Consequently, the only way to heal us of our brokenness and insecurity and negative image of self is by giving ourselves to Jesus who alone can heal us with his unconditional love. Indeed, John said, “God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him: this is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God’s love for us when he sent his Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.”

Truly, unless we have been loved by God, we cannot love unconditionally.  If not, we become irritable.  Only when we experience His love, can we share in His Spirit of love as well.  God’s love is prior to our love for others.  This is what St John is reminding us.  “My dear people, since God has loved us so much, we too should love one another. God will live in us and his love will be complete in us. We can know that we are living in him and he is living in us because he lets us share his Spirit.”  He added, “We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves. God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.”

But how can we experience God’s love if not in prayer?  Hence, primacy must be given to prayer and a deep relationship with Jesus, which brings love.  Indeed, the gospel tells us that Jesus comes to serve and not to be served.  Before we can serve others, we must allow Jesus to serve us first.  That is what Jesus says in the parable about the faithful servant, for when the master returns, he will put on the apron to serve them.  This explains why “It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.”  Mary sat at the feet of Jesus listening to the teaching of Jesus.  Being loved by Jesus is primary.  Service and ministry flows from the love of God in us.  Sharing in His Spirit, we are empowered to love in return. Work and ministry is only the expression of love.

What should give us joy is not so much our ministry.  Rather it is our union with God and because of our union with Him, we want to express this union by loving our fellowmen.  So it is immaterial how we serve so long as whatever we do is the sharing of God’s love.

Indeed St Augustine asks what will happen when we reach the end of our pilgrimage when there is no longer any work.  As we grow older, whether we are priests or grandparents, a time will come when we can no longer work.  Does it mean that our lives will be spent in misery because we cannot serve anymore?  Surely not!  When the time comes we will simply spend the rest of our lives in solitude contemplating on the wonders of God’s love for us and His presence.  Knowing that God is with us and that He is our all will give us more joy than all worldly enjoyments.  So, like those who retire gracefully and are no longer mobile, our joy then would be to busk in the presence of God and His love.

Today, we take courage and inspiration from St John’s gospel that God is patient with us.  He allows us to grow in faith as He did for Martha.  From an impatient person, she became a woman of faith.  Although it is true that when we meet her later in St John’s gospel, she is still the active person, for she was the one who ran out to meet Jesus, but instead of complaining that Jesus was late, she placed her faith in Jesus saying, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that, even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you.”  Not only did she confess her faith in the resurrection but she also confessed her faith in Christ, saying, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who has come into this world.”  Indeed, she learnt to surrender herself to Jesus.  Instead of wanting things her way, she surrendered to the Lord.  By professing her faith in the resurrection in Christ, she is saying in love, life does not come to an end.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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http://www.catholic.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/
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Bishop Goh’s reflection reminded me of this little gem of a book:
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Image may contain: one or more people and text
“Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence” by J.P. Caussade
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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, July 24, 2017 — “We wish to see a sign from you.” — Moses answered the people, “Fear not! Stand your ground!”

July 23, 2017

Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 395

Image result for Pharaoh's whole army his horses chariots and charioteers, bible, art, pictures

Reading 1 EX 14:5-18

When it was reported to the king of Egypt
that the people had fled,
Pharaoh and his servants changed their minds about them.
They exclaimed, “What have we done!
Why, we have released Israel from our service!”
So Pharaoh made his chariots ready and mustered his soldiers
six hundred first-class chariots
and all the other chariots of Egypt, with warriors on them all.
So obstinate had the LORD made Pharaoh
that he pursued the children of Israel
even while they were marching away in triumph.
The Egyptians, then, pursued them;
Pharaoh’s whole army, his horses, chariots and charioteers,
caught up with them as they lay encamped by the sea,
at Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

Pharaoh was already near when the children of Israel looked up
and saw that the Egyptians were on the march in pursuit of them.
In great fright they cried out to the LORD.
And they complained to Moses,
“Were there no burial places in Egypt
that you had to bring us out here to die in the desert?
Why did you do this to us?
Why did you bring us out of Egypt?
Did we not tell you this in Egypt, when we said,
‘Leave us alone. Let us serve the Egyptians’?
Far better for us to be the slaves of the Egyptians
than to die in the desert.”
But Moses answered the people,
“Fear not! Stand your ground,
and you will see the victory the LORD will win for you today.
These Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again.
The LORD himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still.”

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me?
Tell the children of Israel to go forward.
And you, lift up your staff and, with hand outstretched over the sea,
split the sea in two,
that the children of Israel may pass through it on dry land.
But I will make the Egyptians so obstinate
that they will go in after them.
Then I will receive glory through Pharaoh and all his army,
his chariots and charioteers.
The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD,
when I receive glory through Pharaoh
and his chariots and charioteers.”

Responsorial Psalm  EX 15:1BC-2, 3-4, 5-6

R. (1b) Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant;
horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
He is my God, I praise him;
the God of my father, I extol him.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
The LORD is a warrior,
LORD is his name!
Pharaoh’s chariots and army he hurled into the sea;
the elite of his officers were submerged in the Red Sea.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
The flood waters covered them,
they sank into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O LORD, magnificent in power,
your right hand, O LORD, has shattered the enemy.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.

Alleluia  PS 95:8

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

Gospel  MT 12:38-42

Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus,
“Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”
He said to them in reply,
“An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign,
but no sign will be given it
except the sign of Jonah the prophet.
Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights,
so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth
three days and three nights.
At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah;
and there is something greater than Jonah here.
At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation
and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon;
and there is something greater than Solomon here.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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24 JULY, 2017, Monday, 16th Week, Ordinary Time

FAITH OVERCOMES FEAR AND DOUBT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ex 14:5-18Ex 15:1-6Mt 12:38-42]

We live our lives in fear.  It is natural to fear for our safety and our needs.  We all have an instinct for survival.  We fear pain, suffering and death.  So in the face of danger, we panic.  When we become anxious and frightened, we become irrational and say or do things without thinking.  This was the case of the Israelites.  We can imagine their fears.  Hence, they began to complain and lament.  “Were there no grave in Egypt that you must lead us out to die in the wilderness?  What good have you done us, bringing us out of Egypt? We spoke of this in Egypt, did we not? Leave us alone, we said, we would rather work for the Egyptians! Better to work for the Egyptians than die in the wilderness!”  They started to blame Moses and accuse him of leading them to their death.  They even preferred to live in slavery than to suffer in the desert or die in the hands of the Egyptians.

In our straits, we tend to forget all the great things that happened to us before.  How true, in bad times, we forget the good times.  Even in friendship, when there is a misunderstanding, we forget all the other good times we have had.  We cannot forgive the person for the one mistake he has made when he had done many good things for us.  We just pick on the fault, disregarding all the good the person has done.  This is also true in times of adversity.  We begin to doubt His love for us when we are going through difficult times or trials in life.  In good times, we praise and thank God for His love but in bad times, we forget all His blessings.

Fear drives us to hopelessness. But doubt will cause us to be unresponsive.  This was the situation of the scribes and the Pharisees.  They had doubts about Jesus as the Messiah.  “Master, we should like to see a sign from you.”  Again, this request was not unreasonable.  It is necessary that there be signs for credibility before we commit ourselves to belief.  All throughout the scriptures, a true prophet must be able to give signs that his prophecy is from God.  So it was not wrong for them to ask Jesus for a sign that they should believe in Him.

Perhaps, we must ask whether our doubts come from the sincere desire to know the truth or from pride or obstinacy.  This too was the obstinacy of Pharaoh.  “When Pharaoh, king of Egypt, was told that the Israelites had made their escape, he and his courtiers changed their minds about the people. ‘What have we done,’ they said ‘allowing Israel to leave our service?’ So Pharaoh had his chariots in Egypt, each manned by a picked team.  The Lord made Pharaoh, king of Egypt, stubborn, and he gave chase to the sons of Israel as they made their triumphant escape.” He saw the miracles worked by Moses.  He relented and let them go but his pride and ego was hurt.  He could not accept defeat.  So he changed his mind about letting the Israelites go.

God is not against us seeking signs because the act of faith must be responsible. When Jesus remarked, “It is an evil and unfaithful generation that asks for a sign!”  He was not reprimanding the people for seeking a sign but for their refusal to be receptive and open to the signs that He had given. The religious leaders were not asking for signs for verification but signs to disprove the claims of Jesus.  They came with a closed mind.  They lacked openness, sincerity to find the truth.  Their minds were already made up.

Even in the case of Moses when he demanded faith from the people, he had already given them some signs.  He worked the miracles of the Ten plagues.  But the greatest of all signs was yet to come.  It was the crossing of the Red Sea. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to me so? Tell the sons of Israel to march on.  For yourself, raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and part it for the sons of Israel to walk through the sea on dry ground.  I for my part will make the heart of the Egyptians so stubborn that they will follow them.  So shall I win myself glory at the expense of Pharaoh, of all his army, his chariots, his horseman.  And when I have won glory for myself, at the expense of Pharaoh and his chariots and his army, the Egyptians will learn that I am the Lord.’”

Jesus too, as the New Moses, had given them signs through His miracles of healing and exorcism.  He had showed them the love and mercy of God.  He is the wisdom of God in person.  “On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.”  In other words, He is the true prophet of God.

But the greatest of all signs will be His passion, death and resurrection.  This was already anticipated in the Exodus experience. But it is also given in the sign of Jonah.  “For as Jonah was in the belly of the sea-monster for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.  On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with the generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.” In His passion and resurrection, He is vindicated by the Father as His Son.

So the Lord is not asking us to make an irrational act of faith. The signs have been given.  Now we must make an act of faith to see the fullness of the power of God.  This was what was asked of the Israelites.  “Have no fear! Stand firm, and you will see what the Lord will do to save you to-day: the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again.  The Lord will do the fighting for you: you have only to keep still.” And God showed His power and fidelity.  Thus the people sang for joy. “I will sing to the Lord, glorious his triumph! Horse and rider he has thrown into the sea! The Lord is my strength, my song, my salvation. This is my God and I extol him, my father’s God and I give him praise. The Lord is a warrior! ‘The Lord’ is his name. The chariots of Pharaoh he hurled into the sea, the flower of his army is drowned in the sea.”

So too by His death and resurrection, Jesus shows forth His glory as He leads us through the waters of baptism, from death to sin and new life in His spirit.   Jesus shows Himself to be the New Moses by His preaching and feeding us with the bread of life.  He conquered sin and death by His victory in the resurrection.  So we are called to have faith in Jesus on account of the resurrection.

What about us?  We have seen all the signs. We have seen how Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophets.  We have seen how the apostles witnessed to His resurrection by signs and powers, of healing and exorcism, and most of all the testimony of life, even unto death.  We continue to see His mighty works even in our days.  We see the miracles of the sacraments which bring about effects in our lives.  Hence, we do not live in fear or doubt but in faith in Christ our Saviour. Our faith in Christ is real and well substantiated.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Commentary on Matthew 12:38-42 From Living Space

Today’s passage follows two others, which we have not read. In the first Jesus is accused of doing what he does by the power of Satan. An accusation which he easily shows is self-contradictory and makes no sense. In the second he says that a tree that is rotten inside cannot produce good fruit. Goodness comes from a person’s interior. The words are directed at his accusers whom he more than once accuses of being hypocrites: pious and law-abiding on the outside and full of malice inside.

It is these same people who approach him today. It is difficult to know their mood as they ask Jesus for a sign. Is it a genuine request for Jesus to indicate the source of his authority and power or is it a hostile demand for Jesus to present his credentials?

In response, Jesus first says that “it is an evil and unfaithful (literally, ‘adulterous’) generation that asks for a sign”. Yes, evil and unfaithful, because for anyone with an open mind, Jesus has been giving nothing but signs ever since he began his public life. The ordinary people have been full of praise and amazement at what Jesus is doing and say that “God has visited his people”. But these leaders, blinded by their own prejudice, are even saying that the teaching, exorcisms and healings of Jesus are the work of Satan.

In addition to all this they are going to get an unmistakable sign of who Jesus really is. They will be given the “sign of Jonah”. Just as Jonah spent three days buried in the belly of the sea monster so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and nights. This is a clear reference to Jesus’ resurrection – the conclusive sign of his identity and power.

Mention of Jonah leads Jesus to say that the people of Niniveh who repented after hearing Jonah will fare better at the last judgment than the people that Jesus is speaking with. And Jesus is of far more significance than Jonah.

Similarly, the Queen of the South, that is, the Queen of Sheba, who came from a far distance to hear the wisdom of Solomon will fare better than the unbelieving listeners to Jesus, who is greater by far than Solomon.

