Posts Tagged ‘do not be afraid’

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, December 14, 2017 — “Fear not, I will help you.” — “Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

December 13, 2017

Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 184

Image result for waters flowed in the rivers, photos

“The dry ground into springs of water.”

Reading 1  IS 41:13-20

I am the LORD, your God,
who grasp your right hand;
It is I who say to you, “Fear not,
I will help you.”
Fear not, O worm Jacob,
O maggot Israel;
I will help you, says the LORD;
your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
I will make of you a threshing sledge,
sharp, new, and double-edged,
To thresh the mountains and crush them,
to make the hills like chaff.
When you winnow them, the wind shall carry them off
and the storm shall scatter them.
But you shall rejoice in the LORD,
and glory in the Holy One of Israel.The afflicted and the needy seek water in vain,
their tongues are parched with thirst.
I, the LORD, will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will open up rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the broad valleys;
I will turn the desert into a marshland,
and the dry ground into springs of water.
I will plant in the desert the cedar,
acacia, myrtle, and olive;
I will set in the wasteland the cypress,
together with the plane tree and the pine,
That all may see and know,
observe and understand,
That the hand of the LORD has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 145:1 AND 9, 10-11, 12-13AB

R. (8) The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger, and of great kindness.
I will extol you, O my God and King,
and I will bless your name forever and ever.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger, and of great kindness.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger, and of great kindness.
Let them make known to men your might
and the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
Your Kingdom is a Kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger, and of great kindness.

Alleluia  SEE IS 45:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Let the clouds rain down the Just One,
and the earth bring forth a Savior.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 11:11-15

Jesus said to the crowds:
“Amen, I say to you,
among those born of women
there has been none greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
From the days of John the Baptist until now,
the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence,
and the violent are taking it by force.
All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John.
And if you are willing to accept it,
he is Elijah, the one who is to come.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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14 DECEMBER, 2017, Thursday, 2nd Week of Advent
SELFLESS DEVOTION TO OUR DREAMS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ IS 41:13-20PS 145:1,9-13MT 11:11-15  ]

We all dream dreams.  Dreams are what motivate us to live fully and purposefully.  Without dreams, life becomes a drudgery and a routine.   Israel too, had a dream. They dreamt of a land that was fertile, with trees, plants and crops growing, where waters flowed in the rivers; where wilderness became a lake.  There was food and plenty. We too have our dreams for the family, the church and society.  Our dreams are not much different from theirs because we all desire peace, prosperity and unity.

But when we embark on making our dreams into reality, we cannot but feel diffident.  Can our dreams be realized? Who are we to accomplish our dreams?  Like the Israelites, we feel inadequate and unworthy.  This too was the same feeling of all great leaders.  When Moses was called by the Lord, he also said, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” (Ex 3:11)  Gideon too expressed a similar sentiment when he was asked to deliver Israel from the Midianites.  “Pray, Lord, how can I deliver Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manas′seh, and I am the least in my family.” (Jdg 6:15)  The prophet Isaiah when asked replied, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”  (Isa 6:5)

This is where we fail to realize that we cannot fulfill the plans of God on our own strength but by the strength that comes from Him.  Hence, the Lord assured Israel, “For I, the Lord, your God, I am holding you by the right hand; I tell you, ‘Do not be afraid, I will help you’. Do not be afraid, Jacob, poor worm, Israel, puny mite.’ I will help you – it is the Lord who speaks – the Holy One of Israel is your redeemer.”  It was the same promise to the leaders and prophets of Israel.  To Moses, God said, “But I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought forth the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God upon this mountain.”  (Ex 3:12)  To Gideon, the Lord said, “But I will be with you, and you shall smite the Mid′ianites as one man.”  (Jdg 6:16)

But the assurance of God’s blessings and divine protection does not mean it will be easy.  Jesus said, “Since John the Baptist came, up to this present time, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence and the violent are taking it by storm.”   In other words, we will face challenges to our plans.  There will be opposition.  At times, things can get ugly.  There can be lawsuits and our enemies may seek to disrupt our plans because their interests are compromised.  We may become a threat to their status quo.  People resist change as it means their having to be inconvenienced and they may have to change their lifestyle and routine.   This was the case of John the Baptist.  The religious leaders knew that he was a prophet of God, perhaps even the Elijah who was to come again to prepare for the coming of the Messiah.  But they were not ready.  Indeed, Jesus affirmed this truth when He said, “Because it was towards John that all the prophecies of the prophets and of the Law were leading; and he, if you will believe me, is the Elijah who was to return. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen!”  John the Baptist was the one to prepare for the coming of the Messiah.  He was the Elijah promised to the people.   He was the fulfillment of the prophet Malachi when he said, “Behold, I will send you Eli′jah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.”  (Mal 4:5f)  And John the Baptist did precisely that.  He called the people to repentance and prepared them for the coming of the Messiah by baptizing them for the forgiveness of sins.  However, he was rejected by the religious leaders as he threatened their position in society and the privileges that came with their position.

That is why Jesus tells us that we must be equally strong to resist the opposition of the world.  We must show ourselves to be stronger than the resistance of the world.  St John the Baptist was not afraid of suffering for the truth.  He was not afraid of poverty or martyrdom.  He spoke according to his conscience even in front of Herod and his adulterous wife, Herodias.  He did not mince his words.  He was not afraid to be embarrassed and misunderstood.  Like John the Baptist, we too must be strong.  We must be ready to face persecution and being misunderstood.  We can be sure that even if we do good and have no vested interests, there will be fake news distorting the truth and accusing us of intentions or things that we are not guilty of.  Today, in the light of social media, fake news are often being passed around as truth, poisoning the minds of those who are naive and innocent.

Most of all, we must be selfless in whatever we do, even in making our dreams come true.   This is because those who dream dreams often do not live in them.  We do not dream dreams for ourselves but for the future of our children, church and humanity.  Consequently, those who initiate the dream seldom live to see the dream fully realized; perhaps with God’s grace, only partially.  But precisely, such dreamers are truly working for the glory of God and the good of their people because they are not the beneficiaries.  Not only do they not get to enjoy the fruits of their labour but they are not even there to get the glory.  This is what distinguishes career from vocation; ambition from mission.

This was what the Lord said of John the Baptist.  “I tell you solemnly, of all the children born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is.” John the Baptist was only a forerunner of the Messiah.  His role was to prepare the bride to receive the bridegroom.  He was not the bride but only a friend of the bridegroom.  He was not the Word but only the voice of God.  He said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”  (Jn 1:23)  “He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”  (Jn 1:27)  John the Baptist was martyred just as Jesus began His ministry.  He was not able to see the fullness of God’s love and mercy revealed in Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.  He was only given a foretaste of the coming of God’s kingdom.  Jesus told the disciples of John, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.”  (Mt 11:4f)

This too is true of all leaders.  True leaders will sow the seed for tomorrow.  They do not ask, “What is there in it for me?”, as do worldly leaders.  But true leaders ask, “what can I do for my people, my church and my country?”  St Paul said to the quarrelsome Corinthians, “What then is Apol′los? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apol′los watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.”  (1 Cor 3:5-9)   Good and selfless leaders are not concerned about reward and glory.  They are concerned about serving God and the people.  This was also the case of Moses.  He did not enter the Promised Land that He led his people into.  The Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” (Dt 34:4)

Indeed, in the final analysis, it does not matter whether we are the ones who will complete the dream, or whether someone else does.  What is of utmost importance is that we must persevere in building the dream that God has planted in us.  We are called to do our part and leave the rest to God.  The full flowering might not come in our time. We could be called simply to lay the foundation, as John the Baptist did for Jesus.  So let us be content to play our role and leave success to God alone.  Indeed, “How good is the Lord to all!”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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The Sacrament of the Present Moment

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 The Sacrament of the Present Moment is the three hundred-year-old classic of spiritual guidance and enlightenment by Jean-Pierre de Caussade, ordained member of the Society of Jesus. In this wise, hopeful, and powerfully stirring masterwork of Christian thought and daily practice, de Caussade encourages a selfless abandonment to God as a means of achieving grace and conquering pride and ego. Each day is a sacrament, the author assures us, and the lessons and wisdom of The Sacrament of the Present Moment can better enable us to hear God’s voice as He speaks to us, always, with love.
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Jean-Pierre de Caussade is also the author of Self Abandonment to Divine Providence.
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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it.”

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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, December 12, 2017 — “Do not be afraid. For you have found favor with God.”

December 11, 2017

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Lectionary: 690A

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Reading 1  ZEC 2:14-17

Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion!
See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the LORD.
Many nations shall join themselves to the LORD on that day,
and they shall be his people,
and he will dwell among you,
and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.
The LORD will possess Judah as his portion in the holy land,
and he will again choose Jerusalem.
Silence, all mankind, in the presence of the LORD!
For he stirs forth from his holy dwelling.

Or RV 11:19A; 12:1-6A, 10AB

God’s temple in heaven was opened,
and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun,
with the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.
Then another sign appeared in the sky;
it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns,
and on its heads were seven diadems.
Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky
and hurled them down to the earth.
Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth,
to devour her child when she gave birth.
She gave birth to a son, a male child,
destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.
Her child was caught up to God and his throne.
The woman herself fled into the desert
where she had a place prepared by God.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have salvation and power come,
and the Kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed.”

Responsorial Psalm JUDITH 13:18BCDE, 19

R. (15:9d) You are the highest honor of our race.
Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God,
above all the women on earth;
and blessed be the LORD God,
the creator of heaven and earth.
R. You are the highest honor of our race.
Your deed of hope will never be forgotten
by those who tell of the might of God.
R. You are the highest honor of our race.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, holy Virgin Mary, deserving of all praise;
From you rose the sun of justice, Christ our Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 1:26-38

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

OrLK 1:39-47

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Rejoice!

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

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

● The Lord is with you

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

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

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

● Do not be afraid

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

● You enjoy God’s favour

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

● Nothing is impossible to God

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

● Here I am

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

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

A TIME OF PRAYER: PSALM 138

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

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

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

CLOSING PRAYER

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

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

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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12 DECEMBER, 2016, Monday, 3rd Week of Advent
THE AUTHORITY OF A TRUE PROPHET

SCRIPTURE READINGS: NUM 24:2-715-17MATTHEW 21:23-27   ]

As we enter the third week of Advent, we read of the prophets announcing the coming of the Messiah.  How much can we trust in their prophecies with regard to the coming of Christ?  We are told that the Jewish religious leaders refused to accept the prophecies of John the Baptist.  Similarly, they could not accept Jesus as well. They questioned the authority of Jesus, “What authority have you for acting like this? And who gave you this authority?”   Today, we also have many prophets in our midst claiming to speak in the name of God.  How do we know who are the true prophets or that we are called to be prophet?  How do we know that they are truly acting in the name of God?

The true prophet must be one who hears the Word of God.  No one can claim to be a prophet of God unless he is docile to the Word of God.   Balaam prefaced his prophecy thus, “The oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the oracle of the man with far-seeing eyes, the oracle of one who hears the word of God. He sees what Shaddai makes him see, receives the divine answer, and his eyes are opened.”   For this reason, the prophet must be a prayerful person.  He must be in tune with the Word of God.  Someone who hardly prays and who hardly meditates on the Word of God can only utter his own opinions and interests.  If we seek to be true prophets, we need to make time to withdraw into the wilderness to sit before the Lord and hear Him speaking to us.

Most of the time, false prophets mistake their own voice for the voice of God.  Before one can claim to speak the voice of God, it presupposes we have spent time in prayer and discernment.  Otherwise, our hidden and unconscious motives and fears will dictate our wills and minds.  Indeed, the prayer of the psalmist must be the prayer of the prophet every day.  “Lord, make me know your ways. Lord, teach me your paths.  Make me walk in your truth, and teach me: for you are God my saviour.”   St John the Baptist regarded himself only as the voice of God.  He reminded us that Jesus is the Word but that he was just the voice that carried the Word of God to humanity.   As the voice of God, he was only a channel and a servant, not the master of the Word of God.   Jesus as the Word of God in person lived by the Word of His Father. He was always in constant communion with His Father in prayer and intimacy even in the midst of His hectic and strenuous ministry.

Secondly, a true prophet must be true to what he has heard from God.  He cannot speak anything from himself but only from what he has heard.  Indeed, the prophet Balaam was offered money and riches to curse Israel. “Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God.”  (Num 22:18)  But God told him to bless Israel instead.  As a prophet, he had to obey God because he knew the mind of God.  To do otherwise would be to contradict himself and offend God.  Obedience to authority is the sign of a true prophet.  Of course, obedience is only rendered to those things that are not immoral.  When it comes to decision-making, the sign of a true prophet is when he is able to defer to the legitimate authority even when he is not in agreement.  Except in matters of conscience, dissent sometimes could be masked.  Balaam, although attracted to the riches offered by the pagan king initially, could not do otherwise than to speak the truth.  Jesus too, out of obedience to His Father, assumed our humanity and throughout His life, He sought only to do the Father’s will.  Whatever the Father willed, He willed and He spoke what the Father commanded Him to do. “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”  (Jn 5:19)

Thirdly, a true prophet must speak without fear or favor.  This was the case of Balaam who spoke out against the king despite all his warnings.  He was not afraid to offend authorities in speaking the truth.  All the prophets in the Old Testament would only speak the truth to the kings and nobles, especially the need for conversion and the consequences of being conquered by their enemies.   Even when the kings refused to listen, they would not keep silent until their prophecy came true.  Whereas the false prophets only said things that the king wanted to hear.   They fawned on the king and gave him false security, just like many of us too who would not tell our superiors the truth for fear that we lose favour with them.  But a true prophet must speak what is good and true for the people.  John the Baptist was a true prophet because even at the risk of losing his head, he spoke out against King Herod for his misconduct and all those who abused their authority.  Jesus in the same way did not mince His words when He reprimanded the religious leaders for their hypocrisy.   He did not say nice things to those who failed to live up to their responsibilities.

Fourthly, a true prophet must walk the talk.  This is the clearest sign of a real prophet; not what he says but whether he does what he says.  If he is so convinced that he has heard the voice of God then he should be the first to put that word into practice.  Those prophets who live a double life are hardly credible because they disown their message by their actions. Jesus and the true prophets lived out what they preached and were mentors for others.  It was for this reason that the religious leaders tried to avoid answering the question of Jesus with regard to the identity of John the Baptist.  On one hand they refused to accept the baptism of John, on the other hand, if they denied that he was a prophet, the people would reject them.  In the same vein, Jesus knew that trying to prove His identity would not go very far.  So the real proof of a true prophet is in his or her actions.  A prophet by deeds is itself a great testimony to the truth.  Jesus’ identity was shown by His actions.  This was what Jesus told the Jews, that even if they could not accept His words, at least they should recognize from His works that He came from the Father.

Finally, a true prophet speaks the truth from his heart.  He does not compromise when truth must be spoken, even if it offends others.  The real problem in the world today is that many of us are afraid to articulate the truth for fear of rejection.   Like the religious leaders, we all pretend to be ignorant of the truth.  The Jewish religious leaders did not want to answer Jesus’ question, for if they were to admit that the authority of John the Baptist came from God, they had to accept the authority of Jesus as the Messiah because John had made definite references to the Messiah.  With them we say,  “We do not know.”   If we are silent it is because we are afraid of rejection, isolation and losing our popularity.   False prophets are not concerned about speaking the truth, but whether it is safe to say the truth.  We are afraid to be martyrs for Christ and for the truth.  Today, most of us speak equivocally so that we can protect ourselves.  This is called being politically correct.  We want to dilute the truth.