We, too, have the privilege of listening to Jesus and we know the sign of his resurrection. Is it not possible that there are many people around us who, not knowing Jesus but following the guidance of their consciences, will find themselves going before us into the Kingdom? Complacency is probably one of our biggest temptations. “I am good enough; I observe the basic requirements of my religion.” Is that all that Jesus expects of me?

Related:

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Reflection on Exodus 14:5-18

Remember: Sanctification is the idea of being set-apart for God. To be pursue holiness as He is holy.

Context: Before we get too far, lets just remember what the scene is here at this point in Exodus:

The people have been in bondage in Egypt for over 400 years.

This bondage was preceded by a season in which Joseph held a high position in Egypt because of his ability to interpret the dreams that the Pharaoh was having. He instructed that there was going to be a big famine and that Egypt should prepare. As a result, the Pharaoh put him as 2nd in command. Israel benefitted from this because this preparation would preserve them during this famine.

Over time the Egyptian dynasty changed, and turned on Israel by putting them into bondage.

Finally, Moses was born. He was to be thrown into the Nile, but instead was adopted into the Egyptian household.

Long story short, Moses was called by God to the instrument to call Pharaoh to release the Israelites. Pharaoh repeatedly said no, and God poured out 10 plagues upon Egypt to change Pharaoh’s heart.

We are now at the point in the story where the people have been set free. They are stepping out on to a NEW JOURNEY with God, but this journey is not going to be a easy “walk in the park” (no pun intended). God will still use some pretty amazing events to grow them in their faith.??

What does your journey look like? If your anything like me, the journey that God has you on hasn’t included any “writing on the wall”, or “burning bush” experiences. Instead it has been a journey of faith where the clarity has been all but clear at times.?

 

Read the rest:

https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/the-journey-chad-finch-sermon-on-exodus-206119?ref=SermonSerps

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore from July 21, 2014
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What is the primary indictment that God made against His people?  It is their ingratitude.  In anguish and deep disappointment, the God of Love and Compassion cried out, “My people, what have I done to you, how have I been a burden to you? Answer me. I brought you out of the land of Egypt, I rescued you from the house of slavery; I sent Moses to lead you, with Aaron and Miriam.”  In His mercy, God saw the miseries of His people and called Moses to lead them out of the slavery of the Egyptians.   Yet in spite of what He had done for them, they turned against Him and worshipped false gods, disobeyed the Covenantal Laws which were given to them so that the People of God could live in peace and harmony based on the principles of justice and charity; truth and love.  Alas, this was not the case.  Not only did they turn against Him, but they had taken advantage of the poor and the weak whom the Lord loves as His own.

Isn’t this the way we regard God as well?  God has blessed us with riches and success.  Have we used them for His glory?  Have we thanked Him by proclaiming Him as our Lord and God?  Do we put Him as the center of our lives, or do we allow pleasures and success to crowd Him out of our lives?  Most of all, do we use our success, power, influence, money and resources for the service of His people?  More often than not, we only care about ourselves, and even if we do help the less fortunate, it is but a meager percentage of what we are enjoying in life.  And God is also asking us the same question as well, “Are we grateful for what we have been given?”

The second charge leveled against us is the failure to repent.  Even in our sinfulness, God does not give up on us.  He is always patient with us, awaiting our repentance.  He does not want to punish or destroy us.  If He allows us to suffer the consequences of sin, it is in order that we may come to the realization of the state of our souls.  Most of all, God sent us His only Son, Jesus, the Word of God, the Greatest of all prophets to call us to repentance.  Yet, like the Jews, our ears are deaf to His call to repentance; our hearts remain hardened in our stubbornness and sinfulness.  This is particularly true for Catholics because we have all the means to be reconciled with God and yet we are lukewarm in our response to His call for a change of heart.  Ironically, just like the so-called pagans, the Ninevites, non-Catholics and sinners are more responsive to the invitation to repent and seek conversion and reconciliation.

Those of us who are lukewarm in our faith are the most resistant to the grace of conversion.  We are contented to drift along with a nominal faith, like the Israelites. We try to soothe our conscience by fulfilling the basic duties of a Catholic, like attending Mass on Sundays and saying a few prayers upon waking up and before going to sleep; and perhaps occasionally, give a few dollars to the Church and to the poor.  However, in our daily lives, whether at work or at home, we are abusive, intolerable, dishonest and unreasonable in our dealings with our fellowmen.

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Victor Frankl and The Meaning of Life

July 21, 2017

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Victor Frankl, God and Terry Blankenship

by Terry Blankenship

I struggled much of my life prior to my conversion to Christianity with a profound lack of purpose. I would ask myself over and over a question that couldn’t be answered … ‘why are we alive?’ There would never be a good answer to it from anyone. I got so depressed over this question that I began going to a psychologist at age eighteen and, in the course of my treatment, began posing the question to him.

“So … why ARE we alive?” I nervously asked him as I sat in his office.

He coughed, nervously ran a finger around the front collar of his shirt like it had suddenly become incredibly warm in his office, and replied, “Well, I think that, given another 6 months of talking this through, we might start to make some progress with that question.”

BINGO … it was just like he had opened his wallet and showed me all the money inside and … it was empty … he didn’t have a clue either. It was just not professionally savvy for him to admit to me that he had no answer to my most earnest of questions.

He did however manage to label me.

“You have existential despair,” he weakly said as his eyes averted mine.

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So I continued my search.

I had a very esteemed Vanderbilt philosophy professor that I felt I might as well pose the question to in class during one of his existentialism lectures … why not? I would at least be interrupting the right topic.

“Yes, Terry, what is your question” he asked as he motioned in my direction. The cavernous hall seemed to grow ominously quiet as my fellow students leaned in to listen as a respite from their growing boredom.

“Uh … what is the purpose of life … you know, the meaning?”

He paused for a second. He looked perplexed. But hey, this was exactly the question that has been asked throughout the ages that gave rise to the very topic on which he was lecturing … right? Going like a deer in headlights at this moment wouldn’t have been very fulfilling to his daily resume he strove to build with his students, would it?

“The meaning of life is … is that you are alive. That is the meaning of life,” he stated confidently.

At that moment, in my eyes, he slid into the very same category as my psychologist … he did not have a clue. He didn’t even have a good attempt at an answer. As a matter of fact, I determined as soon as he answered not to ask a follow-up question due to the fact that he too had just open up his wallet of wisdom and showed me his embarrassing lack of money inside.

The meaning of life is like a gothic hummingbird that flits around us all. Some of us apprehend it and are happy as a clam the rest of our lives while others are never quite able to coax it into the cage that they have built for it and therefore, are doomed to lead lives of …. well … existential despair.

Not very happy.

Not very motivated.

As a matter of fact, just downright miserable usually.

It was Victor Frankl who stated that if one has enough of a ‘why’, one can always figure out the ‘how’. A strong enough ‘why’ can even lead one to successfully endure a Nazi concentration camp, as Frankl did.

A lack of purpose in life is endemic in our generation. There is not a strong sense of purpose among our young people, those in middle age or …. senior citizens. This elusive hummingbird knows no generational bounds. We cannot hang this one on young folks when every generation has a bad case of the ‘meaningless’ fever.

When one meets Christ, the entire purpose of life question is supposed to be settled and, in my experience, it was profoundly resolved for me in a flash. Soaked in existential despair, I went in to a house one night to hear someone speak of Christ and left with a new, durable meaning for my life. Went in sad and came out happy.

I wish I could put this in more sophisticated terms but that is exactly what occurred to me.

However ….

it is also my experience that this original purpose that infused us often tends to be diluted down by the cares of the world as we accumulate years. And then we are deposited back on the doorstep of existential despair, yet once again.

Not very happy.

Not very motivated.

As a matter of fact, just downright miserable.

First, if you are reading this and are a Christian and your ‘candle of existential purpose’ has dimmed, I challenge you to do three things:

be candid with God about this – yep, I suspect that he’s big enough to take it if you can just get around to telling him the truth about the state of your heart,
Get around Christians who are motivated with a strong purpose of life … yes, simply get in their presence and stay connected to them if you can find them … and they are around, trust me,

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Start acting on what your gut is telling you to do … trust your instincts, in other words … this is not an end-run around God’s will rather this is often a run straight into God’s will … for example, if you feel that God uses you to listen to folks who have crushing burdens, then seek someone you know is burdened and listen to them … God does not want his hands (i.e., you and me) to be hands of remarkably good intentions but remarkably little action.

I want to stay on point number three for a bit. There is something about life on the planet earth that strips us of our trust in ourselves. Now, many would say this is a good thing, but I do not think it is a good thing. Rather, I think it is a tragedy because God has gifted us with wonderful minds, spirits and the like and he surely want us to learn to use these in our journeys, always in concert with his Spirit. Do not let this occur to you … Renew your faith in your own instincts because, hey, God is in there (remember the Holy Spirit?).

These three things are not a guarantee for a persistent and strong ‘why’ in your life but if your candle is somewhat dim, doing these three things will help ensure that the dim will almost assuredly become brighter.

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, July 22, 2017 — “The love of Christ impels us.” — “He indeed died for all so that those who live might no longer live for themselves.”

July 21, 2017

Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene
Lectionary: 603

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Reading 1  SGS 3:1-4B

The Bride says:
On my bed at night I sought him
whom my heart loves–
I sought him but I did not find him.
I will rise then and go about the city;
in the streets and crossings I will seek
Him whom my heart loves.
I sought him but I did not find him.
The watchmen came upon me,
as they made their rounds of the city:
Have you seen him whom my heart loves?
I had hardly left them
when I found him whom my heart loves.

OR  2 COR 5:14-17

Brothers and sisters:
The love of Christ impels us,
once we have come to the conviction that one died for all;
therefore, all have died.
He indeed died for all,
so that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh;
even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh,
yet now we know him so no longer.
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.

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Christ and Mary Magdalene by Albert Edelfelt

Responsorial Psalm  PS 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

R. (2) My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
You are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Tell us, Mary, what did you see on the way?
I saw the glory of the risen Christ, I saw his empty tomb.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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“She thought it was the gardener.”

Mary Magdalen at the Tomb. By Rembrandt

Gospel JN 20:1-2, 11-18

On the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”

Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew,
“Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her,
“Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.'”
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he told her.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

22 JULY, 2017, Saturday, St Mary Magdalene

MOVEMENT FROM SACRAMENTAL TO MYSTICAL LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ SONG 3:1-4, or 2 COR 5:14-17PS 63: 2.3-4.5-6.8-9JN 20: 1-211-18]

Why is there a lack of fervor in the faith today?  Sad to say, many have left the Church but those who stay are lukewarm and tepid in their faith.  Many lack evangelical zeal and the desire and enthusiasm to spread the Good News about Jesus.  The practice of faith is reduced to the practice of religion.  It has become a routine in life.  It has even become an iron rice bowl for those in priestly and religious life. No wonder, so many have left the Church or some have joined other religions or Protestant churches where faith seems to be more alive and vibrant.

The cause of the indifference towards the faith is due to a lack of the consciousness of the love of God in our lives.   Rationalism is the first cause for distancing from God. With the emphasis on science and reasoning, there is a tendency towards rationalism.  Our faith in God is very much on the level of intellectual knowledge rather an affective experience of His love.  Theologians can be very knowledgeable in theology but yet lack a real faith in Christ because of the lack of a conscious experience of His personal love.   The danger for those who are engaged in theological study is that they think they know about God’s love and yet in truth they do not know it in their personal life.  It is a deceptive way of pretending to know lots about God.

The second reason is activism.  Many are very active in the apostolate and in the ministry.  Today, the emphasis is on work and activities.  People are afraid to stay still and do nothing.  We must always be doing something and multi-tasking as well.  We are afraid of silence and contemplation.  So we are busy with our projects and activities, doing things for people and for the Church.  It is all about output without any input.  As a consequence, we become edgy and irritable when overworked.  We begin to focus on results and efficiency and no longer on the needs of the people.   It is not surprising that many who are involved in Church ministry or those in priestly life become jaded, lose interest and enthusiasm after a while and instead get themselves engaged in squabbling over rules and control.

The third reason is the loss of the Sacred.  They lack devotion and the presence of the sacred.  Religious things are reduced to the level of the profane.  Many no longer respect the sacredness of the Church, the Eucharist, or the sacramentals.  Holy things are treated with irreverence.  When the line between the sacred and profane is blurred, there is no sense of God’s presence.  This is not to say that they are so clearly distinguished, for we know that God could also be found in ordinary things and the ordinary events of life as well.  But to arrive at this realization, we must begin with the experience of God in the sacred.  Without a real encounter of the Sacred, we can no longer feel the presence of God in our lives.

When we read the bible or study the history of the Church, the growth of the Church was always the result of people and charismatic leaders who were deeply in love with Christ and for His people.  In the Old Testament, it was the great love for God in leaders like Moses, King David and the prophets that the faith was kept.  The prophets, Elijah, Jeremiah, Hosea and Isaiah, were all consumed by their love for God.  During the time of Christ, it was His deep love and intimacy with His Father that was the motivating factor in His mission.  It was for the love of His Father that Christ emptied Himself in the incarnation.  During the time of the apostles, it was their love for the Lord that made them give up their life to follow Jesus in the mission.  They were willing to abandon their family and trade to follow after Jesus.

In the gospel today, we read of Mary Magdalene’s deep devotion to the Lord.  Love enabled her to do all things.   When we are in love with someone, there is nothing that can prevent us from giving ourselves to that person.  When we love, we are consumed by love.   Mary Magdalene was so in love with the Lord she could not wait for the sun to rise to visit Him in the grave.  When she arrived in the dark, the stone was already moved away.  Without checking what was inside the tomb, her fear was that His body was taken away.  And later when the angels asked her why she was weeping, she was so absorbed in her attachment to Jesus’ body that she only could say that the body was taken away.  And when Jesus spoke to her, thinking that He was the gardener said, “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.”   She never thought for a while how she could ever remove a dead body which is too heavy for one person to lift, much less by a woman!  The point is that when we are deeply in love, using all our energy and might, we are able to do things beyond human imagination.

Isn’t this true for all the saints and the missionaries of the early Church and those before the 18th century?  Many of them, for the love of Jesus and their fellowmen, would leave their homeland to far distant countries to spread the gospel.  Many were persecuted and killed or died because of hunger, poverty, poor hygiene and illnesses.   Many died as martyrs for their faith, after being cruelly tortured for their belief.  Saints like St Francis of Assisi left everything and sold all he had for the poor and lived in simplicity because of his love for the Lord.   St Francis Xavier travelled to the Far East to spread the gospel.  Indeed, the Church in the East, Africa and in South America was the result of the sacrifices of the missionaries. This was why St Theresa of the Child Jesus remarked, “I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart was aflame with Love. I understood that Love alone stirred the members of the Church to act… I understood that Love encompassed all vocations, that Love was everything”.

However, their love for Christ and His Church came from a prior experience of His love for them.  It is not that we love Him but that He loved us first.  This is what St Paul wrote about his passion for Christ and the gospel.  In the letter to the Corinthians, he said, “The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.”  (2 Cor 5:14f) St John also reiterated the primacy of God’s love for us.  “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.”  (1 Jn 4:10)

For this reason, if we want to renew the fervor of the faith of our Catholics, we must lead them to a personal experience of Christ’s love for them.  We need to renew our thirst for the Lord’s love as the Bride did in the Book of Song of Songs.  She cried out, “On my bed, at night, I sought him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him. So I will rise and go through the City; in the streets and the squares I will seek him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him.”   The responsorial psalm also speaks of this thirst for God in his life.  “O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting.  My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory. For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise.”

But it must proceed from the way of human love before we can arrive at mystical love.  There is a danger of Catholics who lack the experience of God’s love but seek a mystical encounter with Him, bypassing the humanity of Christ through some kind of centering prayer.  It has always been the teaching of the Church and of the mystics that the only way to encounter the mystical Lord is through the humanity of Christ.  Hence, it is important to recount how Mary Magdalene made the progress from loving the Jesus of Nazareth before reaching the maturity of loving the Christ of Faith.  The reason why Mary Magdalene could not find the Lord was because she was still attached to the earthly Jesus of Nazareth.

So Jesus invited her to transcend the level of sensual love to a spiritual love for Him.  He said to her, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”   St Paul in the same vein urged the Christians to do likewise.  “From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.”

In other words, whilst spiritual life begins with an encounter with the Lord through the human way, that is, by tangible and sacramental means, yet we must not just cling to such devotions.  There are many of these devotions, charismatic worship, healing services, Divine Mercy, Novenas and devotions to the saints in the Church.  They are not to be despised or thought to be for the uneducated.  Such devotions help us to cultivate a human love for God and the saints.  It helps us to experience their love affectively.  But if our love for the Lord is just focused on devotions and the sacramentals, we can become overly superstitious.   Nevertheless, they are important means to lead us to into a deeper encounter with the Lord in contemplative prayer, in silence and in charity.  In the final analysis, the height of love for God is both a contemplative and mystical experience of His love leading us to share His love with others.

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

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Reflection from Living Space

After going off to tell Peter and the other disciples about the empty tomb, it seems that Mary of Magdala went back there to grieve over her lost friend and master. She sees two angels sitting inside the tomb and asks where her Lord has been taken. When asked why she is weeping, she replies that her Lord has been “taken away” and she does not know where he has been put.

Then, as she turns round, there is Jesus before her but she does not recognise him. This is a common experience with those who meet Jesus after the resurrection. He is the same and he is not the same. In this transitional period they have to learn to recognise Jesus in unexpected forms and places and situations. He asks the same question as the angels: “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” A question we need to ask ourselves constantly. Like Mary, we may say we are looking for Jesus – but which Jesus?
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She thinks the person in front of her is the gardener. How often we jump to conclusions about people, about their character and personality and true identity! Maybe this man has taken Jesus away and knows where he is. It is also another lovely example of Johannine irony. First, that the one she took to be the gardener should know where Jesus was to be found. Second, it is John who tells us that the tomb of Jesus was in a garden (19:41). All the world’s pain and sorrow began with the sin of the Man and the Woman in a garden (Eden) and now new life also finds its beginnings in a garden. Mary was unwittingly right – Jesus is a Gardener, the one who produces life from the earth, and is the Word of his Father, the Gardener of Eden.
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Then Jesus speaks: “Mary!” Immediately she recognises his voice, the voice of her Master. It reminds us of the passage about Jesus the Shepherd. “The sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name… the sheep follow him because they recognise his voice… I know my sheep and they know me” (John 10:3-4,15).
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Immediately she turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni”. This is a more formal address than just “Rabbi” and was often used when speaking to God. In which case, Mary’s exclamation is not unlike that of Thomas in the upper room – “My Lord and my God!” We should also note that earlier she had already turned to face Jesus so this turning is different. It is an interior turning from strangeness to recognition, from sadness to joy, from a sense of loss to a close bonding, from doubt to faith.
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With a mixture of joy and affection and partly out of fear of losing him again, she clings on to him tightly. But Jesus tells her to let him go, because “I have not ascended to the
Father”. A sentence which may be better read as a rhetorical question: “Have I not ascended to my Father?” In John, the glorification of Jesus takes place on the cross at the moment of death. At that moment of triumph, Jesus is raised straight to the glory of the Father. In that sense, it is the glorified Jesus who now speaks with Mary not the Jesus she knew earlier. This Jesus cannot be clung to. In fact, there is no need. From now on “I am with you always.”
The phrase “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” echoes a sentence in the Book of Ruth (1:16): “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” The Father of Jesus now becomes the Father of his disciples as they are filled with the Spirit that is both in the Father and the Son. Thus they will be re-born (John 3:5) as God’s children and can be called “brothers” by Jesus.
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Mary – and all the others – have to learn that the Risen Jesus is different from the Jesus before the crucifixion. They have to let go of the earlier Jesus and learn to relate to the “new” Jesus in a very different way.
So she is told to do what every Christian is supposed to do: go and tell the other disciples that she has seen the Lord and she shares with them what he has said to her. “I have seen the Lord.” She is not just passing on a doctrine but sharing an experience. That is what we are all called to do.
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It is significant that it is a woman who is the first person in John’s gospel to see and to be spoken to by the Risen Jesus. Not only that, if she is the same person mentioned by Luke as one of Jesus’ women followers (Luke 8:2), she was formerly a deeply sinful woman from whom seven demons had been driven out. Often no one is closer to God than someone who has been converted from a sinful past. We think of people like St Augustine or St Ignatius Loyola. We remember the example of the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:35-50). Of her Jesus said: “Seeing that she loved much, her many sins are forgiven. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little”
(Luke 7:47).

So Mary, who (who with Mary, Jesus’ Mother, stood by the cross of Jesus to the very end – unlike the men disciples), is now rewarded by being the first to meet him risen and glorified. She is truly a beloved disciple.

Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1013g/

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Meditation: Do you recognize the presence and reality of the Lord Jesus in your life? How easy it is to miss the Lord when our focus is on ourselves! Mary Magdalene did not at first recognize the Lord Jesus after he had risen from the grave because her focus was on the empty tomb and on her own grief. It took only one word from the Master, when he called her by name, for Mary to recognize him.

Recognizing the Lord’s presence in our lives
Mary’s message to the disciples, I have seen the Lord, is the very essence of Christianity. It is not enough that every Christian know something about the Lord, but that each one of us know him personally and intimately. It is not enough to argue about him, but that we meet him. Through the power of his resurrection we can encounter the living Lord who loves us personally and shares his glory with us.

The Lord Jesus gives us “eyes of faith” to see the truth of his resurrection and his victory over sin and death (Ephesians 1:18). The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of our hope – the hope that we will see God face to face and share in his everlasting glory and joy.

Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Do you recognize the Lord’s presence with you, in his word, in the “breaking of the bread”, and in his church, the body of Christ?

“Lord Jesus, may I never fail to recognize your voice nor lose sight of your presence in your saving word.”

Daily Quote from the early church fathersMary Magdalene’s love for Jesus, by Gregory the Great (540-604 AD)

“Mary Magdalene, who had been a sinner in the city (rf. Luke 7:37), loved the Truth and so washed away with her tears the stains of wickedness (rf Luke 7:47). Her sins had kept her cold, but afterward she burned with an irresistible love.… We must consider this woman’s state of mind whose great force of love inflamed her. When even the disciples departed from the sepulcher, she did not depart. She looked for him whom she had not found.… But it is not enough for a lover to have looked once, because the force of love intensifies the effort of the search. She looked for him a first time and found nothing. She persevered in seeking, and that is why she found him. As her unfulfilled desires increased, they took possession of what they found (rf. Song of Solomon 3:1-4)… Holy desires, as I have told you before, increase by delay in their fulfillment. If delay causes them to fail, they were not desires.… This was Mary’s kind of love as she turned a second time to the sepulcher she had already looked into. Let us see the result of her search, which had been redoubled by the power of love. (excerpt from FORTY GOSPEL HOMILIES 25)

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Do Not Be Afraid
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Art: The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, By Rembrandt

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Jesus walks on water, by Ivan Aivazovsky (1888) — He said to them, “Do not be afraid.”

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She mistook him for the gardener — And he said to her, “Do not be afraid.”
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 JULY 2016, Friday, St. Mary Magdalene
PERSEVERING LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ SG 3:1-4 or 2 COR 5:14-17; PS 62(63):2-6.8-9; JN 20: 1-2, 11-18  ]

How can we know God?  Most people want to know God through reason.  In the bible, it is clear that the way to know God is through faith rather than through reason.  It is the way of the heart, not the head.  The difficulty of arriving at the knowledge of God through the head is because our minds keep changing.  Reasoning has no end because our minds are always curious and searching for the fullness of truth which can only be arrived at when we find God.  The way to God is always through the heart.  But how can we have faith?  Faith comes through love.  We can place our faith in God only because of love.  Moses instructed the people, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”  (Dt 6:4f)

Indeed, this has always been the case of all those who have found God.  Very few have come to know God through an intellectual process.  The way of St Paul was that of love.  In his letter to the Corinthians, he wrote, “The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.”  (2 Cor 5:14)  All the disciples, including Mary Magdalene whose feast we celebrate today, followed the Lord because they were moved by His love for them.  This is true for all the saints and mystics.  Even St Thomas Aquinas abandoned his great project, the Summa Theologica, upon encountering God whilst celebrating Mass.  He refused to complete his works saying, “The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.  I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings like straw.”  His vision of heaven or of God cannot be compared to anything else, so that all things on earth appeared to be worthless to him.

Indeed, when we have fallen in love with God, everything changes.  This is what St Paul says again, “From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.”  (2 Cor 5:16-17)  When we love, we see things and people differently.  We no longer see them as they are but we see them with the eyes of love.  Both the lover and the beloved are transformed by love.  All religions are based on faith, a personal encounter with the Lord or a mystical experience.  This explains why different people have different faiths, and why some do not have faith in any religion at all.   This is true in all human relationships.  When we fall in love with someone, we perceive the person with the eyes of love and that colours our judgment of the person.  We see beyond what the person is externally.