As we approach the season of Christmas, we must seek integrity of life.  The coming of Christ cannot give us peace if we continue to live a double life.  So long as we are not true to ourselves, there can be no joy and happiness in us.  Balaam, although tempted to speak against Israel, realized that he could not do it just for the rewards but he had to find peace by listening to the Word of God.  So too did John the Baptist.  During this time of Advent, we must spend time listening to the Lord so that He can lead us to the truth.  The psalmist says, “The Lord is good and upright. He shows the path to those who stray. He guides the humble in the right path, He teaches his way to the poor.”  Let us be courageous and face the truth about ourselves.  If there are areas in our lives that need repentance, let us with God’s grace make the necessary changes.  May we live our lives in such a way that we can be true prophets of Christ speaking the truth and living out the truth in love.  In this way, we regain our authority to speak and act in Christ’s name.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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12 DECEMBER, 2017, Tuesday, 2nd Week of Advent

THE HEART OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ IS 40:1-11PS 96:1-3,10-13MT 18:12-14  ]

Advent is a season of hope.  It is hope that keeps us going in life.  This is especially true when we are going through difficult times.  Indeed, this was the case of the Israelites in exile.  They were without land, kingdom, Temple and many were separated from their loved ones.  They were punished by the consequences of sin because they failed to listen to the warnings of the prophets that God sent to them.

But not all is lost because again and again, God showed His mercy for His people.  This is the heart of God, the heart of the Good Shepherd. In the gospel, God is portrayed not just as a Good Shepherd but one who sought the lost sheep. In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus made it clear that any good shepherd would leave the ninety-nine behind to search for the stray sheep.  Logically, one might wonder whether it is prudent for him to abandon the other ninety-nine sheep just to look for the lost one.  Yet, the point of the parable is that God does not see us all in terms of a crowd.  God does not love a crowd but He loves individuals.  He regards every person in the community as a unique individual that must be given personal attention.  We are not just a digit among the many to God.  Rather He knows each of us individually.  Everyone is important to Him.

Among us all, God has a special love for the poor, the weak, the vulnerable and the lost.  God always stand up for those who are marginalized in society, the voiceless and the helpless.  These are the people that win the heart of God.  This explains why the Church always has a preferential option for the poor.  “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;  God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are,  so that no one might boast in the presence of God.”  (1 Cor 1:27-29)  St Paul gives us another analogy with regard to the body.  “Those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.”  (1 Cor 12:23-25)  It is because they need more care and love that the Father finds greater joy in finding the lost sheep than the ninety-nine who did not stray at all.  “I tell you solemnly, if he finds it, it gives him more joy than do the ninety-nine that did not stray at all.”

Indeed, the heart of God is the heart of a father and a mother.  Those of us who are parents perhaps can understand and feel much more with the compassion of God for us.  All parents, especially mothers, have deep affection and compassion for their children.  All mothers love their children regardless of their intelligence or abilities; more so if their children are physically or mentally challenged.  Often, the weaker child in the family is given more attention than those who are strong and capable.  In many cases, the family is united in love when there is someone in the house who is sick and vulnerable.  In some families where there is a child who is physically challenged, the rest of the family members will rally round to provide care for that helpless child.  Indeed, those who are weak and vulnerable are the ones who will win our love more so than the healthy and strong.  This explains why Jesus told us that we must become like little children in order to enter the Kingdom of God.  There is so much joy in helping those who are weak.  To know that we have made a great difference in the life of that person brings us much joy because it opens and expands the human heart.  This is why those who help the poor or have gone on mercy trips to third world countries continue to do so because the tremendous joy that they receive in seeing how the poor and underprivileged are helped give them greater meaning in life.

If we still cannot understand the heart of God for the lost sheep and the weak brothers and sisters of ours, then perhaps another example in daily life can help.  I have been reflecting on why Jesus gave the example of a lost sheep.  I am sure many of us have had the experience of being lost somewhere when we were young or even as an adult.  The feeling of being lost is an unnerving experience.  So too, we can imagine how frightened the sheep must have felt when it lost its way.  Such an image of a lost sheep surely can bring out the compassion in us.  Indeed, there are some people who have a special love for stray cats and dogs because the sight of them suffering in the cold, sun and rain without food brings out their compassion for them.  This is particularly so when you see a helpless cat or dog in pain because he is injured or sick.

So if we feel lost, forsaken or vulnerable, we are invited to come to the Lord.  He will look after us and He will come to save us.  This is what the prophet assures us, “Here is your God.  Here is the Lord coming with power, his arm subduing all things to him. The prize of his victory is with him, his trophies all go before him. He is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them against his breast and leading to their rest the mother ewes.”   God is ever ready to bring us back and restore us to life.  Jesus assures us, “similarly, it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.”   How beautiful and consoling these assuring words of our Lord are; that God will care even for the little ones and that none be lost.  This is again reiterated in the gospel of John, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.”  (Jn 6:39)

But what is needed is availability on our part.  God does not impose His grace on us.  Do we want help?  This is the question.  Are we receptive to His help?  If we are, then as the prophet says, “Prepare in the wilderness a way for the Lord. Make a straight highway for our God across the desert. Let every valley be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low, let every cliff become a plain, and the ridges a valley; then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all mankind shall see it; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”  In other words, we must allow the Lord to enter into our lives.  This requires humility on our part by levelling off the mountain of our ego.  It means that we must be in touch with the emptiness in our hearts so that He could fill the valley of our lives.  Only when we allow Him to come into our hearts, can our lives be made anew.

Secondly, we need to have faith in the Lord the power of the Lord.  Let us take heart by listening to those inspiring testimonies of how God has worked in peoples’ lives.  With the psalmist, we must rejoice that our God is coming with power.  With the psalmist, we must sing praise to God.  “O sing a new song to the Lord, sing to the Lord all the earth. O sing to the Lord, bless his name. Proclaim his help day by day. Tell among the nations his glory and his wonders among all the peoples. Proclaim to the nations: ‘God is king.’ He will judge the peoples in fairness. Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad, let the sea and all within it thunder praise, let the land and all it bears rejoice, all the trees of the wood shout for joy at the presence of the Lord for he comes, he comes to rule the earth.”

Thirdly, let us trust in the Word of the Lord.  “Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call to her that her time of service is ended, that her sin is atoned for, that she has received from the hand of the Lord double punishment for all her crimes.”  God suffers when we suffer, just like parents suffer when their children suffer.  So God wants to lift us out of our sorrows.  He is true to His Word as the prophet says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God remains forever.”  So let us strengthen our faith by embracing the Word of God and finding hope and inspiration in His promises as we open our hearts to His invitation to repent and turn to Him.   Finally, let us in turn give hope to those who are lost and are lonely.  We too must welcome them like Jesus who went in search for us.  Giving hope to someone during this season of Advent will in turn help us to rekindle the joy of a compassionate heart. In giving hope and life to others, we too will be filled with the joy of the gospel.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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The Virgin of Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico. She is depicted with brown skin, an angel and moon at her feet and rays of sunlight that encircle her. According to tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared to an indigenous man named Juan Diego on Dec. 9, 1531.Dec 12, 2013.
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The opening of the New World brought with it both fortune-seekers and religious preachers desiring to convert the native populations to the Christian faith. One of the converts was a poor Aztec Indian named Juan Diego. On one of his trips to the chapel, Juan was walking through the Tepayac hill country in central Mexico. Near Tepayac Hill he encountered a beautiful woman surrounded by a ball of light as bright as the sun. Speaking in his native tongue, the beautiful lady identified herself:

“My dear little son, I love you. I desire you to know who I am. I am the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of the true God who gives life and maintains its existence. He created all things. He is in all places. He is Lord of Heaven and Earth. I desire a church in this place where your people may experience my compassion. All those who sincerely ask my help in their work and in their sorrows will know my Mother’s Heart in this place. Here I will see their tears; I will console them and they will be at peace. So run now to Tenochtitlan and tell the Bishop all that you have seen and heard.”

Juan, age 57, and who had never been to Tenochtitlan, nonetheless immediately responded to Mary’s request. He went to the palace of the Bishop-elect Fray Juan de Zumarraga and requested to meet immediately with the bishop. The bishop’s servants, who were suspicious of the rural peasant, kept him waiting for hours. The bishop-elect told Juan that he would consider the request of the Lady and told him he could visit him again if he so desired. Juan was disappointed by the bishop’s response and felt himself unworthy to persuade someone as important as a bishop. He returned to the hill where he had first met Mary and found her there waiting for him. Imploring her to send someone else, she responded:

Our Lady of Guadalupe Image“My little son, there are many I could send. But you are the one I have chosen.” She then told him to return the next day to the bishop and repeat the request. On Sunday, after again waiting for hours, Juan met with the bishop who, on re-hearing his story, asked him to ask the Lady to provide a sign as a proof of who she was. Juan dutifully returned to the hill and told Mary, who was again waiting for him there, of the bishop’s request. Mary responded:

“My little son, am I not your Mother? Do not fear. The Bishop shall have his sign. Come back to this place tomorrow. Only peace, my little son.” Unfortunately, Juan was not able to return to the hill the next day. His uncle had become mortally ill and Juan stayed with him to care for him. After two days, with his uncle near death, Juan left his side to find a priest. Juan had to pass Tepayac Hill to get to the priest. As he was passing, he found Mary waiting for him. She spoke:

“Do not be distressed, my littlest son. Am I not here with you who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Your uncle will not die at this time. There is no reason for you to engage a priest, for his health is restored at this moment. He is quite well. Go to the top of the hill and cut the flowers that are growing there. Bring them then to me.” While it was freezing on the hillside, Juan obeyed Mary’s instructions and went to the top of the hill where he found a full bloom of Castilian roses. Removing his tilma, a poncho-like cape made of cactus fiber, he cut the roses and carried them back to Mary. She rearranged the roses and told him:

“My little son, this is the sign I am sending to the Bishop. Tell him that with this sign I request his greatest efforts to complete the church I desire in this place. Show these flowers to no one else but the Bishop. You are my trusted ambassador. This time the Bishop will believe all you tell him.” At the palace, Juan once again came before the bishop and several of his advisors. He told the bishop his story and opened the tilma letting the flowers fall out. But it wasn’t the beautiful roses that caused the bishop and his advisors to fall to their knees; for there, on the tilma, was a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary precisely as Juan had described her. The next day, after showing the Tilma at the Cathedral, Juan took the bishop to the spot where he first met Mary. He then returned to his village where he met his uncle who was completely cured. His uncle told him he had met a young woman, surrounded by a soft light, who told him that she had just sent his nephew to Tenochtitlan with a picture of herself. She told his uncle:

“Call me and call my image Santa Maria de Guadalupe”.

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It’s believed that the word Guadalupe was actually a Spanish mis-translation of the local Aztec dialect. The word that Mary probably used was Coatlallope which means “one who treads on snakes”! Within six years of this apparition, six million Aztecs had converted to Catholicism. The tilma shows Mary as the God-bearer – she is pregnant with her Divine Son. Since the time the tilma was first impressed with a picture of the Mother of God, it has been subject to a variety of environmental hazards including smoke from fires and candles, water from floods and torrential downpours and, in 1921, a bomb which was planted by anti-clerical forces on an altar under it. There was also a cast-iron cross next to the tilma and when the bomb exploded, the cross was twisted out of shape, the marble altar rail was heavily damaged and the tilma was…untouched! Indeed, no one was injured in the Church despite the damage that occurred to a large part of the altar structure.

In 1977, the tilma was examined using infrared photography and digital enhancement techniques. Unlike any painting, the tilma shows no sketching or any sign of outline drawn to permit an artist to produce a painting. Further, the very method used to create the image is still unknown. The image is inexplicable in its longevity and method of production. It can be seen today in a large cathedral built to house up to ten thousand worshipers. It is, by far, the most popular religious pilgrimage site in the Western Hemisphere.

http://www.catholic.org/about/guadalupe.php

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, December 11, 2017 — All Things Are Cured By The Grace of God

December 10, 2017

Monday of the Second Week of Advent
Lectionary: 181

Image result for Jesus cures a blind man, art, photos

Jesus Heals The Blind Man

Reading 1 IS 35:1-10

The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
They will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
With divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
Then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.Streams will burst forth in the desert,
and rivers in the steppe.
The burning sands will become pools,
and the thirsty ground, springs of water;
The abode where jackals lurk
will be a marsh for the reed and papyrus.
A highway will be there,
called the holy way;
No one unclean may pass over it,
nor fools go astray on it.
No lion will be there,
nor beast of prey go up to be met upon it.
It is for those with a journey to make,
and on it the redeemed will walk.
Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
They will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.

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

R. (Isaiah 35:4f) Our God will come to save us!
I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD –for he proclaims peace to his people.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.
R. Our God will come to save us!
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. Our God will come to save us!
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and salvation, along the way of his steps.
R. Our God will come to save us!

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold the king will come, the Lord of the earth,
and he himself will lift the yoke of our captivity.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Image may contain: one or more people

Paralysed man lowered through the roof to where Jesus could heal him. By James Tissot

Gospel  LK 5:17-26

One day as Jesus was teaching,
Pharisees and teachers of the law,
who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem,
were sitting there,
and the power of the Lord was with him for healing.
And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed;
they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence.
But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd,
they went up on the roof
and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles
into the middle in front of Jesus.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said,
“As for you, your sins are forgiven.”

Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves,
“Who is this who speaks blasphemies?
Who but God alone can forgive sins?”
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply,
“What are you thinking in your hearts?
Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?
But that you may know
that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–
he said to the one who was paralyzed,
“I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”

He stood up immediately before them,
picked up what he had been lying on,
and went home, glorifying God.
Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God,
and, struck with awe, they said,
“We have seen incredible things today.”

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Commentary on Luke 5:17-26 From Living Space
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The First Reading from Isaiah expresses the excitement and anticipation of God’s coming in our midst.
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The Gospel is an example of this promise being realised. It is Luke’s version of the healing of a paralysed man who can only reach Jesus by being lowered through the roof of the house. The efforts which the sick man’s friends make to get him to Jesus is an indication of their tremendous faith and confidence in Jesus.
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However, the man may have been somewhat surprised to hear the words of Jesus: “My friend, your sins are forgiven.” That was not what he came for. He hoped something could be done about his paralysis. But the Pharisees and Scribes present were even more shocked. “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who but God alone can forgive sin?” Of course, they were perfectly right but they did not put two and two together and identify the presence of God in Jesus.
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So Jesus asks them: “Which is easier to say: ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Rise up and walk’?” Naturally, the first is easier to SAY. But to show that Jesus has the authority really to forgive sin he says to the paralysed man: “I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” Immediately, the man stands up before them all, picks up his mat and goes home.
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To understand what is happening here we have to realise the perceived close relationship in those days between sin and sickness. Sickness, especially something chronic like paralysis or blindness, was often presumed to be the result of or punishment for sin. So if Jesus can totally remove the sickness, it must mean the sin which caused it has gone too. Jesus can forgive sin.
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We may not express things quite the same way now but there was a lot of truth in the belief that there was a relationship between sickness and behaviour. A large proportion of people are sick and even in hospital because their bodies are revealing symptoms of dis-ease which has its roots in their hearts and minds and feelings. The healing power of Jesus, which we all need, has to extend to every part of our being – body, mind, heart and in our relationships with others.
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There are intimations in this story of resurrection, new life, when the man now stands up, something he could not do before. And, now able to walk, he goes home, that is, he goes to the place where he belongs. We too need the healing of Christ which removes the things which paralyse or handicap us in our following him. We need to stand anew in the Life that he gives and then find our way to our true home, which is to be with him.
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Sing
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11 DECEMBER, 2017, Monday, 2nd Week of Advent
FINDING COURAGE TO LET THE LORD COME INTO OUR LIVES

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ IS 35:1-10Ps 85:9-14Lk 5:17-26  ]

Many of us are paralyzed in life.  We are paralyzed in different ways.  Some of us are paralyzed physically. We feel constrained in mobility and are heavily dependent on caregivers.  Others are paralyzed by their past. They cannot forgive themselves or the mistakes they had made.  They also cannot let go of those unpleasant events in their lives.  They cannot forgive themselves or those who have hurt them.  Whenever they recall the pain and the shame they suffered, they are unsettled.

If we feel paralyzed and too weak to get back to living again, let us take courage for the Lord is assuring us that He has come to save us.   He said, “Strengthen all weary hands, steady all trembling knees and say to all faint hearts, ‘Courage! Do not be afraid. Look, your God is coming, vengeance is coming, the retribution of God; he is coming to save you.’”  We hear these words, “take courage” very often in the bible.  David said to Solomon, “Be strong and of good courage, and do it. Fear not, be not dismayed; for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.” (1 Chr 28:20)  Moses said to his successor, Joshua, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be in dread of them: for it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.” (Dt 31:6)  And the angel said to Mary, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”  (Lk 1:30)  Indeed, this is good news.  We need to renew our courage again and take comfort that the Lord will come to render justice to us all.

With His coming, He will make the soil and the land fertile again.  He will renew the face of the earth.  ‘Let the wilderness and the dry-lands exult, let the wasteland rejoice and bloom, let it bring forth flowers like the jonquil, let it rejoice and sing for joy.  The glory of Lebanon is bestowed on it, the splendour of Carmel and Sharon; they shall see the glory of the Lord, the splendour of our God.”  Indeed, whenever the Lord is with us, we will be always fruitful.  This is what the Lord said, “He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  (Jn 15:5)  “I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”  (Jn 15:16)

The Lord has come also to heal us of our illnesses.  This is fulfilled in the Lord Jesus.  “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, then the lame shall leap like a deer and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy.”  We read in the gospel that “the Power of the Lord was behind his works of healing.”  Jesus healed and delivered people from all illnesses.  “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every infirmity.”  (Mt 9:35)  Hence, we must not despair when we are sick or unable to find the right medication or doctor to cure us of our sickness.   There is always hope.  The Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.”  (Num 11:23)   Indeed, just as in the New Testament, the miracles continue to be worked even in our days because the Lord promised His disciples, “these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  (Mk 16:17f)

So what is preventing us from being healed? Firstly, it is because of our sins.  The prophet Isaiah said, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you so that he does not hear.”  (Isa 59:1f)  That is why above all, the Lord comes to forgive us our sins.  This was what He said to the paralyzed man.  “My friend, your sins are forgiven you.”  Jesus understood that the deepest healing that anyone needs is not physical healing.  We just have to look around us.  Many of us are healthy and strong and yet are most miserable and unhappy in this world.  Yet, there are those who are of ill-health but are much more cheerful, positive and joyful.  So the crux of the problem is that we are spiritually dis-ease and so are also physically sick.  Forgiveness of sin brings about physical and emotional healing as well.  This is the most important form of healing.

Secondly, because of the lack of faith.  The scribes and the Pharisees were not receptive to the healing power of our Lord because they did not recognize Him as coming from God. “The scribes and the Pharisees began to think this over. ‘Who is this man talking blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’”  To prove that He had the power to forgive sins, Jesus manifested His divine power of forgiveness by healing the man, since sickness was connected with sin and being healed indicated that he was freed from sin.  Hence, Jesus said, “Which of these is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you’ or to say ‘Get up and walk’?   But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ – he said to the paralyzed man – ‘I order you: get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.’”

Indeed, it is faith that will allow the Lord to heal us deeply.   In the first place, the Lord healed the paralyzed man not because of his faith – he then had no faith – but it was the living faith of those who carried him to be healed by Jesus.  We can admire their faith which was put into love.  (cf Gal 5:6)  “Then some men appeared, carrying on a bed a paralyzed man whom they were trying to bring in and lay down in front of him.  Seeing their faith he said, ‘My friend, your sins are forgiven you.’”  The faith of his friends brought Jesus’ desire to heal the man on account of their faith in Him.   We can be sure too that the faith of his friends would have helped him to be open to the Lord.  Faith inspires faith.  When we are weak, the faith of others will inspire us.  That is why sharing of what God has done for us in our lives is important because it inspires the faith of others. Whenever faith is present, the Lord will heal and show His power.  Elizabeth said this of Mary, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”  (Lk 1:45)

Thirdly, it is because we place limits on the power of God.  The religious leaders could not go beyond their narrow mindset. They were constrained by their knowledge of the laws and traditions and so were unable to accept Jesus as the prophet of God.  Those without faith will be skeptical. Those with faith are creative and resourceful.  Where there is a will there is a way.  They never give up, like the four men who carried the paralyzed man to Jesus. Finding no way to bring the paralyzed man to Jesus “as the crowd made it impossible to find a way of getting him in, they went up on the flat roof and lowered him and his stretcher down through the tiles into the middle of the gathering, in front of Jesus.”  As the angel rightly said to Mary, “For with God nothing will be impossible.” (Lk 1:37)

So let us walk this Sacred Highway as the prophet asked of us.  “And through it will run a highway undefiled which shall be called the Sacred Way; the unclean may not travel by it, nor fools stray along it. No lion will be there nor any fierce beast roam about it, but the redeemed will walk there, for those the Lord has ransomed shall return.”  This Sacred Way is the way of faith and holiness.  It is the way of justice and fidelity to God.  The psalmist prays, “Mercy and faithfulness have met; justice and peace have embraced. The Lord will make us prosper and our earth shall yield its fruit. Justice shall march before him and peace shall follow his steps.”  When we seek to live a life of justice and truth, we will be able to praise God because there will be joy in our hearts.  Indeed, we “will come to Zion shouting for joy, joy and gladness will go with them and sorrow and lament be ended.”  Even in our struggles, let us walk in faith and in joy knowing that He will lead us to fullness of life.

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

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, November 21, 2017 — “I will prove myself worthy of my old age and I will leave to the young a noble example.”

November 20, 2017

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 498

Reading 1 2 MC 6:18-31

Eleazar, one of the foremost scribes,
a man of advanced age and noble appearance,
was being forced to open his mouth to eat pork.
But preferring a glorious death to a life of defilement,
he spat out the meat,
and went forward of his own accord to the instrument of torture,
as people ought to do who have the courage to reject the food
which it is unlawful to taste even for love of life.
Those in charge of that unlawful ritual meal took the man aside privately,
because of their long acquaintance with him,
and urged him to bring meat of his own providing,
such as he could legitimately eat,
and to pretend to be eating some of the meat of the sacrifice
prescribed by the king;
in this way he would escape the death penalty,
and be treated kindly because of their old friendship with him.
But Eleazar made up his mind in a noble manner,
worthy of his years, the dignity of his advanced age,
the merited distinction of his gray hair,
and of the admirable life he had lived from childhood;
and so he declared that above all
he would be loyal to the holy laws given by God.He told them to send him at once
to the abode of the dead, explaining:
“At our age it would be unbecoming to make such a pretense;
many young people would think the ninety-year-old Eleazar
had gone over to an alien religion.
Should I thus pretend for the sake of a brief moment of life,
they would be led astray by me,
while I would bring shame and dishonor on my old age.
Even if, for the time being, I avoid the punishment of men,
I shall never, whether alive or dead,
escape the hands of the Almighty.
Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now,
I will prove myself worthy of my old age,
and I will leave to the young a noble example
of how to die willingly and generously
for the revered and holy laws.”Eleazar spoke thus,
and went immediately to the instrument of torture.
Those who shortly before had been kindly disposed,
now became hostile toward him because what he had said
seemed to them utter madness.
When he was about to die under the blows,
he groaned and said:
“The Lord in his holy knowledge knows full well that,
although I could have escaped death,
I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging,
but also suffering it with joy in my soul
because of my devotion to him.”
This is how he died,
leaving in his death a model of courage
and an unforgettable example of virtue
not only for the young but for the whole nation.

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Responsrial Psalm PS 3:2-3, 4-5, 6-7

R. (6b) The Lord upholds me.
O LORD, how many are my adversaries!
Many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
“There is no salvation for him in God.”
R. The Lord upholds me.
But you, O LORD, are my shield;
my glory, you lift up my head!
When I call out to the LORD,
he answers me from his holy mountain.
R. The Lord upholds me.
When I lie down in sleep,
I wake again, for the LORD sustains me.
I fear not the myriads of people
arrayed against me on every side.
R. The Lord upholds me.

Alleluia 1 JN 4:10B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God loved us, and sent his Son
as expiation for our sins.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Art: Zacchaeus – The Tax Collector Who Turned to Jesus

Gospel LK 19:1-10

At that time Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.
Now a man there named Zacchaeus,
who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man,
was seeking to see who Jesus was;
but he could not see him because of the crowd,
for he was short in stature.
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus,
who was about to pass that way.
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said,
“Zacchaeus, come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house.”
And he came down quickly and received him with joy.
When they saw this, they began to grumble, saying,
“He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord,
“Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor,
and if I have extorted anything from anyone
I shall repay it four times over.”
And Jesus said to him,
“Today salvation has come to this house
because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.
For the Son of Man has come to seek
and to save what was lost.”

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Commentary on Luke 19:1-10 From Living Space

Today we have one of the most delightful stories of Luke and indeed of the whole Gospel. It follows immediately – and not by accident – after the healing of a blind man as Jesus enters the city of Jericho, to the northeast of Jerusalem.

The central figure is Zacchaeus, who, Luke tells us, was a chief tax collector and a rich man. This is the only reference in Scripture to a ‘chief tax collector’. It probably means he was responsible for a district or region with other tax collectors answerable to him. The region at this time was prosperous so more tax collectors were needed.

Knowing he was a chief tax collector it was hardly necessary to mention that he was wealthy. Tax collectors were studiously avoided and despised by their fellow-Jews. They made contracts with the Roman authorities to collect taxes and made sure that they got from the public what today we might call generous “commissions”. After all, it was a kind of business and they had to make a living. And, if an ordinary tax collector could do well, it is easy to imagine how much a chief tax collector might make. One commentator refers to him as a ‘creep’.

Apart from forcing people to part with their hard-earned money, they were seen as traitors to their own people by taking their money and giving it to the pagan Roman colonialists occupying their country. One can see how Jesus could cause great offence to the religious-minded by sitting down and eating with such ‘scum’.

Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was in town and he was very curious to see what Jesus was like. Already we have here an echo of yesterday’s story, because Zacchaeus too wants to see. However, at this stage, it seems to be only a kind of curiosity. He just wanted to get a glimpse of a person of whom he undoubtedly heard people talk. Maybe he had even heard that Jesus had a name for mixing with people like himself.

Because he was a small man (in more ways than one?), he could not see over the large crowd of people surrounding Jesus. So he ran on ahead and climbed into the branches of a sycamore tree to get a better look. A sycamore tree can grow to a height of 10 to 15 metres, with a short trunk and spreading branches and hence easy to climb and easily capable of carrying a grown man.

Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus but he did not expect that Jesus would see him. He must have practically fallen out of the tree from surprise when he heard Jesus look in his direction and say, “Zacchaeus, hurry down. I want to stay in your house today.” What beautiful words! And yet it is a self-invitation that Jesus constantly extends to us. It is right there in our First Reading for today: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Is my house ready, is my door open to let him in?

Zacchaeus could hardly believe his ears. He rushed down and delightedly welcomed Jesus into his house. Immediately those around began to grumble. “He has gone to a sinner’s house as a guest.” Of all the people in Jericho, Jesus picks the house of the one person in the town who was regarded as a social and religious outcast.

But, as usual, Jesus sees beyond the public image to the real person. Zacchaeus may be a chief tax collector but he is ready to give half of his property to the poor and, if he has cheated anyone, he promises to pay them back four times what they lost. Fourfold restitution was demanded by Jewish law, but in one case only, the theft of a sheep (Exodus 21:37). Roman law demanded such restitution from all convicted thieves. Zacchaeus, however, promises to pay in any case of injustice for which he has been responsible.

Some commentators read the passage as saying that Zacchaeus has already been making these forms of restitution and sharing his wealth with the poor. In which case, Jesus is able to see beyond the stereotype which makes Zacchaeus the tax collector an outcast. He was not going to the house of a sinner but to that of a good man. Jesus always sees the real person and goes beyond the label. Can we always claim to do the same?

Whatever the interpretation, we can see that, though Zacchaeus may have belonged to a discredited profession, his heart was in the right place, in the place of compassion and justice.

And so Jesus tells Zacchaeus that “salvation”, wholeness and integrity has come to his house. In spite of his despised profession he is “a descendant of Abraham” because his behaviour is totally in harmony with the requirements of the Law and in fact goes well beyond it. For Jesus, too, no social status closes the door to salvation. For this is what it means to be a “son of Abraham”, namely, to be a loving, caring person full of compassion and a sense of justice and not just a keeper of ritualistic observances.

Zacchaeus, who had originally just wanted to have an external glimpse of Jesus, has now come to see Jesus in a much deeper sense. A seeing that changed his whole life as it did that of the beggar in yesterday’s story.

Further, in answer to the accusation that he has entered the house of a sinner, Jesus says, “The Son of Man has come to search out and save what was lost.” As he said on another occasion, the healthy have no need of a physician but only the sick. Jesus is the good Shepherd leaving the well-behaved 99 and going in search of the single one that has gone astray.

As we read this story, there are a number of things we could reflect on. We too want to see Jesus in the deepest possible sense. Only then can we truly become his disciples. We need to hear him saying to us, “I want to stay in your house today.” Let us open the door and welcome him in.

And we need to be careful in judging people from their appearance or their social position or their occupation. As a Church, we could spend a lot more time looking for those who are lost instead of concentrating on serving the already converted. In fact, only when people become active evangelisers themselves can we speak of them as “converted”, as “good Christians”.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2333g/

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

We return to the Gospel from Luke today and meet Zacchaeus, a short man who is the chief tax collector and a wealthy man.  We can note immediately that Zacchaeus is not a proud man.  Think of this short man running ahead of Jesus and climbing a tree to see him.  How undignified and comic!  We can hope that we might have this enthusiasm to know the Lord, to see Jesus.  Jesus never turns people away.  There are times when Jesus tests those who come to see him, such as the foreign woman in the Gospel of Matthew to whom he replies that he cannot give to the dogs food for those at table.  But Jesus knows the people and knows how far He can test them.

We need to  have this enthusiasm of Zacchaeus and the strength of character of the foreign woman when we come seeking Jesus.  Zacchaeus is ready to give a lot (we can note that he does not offer to give up everything!) in order to follow Jesus.  How much are we willing to give to the Lord?  Are we willing to make fools of ourselves so that we can see Jesus?  Are we willing to seek wisdom?

Let us give whatever we can give at this moment, even if it is not yet all!  Let us walk with the Lord and ask Him to help us.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Related:

Today’s Gospel is one of our favorites because Zacchaeus “Goes to any length” to get what’s he’s after and what he needs. He even climbs a tree so he can see the Lord…..

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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21 NOVEMBER, 2017, Tuesday, Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
DEDICATING OURSELVES TO THE LORD WITH MARY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ZECHARIAH 2:14-17MT 12:46-50 ]

This feast was celebrated in Jerusalem in the sixth century.  A Church was constructed to honour this aspect of the life of Mary.  Historically, our knowledge of Mary’s presentation in the Temple, as also in her birth, is found only in apocryphal literature.  Such unhistorical accounts, although not considered as inspired scriptures, do offer us insights into the life of Mary and the contemplation of the Church on her role in the economy of salvation.   In the Protoevangelium of James, it was recounted that Anna and Joachim dedicated Mary to God in the Temple when she was three years old in fulfillment of the promise made to God when Anna was still childless.  This act of consecration of course reminds us of Hannah offering Samuel back to God at the Temple after she had weaned him. (cf 1 Sm 1:21-28)

Why is this feast so important in the eyes of the Church?  How does this celebration help us to live out our faith?  Even though this feast lacks historicity, it serves as an encouragement and model for us to live out our faith as Mary did.  It tells us that Mary from the very beginning of her life was dedicated to God.  Her life was lived in consecration to God at every moment.  This is what the Lord said of her.  “’Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand towards his disciples he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother.’”   Mary’s life was lived in such a way that she was obedient to the Word of God.  We too are called to consecrate our lives to God. 