Mary Magdalene is the exemplar of a disciple who was deeply in love with the Lord. She had been delivered from the seven demons by Jesus.  Apparently, she was a wealthy lady.  From then on, she, with the other women, travelled with Jesus in his itinerant ministry.  They were ministering and taking care of Jesus and the disciples in the background.  Her love for Jesus could be seen in the way, she went to look for Jesus at the tomb early in the morning before all others.  She was with Jesus at the foot of the cross at His death.  All she wanted was to be with the Lord.  And so, upon discovering that the tomb was empty, she went to inform the disciples.  What was significant was that only John who went to the tomb, upon seeing the linen cloths that were left behind, believed that the Lord was risen.  Peter saw but could not make sense of it.  And so he went back still mystified.  However, the faithful Mary Magdalene stayed outside near the tomb weeping and waiting for Jesus.  She did not give up hope.

Mary Magdalene is for us an example of one who waits actively for her beloved to appear.  As the Song of Songs says of the bride who not only waits for her bridegroom but with expectant faith and hope, goes in search for him. “On my bed, at night, I sought him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him. So I will rise and go through the City; in the streets and the squares. I will seek him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him. The watchmen came upon me on their rounds in the City: ‘Have you seen him whom my heart loves?’ Scarcely had I passed them than I found him whom my heart loves.”

For those of us who have no experience of God’s love or find it difficult to allow God to love us, then we are called to follow the path of Mary Magdalene.  We must abandon the way of reason and take the path of love.  How can we empty our minds when we are so used to reasoning and proofs? 

We must be like Magdalene, be ready to keep on waiting patiently for the Lord.  But we do not simply just wait for Christ to appear. We need to search for Him. “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”  (Mt 7:7f)  Waiting for the Lord is necessary, just like Mary Magdalene who remained outside the tomb when the other disciples left after finding no one there.

Secondly, if we want to encounter Him, then we are called to be like Mary Magdalene whose desire for the Lord is beautifully expressed in the responsorial psalm.  “O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting.  My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory. For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise.”  By longing for the Lord, we increase our capacity to love Him even more so that when He appears, we can enjoy a deeper experience of His love.  The deeper the desire, the bigger the capacity to receive His love.  This explains why when the Lord appeared to Magdalene He asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”  She replied, “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him.”   This act of asking Magdalene is to strengthen and deepen her desire for Christ.

Thirdly, we need to wait till we hear Him calling us by name.  This was what Jesus said to Mary Magdalene.  “‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master.”  Until we hear the Lord calling us by name, we will never know His love.  Before that when Jesus addressed her as woman, she was not able to recognize Jesus:  “’Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’” To hear the call of Jesus and to recognize Him requires that we are called by name, as the prophet Isaiah says, “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even if these may forget, I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before Me.”  (Isa 49:15f)  Those of us who have heard Him calling our names are set free and feel loved again. Only then are we convinced that He really loves us.

Finally, we must also avoid falling into the same mistake as Magdalene when she allowed her grief to blind her to the presence of Jesus.  Quite often our pains, hurts and resentments prevent us from looking for the Lord.  Like Mary Magdalene, we want to cling on to the past instead of allowing the new creation to work in us.  Jesus told Mary, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”  Mary Magdalene could not see the Risen Lord because she was looking for the Historical Jesus.  But Christ is a New Creation. We must look beyond ourselves to the Lord, to focus on Him rather than on ourselves.  In this way, we can then recognize the Lord coming into our lives in so many ways.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, July 15, 2017 — “What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light.”

July 14, 2017

Memorial of Saint Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 388

Image result for eyes in the darkness, photos

Reading 1  GN 49:29-32; 50:15-26A

Jacob gave his sons this charge:
“Since I am about to be taken to my people,
bury me with my fathers in the cave that lies
in the field of Ephron the Hittite,
the cave in the field of Machpelah,
facing on Mamre, in the land of Canaan,
the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite
for a burial ground.
There Abraham and his wife Sarah are buried,
and so are Isaac and his wife Rebekah,
and there, too, I buried Leah–
the field and the cave in it
that had been purchased from the Hittites.”

Now that their father was dead,
Joseph’s brothers became fearful and thought,
“Suppose Joseph has been nursing a grudge against us
and now plans to pay us back in full for all the wrong we did him!”
So they approached Joseph and said:
“Before your father died, he gave us these instructions:
‘You shall say to Joseph, Jacob begs you
to forgive the criminal wrongdoing of your brothers,
who treated you so cruelly.’
Please, therefore, forgive the crime that we,
the servants of your father’s God, committed.”
When they spoke these words to him, Joseph broke into tears.
Then his brothers proceeded to fling themselves down before him
and said, “Let us be your slaves!”
But Joseph replied to them:
Have no fear. Can I take the place of God?
Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good,
to achieve his present end, the survival of many people.
Therefore have no fear.
I will provide for you and for your children.”
By thus speaking kindly to them, he reassured them.

Joseph remained in Egypt, together with his father’s family.
He lived a hundred and ten years.
He saw Ephraim’s children to the third generation,
and the children of Manasseh’s son Machir
were also born on Joseph’s knees.

Joseph said to his brothers: “I am about to die.
God will surely take care of you and lead you out of this land to the land
that he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
Then, putting the sons of Israel under oath, he continued,
“When God thus takes care of you,
you must bring my bones up with you from this place.”
Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7

R. (see Psalm 69:33) Be glad you lowly ones; may your hearts be glad!
Give thanks to the LORD, invoke his name;
make known among the nations his deeds.
Sing to him, sing his praise,
proclaim all his wondrous deeds.
R. Be glad you lowly ones; may your hearts be glad!
Glory in his holy name;
rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!
Look to the LORD in his strength;
seek to serve him constantly.
R. Be glad you lowly ones; may your hearts be glad!
You descendants of Abraham, his servants,
sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!
He, the LORD, is our God;
throughout the earth his judgments prevail.
R. Be glad you lowly ones; may your hearts be glad!

Alleluia1 PT 4:14

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you,
for the Spirit of God rests upon you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 10:24-33

Jesus said to his Apostles:
“No disciple is above his teacher,
no slave above his master.
It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher,
for the slave that he become like his master.
If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul,
how much more those of his household!
“Therefore do not be afraid of them.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.
But whoever denies me before others,
I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

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Reflection on Genesis 49:29-33, 50:15-26

We read of the death of Jacob, now Israel, in our reading from Genesis today and of his wish to be buried in his native Canaan – the Land of Promise – rather than Egypt. Jacob’s sons now fear Joseph’s wrath for what they did to him as a boy now that their father is dead, but Joseph forgives his brothers, reminding them that a great good has come of their evil intent. Joseph too dies and before he dies he instructs them that, when they leave the land of Egypt, they are to take his bones with them. We continue reading in the Gospel from the instruction Jesus gave to his apostles before they went out to preach on his behalf. He again reminds them that a difficult road lies ahead and he tells them not to fear what people may do to their bodies but to fear what the prince of darkness may do to their souls if they do not trust in Christ alone. That same warning is given to us. We quite often spend far more time worrying about our physical body than we do about our soul even though the soul is far more important and is the immortal part of us.

From the Carmelites

http://www.carmelites.ie/readingsreflect.html

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

15 JULY, 2017, Saturday, 14th Week, Ordinary Time

LETTING GOD TAKE OVER MEANS LETTING GO

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Gn 49:29-3350:15-26Ps 104:1-4,6-7Mt 10:24-38  ]

This life is full of challenges.  So long as we are on this earth, we cannot avoid the crosses in daily life.  We will have our joys and sorrows, successes and failures, delights and disappointments, friends and foes.  Jesus said, “The disciple is not superior to his teacher, nor the slave to his master.  It is enough for the disciple that he should grow to be like his teacher, and the slave like his master.”

Indeed, even Jesus Himself faced much opposition in His life, not because He did anything wrong but because He did what was good.  Jesus said, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, what will they not say of his household?”  Our master Himself had to carry His cross; of being rejected by His own family, betrayed by His apostles, abandoned at His passion, slandered by His enemies, and condemned for a political crime He did not commit, all because Pilate was afraid of displeasing the Jewish authorities.

This was true of Joseph as well.  Partly his own doing, for boasting, and his father’s doing, for showing favoritism and making his brothers jealous of him.  He was sold by his brothers to the Midianite merchants. (cf Gn 37)   Whilst working for one of Pharaoh’s officials, Potiphar, he did well and was put in charge of the master’s household.  But Potiphar’s wife wanted to seduce him, and he resisted.  Out of revenge, she falsely accused him of outraging her modesty and was put in prison. (cf Gn 39)  Later on, he helped to interpret the dream of the Chief Cupbearer.  (Gn 40) When Pharaoh needed someone to interpret his dream, as none of his advisers could, the cupbearer remembered Joseph and introduced him to Pharaoh who later made him in charge of Egypt. (Gn 41)

When we look at the life of Jesus and Joseph, we see history as a series of twists and turns.  This is the reality of life.  Prosperity is followed by adversity; health is followed by illness; life is followed by death, union is followed by separation.   This process just goes on and on.  The last will of Joseph, asking for his remains to be brought back to Canaan, sets the stage for the Exodus saga.  “At length Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die; but God will be sure to remember you kindly and take you back from this country to the land that he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’  And Joseph made Israel’s sons swear an oath, ‘When God remembers you with kindness be sure to take my bones from here.’”  The Exodus story would be another long chapter in the history of salvation where again we see the fortunes and misfortunes, the victories and failures of the Hebrews.  Their stay in Egypt spanned more than 400 years, before they came out of Egypt into the desert and gradually conquered the Promised Land, which took another 40 years.  By the time Israel became a united kingdom, it took another 400 years!  So from the promise made to Abraham (2091 B.C)  to the fulfillment of the Kingdom of David (1010 B.C), it took more than a 1000 years!

In the light of the mystery of God’s inexorable plan of salvation for humanity, we are called to trust in the Lord like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and down through the centuries to Christ Himself.  This is what the Lord is asking of us in the gospel.  He said, “Do not be afraid of them therefore.  For everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear.  What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the house tops.”  From hindsight, we will appreciate the unfolding wisdom of God’s plan.  This is what the psalmist says, “O children of Abraham, his servant, O sons of the Jacob he chose. He, the Lord, is our God: his judgements prevail in all the earth.”

Indeed, God is faithful to His promises.  In the first reading, we see again and again how God remained faithful to His promise.   Before Jacob died, he asked to be buried among his peoples.  “Bury me near my fathers, in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave in the field at Machpelah, opposite Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite as a burial-plot. There Abraham was buried and his wife Sarah.  There Isaac was buried and his wife Rebekah.  There I buried Leah.  I mean the field and the cave in it that were bought from the sons of Heth.’”  This field was the beginning of the possession of the Promised Land that was to come.  With the psalmist, we “give thanks to the Lord, tell his name, make known his deeds among the peoples.  O sing to him, sing his praise; tell all his wonderful works!”

This is what the Lord is also assuring us.   God will provide for us and will protect us.  “Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny?  And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing.  Why, every hair on your head has been counted.  So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.”  This promise of God taking care of us does not of course dispense us from having to struggle and cooperate with His plan.  It does not mean that we sit and do nothing, and wait for God to provide.  What Jesus meant was that the Lord will give us the grace to work through our struggles in life.  He will not abandon us and He will not allow our soul to be overwhelmed.  Hence, He said, “Do not be afraid of those that kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”  Even if our body is killed, our soul is saved for eternal life.  That is why we should not be afraid of anything in life.

All we need is to seek His face. The psalmist exhorts us. “Seek the Lord, you who are poor, and your hearts will revive.   Be proud of his holy name, let the hearts that seek the Lord rejoice. Consider the Lord and his strength; constantly seek his face.”  We need to acknowledge Him as the Lord and our God.  Jesus said, “So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven.  But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.”  To acknowledge Him is to surrender our lives to Him in faith and trust like the biblical men and women.  This is what it means to let God take over.

But to let God take over also means not just to let go of wanting things our way, but also to let go of those who hurt us, especially our enemies.  This was what Joseph was asked to do.  He was asked to forgive his brothers.  “So they sent this message to Joseph: ‘Before your father died he gave us this order: ‘You must say to Joseph: Oh forgive your brothers their crime and their sin and all the wrong they did you.’  Now therefore, we beg you, forgive the crime of the servants of your father’s God.’  Joseph wept at the message they sent to him.”  It was immaterial whether it was concocted by the brothers or truly from his father, but he took the message in the right spirit.  He forgave.