This is possible first and foremost if we have good parents like Joachim and Anne. For parents, it means that their children do not belong to them.  Many of us think that our children are our property.  We can do as we like with them.  We form them according to our image and likeness.  We make them choose a career that we ourselves like, a career that brings lots of money, fame, prestige and power.   We think that they will be happy in that manner.  When we form them to be worldly people, we have failed in our responsibility.   The truth is that they are God’s children, not ours.  We are just the care-givers and the guardians like St Joseph who looked after our Lord.  The children were given to us as gifts from God.  But the gift of parenthood entails that we raise our children to be children of God.  “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.  And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”  (1 Jn 3:1-3)

As parents, our task is to help them to become true children of God. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.”  (Rom 8:29)  In whatever, they do in life, they are called to become like Christ in their way of life, according to their profession and status in life.  What is important is not that they become rich and famous but whether they become loving and generous people who live for others and not for themselves.  “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.”  (1 Jn 3:16)

Parents who wish their children to be dedicated to do God’s work according to their vocation in life must therefore imbue them with the right gospel values.  It is not enough for parents to care only about their academic education and other related skills.  What is even more important to look after is their faith and moral values.  If their life is not founded on God and morality, whatever they do will be for themselves and not for others.

Today, we thank Joachim and Anne for their initiative and example of offering Mary to the Lord from a tender age.  We can be certain that the faith and lives of Joachim and Anne were exemplary for Mary.  She lived in the ambience of God’s love mediated through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.  Whilst it is true that Mary was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to consecrate herself to God, whether at the Temple or gradually in her life, it was also the good example of her parents that helped her to desire to love God and serve Him all her life.  Whether we like it or not, parents and adults are mentors for our young people.  We can either be a scandal to them and their faith or be an inspiration.  This is the power of influence of parents and leaders.  We can either influence them for good or for evil, depending on how we live our lives.

As a consequence, Mary became a greater Temple than any other earthly temple constructed by men.  Because of her availability to the Lord, the Lord came to dwell within her.  She was the daughter of Zion whom the prophet said, “Sing, rejoice, daughter of Zion; for I am coming to dwell in the middle of you – it is the Lord who speaks.”  She carried the child Jesus in her womb as His tabernacle. John the Baptist leapt for joy when he encountered the Lord in the same way King David leapt for joy when he met the Lord in the Ark of the Covenant.  “As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord.”  (2 Sm 6:16 cf Lk 1:44)  The Lord was with her because of her docility to His love and His will.  To consecrate means to put ourselves at the disposal of the Lord.  That was what she said at the Annunciation.  “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38)  When we make ourselves available to the Lord, He will always do great things for us. “He has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”  (Lk 1:48f)  The more we abandon ourselves to the Lord, the more He will work in and through us.

Not only did she become a Temple of God, Mary also became a channel of grace to the Lord, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah.  “Many nations will join the Lord, on that day; they will become his people.  But he will remain among you, and you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.  But the Lord will hold Judah as his portion in the Holy Land, and again make Jerusalem his very own. Let all mankind be silent before the Lord! For he is awakening and is coming from his holy dwelling.”  Through Mary, many have been brought to the Lord Jesus.  She continues to play a critical role in making us all children of God.  Her blessing was not for herself but given to us, her children, as well.  If, like Mary, we follow the will of God, we too become His mother, brothers and sisters, as Jesus promised.   So if we want our children to also be channels of God’s love to others, let us groom them well according to the gospel values.  Most of all, we must allow them to encounter the Lord so that His Spirit can fill them with His love.

In the final analysis, we must realize that holiness of life is not just our effort but basically, it is the work of God in us.  In celebrating the feast of the Presentation of Mary, we are saying that the holiness of Mary’s life was the work of the Holy Spirit in her, beginning with her Immaculate Conception to her birth and continuing through her early childhood to her teenage years and until her death.  The Holy Spirit was with her to keep her holy and faithful to the Word of God.   This is the power of the grace of God in transforming Mary to be a channel of grace to our Lord.  If we, especially priests and religious, offer ourselves to the Lord as Mary did, then God will also make use of us for His glory and for His people.

Let us all, regardless of whether we are parents, priests, religious or children, imitate Mary in consecrating our lives, plans and ambition to the Lord.  Let us live for the Lord and His people.   Let us live in Him so that He can live in us, as St Paul says “it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”  (cf Gal 2:20).  Only in total dedication and self-oblation with Mary, can the Lord use us mightily for His service.

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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, October 21, 2017 — Righteousness that comes from faith — “The Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.”

October 20, 2017

Saturday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 472

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“The promise was made to Abraham and his descendants that he would inherit the world…”

Reading 1  ROM 4:13, 16-18

Brothers and sisters:
It was not through the law
that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants
that he would inherit the world,
but through the righteousness that comes from faith.
For this reason, it depends on faith,
so that it may be a gift,
and the promise may be guaranteed to all his descendants,
not to those who only adhere to the law
but to those who follow the faith of Abraham,
who is the father of all of us, as it is written,
I have made you father of many nations.
He is our father in the sight of God,
in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead
and calls into being what does not exist.
He believed, hoping against hope,
that he would become the father of many nations,
according to what was said, Thus shall your descendants be.

Responsorial Psalm PS 105:6-7, 8-9, 42-43

R. (8a) The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
You descendants of Abraham, his servants,
sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!
He, the LORD, is our God;
throughout the earth his judgments prevail.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
He remembers forever his covenant
which he made binding for a thousand generations –
Which he entered into with Abraham
and by his oath to Isaac.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
For he remembered his holy word
to his servant Abraham.
And he led forth his people with joy;
with shouts of joy, his chosen ones.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.

Alleluia JN 15:26B, 27A

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

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Gospel LK 12:8-12

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I tell you,
everyone who acknowledges me before others
the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God.
But whoever denies me before others
will be denied before the angels of God.”Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven,
but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will not be forgiven.
When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities,
do not worry about how or what your defense will be
or about what you are to say.
For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.”
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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21 OCTOBER, 2017, Saturday, 28th Week, Ordinary Time
THE UNFORGIVABLE SIN

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Rom 4:13.16-18Ps 105:6-942-43Lk 12:9-12 ]

We always speak about God’s unconditional love and mercy.  Yet in today’s gospel, Jesus said there is one sin that cannot be forgiven. “Everyone who says a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”  Is there a contradiction in the message of Jesus?  Why is the sin against the Holy Spirit not forgivable whereas the sin against Jesus is pardonable?

There are people who reject Jesus because of various factors.  They lack faith in the Lord.  They have not yet had a chance to encounter the Lord.  They might know about Him intellectually but they have not yet arrived at a conviction in their hearts.  Hearing about Jesus does not mean that a person would have faith.   This is true of people from other religions.  They might have known about Jesus because they were educated in mission schools, or they have read about Him.  Yet, they are not converted to Christianity because they have not arrived at a personal encounter with the Lord.

For such people, a general faith in God is sufficient. This is what St Paul says, “The promise of inheriting the world was not made to Abraham and his descendants on account of any law but on account of the righteousness which consists in faith.  That is why what fulfils the promise depends on faith, so that it may be a free gift and be available to all of Abraham’s descendants, not only those who belong to the Law but also those who belong to the faith of Abraham who is the father of all of us.”   We are saved not by what we do and by our merits.  If that were the case, then God would not have promised Abraham that he woud be a father of all nations.  It was not because Abraham did anything to earn the promises of God.  It was not because Abraham fulfilled the laws or that he was righteous, but that he simply put his faith and trust in God’s promises.

But the sin against the Holy Spirit is different.  It is not just a rejection of our Lord but a rejection of goodness, truth and love.  When we are numb to what is right and wrong, we are closed to the Holy Spirit.  Life is such that when we neglect our prayer life or a relationship with someone, we become indifferent after some time.  It is the lack of touch with our faith, our prayer life and with God that will cause us to fall into indifference.  When we reject God’s word repeatedly and continue to sin again and again without any repentance, we will eventually lose sensitivity to the truth.  We will come to a stage of relativism before we arrive at amorality.   This is what is happening in the world.  Those who are without faith rely on their own intellect and judgment.  They reject any judgment that comes from others.  Because of pride, they very soon fall into relativism.   Truth becomes a matter of personal judgment and preferences.  Of course, in relativism, one can always rationalize and convince oneself that what one is doing is right.  Our mind can always adduce reasons for what we want to do.  From relativism, one becomes amoral, because nothing is wrong or right.

When a person is blind to the truth and what is right, how could he or she repent?  If he cannot see that what he is doing is wrong, there is no reason to change. This is precisely the sin of many people.  They are so sure of themselves, so presumptuous that they are right that they would not listen to correction.  There is totally no way we can reach out to such people.  They insist on doing things their way and those who disagree with them are all deemed to be wrong and out to victimize them.  Indeed, it is almost impossible to enlighten someone who has a victimization complex, or show him the way to the truth because he thinks that the world is against him all the time.  This is the sin against the Holy Spirit.

When a person arrives at such a stage, no forgiveness is possible.  It is not that God has rejected such a person, but he has rejected God and has shut Him out of His life.  Those of us who have sinned and are aware of them could still have our sins forgiven because we know that we have done something wrong.  Our inability to repent is due to our human weakness, particularly the weakness of the flesh.  In our minds, we desire to live a righteous life but our will is weak and wounded.  Consequently, only those who commit sins and are unable to recognize them as sins even when brought to their attention, cannot be forgiven; not because God does not want to forgive them but because the sinners do not want to be forgiven.

Indeed, the good news is that God does not take into account our sins before He justifies us.  We are forgiven and we do not need to earn merits to be loved and forgiven.  This is what divides us from those religions that underscore merits and fulfillment of the laws.  Christianity speaks of grace that is unearned and unmerited.  We can never earn the love of God.  We do not speak of what we can do for God but what God is doing in our lives.  Grace speaks of what God’s unconditional love and mercy can do to transform our lives.   This is not to say that we continue sinning.  On the contrary, because of His love for us, we stop sinning, not because we are afraid of punishment or because it is our duty, but because we love God who loved us first.   We are compelled by love.

Conversely, the laws cannot set us free.  They can at most tell us that something is wrong but they cannot give us the motivation to observe them.  All laws are made to be broken, or else no laws are necessary.   We all know the laws and yet we see crimes and offences committed every day.  The rule of thumb is to break the law but just don’t get caught!  The laws cannot give us the power to fulfill them.  On the contrary, the laws tempt us to commit more sins because what is forbidden is even more desirable.  This is how the Devil tempted Eve.   At any rate, after seducing us to sin, the devil accuses us and makes us feel condemned before God. “The accuser of our comrades[c] has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.”  (Rev 12:10b)  So not only does the law condemn us to death but the devil as well.

Hence this requires faith in His grace on our part.  This is why anyone who has the faith of Abraham would have the promises of God fulfilled in Him.  We are called to trust in His grace alone, not on our efforts.  If we depend on our merits, none of us would ever attain the promises of God.  Abraham himself trusted in God and he was richly rewarded. “Abraham is our father in the eyes of God, in whom he put his faith, and who brings the dead to life and calls into being what does not exist.” Indeed, it was Abraham’s faith in God, who is the author of life and death and the origin of all things, that made it possible for him to trust in God alone.

The great thing about Abraham is that even though he did not see all the promises realized in his time, he continued to have faith that somehow God will fulfill all His promises.  And thus it took another 2000 years later before Jesus the Messiah was born and another 1500 years before Christianity spread all over the earth.  As Christians, we too are the descendants of Abraham.   “Though it seemed Abraham’s hope could not be fulfilled, he hoped and he believed, and through doing so he did become the father of many nations exactly as he had been promised: Your descendants will be as many as the stars.”   This is what the psalmist says, “He remembers his covenant for ever, his promise for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac.  For he remembered his holy word, which he gave to Abraham his servant.”

For us, Christians, Jesus is the incarnation of God’s grace and mercy in person.  By His life, passion, death and resurrection Jesus shows us the face of God. Consequently, the Lord said, “I tell you, if anyone openly declares himself for me in the presence of men, the Son of Man will declare himself for him in the presence of God’s angels.  But the man who disowns me in the presence of men will be disowned in the presence of God’s angels.”  If we deny Jesus, we will be losers in the end because we forfeit the grace to recognize God’s unconditional love in Christ.  But for those of us who testify to Christ, our faith will increase by leaps and bounds.  The Holy Spirit will inspire us and lead us to a deeper conviction of Christ as our savior.  In our helplessness, we find the power of God at work in our lives.  “When they take you before synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say, because when the time comes, the Holy Spirit will teach you what you must say.”  When we surrender our lives to God, He will do the impossible.  With God, all things are possible.  But we can know this only when we entrust our lives to Him and take His Word and promises in faith as Abraham did. So long as we depend on our strength and efforts alone, we can do things for God, but if we rely on Him, He can do great things for us and through us.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Commentary on Luke 12:8-12 From Living Space

Jesus continues to prepare his disciples for trials to come in the future.

He encourages them to be faithful to their Christian commitment and to their faith in Christ as Lord. When we publicly acknowledge Jesus as Christ and Lord, Jesus too will acknowledge us as his faithful disciple. Of course, it will be difficult during times of abuse and persecution but they must always be ready to acknowledge their allegiance to Jesus. To deny that allegiance may win them a reprieve in this life but not in the next. “He who saves his life will lose it,” as Jesus said on an earlier occasion. The word for ‘deny’ here is the same word used in Peter’s denial and disowning of his Master (Luke 22:34 and 61).

There comes now a saying which can cause difficulty to some. “Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man will be forgiven but whoever blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.” Why should there be just one exception to the forgiveness of sin? And why is speaking against the Son acceptable but not against the Spirit?

To speak against the Son is clearly wrong but, with repentance, there can be reconciliation. But to sin against the Spirit is to go against Truth itself. This was basically the sin of the Scribes and Pharisees. They not only criticised Jesus; that could be understood. But they locked themselves into a situation where they shut out any openness to the truth, the Truth that others could so easily see present in Jesus. As long as they were in that situation, there was no possibility of reconciliation. Forgiveness in the Gospel is not just a unilateral move on one person’s part. It always involves a coming together of two opposing parties in reconciliation. To sin against the Spirit is to close the door on reconciliation.

It seems that in Luke’s context he may be applying the saying to those Christians who are under attack for their faith. If they deny the Spirit of Truth they too lock themselves out from being reached by God. In times to come, Jesus’ disciples will be dragged before civic and religious authorities. They are not to be afraid or worried about how to defend themselves or about what they should say.

People who have been in this position have attested that the words do indeed come and with them a certain peace and strength, provided one retains one’s integrity and wholeness. And it is the presence of that Spirit, the Spirit of God and of Jesus, that is at work.

Most of us will not have to suffer severely for our faith. But there will likely be times when we may find our religious beliefs and practices ridiculed and made fun of. We can be tempted at such times to go into hiding, to conceal our Christian identity. We may even fail to come to the support of people who are under attack, refuse to stand by them, refuse to stand up and be counted as committed followers of the Gospel.

If that has happened in the past, let us ask forgiveness. Let us pray that in future we may have the courage and integrity in word and deed to let people know who we are and what we stand for.

Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2287g/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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15 OCTOBER 2016, Saturday, 28th Week of Ordinary Time
CHRISTIAN HOPE IS FOUNDED ON FAITH IN CHRIST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  EPHESIANS  1:15 – 23LUKE 12:9 – 12 ]

The world seems to have lost its focus, whether in politics or in morals.  This is why even in the midst of progress; many feel lost and hopeless in the world.  Without hope, life cannot continue.  Whether in work, relationship, marriage or in health, many people in the face of difficulties want to give up, because they see no hope.  Even those working for a just world today are often tempted to give up, because they feel that the power of evil is stronger than good. By cooperating with His divine plan, we will find our purpose and meaning in this life on earth as we wait for the fullness of sharing God’s life in heaven.

But for us Christians, we know there is hope.  The readings from the letter of St Paul to the Ephesians over the last couple of days told us that there is hope.  Through the grace of revelation, St Paul revealed to us the plan of God for humanity, which is that everything will be united in Christ.  Above all, we are given the hope of true freedom because we are called to the great destiny of being adopted sons in Christ.  That this hope be always in our minds is the prayer of St Paul for the Ephesians and for us when he prayed, “May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers.”

What then is the basis of hope?  Our hope is founded on Christ.  Indeed, Paul says, “This you can tell from the strength of his power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand, in heaven, far above every Sovereignty, Authority, Power, or Domination, or any other name that can be named not only in this age but also in the age to come. He has put all things under his feet and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation.”  The responsorial psalm similarly declares “You have given your Son rule over the works of your hands.”  Christ, therefore, having won victory over sin and death rules over all of creation.

The psalmist reminds us that we, too, in Christ, have been given authority over creation and to rule the earth with His wisdom and love.  “What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him? You have made him little less than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him rule over the works of your hands, putting all things under his feet.”  By cooperating with His divine plan, we will find our purpose and meaning in this life on earth as we wait for the fullness of sharing God’s life in heaven.

Of course, we cannot do what Christ has done unless we have found our hope in Him.  Only then can we be certain of “how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers.”  If the Father had raised Jesus from the dead and “put all things under his feet and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation”, then we can be confident that we will overcome all things in Him.  This is particularly so because it will not be on our strength that we will overcome the tribulations of the world.  Rather, it is Christ who acts in us, He being the Head of the Church and we the members of His body.  With Christ at work in us, we need not ever fear that we are fighting a losing battle in the proclamation of the Good News, even though at times, we might feel rather discouraged at the hostility of secularism against the Church and all religions.

For this reason, the gospel warns us that those who have no faith in Christ will lose all hope.  By failing to declare our faith in Jesus, it shows our lack of confidence in Him. Jesus said to His disciples, “I tell you, if anyone openly declares himself for me in the presence of men, the Son of Man will declare himself for him in the presence of God’s angels. But the man who disowns me in the presence of men will be disowned in the presence of God’s angels.”  It is not so much that He will disown us, but that we will disown His Spirit at work in us.  By not standing up for Jesus on earth before men, we will be so embarrassed to stand before Jesus Himself when we meet Him face to face, for we know that we have betrayed Him.

Accordingly, we can understand why Jesus said, “Everyone who says a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”  To deny the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us is to live without hope.  We must not think that God will hold our sins against us.  Rather, it will be our sins that will hold out against God who reaches out to us in mercy and forgiveness. If the sin against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven, it is because when a man has lost all faith in God and in his fellowmen and himself, he would fall into nihilism.  Being totally closed to the love of God, he condemns himself into meaninglessness and hopelessness.   Indeed, all those who have given up on life have in the first place given up on God and on man.   So long as one continues to have faith in God, there is hope for himself and hope for others.

But for those who have faith in Jesus, then He assures us that “When they take you before synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say, because when the time comes, the Holy Spirit will teach you what you must say.”  So long as we have faith in Jesus, “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him.”  Yes, He will enlighten us and give us not just hope in this world but the everlasting joy of sharing in the life of God, together with His saints in glory.  He will help us to understand the ambiguities of life, to find faith and strength in times of confusion and trials and most of all, teach us about the eternal truths, what to say and how to proclaim the truth that He has given to us.

And so today it is important to strengthen our faith in Jesus who is at work in our lives.  But we must surrender ourselves, especially our work.  We must remember those many events in our lives when we thought we were powerless and helpless and yet the Lord came to our help and enabled us to do much more than we could imagine or thought of.  By remembering the power of God in Christ Jesus, we will find hope.

So hope is born from faith in Christ. Through hope comes charity.  We hope we will never give up on situations, especially on people.  If at times, we feel like giving up it is because we lack hope and therefore have no capacity to love.  Indeed, St Paul sums up so beautifully the inter-relationship between faith, hope and charity when he commended the Ephesians, saying, “I, having once heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus, and the love that you show towards all the saints, have never failed to remember you in my prayers and to thank God for you.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Praise Jesus for St. Teresa of Ávila who gave us one of the simplest and finest prayers, “Let Nothing Disturb You” –
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Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.
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Nada te turbe;
nada te espante;
todo se pasa;
Dios no se muda,
la paciencia todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta.
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Dan Brown Can’t Cite Me to Disprove God — Despite Dan Brown We Need To Continue to Seek To Understand God

October 14, 2017

The novelist relies on my research, but my literary doppelgänger makes bad arguments.

PHOTO: ISTOCK/GETTY IMAGES

I recently learned that I play a role in Dan Brown’s new novel, “Origin.” Mr. Brown writes that Jeremy England, an MIT physics professor, “was currently the toast of Boston academia, having caused a global stir” with his work on biophysics. The description is flattering, but Mr. Brown errs when he gets to the meaning of my research. One of his characters explains that my literary doppelgänger may have “identified the underlying physical principle driving the origin and evolution of life.” If the fictional Jeremy England’s theory is right, the suggestion goes, it would be an earth-shattering disproof of every other story of creation. All religions might even become obsolete.

It would be easy to criticize my fictional self’s theories based on Mr. Brown’s brief description, but it would also be unfair. My actual research on how lifelike behaviors emerge in inanimate matter is widely available, whereas the Dan Brown character’s work is only vaguely described. There’s no real science in the book to argue over.

My true concern is with my double’s attitude in the book. He is a prop for a billionaire futurist whose mission is to demonstrate that science has made God irrelevant. In that role, Jeremy England says he is just “trying to describe the way things ‘are’ in the universe” and that he “will leave the spiritual implications to the clerics and philosophers.”

Two years ago I wrote in Commentary magazine that it is impossible simply to describe “the way things are” without first making the significant choice of what language to speak in. The language of physics can be extremely useful in talking about the world, but it can never address everything that needs to be said about human life. Equations can elegantly explain how an airplane stays in the air, but they cannot convey the awe someone feels when flying above the clouds. I’m disappointed in my fictional self for being so blithely uninterested in what lies beyond the narrow confines of his technical field.

I’m a scientist, but I also study and live by the Hebrew Bible. To me, the idea that physics could prove that the God of Abraham is not the creator and ruler of the world reflects a serious misunderstanding—of both the scientific method and the function of the biblical text.

Science is an approach to common experience. It addresses what is objectively measurable by inventing models that summarize the world’s partial predictability. In contrast, the biblical God tells Moses at the burning bush: “I will be what I will be.” He is addressing the uncertainty the future brings for all. No prediction can ever fully answer the question of what will happen next.

Humans will always face a choice about how to react to the unknowable future. Encounters between God and the Hebrew prophets are often described in terms of covenants, partly to emphasize that seeing the hand of God at work starts with a conscious decision to view the world a certain way.

Consider someone who assumes that all existence is the work of a creator who speaks through the events of the world. He can follow that assumption down the road and decide whether God seems to be keeping his side of the bargain. Many of us live like this and feel that with time our trust in him has been affirmed. There’s no scientific argument for this way of drawing meaning from experience. But there’s no way science could disprove it either, because it is outside the scope of scientific inquiry.

Some religious adherents do make claims that deserve to be disputed by science. For instance, they may openly acknowledge that their deepest beliefs are incompatible with the existence of dinosaurs. The fictional me—and perhaps Mr. Brown too—might hope to put these holdouts back on their heels. But disputes like this never answer the most important question: Do we need to keep learning about God? For my part, in light of everything I know, I am certain that we do.

Mr. England is a professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Appeared in the October 13, 2017, print edition.

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Almost 400 years before the existence of Jesus Christ, the big thinkers of the ancient world already believed they had proven the existence of God….. This book tells that story; but you’ll need your thinking cap!

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, October 13, 2017 — “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste.”

October 12, 2017

Friday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 465

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Jesus Casts a Devil Out of the Mute Man

Reading 1 JL 1:13-15; 2:1-2

Gird yourselves and weep, O priests!
wail, O ministers of the altar!
Come, spend the night in sackcloth,
O ministers of my God!
The house of your God is deprived
of offering and libation.
Proclaim a fast,
call an assembly;
Gather the elders,
all who dwell in the land,
Into the house of the LORD, your God,
and cry to the LORD!

Alas, the day!
for near is the day of the LORD,
and it comes as ruin from the Almighty.

Blow the trumpet in Zion,
sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all who dwell in the land tremble,
for the day of the LORD is coming;
Yes, it is near, a day of darkness and of gloom,
a day of clouds and somberness!
Like dawn spreading over the mountains,
a people numerous and mighty!
Their like has not been from of old,
nor will it be after them,
even to the years of distant generations.

Responsorial Psalm PS 9:2-3, 6 AND 16, 8-9

R. (9) The Lord will judge the world with justice.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart;
I will declare all your wondrous deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, Most High.
R. The Lord will judge the world with justice.
You rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;
their name you blotted out forever and ever.
The nations are sunk in the pit they have made;
in the snare they set, their foot is caught.
R. The Lord will judge the world with justice.
But the LORD sits enthroned forever;
he has set up his throne for judgment.
He judges the world with justice;
he governs the peoples with equity.
R. The Lord will judge the world with justice.

Alleluia JN 12:31B-32

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The prince of this world will now be cast out,
and when I am lifted up from the earth
I will draw all to myself, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel LK 11:15-26

When Jesus had driven out a demon, some of the crowd said:
“By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons,
he drives out demons.”
Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.
But he knew their thoughts and said to them,
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste
and house will fall against house.
And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?
For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons.
If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul,
by whom do your own people drive them out?
Therefore they will be your judges.
But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons,
then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.
When a strong man fully armed guards his palace,
his possessions are safe.
But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him,
he takes away the armor on which he relied
and distributes the spoils.
Whoever is not with me is against me,
and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

“When an unclean spirit goes out of someone,
it roams through arid regions searching for rest
but, finding none, it says,
‘I shall return to my home from which I came.’
But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order.
Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits
more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there,
and the last condition of that man is worse than the first.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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13 OCTOBER, 2017, Friday, 27th Week, Ordinary Time
PUTTING THE INTERIOR HOUSE IN ORDER

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Joel 1:13-152:1-2Ps 9: 2-3,6,16,8-9Lk 11:15-26 ]

In the first reading from prophet Joel, we hear the call to repentance.  “Priests, put on sackcloth and lament. Ministers of the altar, wail.”  By so doing, the prophet was inviting Israel, especially the religious and political leaders, to put their house in order.  This call is addressed in a special way to priests, but also to the whole Church. This is the same message of Pope Francis when he wrote the encyclical, “The joy of the gospel”, calling the whole church to ongoing conversion, a prerequisite for the mission of the Church.

This same message resounds in today’s gospel when Jesus invites us to examine the state of our interior life.   Whilst we might not be possessed by Beelzebul, the prince of devils, our lives are not in order as well.  For most of us, our real inner struggle is to live a consistent lifestyle befitting our calling as Christians.  The truth is that many of us are living in a divided house.  There is a contradiction between faith and life; ministry and life.  What we believe and what we teach is not how we live.

The warning of Jesus in living such a life is that we will collapse sooner or later. Our hypocrisy will be exposed.  “Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses.  So too with Satan: if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand?”  Indeed, by failing to live the gospel life, we would ultimately hurt ourselves.  Living a hypocritical life might deceive others but we know we cannot deceive ourselves.  Realizing that we are not what we should be will make us sad and unsettled.  Living a double life cripples us from enjoying a life of authentic freedom.

Hence, it is important today to examine what Christ wants us to do as Church. Vatican II presents ecclesial conversion as openness to a personal renewal of faith in Jesus Christ, which would impact one’s moral life as well as the structures of the Church.  “Every renewal of the Church is essentially grounded in an increase of fidelity to her own calling. Christ summons the Church to continual reformation as she sojourns here on earth. The Church is always in need of this, in so far as she is an institution of men here on earth.”  (Unitatis Reintegratio, no 6.)

Indeed, there is a need to take growth in holiness seriously as Catholics.  Holiness of life is not for some extraordinary heroes but is a calling for all.  St Theresa of the Child Jesus tells us that holiness is to live an ordinary life in an extraordinary way.  We do not have to do great things but small things in a great way.  Pope St John Paul II wrote in the Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennio Inenunte, “First of all, I have no hesitation in saying that all pastoral initiatives must be set in relation to holiness.  But the gift in turn becomes a task, which must shape the whole of Christian life.”    It is a duty which concerns not only certain Christians as  all “are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity.  It would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity.”  (NMI, no 30)  So the first conversion is a call to holiness of life, the perfection of charity according to our circumstances.

Secondly, we must focus on cultivating a Spirituality of communion.   Unless we live in communion with each other, we cannot speak of mission since our mission is communion.   It would be a contradiction to proclaim the gospel if Catholics cannot live in communion with each other.  “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:35).  The Church is called to be a sign and sacrament of unity with God and the whole human race.  Division among Christians and within the Catholic Church is a source of scandal to the proclamation of the gospel.

The call to communion presupposes that we live a life of communion by living in love with each other.  Pope St John Paul II proposes that a spirituality of communion “indicates above all the heart’s contemplation of the mystery of the Trinity dwelling in us, and whose light we must also be able to see shining on the face of the brothers and sisters around us. A spirituality of communion also means an ability to think of our brothers and sisters in faith within the profound unity of the Mystical Body, and therefore as ‘those who are a part of me’. This makes us able to share their joys and sufferings, to sense their desires and attend to their needs, to offer them deep and genuine friendship. A spirituality of communion implies also the ability to see what is positive in others, to welcome it and prize it as a gift from God: not only as a gift for the brother or sister who has received it directly, but also as a ‘gift for me’. A spirituality of communion means, finally, to know how to ‘make room’ for our brothers and sisters, bearing ‘each other’s burdens’ (cf Gal 6:2) and resisting the selfish temptations which constantly beset us and provoke competition, careerism, distrust and jealousy.”  (NMI, 43)

Only when we change our selfish and self-centered attitudes towards our fellow Catholics, can we then focus on the change and updating of the structures of communion.  Pope St John Paul II warns us, “Let us have no illusions: unless we follow this spiritual path, external structures of communion will serve very little purpose. They would become mechanisms without a soul, “masks” of communion rather than its means of expression and growth.’  (NMI No. 43)  Without this interior disposition, we will not have the humility and the appreciation of the structures of communion; Pope and bishops, bishops and priests, priests and laity, clergy and religious; and all the councils, committees, organizations, associations, ecclesial movements in the Church.

All of us are called to be for each other and work with each other for the greater good of the Church and the spread of the gospel.  It is this parochial-mindedness, of protecting one’s turf and enriching one’s organization at the expense of the larger body that causes much division and competition in the life of the Church.   The irony is that the laity and non-Catholics see us as one Church.  If anything happens or a scandal is caused by a Catholic organization or even a person of standing, the whole image of the Catholic Church is tarnished and put in question.  But in reality, many of our Catholic organizations and even parishes work as if they are not connected or responsible to the local Church or the universal Church. It is this unhealthy competition among ourselves as Catholics that cause the mission of the Church to be compromised because it leads to disunity, jealousy and division.

Finally, there is still yet another pitfall that the call to conversion is warning us, namely, the sin of complacency.  Even though some of us might live good lives, it might not mean that our house is in order.  The temptation to complacency will lead to minimalism and indifference.  The longer we are as Catholics or in an organization, there is always that danger of us falling into mediocrity due to routine, repetition and boredom.  When creativity and enthusiasm is lacking, boredom will lead us to other sins.  We will try to find other means to fill our emptiness, restlessness and sadness.  Without enthusiasm and motivation, we will lose our zeal for the gospel.  Complacency always springs from neglect in our prayer life, in the regular celebration of the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, and daily contemplation on the Word of God; and living a life of communion with fellow Catholics.

This explains why Jesus warns us through the story of the unclean spirit who invited seven other spirits to live in the man who had tidied his house.  Putting our house in order is not sufficient to live a life of faith.  We must be proactive.  We cannot simply just sit and wait for things to happen.  Rather, we must use our ingenuity to find new ways to proclaim the gospel and reach out to people.  Indeed, Jesus makes it clear “He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.”  Either we are actively for Jesus or against Him.  Our faith in Christ cannot be that of indifference or complacency.  Being complacent about our faith in itself a counter-witness.   More than just a counter-witness, it means that we are in danger of losing our faith because the temptations of the world and the falsehood of the world will draw us away from our faith in the Lord.  Conversely, we evangelize ourselves by evangelizing others.