But he could forgive only because he knew that God was in control and that all things happen for our good, pleasant and unpleasant events.  “Joseph answered them, ‘Do not be afraid; is it for me to put myself in God’s place? The evil you planned to do me has by God’s design been turned to good, that he might bring about, as indeed he has, the deliverance of a numerous people.  So you need not be afraid; I myself will provide for you and your dependents.’  In this way he reassured them with words that touched their hearts.”  Truly, God allows things to happen to us for our good. As St Paul wrote, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”  (Rom 8:28)  “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”  (Rom 11:33)

In letting go of our enemies as Joseph did, and Jesus who also did likewise on the cross, we are taught to let God take over.  This is what St Paul exhorts us.  “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Rom 12:19-21)  When we act like Joseph and Jesus, then it truly means to let God take over because we have truly let go.

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

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Commentary on Matthew 10:24-33 From Living Space

We continue Jesus’ apostolic discourse to his apostles and all those who do the work of evangelisation.

a, He reminds them very clearly that they can expect no better treatment than he himself received. “The disciple is not superior to his teacher.” All in all, Christians are to show no surprise at violence and abuse against them. But, at times, it can be hard to understand. However, if they treated the Master and Lord in this way, his followers can expect no better treatment. If the Master is called the Prince of Devils, how much more those of his family! Remember what Jesus had said earlier: “Blessed, fortunate are those who suffer persecution for the sake of the Gospel.”

b, Much of Jesus’ teaching to his disciples was done quietly and away from the crowds. He frequently told both people he cured and demons not to speak about him. Even his disciples were not to reveal his identity as Messiah. People at that stage were not ready and could have misinterpreted the true meaning of his teaching.

Also his message could not be fully understood until he had completed his mission through his passion, death and resurrection. Only that would put his teaching into its proper context.

But, in the course of time, it will be all made public. Later on it will be the duty of his disciples to deliver the message in its entirety and without fear. The Christian community, although it does consist of initiates with a way of life that is not always understood by outsiders, has no secrets. The ‘mysteries’ that Paul and others speak of are truths, previously unknown, which have been revealed. They are not like those of the so-called ‘mystery religions’ of the time or of secretive societies in our own. The message of Christ is to be made known to all in its entirety, even in hostile environments.

c, Some of those who proclaim the Gospel are going to be threatened even with losing their lives, a fact that is testified to by a long list of martyrs (martyr = witness) over the centuries. Jesus is saying that physical death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person. It is a reality we are all going to have to face sooner or later anyway. Far worse than physical death is the “loss of one’s soul”, that is, the death of one’s integrity. There are some values which transcend our physical survival. To betray such a value in order to live a bit longer is to lose one’s soul. Thomas More understood this, so did Oscar Romero and many, many others.

Jesus is telling us that, even though we may, as he himself did, lose our lives, he will be with us. To be unfaithful to our deepest beliefs and convictions is a fate worse than death.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2147g/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore (From July 11, 2015)
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OVERCOMING FEAR AND GUILT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: GN 49:29-3350:15-26MT 10:24-38

We all live in fear.  We fear rejection, loneliness and suffering.  Most of all, we fear death.  There is in every man the instinct to preserve his life.  No one wants to die if he is assured of love, sustenance and happiness.  In order to protect our interests, we would go to a great extent to perpetuate our existence, sometimes even employing unethical means.   Fear is the cause of many of our sins.

Hence, we should not be surprised to read of how Joseph’s brothers, upon the death of their father, lied to Joseph that their father specifically instructed him thus, “Oh forgive your brothers their crime and their sin and all the wrong they did you.”  They had to use their father’s name because they were still uncertain whether Joseph would take revenge on them after his death.  They said, “Now therefore, we beg you, forgive the crime of the servants of your father’s God.”  This shows that fear still lurked in their hearts in spite of the goodwill and assurance of Joseph.  They still could not believe that their brother had forgiven them.

The real reason was the guilt they still carried in themselves.  They could not believe in forgiveness.  They recognized their crime was unpardonable.  Indeed, most of us cannot forgive ourselves for what we have done.  We labour in the belief that unconditional forgiveness is impossible.  We feel that we should be punished for our sins.  This explains why even after using their father’s name, they were still willing to be punished as they told Joseph, “We present ourselves before you as your slaves.”

This is also very true of us as well.  Sometimes the wrongs we have done in the past have been forgiven by those whom we have injured but, somehow, we cannot believe that they have forgiven us.  This is also true even in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Some penitents who have already confessed their sins with contrite hearts, continue to feel deep in their hearts they have not been forgiven by God and thus are unworthy to see Him when they die.

More likely, when we feel this way, it is because we ourselves have not truly forgiven those who have hurt us.  The truth is that we tend to project our lack of forgiveness on others.  The inability to accept forgiveness springs from ourselves; not the injured party.

Indeed, more often than not, these fears are unfounded.  Joseph had truly forgiven his brothers and had never had any intention of taking revenge on them.  Similarly too, Jacob was fearful of his future, especially his fidelity to his ancestors.  It was with reluctance that he migrated to Egypt, but his constant thought was to return to the land God had promised to them.  Again, his fears were unfounded because as history would show, his bones including that of Joseph’s would be buried with their ancestors.

So how then can we overcome fear in our lives? 

Firstly, we must overcome fear by living in the truth.  As Jesus warns us “everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear.”  Falsehood and lies are the means by which the devil holds us in bondage.  Many of us live not just in guilt but fear of being exposed for our crimes and lies one day.  We are worried that our past might catch up with us.  This is true especially for crimes concerning breach of trust, theft, cheating, slandering and especially sexual crimes against innocent children or women.  To live a life of freedom, we must now choose to live in the truth, since only the truth can set us free.  People can forgive our past so long as we show sincerity in repentance.

To live in the truth entails being truthful to our identity as the son and daughter of the Father as Jesus did. “So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven.  But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.”  We can only share in the sonship of Jesus provided we recognize Him to be the Son of God and in and through Him, we become adopted sons and daughters in the Spirit too.  To declare our faith in Jesus is more than saying that Jesus is my Lord but to act and live like a child of God.  Our lives must not contradict our identity as the children of God.  We must bear witness to Christ in both word and deed.

Secondly, we must see beyond this life.  Jesus invites us to see death and life in perspective.  He cautioned us saying, “Do not be afraid of those that kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”  To live a living death while still on earth because of the incapacity to love and be loved is already an experience of spiritual death.  It would be tragic to perpetuate this kind of hellish life into the next world of eternity.  When we see that eternal life is at stake, we will be able to accept the sufferings of life, even when events appear not to be in our favour.

Thirdly, like Joseph and Jacob, we must learn to trust in divine providence.  Fears are created by man, instigated by the Devil.  The antidote to fear is trust in God and faith in Him whilst doing our best.  It is said that fear knocks at the door, but when faith opens it, no one is out there. Isn’t this what Jesus is assuring us of today?  “Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny?  And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing.  Why, every hair on your head has been counted.  So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.”

Fourthly, we must recognize that suffering is part and parcel of life.  We are called to share in the sufferings of Christ by carrying our cross after Him.  If Jesus our master has suffered and the apostles as well, why do we think we should be exempted from suffering and persecution?  In the gospel, Jesus preempts us, urging the Twelve as follows, “the disciple is not superior to his teacher, nor the slave to his master.  It is enough for the disciple that he should grow to be like his teacher, and the slave like his master.  If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, what will they not say of his household? ‘Do not be afraid of them therefore.“

Yes, when we live in the truth and according to the Spirit, we will find ourselves at peace.  If one is negative towards others and lacking trust in God and man, it has to do with a heart that is lacking in integrity.  Perhaps, this story could serve to illustrate the point.  At the beach, a boy was playing with marbles.  There came a girl with a box of chocolates.  The boy offered to give her his entire collection of marbles if she would give him all her chocolates. And she agreed.  However, the boy did not give her all the marbles.  He kept the biggest and the most beautiful one for himself.  The girl went home and slept peacefully that night whereas the boy was unable to sleep, wondering whether the girl kept any chocolates for herself, just as he did with the marbles.  Those who give themselves totally to their loved ones and to God will in the same measure trust that their loved ones and God will do the same.  Those who cheat in relationships will also think that others are doing the same thing.  In the measure we give is the measure we receive.

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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, July 13, 2017 — “Do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say … the Spirit of your Father [will be] speaking through you.” — Plus: History of The Third Step Prayer of Alcoholics Anonymous

July 13, 2017

Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin
Lectionary: 387

Reading 1  GN 46:1-7, 28-30

Israel set out with all that was his.
When he arrived at Beer-sheba,
he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.
There God, speaking to Israel in a vision by night, called,
“Jacob! Jacob!”
He answered, “Here I am.”
Then he said: “I am God, the God of your father.
Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt,
for there I will make you a great nation.
Not only will I go down to Egypt with you;
I will also bring you back here, after Joseph has closed your eyes.”

So Jacob departed from Beer-sheba,
and the sons of Israel
put their father and their wives and children
on the wagons that Pharaoh had sent for his transport.
They took with them their livestock
and the possessions they had acquired in the land of Canaan.
Thus Jacob and all his descendants migrated to Egypt.
His sons and his grandsons, his daughters and his granddaughters
all his descendants—he took with him to Egypt.

Israel had sent Judah ahead to Joseph,
so that he might meet him in Goshen.
On his arrival in the region of Goshen,
Joseph hitched the horses to his chariot
and rode to meet his father Israel in Goshen.
As soon as Joseph saw him, he flung himself on his neck
and wept a long time in his arms.
And Israel said to Joseph, “At last I can die,
now that I have seen for myself that Joseph is still alive.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 37:3-4, 18-19, 27-28, 39-40

R. (39a) The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Trust in the LORD and do good,
that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will grant you your heart’s requests.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
The LORD watches over the lives of the wholehearted;
their inheritance lasts forever.
They are not put to shame in an evil time;
in days of famine they have plenty.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Turn from evil and do good,
that you may abide forever;
For the LORD loves what is right,
and forsakes not his faithful ones.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
The salvation of the just is from the LORD;
he is their refuge in time of distress.
And the LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.

Alleluia  JN 16:13A, 14:26D

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
When the Spirit of truth comes,
he will guide you to all truth
and remind you of all I told you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 10:16-23

Jesus said to his Apostles:
“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves;
so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.
But beware of men,
for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues,
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
as a witness before them and the pagans.
When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death,
and the father his child;
children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved.
When they persecute you in one town, flee to another.
Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel
before the Son of Man comes.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

14 JULY, 2017, Friday, 14th Week, Ordinary Time

LIVING OUT OUR FAITH IN A SECULAR WORLD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Gn 46:1-728-30Ps 36:3-4,18-19,27-28,39-40Mt 10:16-23  ]

Being an authentic Christian living in a very secularized world is one of the most challenging demands of Christian life.  As Jesus warned His disciples in the gospel,  “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”  (Jn 15:18f)   So we must be ready as Christians and brace ourselves for a collision between the values of the world and our Christian values.  This is inevitable.  Indeed, even our loved ones will misunderstand us. Jesus warned us that “Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death.”  If as a Christian we feel there is no tension between the world and our faith, we are obviously not living out our Christian discipleship.  After all, Jesus said, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’” (Jn 15:20) If our Lord was persecuted, why should we be exempted?

And the reason Jesus gave is because the values of the gospel are not of this world.  “I have given them thy word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth.”  (Jn 17:14-17)  Our values come from Christ who is the Word of God in person.  He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (cf Jn 14:6)

So how do we remain firm in our faith and yet live in this paradoxical and confused world with so many divergent voices, ideologies and self-centered interests?  In the gospel, Jesus urged us to be discerning and not be rash.  He said, “Remember, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; so be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves.”  Like the wise serpent, we must be tactful and learn how to strategize.  We need to be patient and study the situation before we seek to deal with the challenges.  Jesus advised us, “If they persecute you in one town, take refuge in the next; and if they persecute you in that, take refuge in another.”  In other words, don’t be a daredevil.  Foolhardiness and hot-headedness will cause more problems.  We must learn how to wait and see how things develop.

But we must also be gentle as a dove.  We do not deal with our opponents by using harsh words or taking up arms and using violence.  St Paul reminds us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Rom 12:21)  This was what the Lord taught us “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, ‘Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.’”  (Mt 5:38-f)  Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that in case they speak against you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.’  (1 Pt 2:12)   This was said of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah as well.   “He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street, a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.”  (Isa 42:2f)

But this does not mean that we keep quiet on the truth that must be spoken.  This is not what Jesus is saying.  He is not asking us to be silent.  On the contrary, He asked us to speak out when the time comes, regardless of who is our opponent. “Beware of men: they will hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues.  You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans.”  This is the time when we are called to witness to Christ.  St Paul advised us, “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”  (1 Pt 3:15)  It is in truth spoken with charity that will triumph in the end.

After having spoken and if the truth is not accepted, St Peter said, “But even if you do suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.”  (1 Pt 3:14)  So we should not be discouraged as Jesus asked us to flee and come back to fight another day.  There are things that cannot be changed overnight.  There are opinions and trends that cannot be transformed in a short while.  We must be patient and leave the change in God’s time.  We are not the ones who will change and transform hearts but it is the work of the Holy Spirit.  We just need to do our part and be His vehicle of truth and mercy.  That is why He told the disciples, “But when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking on you.”  Let the Holy Spirit speak to their hearts.

However, it would be quite wrong to say that the world has nothing but falsehood.  Everyone seeks true happiness, joy, meaning and love in life.  The values of the gospel are universal values.  But the means to attain them differ between religions and ideologies.  Some contain more truths than others.  Some are misguided or lived under illusion.  So even in our attempts to enlighten all in the truth, we must be respectful of opinions and views that differ from ours.  Our task is to listen, to engage in dialogue and mutual understanding.  It must not be seen as Christianity versus the world.  Rather, Christianity is for the world because we read “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”  (Jn 3:16f)

So we must cooperate with the world and stress on what we have in common and accept our differences in certain moral positions such as abortion, euthanasia, same-sex union, divorces and death penalty.   We should continue to engage in dialogue. It does not mean that we need to be silent on these issues but there is a larger picture of the concrete situations confronting society and the world.  We cannot impose our values on the world.  We can only propose.  This takes time and patience.  The psalmist says, “Then turn away from evil and do good and you shall have a home for ever; for the Lord loves justice and will never forsake his friends.”

Indeed, this was how Jacob in the first reading dealt with the vicissitudes of life.  Faced with famine in his homeland, he was forced to migrate to Egypt where his son Joseph could promise them a better life.   But he knew that God’s promise would be fulfilled.  He did not forget the promise of God.  This was confirmed in the vision he received from the Lord. “Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there.  I myself will go down to Egypt with you.  I myself will bring you back again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”  God’s plan for the full possession of the Promised Land and the establishment of the Kingdom would take another 800 years or more for God’s promises to be realized.  But God’s plan would not be derailed by men.

But Jacob was also shrewd.  He did not want his people to lose their culture and values.  And thus he asked to be settled at Goshen, in the north-eastern part of Egypt.  (cf Gn 46:28-34) In this way, he had the best of both worlds.  He received the generosity of the Pharaoh and yet keep apart from them because of their prejudice against shepherds.  He was wise enough to make a compromise.  He might not have seen the full realization of God’s promise, but he was contented to see the small victories, as in seeing his people well looked after by Joseph.  In this way, his people continued to multiply and grow from strength to strength.

So in faith, we too must live our faith.  Not everything can be realized in our times.  We only need to do our part and leave the rest to God to unfold His plans.  We just enjoy whatever anticipated joys or achievements we have in our times.  The best is yet to come. Like Jacob, we must not insist on our ways.   Like him, we must be willing to trust God and wait for the promise to be fulfilled.  This is what the psalmist says, “If you trust in the Lord and do good, then you will live in the land and be secure.  If you find your delight in the Lord, he will grant your heart’s desire. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord, their stronghold in time of distress.  The Lord helps them and delivers them and saves them: for their refuge is in him.”  This is the assurance of the Lord Himself, “You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved.”  He will not abandon us.  Knowing that He is with us in this journey should give us the courage to persevere right to the end.

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

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History of The Third Step Prayer of Alcoholics Anonymous

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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Suscipe  (From Latin, To Receive) (St. Ignatius of Loyola’s prayer)

This is to recall to mind the blessings of creation and redemption, and the special favors I have received.

I will ponder with great affection how much God our Lord has done for me, and how much He has given me of what He possesses, and finally, how much, as far as He can, the same Lord desires to give Himself to me according to His divine decrees.

Then I will reflect upon myself, and consider, according to all reason and justice, what I ought to offer the Divine Majesty, that is, all I possess and myself with it. Thus, as one would do who is moved by great feeling, I will make this offering of myself:

Take, Lord, and Receive

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O Lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and Thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.

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Charles Eugene de Foucauld (1858-1916) took Jean Pierre de Caussade’s  “Self Abandonment”  philosophy and boiled it down into one simple prayer seen below:

Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do. I thank you; I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures. I wish no more than this, a Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.

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Book: Jean Pierre de Caussade (7 March 1675 – 8 December 1751) was a French Jesuit priest and writer known for the work called “Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence.”
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Jean Pierre de Caussade was a member of the “Society of Jesus” or the Jesuits, founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola. AA historians say when the priest, Eddie Dowling read the first edition of the Big Book, he traveled to New York to find Bull Wilson. When he did locate “Bill W” — he asked, “How did you get all this Ignatian teaching into your book?”
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Bill W answered: “I have no idea what you are talking about.”
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From 2015:

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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WHEN FILIAL PIETY TO GOD RENDS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR LOVED ONES
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SCRIPTURE READINGS: GN 46:1-728-30MT 10:16-23
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In today’s gospel, Jesus warns the Twelve that the proclamation of the Good News could ironically bring family division.  He said, “Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death.”  This, perhaps, is the most painful part of discipleship.
We do not mind following Christ, but when the cost of discipleship entails rejection at home or a rift with our loved ones or even persecution, this is more than we can bear.Indeed, the forewarning of Jesus is as real for us today as it was with the disciples.
We can be certain that when St Matthew wrote his gospel, Christianity, which was then winning converts, must have also resulted in much friction in family life, especially when many of these converts were formerly practicing Judaism.  With the Jewish Christians expelled from the synagogues in AD 70, they were then persecuted by their fellow Jews. Those who accepted Christ would surely have faced rejection by family members and also ostracism from their community.  Such was the price of faith in Christ.Such, too, is the price of faith even in our day, where society is supposedly more secular, relativistic and open.  Many of our Christian converts tell of how their relationships were impacted by their conversion to Christianity, as their loved ones found it hard to accept their conversion.
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The truth is that faith in Christ is more than just attending church services and practicing some rituals; it is a whole Copernican revolution in the way we see God, people, ourselves and the values of life.  So whether we like it or not, if our faith in God is different from that of our loved ones, there is bound to be tension, depending on how accommodating they are to our beliefs and we to theirs.  Bickering over practices of faith and differences in values are not uncommon.  In some cases, the spouses even forbid their partners to attend church services, pray or read the bible.  And even though the non-Catholic partner promised that their children would be baptized, many of them renege on their promises and even disallow their children from learning or practicing the faith.
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This form of division exists even among practicing and devout Catholics.
Many parents object strongly to their children wanting to join the religious life or the priesthood.  Some threaten to disown them, even though they are avowed Catholics!   At times, it could be because of a love relationship.  To give up our loved ones for the sake of the gospel is perhaps the greatest of all sacrifices.  It breaks not just one’s own heart but that of our beloved.  So we can imagine how much Jesus’ mother had to go through in offering her only son to us and how much more our heavenly Father had to empty Himself to give up His only Son for our redemption!
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But if one thinks that family division ends here, it does not.
The Church is our bigger family.  When we have to speak out against our superiors, parish priest or leaders in our church organizations because of perceived wrongs, injustices or scandals, this also hurts us deeply.  We do not want to be the cause of division, but by failing to speak the truth, we would be doing the community a greater harm in the long run.  But being truthful may make us unpopular and even ridiculed and persecuted.  So the gospel also brings division in the Christian community; the Word of God being “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joins and marrows” (Heb 4:12).By extension, we can also include our workplace as our family.  When there are disagreements with regard to values in business ethics, living out our faith could result in us being marginalized, and rifts and misunderstandings with our colleagues and bosses may ensue. 

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So when faith threatens to drive a wedge between our loved ones and our faith, what should we do?  We do not want to lose our faith, but neither do we want to lose our loved ones and status in life. This was the same challenge for Jacob in today’s first reading.  He was uncomfortable about moving to Egypt for fear of abandoning his religious and cultural traditions and being unfaithful to his ancestors and to God.  On the other hand, he yearned to be with Joseph, his lost son whom he had not seen for many years.  He would never be able to die in peace without being reconciled with his son.  This is true for all of us, parents and children.  To die without being reconciled with our loved ones would be the greatest regret in life.  So like him, we are in a conundrum.  Should we choose God or choose man?

The scripture readings today are very assuring.

God is merciful and all understanding.

God recognized the need of Jacob, the pain in his heart.  In His divine providence, He permitted him to go to Egypt but He also assured him that the promises made to his forefathers would stay and that he would return to the Promised Land once again.  In the same way too, God is merciful and kind to us.  We must be patient when our loved ones disagree with us and object to our beliefs.  We must give them time to come to terms with our faith and our hearts’ desire.  Such things cannot be forced and our loved ones must be given time to adapt and to accept.  We must learn patience and practice compassion towards their resistance.

Secondly, we must learn to act wisely and prudently.  Instead of reacting to their hostilities, we must exercise tact in dealing with them.  Isn’t that what Jesus urges us?  He said, “’Remember, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; so be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves.”  So, like serpents, we must be wise and prudent.  Like doves, we must be gentle and harmless.  If we react, we would only create greater disharmony.

And if the heat gets too strong for us, it is better, as Jesus advises us, to flee:  “If they persecute you in one town, take refuge in the next; and if they persecute you in that, take refuge in another.”  We need not ‘take the bull by its horns’ in every situation.  Sometimes, as the proverb tells us, it is better to run and fight another day.  Hence, if our loved ones become too violent and hostile, let us stay cool and wait for grace to take over.  God is greater than their resistance.  He will settle the conflict for us.

Of course, this requires that we trust in the Lord totally. God knows better than we do.  Instead of taking things into our own hands, let the grace of divine providence work its way through our history and our lives.  Only Christ and the grace of God can change them, as Jesus said, “I tell you solemnly, you will have gone the round of the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

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So today in our trials, especially when we are at variance with our loved ones with regard to our faith, let us follow Jacob and bring our fears and anxieties to the Lord.  God will speak to us in prayer or in a vision as He did to Jacob and give us the direction as to what we should do.  Yes, Jesus encourages us to trust in His heavenly Father no matter what happens.  Pray to the Holy Spirit, for He says, “when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking on you.”

Finally, let us remember that even if conflicts and persecutions cannot be avoided, let these be occasions for us to witness to the gospel of love and compassion by our lives of non-violence and forgivenesstowards those who hate us for seeking to live the gospel life of truth and love.  As Jesus said, “You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans.”  We are reminded of the words of St Peter, “But even if you do suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.  Have no fear of them, nor be troubled but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord.” ( 1 Pt 3:14)

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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, July 11, 2017 — “I will not let you go until you bless me.”

July 10, 2017

Memorial of Saint Benedict, Abbot
Lectionary: 384

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A demoniac who could not speak was brought to Jesus, and when the demon was driven out the mute man spoke. The crowds were amazed…

Reading 1 GN 32:23-33

In the course of the night, Jacob arose, took his two wives,
with the two maidservants and his eleven children,
and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.
After he had taken them across the stream
and had brought over all his possessions,
Jacob was left there alone.
Then some man wrestled with him until the break of dawn.
When the man saw that he could not prevail over him,
he struck Jacob’s hip at its socket,
so that the hip socket was wrenched as they wrestled.
The man then said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”
The man asked, “What is your name?”
He answered, “Jacob.”
Then the man said,
“You shall no longer be spoken of as Jacob, but as Israel,
because you have contended with divine and human beings
and have prevailed.”
Jacob then asked him, “Do tell me your name, please.”
He answered, “Why should you want to know my name?”
With that, he bade him farewell.
Jacob named the place Peniel,
“Because I have seen God face to face,” he said,
“yet my life has been spared.”

At sunrise, as he left Penuel,
Jacob limped along because of his hip.
That is why, to this day, the children of Israel do not eat
the sciatic muscle that is on the hip socket,
inasmuch as Jacob’s hip socket was struck at the sciatic muscle.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 17:1B, 2-3, 6-7AB, 8B AND 15

R. (15a) In justice, I shall behold your face, O Lord.
Hear, O LORD, a just suit;
attend to my outcry;
hearken to my prayer from lips without deceit.
R. In justice, I shall behold your face, O Lord.
From you let my judgment come;
your eyes behold what is right.
Though you test my heart, searching it in the night,
though you try me with fire, you shall find no malice in me.
R. In justice, I shall behold your face, O Lord.
I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me; hear my word.
Show your wondrous mercies,
O savior of those who flee from their foes.
R. In justice, I shall behold your face, O Lord.
Hide me in the shadow of your wings.
I in justice shall behold your face;
on waking, I shall be content in your presence.
R. In justice, I shall behold your face, O Lord.