Today, we must consciously pray to Jesus who is the strong man who can help us to overcome our sins.  For Jesus assures us, “So long as a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed.”  We must therefore turn to Jesus who can heal us of our wounds and forgive our sins.  We must rely on Jesus who will help us to remain faithful to our calling.  Only through Jesus could we find true peace and joy.  The battle against Satan and his works cannot simply be fought using our human effort but by the grace of God.

Let us take heed of the invitation to conversion by putting our house in order.  But unlike the Israelites, we do not do so simply because we are fearful of the judgment of the coming of the day of the Lord.  For us Christians, the Day of the Lord is as near to us as the moment we welcome the Lord into our house and invite Him to put our house in order.  For us, then, the day of the Lord is not a day of judgment but a day of liberation for authenticity of life and love.  When the Lord enters into our life, we will be filled with joy and peace.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Commentary on Luke 11:15-26 From Living Space

“There are none so blind as those who will not see.”

In today’s passage Jesus frees a person from enslavement to an evil power which had rendered him mute, so that he could not speak. (In Matthew’s version of this story, the man is also blind.) As Christians, many of us can suffer from the same evil influence when we refuse or are afraid to acknowledge openly our Christian faith. We hide and we remain silent, especially when the values we hold are attacked or ridiculed. Once liberated, the man could speak and he did so, much to the amazement of the crowd. Let us, too, pray for this gift of speech, to be able to say the right thing at the right time.

But there were those present who accused Jesus of using the demon’s power to drive out the evil spirit. At the same time, in spite of the extraordinary signs that Jesus was initiating on almost a daily basis – including the one they had just witnessed which caused such astonishment among the people – his enemies asked him for a sign from God.

There is a clear gap between the leaders and the people here. While the leaders keep asking Jesus for his credentials, the people are shown as constantly praising and thanking God for all that is being done among them through Jesus.

Jesus then shows the self-contradictions in his opponents’ charges. A kingdom that is split by internal rivalries cannot survive. Why would evil spirits attack each other and so frustrate their goals? And, Jesus asks his accusers, when their own people drive out demons, by whose power do they do it? “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out devils, then the reign of God is among you.”

When people are liberated from the control of evil spirits, that is a sure sign that the loving power of God is at work. Any other interpretation does not make sense. And the ‘reign of God’ is personified and embodied in Jesus himself. It will also become present in his disciples who do his work.

And Jesus goes on to give another image. A strong man guarding his house and possessions remains undisturbed until someone stronger comes and overthrows him. That is clearly what is happening. Jesus is the stronger one and the evil spirits are being driven away by him. They are helpless before him. This liberation of people and society from evil powers is one of the most dramatic proofs that the all-powerful reign of God is present in the person of Jesus. What further signs could be asked for?

“The man who is not with me is against me, and the man who does not gather with me scatters.”

There can be no neutrality where Jesus is concerned. We have to make our choice – for him or against. Not to choose is itself a choice – against him. Compare this with the similar but actually quite different saying with one we saw earlier (9:50): “Anyone who is not against you is for you”.

This was in the context of the Apostle John complaining that he saw a man cast out demons in Jesus’ name. In so far as that nameless person was doing Jesus’ work and doing it in Jesus’ name, he was with Jesus. That surely has implications for the many good things that non-Catholics and others who are not Christians at all are doing.

And this saying about the non-acceptance of neutrality leads to another warning. It is not enough to have been liberated from the power of an evil spirit. Otherwise it may come back “to find the house swept and tidied” and bring even worse spirits with it. The end result is that the person’s situation is even worse than before. No, the emptiness left by the departure of the evil spirit has to be actively filled with the Spirit of Jesus.

Was Jesus referring to some of the people around him, especially his critics, who, by their meticulous observance of the Law, saw themselves as morally blameless but in whose lives the positive presence of the Spirit, as exemplified in Jesus himself, was totally absent?  This is something we need to reflect on with regard to our use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

It is easy to use the sacrament to get the forgiveness of our past sins and leave it at that. To have the feeling of now having a clean slate.  Nature may abhor a vacuum but the devil loves one! The true reconciliation that the sacrament calls for demands a new and stronger commitment to the living of our Christian life. The sacrament is intended to be an experience of conversion and change. It is much more concerned with the future than with the past.  The past is gone and there is nothing we can do about it. The present is in our hands and that is where we meet God.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2276g/

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, October 8, 2017 — “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

October 7, 2017

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 139

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Reading 1 IS 5:1-7

Let me now sing of my friend,
my friend’s song concerning his vineyard.
My friend had a vineyard
on a fertile hillside;
he spaded it, cleared it of stones,
and planted the choicest vines;
within it he built a watchtower,
and hewed out a wine press.
Then he looked for the crop of grapes,
but what it yielded was wild grapes.

Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard:
What more was there to do for my vineyard
that I had not done?
Why, when I looked for the crop of grapes,
did it bring forth wild grapes?
Now, I will let you know
what I mean to do with my vineyard:
take away its hedge, give it to grazing,
break through its wall, let it be trampled!
Yes, I will make it a ruin:
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
but overgrown with thorns and briers;
I will command the clouds
not to send rain upon it.
The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah are his cherished plant;
he looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed!
for justice, but hark, the outcry!

Responsorial Psalm PS 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20

R. (Is 5:7a) The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.
A vine from Egypt you transplanted;
you drove away the nations and planted it.
It put forth its foliage to the Sea,
its shoots as far as the River.
R. The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.
Why have you broken down its walls,
so that every passer-by plucks its fruit,
The boar from the forest lays it waste,
and the beasts of the field feed upon it?
R. The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.
Once again, O LORD of hosts,
look down from heaven, and see;
take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted
the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
R. The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.
Then we will no more withdraw from you;
give us new life, and we will call upon your name.
O LORD, God of hosts, restore us;
if your face shine upon us, then we shall be saved.
R. The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

Reading 2 PHIL 4:6-9

Brothers and sisters:
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters,
whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,
if there is any excellence
and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.
Keep on doing what you have learned and received
and heard and seen in me.
Then the God of peace will be with you.

AlleluiaCF. JN 15:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I have chosen you from the world, says the Lord,
to go and bear fruit that will remain.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel MT 21:33-43

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“Hear another parable.
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
When vintage time drew near,
he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,
another they killed, and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,
but they treated them in the same way.
Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking,
‘They will respect my son.’
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,
‘This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’
They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”
They answered him,
“He will put those wretched men to a wretched death
and lease his vineyard to other tenants
who will give him the produce at the proper times.”
Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?

Therefore, I say to you,
the kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

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The Cornerstone by Ray Pritchard
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“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone” (Psalm 118:22).

The image comes from the ancient quarries where highly-trained stonemasons carefully chose the stones used in construction. No stone was more important than the cornerstone because the integrity of the whole structure depended on the cornerstone containing exactly the right lines. If the cornerstone was not exactly right, the entire building would be out of line. For that reason, builders inspected many stones, rejecting each one until they found the one they wanted. Rejected stones might be used in other parts of the building, but they would never become the cornerstone or the capstone (the first and last stones put in place).

When Peter preached to the Jewish leaders in Acts 4:8–12, he quoted Psalm 118:22 to show that Jesus is the rejected stone whom God made to be the cornerstone of salvation. They (the Jewish leaders) rejected him, but God not only accepted him but put him in the position of highest honor.

Peter pressed the point home with this powerful conclusion: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). These words are utterly exclusive. There is no other hope, no other way, and no other name than the name of Jesus. If we would be saved, we must come God’s way or we won’t come at all.

Do not be like the builders who rejected God’s Stone of salvation! Do not reject Jesus Christ. Do not stumble over this rejected stone. The very stone the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. May God open your eyes to see Jesus as he really is—the Cornerstone of eternal salvation.

Taken from “Rejected Stone” by Keep Believing Ministries (used by permission).

http://www.jesus.org/is-jesus-god/old-testament-prophecies/the-stone-that-the-builders-rejected-became-the-cornerstone.html

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Don’t Reject Anybody, Ever

The Gospel teaches us to never give up hope. No person is beyond salvation. Everyone is worthy of our care. We are called to care for the marginalized — the sick, the old, the forgotten, the insane, the addicted.

Because each and every human being is related to me through Jesus Christ I cannot overlook another who is suffering. The “Sanctity of Human Life” means than in each of us lives the spark, the life of God.

We forget too often what we are called to do and what we are here for.

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From The Abbot

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Saint Paul tells us today in the second reading, from the Letter to the Philippians: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” The other two readings, the first one from the Prophet Isaiah and the Gospel from Saint Matthew, speak of God’s love for us that is so intense that it is expressed in images of destruction for those who will not listen to His love and respond to it.

Surely we must be mature enough to understand that Scripture uses images. There is no way that our loving God is going to try to destroy us or even try to harm us in any way. The images that are used in Scripture sometimes leave us with a sense that God is just waiting to judge us and throw us in Hell. But that is because we misunderstand the words and images of Scripture. We take them as an accurate image of God. Instead, the words of Scripture are the words of men, reflecting in some Divine Way, the reality of God.

We have to know that images that depict God as angry reflect the way that we feel at times when nothing goes the way we want it to go, even when we are trying to be good. We also have to recognize that bad actions on our own part will bring bad results in our lives—not because of God wanting to do something bad to us but because our life will reflect the way that we live. If we live dishonestly, it will destroy us eventually. If we live just according to the lusts of the flesh, that also will eventually destroy any deep relationships what we might have. If we live only seeking power, we will at some point lose power and realize that what we sought was worth nothing.

It is our own actions that actually end up condemning us and making our lives to be a mess—not God. So many of the great theologians and saints have said in their writings that God condemns no one. Rather we condemn ourselves by the choices that we make.

The images today in the first reading and the Gospel are about what we humans do with our lives, both personally and as a people or as a community. We mess things up and we reject God and His ways. The image used to show that God sees what is happening is that of God’s anger—but we must remember that it is God who is upset with us for choosing against Him. God always loves us unconditionally and even accepts our rejection of Him. God cannot change us unless we choose to let God change us. Sometimes when our lives are a mess, all we can do is ask God: “Help me.” That is enough. But when we blame the mess on God and reject God, then God cannot help us unless we have some openness to Him.

So the message of the readings today is very clear: choose God and pray to God with a complete confidence. If we reject God, he cannot go against our own free will which He gave us. God’s choice is always love! Our choice is up to us.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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08 OCTOBER, 2017, Sunday, 27th Week, Ordinary Time
THE CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO AN UNREQUITED LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ISAIAH 5:1-7PHILIPPIANS 4:6-9MATT 21:33-43]

It is the constant teaching of the bible that God loves us tremendously and that His love is unconditional.  His love cannot be merited nor earned.  God gives us His love freely without conditions.  Justification or salvation is faith in His love and mercy alone.  Yet, there is a danger when this proclamation is over-emphasized to the extent that a response is not necessary; and that all of us can be saved, whether we respond to His love or not, or whether we do good or evil.  When this happens, love that is received is unappreciated.   Worse still, the gospel of Christ is reduced to cheap grace.  This is precisely what happened to the Israelites in the first reading and the Jewish leaders during the time of Jesus.  Ingrates are of two kinds, namely, those who do not appreciate what they have and those who are not only unappreciative but would even repay kindness with evil.

In the first instance, in the parable of the Vineyard from Prophet Isaiah, we hear the aching words of God who was disappointed at the lack of response from Israel.  In spite of the fact that God had given everything that Israel needed, the people, instead of growing to become more like God in love, lived a life without integrity, justice and love.  Israel took the unconditional love of the Lord for granted.  They did not respond by living a covenanted life with God and with each other.  Instead of living as a community, the people were destroying each other.  This was certainly not the kind of community that God intended for Israel.

In the second parable of the Wicked Tenants, we have the case of ingrates who returned evil for kindness.  These ingrates were worse than those who abused their privileges.  These were the people who would bite the very hands that feed them. Instead of repaying the kindness of the owner by settling their dues; the tenants had his servants, messengers and even his own son murdered.  This was the height of greed and ingratitude.  Of course, this parable was directed at the Jewish leaders.  Instead of being grateful to God, they became so self-righteous and blind to their pride and selfishness.

Of course, we too can easily identify ourselves with God.  Often, people whom we have loved or nurtured forget us when they become successful in life.  These are the people whom we have loved, cared for and helped financially, materially and emotionally. And yet these same people would be the ones who will one day become our enemies and turn against us.  They will slander and plot against us.  This is perhaps the greatest kind of pain that one can suffer.  Indeed, I have come across numerous cases when parents were driven out of their house after having given all their savings to their children.  Instead of being grateful to their parents for paying for their education and even their house, they make life difficult for them and eventually evict them from their their own house.  Such sad stories are common and heart-breaking.  It is really tragic.

In the face of such ingratitude, what is the appropriate response?  The instinctive reaction is to retaliate.  An eye for an eye is the principle that many people live by.  That is why, some of us can become very vicious because of unrequited love.  Some become so vicious to the extent of plotting to destroy the people that they love.  Others begin to demand back from the other person the gifts that have been given.  Retaliation however is certainly not the way to resolve and heal the situation.  Vindictiveness and revenge would only breed greater misery, not only for those who hurt us but also for the aggrieved party as well.  It would be self-defeating.  To react to situations make us slaves of others.  It means that others are dictating our happiness and our lives and how we act.  Thus, instead of reacting, we must choose to act and to act rightly.  We are called to be actors, not reactors.

What, then, should our response be?  We should take heed of the advice of St Paul.  He asked us not to worry but to seek the peace of God.  This peace of God “which is so much greater than we can understand”, will guard our hearts and thoughts.  Unless we pray for this peace of God within ourselves, then it is not possible to make any response.  The truth is that when we are hurt, we cannot love.  Indeed, a person who is hurt can only think of his pain and nothing else.  So long as we nurse our pain and hurts, we cannot love others who have hurt us.  We would only react and not act to the wrongs that we encounter.  In any case, to bear grudges and nurse our anger is to hurt ourselves even more.  Truly, until we are at peace, within and without, we cannot think rightly, much less to talk about forgiveness.

How can we maintain our peace?  St Paul says that we must pray for it with prayer and thanksgiving.  Only in prayer can we come to understand ourselves better and look at the problem from another perspective and look at life the way God sees others.  We must also pray with thanksgiving in our hearts. Only a thankful person can look at life objectively.  A thankful person is one who is able to see the goodness in every situation even when it is an unpleasant event.   In thanksgiving, we learn to be grateful for all that we already have and the opportunities given to us to grow to become stronger and more loving.   Through prayer and thanksgiving, we find peace within ourselves because we eventually acquire the mind and heart of Christ.

With the mind of Christ, we can now speak of a redemptive love.  We will come to understand that revenge and retaliation is not the way to heal the situation.  The fact that a person is ungrateful to us already implies that he is sick at heart and in his mind.  He is more to be pitied than to be blamed.  Hence, we must take the cue from God Himself.  He allowed His Son to suffer a tragic death so that His death can be redemptive.  For God knows that the only way to conquer evil and selfishness is through love unto death.  It is the way of unconditional love.  This is the cornerstone of life that Jesus speaks about.   The way of foolish love is the keystone by which God will win us over to His love. When we experience the forgiving love of someone whom we have been unjustly wronged, we cannot but feel ashamed and be transformed in our lives.

Furthermore, when we reflect on our own lives, we also recognize how often we have been ungrateful to others as well, especially to God who has loved and blessed us so much.  None of us can claim that we have responded totally to the love of God.  None of us can boast that we have given a total response.  If that is so, then it behooves us to have compassion on others who have not given the full response to the love and goodness that we have showered on them.  Like us, they too need time to grow in gratitude and be sensitive to the goodness and kindness of others.  In this respect, Paul is the perfect example.  He himself understood how he had failed to respond to God’s love.  But God had been merciful to him by giving him a new start.

In the final analysis, we must not take matters into our own hands.  If ungrateful people do not change their selfish attitudes, then ultimately, they will only harm themselves.  We must realize that if God wants us to respond to His love by living a good, holy, loving and righteous life, it is not for His sake but for ours.  For without a life of justice, love and peace, we cannot be truly happy.  We will only hurt ourselves and destroy ourselves when we fail to respond to God’s love by being transformed into this likeness.  This, precisely, is the warning of the first reading and the gospel.  It must not be seen as a threat but rather as a warning when Jesus said, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants.”  For if we do not appreciate what we have, then one day when our privileges will be taken away from us. We will have no one to blame except ourselves.  And we cannot blame those who take away our privileges since love cannot be imposed.

This is our challenge today.  Will we become reactors when others are ungrateful to us in love; or will we be actors and respond to ingrates with compassion, forgiveness and patience?  Because if we do, then perhaps with God’s grace, they will one day come to their senses.  And if we are the ingrates, then we need to conscientise ourselves lest we suffer the foolishness of our indifference and selfishness.  Instead of bearing fruits for us, we will turn sour and become bitter with life.  The choice is ours.

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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, October 7, 2017 — I have given you the power to tread upon serpents and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy — and nothing will harm you.

October 6, 2017

Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary
Lectionary: 460

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Reading 1 BAR 4:5-12, 27-29

Fear not, my people!
Remember, Israel,
You were sold to the nations
not for your destruction;
It was because you angered God
that you were handed over to your foes.
For you provoked your Maker
with sacrifices to demons, to no-gods;
You forsook the Eternal God who nourished you,
and you grieved Jerusalem who fostered you.
She indeed saw coming upon you
the anger of God; and she said:

“Hear, you neighbors of Zion!
God has brought great mourning upon me,
For I have seen the captivity
that the Eternal God has brought
upon my sons and daughters.
With joy I fostered them;
but with mourning and lament I let them go.
Let no one gloat over me, a widow,
bereft of many:
For the sins of my children I am left desolate,
because they turned from the law of God.

Fear not, my children; call out to God!
He who brought this upon you will remember you.
As your hearts have been disposed to stray from God,
turn now ten times the more to seek him;
For he who has brought disaster upon you
will, in saving you, bring you back enduring joy.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 69:33-35, 36-37

R. (34) The Lord listens to the poor.
“See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.
Let the heavens and the earth praise him,
the seas and whatever moves in them!”
R. The Lord listens to the poor.
For God will save Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah.
They shall dwell in the land and own it,
and the descendants of his servants shall inherit it,
and those who love his name shall inhabit it.
R. The Lord listens to the poor.

AlleluiaSEE MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

A Light To The Gentiles
 “Cast your nets on the right side….” By Greg Olsen

Gospel LK 10:17-24

The seventy-two disciples returned rejoicing and said to Jesus,
“Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.”
Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky.
Behold, I have given you the power
‘to tread upon serpents’ and scorpions
and upon the full force of the enemy
and nothing will harm you.
Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you,
but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

At that very moment he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said,
“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows who the Son is except the Father,
and who the Father is except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

Turning to the disciples in private he said,
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.
For I say to you,
many prophets and kings desired to see what you see,
but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom

According to Jesus, each of hus has more strength and power than he or she fully realizes. How often in the Gospels to we read, “Do not be afraid.”

Who is Jesus telling, ” I have given you the power ‘to tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you.”?

And how is i9t that we free up this power and strength?

“If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

“Eat my body. Drink my blood.”

Do we utilize the sacraments enough?

We are just like the first disciples that went out two by two.

“Take nothing for the journey,” He told them, “no staff, no bag, no bread, … — without a purse and without an extra garment…”

And always, he says, “Do not be afraid.”

And if we need more, “Knock and the door will be opened….” (Matthew 7: 7)

Related:

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Commentary on Luke 10:17-24 From Living Space

We saw at the beginning of chapter 10 how Jesus had sent his 72 disciples out to all the places where he himself would visit. Today we see them returning full of joy and satisfaction. “Lord, even the demons were subject to us in your name.” They discovered that, in his name, they were able to do the same things that Jesus did.

In reply, Jesus said to them: “I saw Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” The power of evil is being reversed and this was partly the doing of his disciples working in his name. And he further reassures them: “I give you the power to tread on snakes and scorpions and over the power of the enemy: nothing at all will be able to hurt you.”

‘Snakes and scorpions’ more likely represent evil powers and so the statement is not to be taken literally and still less to be tested (as some obscure sects have tried to do with predictably tragic consequences!). It is true that for the committed disciple nothing can really hurt them. Physically, maybe, but not their real selves. Nothing, as Paul says, can separate us from the love of God, that is, the love that God extends to us at every moment of every day.

Then Jesus tells his disciples the real reason why they should be happy. It is not because they have special powers over evil spirits but “because your names are written in heaven”. In other words, their blessedness comes not from what they are able to do but because they have been chosen as the instruments for God to do his work, to make the Kingdom a reality. That is the origin of our blessedness too.

Then follows a beautiful prayer of Jesus to the Father. He thanks the Father because all that is coming into the world through Jesus is being made known not to the wise and great ones of this world but to “the little ones”, the people who, in the eyes of the majority, are of no account. No one really knows the Son except the Father. And no one really knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son reveals the Father.

And, since that day on the lake shore when Jesus called four fishermen to be his followers, he has been calling very ordinary people to know his identity, to hear his message and share his vision.

And so he can say truly to them, “Blessed are the eyes which see what you see. Many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see and have not seen them, to hear what you have heard and not heard them.”

All of this applies to so many of us, too. We, for reasons only known to God himself, have been given knowledge of the Son. We too, by means of the Church, have been given a vision denied to so many, have heard the Word which is the Way to truth and life.

Whatever problems we may be facing right now, let us on this day count our blessings and express our gratitude for them. And the only way to do that is to say ‘Yes’ to Jesus and his Gospel. Let us start doing that right now.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2267g/

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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07 OCTOBER, 2017, Saturday, 26th Week, Ordinary Time
MAKE THE NAME OF JESUS KNOWN THROUGH MARY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Baruch 4:5-1227-29Lk 10:17-24]

What is the primary role of Mary if not to lead all to Jesus so that we might know the Father’s love?  Indeed, many people in the world still do not know Jesus and therefore do not know the Father and their calling in life.  Only Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, can lead us to the Father.  It is in this context that we say that Jesus is the only mediator between God and man.  From this perspective, Jesus declared, “Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do.  Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

To come to know the Son, we need the childlikeness of Jesus.  We therefore must come to the Father in humility and faith. “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children.  Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do.”  This is indeed the greatest joy, to know the Father through the Son.  That is why Jesus, in response to the elated disciples who returned from their ministry, said, “Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.” Knowing the Lord personally is therefore critical in Christian life.  This is what gives us completeness and joy.

Indeed this is what Mary wills for us, that we come to know her Son.  Mary’s role in the history of salvation is to give us Jesus.  The letter to Galatians says, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,  to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.  Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” (Gal 4:4-7)   Of course, it is more than just giving us Jesus by giving birth to Him; she desires that Jesus be born in our hearts, that we too will share with her the joy of conceiving Jesus in our hearts by knowing Him intimately, sharing in His life and love, and imitating Him in doing the Father’s will.

Consequently, praying to Mary who is the Star of the New Evangelization  entails bringing back our lost sheep and bringing others to Christ.  This is done by being a soldier of Mary in the world.  Like the prophet in the first reading from Baruch, we are called to reach out to those in exile and invite them to return.  “Take courage, my children, call on God: he who brought disaster on you will remember you. As by your will you first strayed away from God, so now turn back and search for him ten times as hard; for as he brought down those disasters on you, so will he rescue you and give you eternal joy.”  Re-evangelizing our Catholics is the first priority.  Hence, we are called to try to reach out to them, using whatever means available.  Bringing people to Mary is but the first step to restoring the faith of our Catholics.

Pope John Paul II in Novo Milennio Ineunute wrote, “We are certainly not seduced by the naive expectation that, faced with the great challenges of our time, we shall find some magic formula. No, we shall not be saved by a formula but by a Person, and the assurance which he gives us: I am with you! It is not therefore a matter of inventing a “new programme”. The programme already exists: it is the plan found in the Gospel and in the living Tradition, it is the same as ever.  Ultimately, it has its centre in Christ himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history until its fulfilment in the heavenly Jerusalem.”

The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary was commemorated because of the victory of the Christians against their enemies.   We too are the soldiers of Mary, not only to defend the Church, but it is also our duty to win souls for Christ.  How can we be missionaries for Christ? What does it take to be apostles of Christ and soldiers of Mary?  What would be our weapons and our strategy to fight this battle in the world?  Like the apostles, we are called to cast out demons, that is, to save the world from the influence of the Evil One, to liberate humanity from darkness and the slavery of the Evil One.

Where can we, as devotees of our Lady, find the passion to do the work of the New Evangelization? Firstly, the key to the success of Mary’s children is prayer.  From beginning to the end, it is always prayer.  Prayer must permeate right through all our apostolates and ministries.  Nothing is done without the consciousness of prayer.  Even throughout the day, three times, we are asked to pray the Angelus, in the morning, at noon and in the evening.   It is almost mirroring the Liturgy of the Hours where the Church invites us to pray at key hours during the day.

Secondly, we must contemplate on the face of the crucified Christ by contemplating on the face of Mary.  What better way than to pray the Rosary, using all the four mysteries that the Church has provided us.   In the rosary, we contemplate especially the critical events in the life of Jesus and Mary.  Through the rosary, we learn to share the joy of Mary, her sorrows and her hopes as well.  Sharing her joys, we feel consoled at the fulfillment of the promises of God to our forefathers.  Sharing Mary’s sorrows for the world, we cannot but be moved by her to share her pain for the world. By contemplating on the passion and death of our Lord in union with our Mother Mary, we will be able to identify with our Lord in His love for sinners.   It is for this reason that Jesus gave us His mother Mary at the foot of the cross.  “Behold, your mother. And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”   Mary is called the associate of Christ’s redemption because she associated herself with our Lord in offering Himself for the salvation of humanity since the day she said her fiat at the incarnation till His passion, death and resurrection. Like the prophet, we are called to weep and feel for our people who are lost in life and ruining themselves because they live without hope, meaning and purpose.  These people must be called to repentance.  “God has sent me great sorrow. I have seen my sons and daughters taken into captivity, to which they have been sentenced by the Eternal. I had reared them joyfully; in tears, in sorrow, I watched them go away. Do not, any of you, exult over me, a widow, deserted by so many; I suffer loneliness because of the sins of my own children, who turned away from the Law of God.”  By contemplating on His resurrection, we too are given full confidence of freedom and liberation.  Our hope for eternal life is certain because of Christ’s resurrection and Mary’s assumption into heaven.  Where they are, we will be there with them.

Thirdly, we are called to sanctify ourselves the whole day.  Again, this is in line with what Pope John Paul II in his apostolic letter, Novo Milennio Ineunte, exhorts; that holiness must be the key to all pastoral planning.  We need to grow in holiness.  He wrote, “I have no hesitation in saying that all pastoral initiatives must be set in relation to holiness. Stressing holiness remains more than ever an urgent pastoral task.”   There can be no effective mission unless we are serious about the goal of Christian life, which is holiness.

Fourthly, the strength of our missionary endeavours is that as soldiers of Mary’s army, we work as a team.  We never work alone.  Following Christ in sending out His disciples in pairs to the towns and villages proclaiming the Kingdom of God, we too likewise must work as a team in the work of evangelization.   Alone, we are weak and fearful.  But when we have someone with us to evangelize together, we won’t feel so intimidated.  And better still when we have a faith-filled Catholic accompanying us, we can learn the art of evangelization quickly from him or her.  Collaboration and teamwork, which is the catchphrase in today’s ministry, is something that we must be familiar with.

Fifthly, like good soldiers, we need to review our work.  We must come before our Lord in prayer and discernment.  There is the question of accountability.  Evaluation helps us to be focused and responsible.  Otherwise, we tend to be lazy and indifferent. The failure in many organizations is that members are not accountable and so they do not produce fruits in their Christian life.   The need for accountability will remind us of our responsibility so that we can consciously do our duties in the work of evangelization.

In the final analysis, like the apostles, our great joy is in coming closer to the Father through the Son in our devotion to Mary.  Through prayer, works of mercy and direct evangelization, we are sanctified in our Christian life.  So instead of thinking how much sacrifice we have given to the Lord, we should be thanking the Lord for His love and mercy.  By using us for His mission, we benefit in the end because we are sanctified. Indeed, this is what the Lord told His disciples, “Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.”

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, October 4, 2017 — Saint Francis of Assisi — “The favoring hand of my God was upon me.” — “I will follow you wherever you go.”

October 3, 2017

Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi
Lectionary: 457

4. Nehemiah building the wall: Nehemiah because of his position didn't stand by and watch while the other Israelites worked. He worked hard on the wall right alongside them. "from the ascending of the dawn until the stars came out." It was an amazing feat in only 52 days and they accomplished it in spite of tremendous opposition. Romans 12:1 Nehemiah 4:21;6:15

Reading 1 NEH 2:1-8

In the month Nisan of the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes,
when the wine was in my charge,
I took some and offered it to the king.
As I had never before been sad in his presence,
the king asked me, “Why do you look sad?
If you are not sick, you must be sad at heart.”
Though I was seized with great fear, I answered the king:
“May the king live forever!
How could I not look sad
when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins,
and its gates have been eaten out by fire?”
The king asked me, “What is it, then, that you wish?”
I prayed to the God of heaven and then answered the king:
“If it please the king,
and if your servant is deserving of your favor,
send me to Judah, to the city of my ancestors’ graves,
to rebuild it.”
Then the king, and the queen seated beside him,
asked me how long my journey would take
and when I would return.
I set a date that was acceptable to him,
and the king agreed that I might go.

I asked the king further: “If it please the king,
let letters be given to me for the governors
of West-of-Euphrates,
that they may afford me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah;
also a letter for Asaph, the keeper of the royal park,
that he may give me wood for timbering the gates
of the temple-citadel and for the city wall
and the house that I shall occupy.”
The king granted my requests,
for the favoring hand of my God was upon me.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6

R. (6ab) Let my tongue be silenced if I ever forget you!
By the streams of Babylon
we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
On the aspens of that land
we hung up our harps.
R. Let my tongue be silenced if I ever forget you!
Though there our captors asked of us
the lyrics of our songs,
And our despoilers urged us to be joyous:
“Sing for us the songs of Zion!”
R. Let my tongue be silenced if I ever forget you!
How could we sing a song of the LORD
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand be forgotten!
R. Let my tongue be silenced if I ever forget you!
May my tongue cleave to my palate
if I remember you not,
If I place not Jerusalem
ahead of my joy.
R. Let my tongue be silenced if I ever forget you!

Alleluia PHIL 3:8-9

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I consider all things so much rubbish
that I may gain Christ and be found in him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 9:57-62

As Jesus and his disciples were proceeding
on their journey, someone said to him,
“I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus answered him,
“Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”
And to another he said, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.”
And another said, “I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
Jesus answered him, “No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.”

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Commentary on Luke 9:57-62 From Living Space

Today’s passage has to be seen in the light of yesterday’s. Jesus has reached an important stage in his public life and mission. He is now irrevocably on his way to Jerusalem and all that that means for him – and us.

But he does not want to go alone. His whole purpose is to have people go with him. Already there are his disciples but there will be more. Today we see three “candidates” coming forward with a lot of good will but Jesus makes them aware of what following him really means. Their responses to Jesus’ remarks are not given so we do not know whether they became followers or not. The point Luke is making is to show what following entails.

  1. The first says very generously that he will go wherever Jesus is going. Jesus answers: “Foxes have their lairs and the birds of the air their nests but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

These words of Jesus indicate not poverty or indigence but freedom. To follow Jesus fully one needs to be free, not to be tied down by anything and not to be anxious about having or not having things.

There is no evidence that Jesus was poor in the sense of being deprived of the necessities of life. He did not own a house but it is never even hinted that he had to sleep out in the open air. He belonged to a group of people who more than willingly shared what they had with him.