Alleluia  JN 10:14

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord;
I know my sheep, and mine know me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 9:32-38

A demoniac who could not speak was brought to Jesus,
and when the demon was driven out the mute man spoke.
The crowds were amazed and said,
“Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”
But the Pharisees said,
“He drives out demons by the prince of demons.”

Jesus went around to all the towns and villages,
teaching in their synagogues,
proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom,
and curing every disease and illness.
At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned,
like sheep without a shepherd.
Then he said to his disciples,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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11 JULY, 2017, Tuesday, 14th Week, Ordinary Time
DEALING WITH DISCOURAGEMENT WHEN DOING GOOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Gn 32:23-33Ps 16:1-3,6-8Mt 9:32-38 ]

Many of us out of generosity respond to the call for mercy.  We surrender our time and resources, but fail to be aware that when we serve the Lord even voluntarily, we must not expect that we will always be appreciated.  We think that everyone would be grateful to us for our generosity because we are not paid for our job.  This is often the attitude of those who offer their services to the Church.  In the face of opposition and challenges or disagreement, they react with disappointment and resentment.

In the gospel, Jesus faced the same challenges.  He was constantly being opposed by the Jewish leaders, the scribes and the Pharisees.  He was often accused of blasphemy, eating and drinking with sinners and now working with Satan.  Instead of being filled with wonder and amazement at the mercy of God, they maligned Jesus and cast doubts on the work of mercy He performed.  Their response was totally the opposite of the people’s. “And when the devil was cast out, the dumb man spoke and the people were amazed.  ‘Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel’ they said.  But the Pharisees said, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts out devils.’”

Why were the religious leaders not happy with Jesus, unlike the people who were filled with wonder?  They were self-sufficient and self-righteous.  They were not the needy of society and hence did not need Jesus.  Furthermore, Jesus was challenging their status quo, exposing their hypocrisy and the traditions of the day.  In a word, they felt threatened by the activities and teachings of Jesus and so they retaliated by seeking to discredit His work.  Hence, we should not be surprised that when we seek to do good and to improve the situation, we will face opposition because we will surely tread on the comfort and convenience of others.  Whenever, people’s security is threatened, they will defend their own interests.  This is only natural.  Most people put their interests, convenience and security before others.

On the other hand, the common people were in need.  As the gospel tells us, they “were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.”  They were seeking freedom, direction and meaning in life.   Many were sick with illnesses and some under demonic oppression.  Most of all, many felt God was far away or that they were unworthy to come to God.  But Jesus in His love and mercy revealed to them the face and compassion of God by His works of mercy and healing, especially reconciling sinners with God, assuring them that their sins were forgiven and that God had accepted them.  In Jesus they saw the face of God and found God.  For this reason, they were filled with wonder and delight, unlike the religious leaders. Jesus was their liberator.

How do we respond to our detractors and enemies?  Jesus did not spend time arguing with them.  He continued with His ministry regardless.  We read that “Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness.”  He did not give in to discouragement.  He simply ignored those who were not with Him.  Instead of focusing on His enemies, He focused on His mission and the poor and sick who needed Him.  Instead of wasting His energy on those whose minds were closed, He chose to focus on those who needed His services.  We must not allow such people and their negativism to discourage us or make us lose our focus.

Instead, we must return to the original intention of wanting to serve God and His people, especially the poor, sick and the lost.  Indeed, it was Jesus’ love for them that motivated Him.  It was His compassion for them that made Him persevere.  We read that “when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them.”  Compassion for the lonely, the sick, the depressed, the wayward and those under the bondage of the Evil One was what motivated Jesus in His ministry.  Consequently, if we give up when doing good just because there are some who oppose us, we need to search our real motives for service.  We may have hidden motives like the Pharisees, which makes us no better than them.  If our concern is not about our ego and self-interests, we would not allow such people to derail us from our goal of helping the poor.

Today, we can also learn from Jacob.  He was very focused in what he had been called to do.  He was very determined in spite of the difficulties he had to face.  In the first reading, he was fearful and nervous of Esau who was coming to meet him.  He had cheated him of his birthright and his blessings from Isaac twenty years ago.  So he was now worried for his safety and that of his family’s.   This explains why he sent them away to the other side of the river.  “He took them and sent them across the stream and sent all his possessions over too.”   He was humble too in seeking reconciliation and forgiveness.  He sent messengers along the way three times to meet Esau, bearing gifts from him before he finally met him.  He knew how to win his heart over by love and sincere expression of sorrow.  Jacob indeed was a very shrewd businessman.  Hence, he was very successful. Like him, in the face of opposition, we must be like Jacob in finding ways to circumvent difficult people in our lives, seek to win them over with humility, patience and compassion.

Secondly, we can learn from Jacob in his determination to earn God’s blessings for his future.  Initially, he thought his enemy was Esau whom he tried to appease.  But in truth his real enemy was God.  In a strange dream and incident, he found himself wrestling with God.  It appeared that the man did not want Jacob to cross the river.  In the process of the struggle, he injured the socket of the hip of Jacob so that his hip got dislocated.  Because of his persistence and insistence, he was given a new mission signified by a new name, Israel, the one who was strong against God.  Because of his perseverance, God too had confidence that he would be able to prevail against man as well.  God finally gave him His blessings.

So in our struggles to do good and in the face of opposition, we must continue to trust in the Lord and rely on His strength.  We too must seek His face. We must persevere in prayer when we want to seek God’s blessings.  Like the psalmist we pray, “Lord, in my justice I shall see your face. Guard me as the apple of your eye.  Hide me in the shadow of your wings. In my justice I shall see your face and be filled, when I awake, with the sight of your glory.”  We must pray for a purification of motives, “From you may my judgement come forth. Your eyes discern the truth. You search my heart, you visit me by night. You test me and you find in me no wrong.”  We must avoid falling into the sin of presumption because of our hidden sins.  We must not be weary of prayers.  This is the advice of the Lord, “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.”  We need to pray both for more labourers in His vineyard and also that we will be good labourers as well.

We bear in mind the words of encouragement from St Paul when he wrote, “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.  If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.  So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.  So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.”   (Gal 6:7-10)  So let us all do what we can and surrender our good works to the grace of God.  Mother Teresa reminds us that we are called to be faithful to our vocation and calling, not successful.  God is the one who will see to that; it is not our problem.

 

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

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Commentary on Matthew 9:32-38 From Living Space

We come today to the end of the section (chaps 8-9) recounting ten miracles of Jesus. The last single miracle described is that of a man whose deafness is arises from his being possessed by a demon. It follows immediately the cure of two blind men, a story which we did not read and which is told again by Matthew in chap. 20. It seems to correspond to the healing of the blind man Bartimaeus in Mark (chap. 10), although there are significant differences.

The man is brought to Jesus by the people. Jesus drives out the demon and the man immediately is able to speak. There is a double reaction. The people are astounded: “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel!” The implications of Jesus’ divine origins are very clear. On the other hand, Pharisees were saying, “It is through the prince of devils that he casts out devils.” Elsewhere Jesus will show the absurd illogicality of that charge.

Stories of blindness, deafness and dumbness in the Gospel always have a deeper meaning. Far more serious than physical blindness, deafness and dumbness are being spiritually blind, deaf and dumb. The Pharisees in the Gospel represent such people and we see it happening in this story. They are blind because they cannot see or do not want to see God at work in Jesus; they are deaf because they do not hear or do not want to understand what he says. And they are also dumb because they cannot speak the words of life that Jesus gives them.

The very same can happen to each one of us. Let us pray today to be able to see clearly, to understand what God says to us and to be able to share it with others.

This section of Matthew concludes with a general description or summary of what Jesus was doing. He was going through all the towns and villages of Galilee; he was teaching in synagogues; he was proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom; and he was healing all kinds of diseases and sickness.

But, behind all that he does, is his deep compassion for the needs of the people. He sees them harassed and dejected, wandering and aimless like sheep without a guiding shepherd – a familiar image in the Old Testament (cf. Ezekiel 34). Then, looking at his disciples, he says, “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.” Jesus cannot do it all on his own. In fact, he will hardly step outside the boundaries of Palestine. He needs many helpers.

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Today, the situation has not changed. The harvest is as big as ever; people are as lost and rudderless as they have ever been in spite of the great strides in knowledge we have made. Where are the labourers? They are not just the bishops, priests, religious brothers and sisters. That is a very narrow concept of labourers. Every single baptised person is called, in some way, to be a harvester, to help people find and experience the truth and love that God gives in Jesus. Every single person, in that sense and it is a very real sense, has a vocation, a call to serve and to build the Kingdom.

What and where and with whom is my vocation?

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2143g/

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 Vietnam Harvest Scene

Related:

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First Thought From Peace and Freedom

People often ask, “So why do Catholics still go to Mass? Why does anyone still practice any Faith?

The most simple answer is: “Peace.”

The second answer might be: “Faith.”

The third?

“Because it works.”

“Because God is more important than anything to me — even more important than my family, my job, my accomplishments, my cool car, my opioids…”

Our world not only seems to be, it is, a maelstrom of anxiety and fear.

Whenever I meet someone who is calm and useful, even when a building is burning down, or someone is on death’s doorstep, I ask them how they remain so calm.

A surprising number say, “God.”

Father Robert Spitzer wrote in his recent book, “The Light Shines Out in The Darkness, Transforming Suffering Through Faith,” that “fear and anxiety are essentially negative and destructive.”

So why does the world seem jammed with people who are depressed, fearful or filled with anxiety?

Because they have no faith.

Jesus, more than anyone else, teaches mankind to avoid fear and anxiety. In fact, “Do not be afraid” may be the most frequently used phrase in the entire New Testament.

When the angel comes to Mary, he says, “Do not be afraid.”

When Jesus summons the apostle to walk on the water, he says, “Do not be afraid.” (Mt 14:27)

When on Easter morning, the first people arrive at the empty tomb, they are met by someone they don’t recognize, and he says, “Do not be afraid.” (Matthew 28: 5)

So how do we start our own project to rid ourselves of fear?

The answer is: Have faith. Find faith. Pray. Develop your spirituality in every way shape and form you can find.

Fortunately, people have been doing this since BEFORE FACEBOOK was discovered. Before TV. In fact, people have been developing their spirituality for thousands of years.

There is no greater treasure trove of resources about Christ and his teaching than any other single topic. More teachings by and about Jesus than the IT world, the NFL, or nuclear physics.

So in summary, it’s pretty common in our world today to see people consumed with fear and anxiety. But we also know how to fix this — without psychiatrists, prescription medicines, electro-shock and whatever anyone might try. Billions of people ask God for help, pray and work on their spiritual life daily.

This is at the core of the greatest addiction recovery method ever known: Alcoholics Anonymous.

See:

But often, reading and seeking God — two of the best things we can do to develop our spirituality — are the last two things men and women today choose to try.

“Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love cast out fear…. He who fears is not perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18)

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5 (NLT)

Peace I leave with youmy peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14: 27)

Do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul… (Matthew 10: 28-31)

This little gem was a prayer in the Mass for centuries:

“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…”

John Francis Carey

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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 Reflection
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• Today’s Gospel presents two facts: (1) the cure of a possessed dumb person (Mt 9, 32-34) and (2) a summary of the activity of Jesus (Mt 9, 35-38).  These two episodes end the narrative part of chapters 8 and 9 of the Gospel of Matthew in which the Evangelist seeks to indicate how Jesus put into practice the teachings given in the Sermon on the Mountain (Mt 5 and 7).  In chapter 10, the meditation which begins in the Gospel of tomorrow, we see the second great discourse of Jesus: The Discourse of the Mission (Mt 10, 1-42).
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• Matthew 9, 32-33a: The cure of a dumb.   In one only verse Matthew describes the arrival of the possessed person before Jesus, the expulsion of the demon and the attitude of Jesus, which in the fourth Gospel there is the attention and affection of Jesus with sick persons.
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The illnesses were many, social security non existent. The illnesses were not only deficiencies of the body: deafness, blindness, paralysis, leprosy and so many other sicknesses. In fact, these illnesses were nothing else than a manifestation of a much deeper and vast evil which undermined the health of persons, and that is the total abandonment and the depressing and inhuman state in which they were obliged to live. The activity and the cures of Jesus were directed not only against physical sickness, but also and above all against this greater evil of material and spiritual abandonment, in which people were obliged to live the few years of life. Then, in addition to the economic exploitation which stole half of the family stipend, the official religion of that time, instead of helping people to find strength in God, to resist and have hope, taught that sickness was a punishment from God for sin. This increased in them the sentiment of exclusion and condemnation.  Jesus did all the contrary.
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The acceptance full of tenderness of Jesus and the cure of the sick form part of the effort to knit together again the human relationship among persons and to re-establish community and fraternal living in the villages of Galilee, his land. Matthew 9, 33b-34: The twofold interpretation of the cure of the dumb man. Before the cure of the possessed dumb man, the reaction of the people is one of admiration and of gratitude: “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel!”  The reaction of the Pharisee is one of mistrust and malice: “It is through the prince of devils that he driver out devils!”  They were not able to deny the facts which cause admiration in the people, the only way which the Pharisees find to neutralize the influence of Jesus before the people is to attribute the expulsion to the power of the evil one. Mark presents an extensive argument of Jesus to demonstrate the lack of coherence and the malice of the interpretation given by the Pharisees (Mk 3, 22-27).  Matthew does not present any response of Jesus to the interpretation of the Pharisees, because when malice is evident, truth shines by itself.
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• Matthew 9, 35: Tireless, Jesus goes through the villages. The description of the tireless activity of Jesus is beautiful, in which emerges the double concern to which we referred: the acceptance full of tenderness and the cure of the sick: “Jesus went through all the towns, teaching in their Synagogues, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and all kinds of illness”. In the previous chapters, Matthew had already referred several times to this itinerant activity of Jesus in the villages and towns of Galilee (Mt 4, 23-24; 8, 16).
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• Matthew 9, 36: The compassion of Jesus. “Seeing the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd”. Those who should be shepherds were not shepherds; they did not take care of the flock. Jesus tries to be the shepherd (Jn 10,11-14). In this, Matthew sees the realization of the Prophecy of the Servant of Yahweh, who took upon himself our sickness, and bore our infirmities” (Mt 8, 17 and Is 53, 4). As it was for Jesus, the great concern of the Servant was “to find a word of comfort for those who were discouraged”. (Is 50, 4).  Jesus shows the same compassion toward the abandoned crowd, on the occasion of the multiplication of the loaves: they are like sheep without a shepherd (Mt 15, 32). The Gospel of Matthew has a constant concern in revealing to the converted Jews of the communities of Galilee and of Syria that Jesus is the Messiah announced by the Prophets.  For this reason, frequently, he shows that in Jesus’ activity the prophecies are fulfilled (cf. Mt 1, 23; 2, 5.15.17. 23; 3, 3; 4, 14-16; etc.).
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• Matthew 9, 37-38: The harvest is rich, but the labourers are few. Jesus transmits to the disciples the concern and the compassion which are within him: “The harvest is rich, but the labourers are few! Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers to his harvest!”
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Personal questions
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• Compassion for the tired and hungry crowds. In the history of humanity, there have never been so many tired and hungry people as today. Television diffuses the facts, but does not offer any responses. De we, Christians, succeed to have the same compassion of Jesus and to communicate it to others?
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• The goodness of Jesus toward the poor disturbed the Pharisees. They have recourse to malice to neutralize the discomfort caused by Jesus.  Are there many good attitudes in the persons who disturb me? How do I interpret them: with pleasant admiration as the crowds or with malice as the Pharisees?
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Concluding Prayer
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Sing to him, make music for him,
recount all his wonders!
Glory in his holy name,
let the hearts that seek Yahweh rejoice! (Ps 105,2-3)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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05 JULY 2016, Tuesday, 14th Week in Ordinary Time
A MATTER OF THE HEART

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ HOS 8:4-7, 11-13; MT 9:32-37 ]

We all know how painful it is when we are misunderstood, especially when we mean well.  We get very hurt and discouraged when people impute dubious motives in what we do, or even suggest that we have done something wrong or that we are benefiting from it.  We can imagine how Jesus would have felt when His opponents accused Him of casting out devils “through the prince of devils.” Indeed, His enemies never had anything good to say about Him, regardless of what He said or did.  They always had an axe to grind and were always finding fault with Him, watching Him and waiting to catch Him making a mistake.  We too have many people like that in our lives, even in Church ministry.  It pains us to know that even our so called brothers and sisters in Christ are attacking us and slandering us and reputation when we are serving the Church, often at our own expense and time.

In contrast, we read that the common people, those who needed assistance and divine intervention, were the ones who were moved by the compassion and the healing power of our Lord.  They were amazed and remarked, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”  So on one hand, the hierarchy and the established institution frowned upon the work of Jesus and sought to remove Him, whereas the people saw Him as their Saviour and deliverer.  Such contrasting reactions all go to show that it is not a matter of logic or even fact, because the fact is that people were healed and those possessed were delivered.  But it is a matter of the heart.  We do not see things as they are but we see things as we are.  This is shaped by our past experiences, needs and situation in life.  For those who are self-sufficient and secure in their own world, they would not need Jesus to help them.  They feel they can manage on their own.  So the reaction is one of skepticism and even hostility.  However one day, when they are desperate, because either they or their loved ones are terminally ill, then they will turn to the Lord for mercy and for miracles.

With such people, there is no reason to argue with them.  Jesus did not react much to their negativities.  He was clear of what He was doing.  He did not spend much time arguing with them or getting discouraged by such hurtful remarks.  Rather, we read that He continued to make “a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness.”  Jesus did not stop doing good just because some people were not happy with Him or tried to discredit His ministry.  We, too, must be like Jesus and not react to destructive people by withdrawing, but continue the good works we are doing.  Not all people will appreciate us but those who need our services and our help will be grateful.  We serve those who desire to have our services.  To resign from ministry just because of some false allegations would not be the best thing to do.

Of course, we need to examine our motives and consider the criticisms of our detractors.  Sometimes, they could be right as we could be blind in self-awareness.  The truth is always difficult to accept because we do not like to be told that we are not good enough.  Rejection of our works is often taken as a rejection of the person.  We become discouraged and fall into despair.  So when we are criticized, we must immediately bring such criticisms into prayer and to see whether the comments of our critics are true.  Truth has different degrees.  By entering into ourselves and examining the truth of the criticisms of our enemies with humility, we might be able to learn something from them.  The mud that they sling at us could very well be the means by which we are refined, polished and purified. So let us make good use of our critics for our growth.  Discard the criticisms however if they are not true.

In the case of Jesus, He was a man of great compassion.  He always acted out of mercy and empathy for those who are suffering.  He did not perform miracles for show or to prove Himself.  He always acted spontaneously in response to a need, regardless of the situation.  Whether it was a fellow Jew who asked Him for help, to heal or to raise someone from the dead; or even from a non-Jew, He would help without worrying whether He had broken the ritual laws.  Even when the ear of the slave of the high priest was cut off by Peter, His immediate reaction was to heal the man (Luke 22:51).  Hence, we can feel with the Lord for His people.  “And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.’”

We too must be motivated not by power, glory, honour and status but simply by the sufferings of our people.   Why are we in the ministry?  Are we motivated because many are living aimless lives in this world, without direction, purpose and meaning?  If so, then we are called to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord so that we can give meaning to their lives.  Some of us might be motivated by the sufferings of humanity.  Hence, we are involved in social ministry, whether serving those who are physically sick, materially poor or those who are lonely or emotionally hurt.  Different people are called to different ministries, depending on what moves us.  This explains why personal contact with those who are suffering would often touch the hearts of people.  When we see the poor being deprived of basic needs and those who are going through much emotional pains and struggles, our hearts go out to them.  The natural response of the human heart is to heal and to help them.  What we do not see with our eyes or touch with our hands, we are not easily moved.  Hence, the invitation to do charitable works and give to the poor is not based on logic but on moving the hearts of people to give out of their abundance.

In the first reading, the prophet Hosea delivered God’s judgement on the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  In contrast, they were not motivated by truth but by pride and selfish reasons.  They erected their own sanctuaries so that their people would not have to go down to Jerusalem to worship.  They appointed their own kings and even adapted their faith by importing the pagan worship and practices. By so doing, the leaders, both political and religious, misled the people and caused them to sin against the Lord.  They were not sincere in wanting to worship the Lord or obey the laws of the Lord.  “Ephraim has built altar after altar, they have only served him as occasion for sin.  Were I to write out the thousand precepts of my law for him, they would be paid no more attention than those of a stranger.”  At the end of the day, it was not because the leaders wanted God to be worshipped or the laws to be observed; they established their own political and religious systems purely for political and selfish motives.

Similarly, the religious leaders too could not accept Jesus not because His teachings were at odds with some of their teachings.  Granted that for some of them so steeped in their faith, they were not able to accommodate any different interpretations of the Laws other than their own.  But for some, it was not just the religious institution that was at stake but their status quo was being challenged.  If they were to agree with Jesus, they would have to abandon their ways of doing things and change the way they see religions.  It would have meant the loss of prestige, position and power.

So in the light of Christ’s example, we certainly must respond to His call to join Him in the harvest.  We cannot remain indifferent and waste our time squabbling over petty issues, rules and laws.  This is not to say that policies and rules are not important but they are meant for efficiency, transparency, accountability and unity.  My fear is that we spend so much time debating over all these when the real work of proclaiming the Good News, bringing people to know Jesus in worship and in prayer; in teaching and study of the faith; and most of all, reaching out to the poor and suffering are neglected and become secondary.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

In Tough Times, Religion Can Offer a Sturdy Shelter — And May Cure What Ails Us

June 30, 2017
Many recent studies have shown that religious observance can strengthen resilience to stress and illness.
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Our Lady of Guadalupe
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By Melvin Konner
The Wall Street Journal
June 30, 2017 9:36 a.m. ET

Zealots in our time have spilled enough blood in the name of religion that some authors—for instance, the late Christopher Hitchens in “God Is Not Great”—have blamed religious feeling itself for evil deeds. But a flood of recent research has shown how faith strengthens resilience to stress, including illness. A new study extends that research to Mexican immigrants in the U.S.

Strikingly, many of these studies on faith have come out over the past few years. Some are U.S.-based: Research published in May found that among over 5,000 American adults, regular churchgoers had better physiological stress measures and lower mortality. The Black Women’s Health Study reported in April that it had found a similar mortality benefit among 36,600 women. A 2015 article on 32,000 cancer patients found better physical health in those with greater religion and spirituality.

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The effects transcend borders and particular religions. Among 37,000 patients in Japan, the more religious had fewer cardiovascular risk factors and were less likely to get diabetes; likewise Orthodox Christians in Greece. Religiousness was associated with better compliance in dialysis patients in Saudi Arabia; in Northern India, Hindu identification predicted better stress coping. Both Buddhist and Muslim women in Thailand managed their diabetes better if they were religious. Even in secular Denmark, religion protected health.

Mary Read-Wahidi and Jason DeCaro, anthropologists at the University of Alabama, explored the stresses of immigration in Scott County, Miss., publishing their work in May in the Medical Anthropology Quarterly. Between April and August 2013, the researchers systematically interviewed 60 Mexican immigrants sharing a devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe in the county, in the central part of the state. As earlier researchers had shown with African-American women facing racism and so many others around the world dealing with illness, religious observances moderate the stresses of life in a new country.

Anthropologists would call the Virgin of Guadalupe a master symbol—one that has many meanings and functions in people’s lives. Her following is particularly strong in Mexico, where, according to legend, she appeared in 1531 to a poor peasant named Juan Diego and—in winter—filled his cloak with flowers. Soon a local bishop and eventually the Catholic Church were persuaded by Juan’s account. The immigrants of Scott County identified with the humble Juan Diego and melded their religious feeling with strands of nationalism: He was indigenous, yet under Spanish colonialism he had become a stranger in a strange land.

Some of the immigrants in the study were undocumented, living in fear of discovery. Many were doing hard, dangerous work, and most didn’t have health insurance; Dr. DeCaro calls them “a deeply disempowered community.” The researchers tested them on the Immigration Stressor Scale, with questions like: How often do you feel lonely or isolated? How often do you worry about meeting the basic needs of your family? The subjects also rated their own well-being, physically and socially.

Additionally, the researchers developed a scale for “cultural consonance” with Guadalupan devotion—in other words, how many Guadalupan beliefs and practices the subjects adopted, such as keeping a statue of the Virgin in their homes or cars, pursuing the tradition of bringing her flowers (recalling her favor to Juan) or rating her annual festival as very important. Paths to high-consonance scores could vary, from praying to the Virgin regularly to attending communal events in her honor. Those with high cultural consonance were resilient to the effects of stress on well-being: Greater immigration-related stress wasn’t tied to worse physical or psychosocial outcomes. Those with low readings on the cultural consonance scale showed lower well-being with greater stress.

“Guadalupan devotion is buffering that negative effect,” Dr. Read-Wahidi said. Spiritually or psychologically, the Virgin of Guadalupe is helping her Scott County followers hang on.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/in-tough-times-religion-can-offer-a-sturdy-shelter-1498829765