  1. The second man was actually invited by Jesus to be a follower. But he asked first to be allowed to go and bury his father. This does not mean that his father had just died and he wanted to attend the funeral. It is more likely that he wanted, as a dutiful son, to wait for his father’s death before going off with Jesus.

But that is not good enough. The call of Jesus transcends needs of family, tradition and culture. The needs of the living outweigh those of the dead. His father might not die for years; what was the man supposed to do in the meantime?

Once we are aware of Jesus’ call the only time to answer is now. In spite of that, we should not read these lines too rigidly. Clearly, for example, there would be times when one would want to be present at the death of a parent, especially to provide support for the grieving spouse. That would be in total harmony with respect for parents and love for the neighbour. But the man in the example is in a totally different situation. He is talking about an event in the future whose time and place are not known.

  1. Another would-be follower asked first for permission to go home and say goodbye to his family. It was similar to a request made by Elisha when he was called to succeed Elijah as prophet. Elijah’s answer was, “Go ahead.”
  2. So what we have here seems a very reasonable request but it is rejected by Jesus who says, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Like Jesus himself turning his face towards Jerusalem and all that it means for him, once the decision has been made to serve God and his people, there can be no turning back. Again, the words of Jesus should not be taken literally.

Read in that way, they would be totally at variance with the loving and compassionate quality of Jesus’ character. The point that is being made in all three examples is the absoluteness, the unconditionally that is required in the following of Jesus. It is a theme which is emphasised more than once in Luke’s gospel. We cannot be fence-sitters, to have our cake and eat it. Being a follower of Jesus can never be a part-time affair. It is all or nothing. At the same time, the demands of agape-love are always there. It is a matter each time of discerning where the truly loving act lies.

If we are honest, a lot of us are like these men in our following of Christ and in the living out of our faith. We do have our material wants (distinct from needs), we feel we cannot live without “our little comforts in life”.

Let us pray today for a high degree of freedom in being able to accept unconditionally God’s will for us. To have that freedom is one of the greatest blessings and graces of our life.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2264g/

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When Jesus calls, our response must be immediate and total.

Art: Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler by Heinrich Hofmann

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In the Gospel: Jesus invites us to follow Him. But he makes it clear we shouldn’t get bogged down by the customs and work and goodies of this world.

“Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.”

My priest friend says, “The devil wants us thinking about the past and ourselves. God wants us thinking about others and the future.”

So why do we over eat?

We want to feel good.

We want to consume the abundance of our modern abundant world. The entire American economy is based upon “consumer spending.”

Americans consume more food, electricity, water and just about everything else more than just about all people on the globe today.

And we make more trash than any civilization ever on this earth. And that’s not even counting all the trashy Hollywood films we churn out…

We are all users, takers and consumers.  And I’m not leaving myself out here: I am as bad as any other American from what we used to call “White Middle Class.”

We are “the feel good people.”

And we want no pain or suffering — for ourselves. We are always first thinking about ourselves.

And if pain knocks on our door: screw that. We have drugs for that.

Drugs for anxiety. Drugs for depression. Drugs for “I just don’t feel right.”

It is almost as if Americans feel entitled to take more and more of this world and its resources — and without feeling any pain, guilt, anxiety or anguish.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about anguish:

Anguish is a term used in philosophy, often as a translation from the Latin for angst. It is a paramount feature ofexistentialist philosophy, in which anguish is often understood as the experience of an utterly free being in a world with zero absolutes (existential despair). In the theology of Kierkegaard, it refers to a being with total free will who is in a constant state of spiritual fear that his freedom will lead him to fall short of the standards that God has laid out for him.

In the teachings of Sartre, anguish is seen when an utterly captured being realizes the unpredictability of his or her action. For an example, when walking along a cliff, you would feel anguish to know that you have the freedom to throw yourself down to your imminent death.

“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Cor 6:19)

In the Bible, neither Jesus nor the God of the Old Testament ever says you will feel no pain.  We invented that for ourselves.

Most Americans are fine with abortion: infanticide. Most people in America are fine with sex of all kinds — sex on demand.

The Supreme Court spoke on this very subject on Tuesday, June 25, 2013.

It’s our right. It’s legal.

So that is the Supreme Court.

Supreme for whom?

There will be an accounting. “And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.” (Genesis 9:5)

The first book of the bible talks about an accounting.

I used to have a friend who often said: “When you’re standing naked before the Lord…”

When I am standing naked before the Lord, my first thought will likely be: “I should go on a diet.”

My second thought will surely be: “I should have done more for others.”

But by then it will be too late. And the devil is the one who wants us thinking about the past — and ourselves.

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

(I’ll go wherever you will go, “The Calling.”)

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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● In today’s Gospel the long and hard journey of Jesus continues from the periphery of Galilee toward the capital city. Leaving Galilee, Jesus enters in Samaria and continues toward Jerusalem. But not all understand him. Many abandon him, because the demands are enormous. But others get close to him and present themselves to follow Jesus. At the beginning of his pastoral activity in Galilee, Jesus had called three: Peter, James and John (Lk 5, 8-11). Here also, in Samaria there are three persons who present themselves or who are called. In the responses of Jesus there are the requirements or conditions in order to be able to be his disciples.

● Luke 9, 56-58: The first one of the three new disciples. At that time, as they travelled along, they met a man who said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go”. Jesus answered: “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head”. To this first person who wants to be his disciple, Jesus asks him to divest himself of everything: he has nowhere to lay his head; much less should he seek a false security where to lay the thoughts of his head.

● Luke 9, 59-60: The second one of the three new disciples. To another one he says “Follow me”. And he replied, “Let me go and bury my father first”. Jesus replied: “Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the Kingdom of God”. To this second person called by Jesus to follow Him, he asks him to leave the dead bury the dead. It is a question of a popular saying used to say: leave aside the things of the past. Do not lose time with what happened and look ahead. After having discovered the new life in Jesus, the disciple should not lose time with what has happened.

● Luke 9, 61-62: The third one of the three new disciples. “Another said: I will follow you, Sir, but first let me go and say good-bye to my people at home”. But Jesus replied: once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God”. To this third person called to be a disciple, Jesus asks to break the family bonds of union. On another occasion he had said: Anyone who loves his father and his mother more than me cannot be my disciple (Lk 14, 26; Mt 10, 37). Jesus is more demanding than the Prophet Elijah who allowed Elisha to greet and take leave from his parents (1 K 19, 19-21). This also means to break the nationalistic bonds of race and the patriarchal family structure.

● These are three fundamental requirements as necessary conditions for those who want to be the disciples of Jesus: (a) to abandon material goods, (b) not to be attached to personal goods lived and accumulated in the past (c) to break away from the family bonds. In reality, nobody, even wishing it, can break neither the family bonds, nor break away from things lived in the past. What is asked is to know how to re-integrate everything (material goods, personal life and family life) in a new way around the new axis which is Jesus and the Good News of God which he has brought to us.

● Jesus himself, lived and became aware of what he was asking to his followers. With his decision to go up to Jerusalem Jesus reveals his project. His journey toward Jerusalem (Lk 9, 51 a 19, 27) is represented as the undertaking (Lk 9, 51), the exodus (Lk 9, 31) or the crossing (Lk 17, 11). Arriving in Jerusalem Jesus fulfils the exodus, the undertaking or the definitive crossing from this world toward the Father (Jn 13, 1). Only a truly free person can do this, because such an exodus presupposes to dedicate one’s whole life for the brothers (Lk 23, 44-46; 24, 51). This is the exodus, the crossing, the undertaking of which the communities should become aware in order to be able to carry on Jesus’ project.

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Personal questions

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● Compare each one of these three requirements with your life.
● Which are the problems that arise in your life as a consequence of the decision which you have taken to follow Jesus?

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Concluding prayer

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Yahweh, you examine me and know me,
you know when I sit,
when I rise,
you understand my thoughts from afar. (Ps 139,1-2)

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http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-luke-9-57-62

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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04 OCTOBER, 2017, Wednesday, 26th Week, Ordinary Time
ARE YOU ASHAMED TO BE A CATHOLIC?

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Neh 2:1-8Ps 137:1-6Lk 9:57-62  ]

Not too long ago, we started a “Proud to be Catholic” movement.  What do we mean when we say we are “Proud to be Catholic?”  Some Catholics naively criticized this tag line as something that is not in line with Christian values.  To be proud in this sense is not to be associated with a superiority complex, arrogance or snobbishness of any sort.  On the contrary, to be proud is to be grateful that God has been so kind to accept us as His adopted sons and daughters.  We are humbled and overjoyed that through no credit of ours, God has chosen us in Christ to be His sons and daughters. It is for this reason that we are proud to be Catholic because of the great honour that we have received through the mercy of God.  Our feeling is exactly the same as that of Mary’s when she was chosen to be the mother of the Saviour.

The manifestation of this great joy and honour to be a Catholic is that of evangelization, the announcement of the Good News.  We who have received the Good News freely are now called to do the same.   As Jesus instructed the disciples, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without pay, give without pay.” (Mt 10:8)   Indeed, Mary the Star of the New Evangelization, upon receiving the Good News, immediately set out to announce it to her cousin, Elizabeth, and to bring the joy to John the Baptist who was still in his mother’s womb.   So how do you know that you are proud to be a Catholic?  When you cannot resist talking about Jesus and what He has done for you; and how He is the Way, the Light and the Truth in your life.  Without this missionary endeavor and passion to evangelize you cannot be proud to be a Catholic, regardless what you profess.

What about those who are ashamed to be a Catholic?  Unfortunately, many Catholics are ashamed to own up to their faith.  They hide their faith from others as if they have joined some secret society or belong to a taboo organization.  Most of these Catholics are ashamed because they do not know their faith and what they believe in.  Others are embarrassed because they do not see the Church growing or as dynamic and evangelistic as other Christian communions.  Then there are others who are ashamed because they do not want to suffer possible disadvantages to their positions in society or at work if others come to know that they are Catholic.  They serve their career and money before God. Of course, many are ashamed simply because they live lives that are contrary to the faith and are counter-witnesses in society.  

So if you are proud of your faith, we thank God for the gift of gratitude and the joy of being loved by Him.  If we are ashamed, then instead of running away from the fact, we must confront it like Nehemiah in today’s first reading.  He was saddened to see the state of Jerusalem which was in total ruins.   The walls were broken down and the Temple destroyed.  The king noticed his sadness and inquired the cause of his sadness.  In truth, Nehemiah was taking a big risk in allowing his sadness to be seen by the king because he could be executed for misconduct and disrespect.  He was courageous enough to admit that he was ashamed of the ruins in Jerusalem.  He was disheartened that even his own countrymen were not concerned and were indifferent to the state of the Temple and the city.

Once we acknowledge the sadness in our hearts and the lack of peace within, then we must take courage and initiative to look for a way out.  Instead of condemning the inactivity or slowness of Church leaders in making changes in the Church, or the lack of participation of church members in the activities and growth of the Church, we should instead be proactive like Nehemiah.  He took the occasion to ask the King for leave to go back home to rebuild the Temple. He even had the audacity to ask the King for letters to facilitate his journey and to supply the raw materials to rebuild the city.  Such was the courage and wisdom of Nehemiah, knowing when to seize the opportunity when it came.

However to rebuild the city, the kingdom of God, Jesus warns us firstly that a price has to be paid.  He told the man who wanted to follow Him, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”  Without sacrifice, we cannot go far.  Even Jesus had to suffer the inconvenience, the loneliness, poverty and rejection in His ministry.  Many people want to be Catholic but they are not ready to make sacrifices to attend RCIA class or faith formation; or come for regular spiritual and faith sharing meetings.  They all want to have a share of the resurrection but they want to bypass the cross.

Truly, like Nehemiah, there are many lay workers and volunteers who have made financial sacrifices to work for the Church, full time or part time.  Many willingly join the church workforce, notwithstanding the limited prospects for promotion.  Our salaries and fringe benefits are not comparable to the corporate world.  Many of our volunteers even pay for meals and transport from their own pockets.   But this is true for priests and religious as well.   We are called to make sacrifices by observing the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience for the greater good of the mission.  Without imbibing in these counsels, the mission of the Church would be rendered ineffective.

Secondly, we must be singular-minded, especially in the face of opposition and temptations.  Again, Jesus told the man who said, “I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say good-bye to my people at home.”  Jesus said to him, “Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”   We must be alert to the distractions in our mission.  Very often, we get discouraged because we face opposition to our plans for the Church.  We get disheartened when our priests or leaders do not support or encourage us in our service when we have put in so much effort.  Indeed, too many give up easily when faced with obstacles.  They lack singular mindedness.

Not infrequently, we can be tempted by money, power and status.  We are serving only because we get publicity, popularity or even offered the pleasures of life. Indeed, this is particularly true for priests and religious because many generous and compassionate people would gladly shower us with gifts, holidays and good food, if we allow them.  Such distractions take us away from the mission.  From serving God, we eventually serve ourselves, our convenience and self-interests.  For this reason, Jesus reminds us that our eyes must always be focused on our mission.  We must ensure that in whatever we do, our lifestyle, our choices in life must help us to accomplish our mission of sharing the good news with all of humanity.  We must not allow anything to distract us from fulfilling Christ’s mission.

In the light of these challenges, how do we keep ourselves focused and remain strong in our times?  We must pray continuously like Nehemiah and the psalmist.   At every step in his endeavor to rebuild the Temple, he would turn to God in prayer. He knew that God was with Him and hence he could continue to work hard at rebuilding the Temple even though many were discouraging him, believing that nothing could be done. Without prayers, nothing can be achieved.  Only God can change minds and hearts.

Finally, let us be awake to the urgency of the proclamation of the gospel.  This was what Jesus told the man who wanted to bury his father first.  It is significant that unlike the other two who wanted to follow Jesus voluntarily, Jesus asked the man to follow Him.  But his reply was hesitant.  He said, “Let me go and bury my father first.’”  But the response of Jesus was swift and decisive, “Leave the dead to bury the dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.”  Truly, when God calls, we do not tarry.  Many good things are never done because great inspirations and ideas from the Lord were never taken up.  Nice feelings and beautiful ideas alone without action will not bring about any change.  There are some things that cannot wait.

Make our decision for the Lord and the restoration of His Church today!   Don’t wait any longer.  Come and follow Him.  Come and give your life to Jesus.  Help Him rebuild His Church.  With the psalmist, let us be filled with shame and sorrow that the mission of the Church is met with indifference.  Indeed, we must pray, “By the rivers of Babylon there we sat and wept, remembering Zion; on the poplars that grew there we hung up our harps. For it was there that they asked us, our captors, for songs, our oppressors, for joy.  ‘Sing to us,’ they said, ‘one of Zion’s songs.’ O how could we sing the song of the Lord on alien soil? If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my right hand wither! O let my tongue cleave to my mouth if I remember you not, if I prize not Jerusalem above all my joys.”  How can we allow the Church to continue in this state of lethargy?  If we do not help to rebuild the Church, then the next generation of humanity will suffer as secularization and secularism will destroy all the values of society.  So let us act now.  Let us stand up for God, stand up for Christ and stand up for the Catholic Church!  Let us stand up for our fellow Catholics and say we are proud to be Catholic!

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

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Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” — A priest friend asks everyone who tells him they are troubled that they might want to go to confession and communion immediately.  Why? Because it works…
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Matthew Kelly says there are four signs in every “Dynamic Catholic” —
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The Four Signs are:
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  • Prayer Description: Specifically, Kelly notes that this consists of a daily routine of prayer. “Am I saying the other 93 percent of Catholics don’t pray? No. Their prayer tends to be spontaneous but inconsistent. The 7% have a daily commitment to prayer, a routine” (p. 8).
  • Study Description: “[Dynamic Catholics] see themselves as students of Jesus and his Church, and proactively make an effort to allow his teaching to form them” (p. 14). Kelly also notes that on average they spend 14 minutes each day learning about the faith.
  • Generosity Description: Generosity covers not only time and money, but also generosity in all things. This generosity is a way of life. These people perform selfless service to others…
  • Evangelization Description: While many Dynamic Catholics don’t consider themselves to be evangelists, they “regularly do and say things to share a Catholic perspective with the people who cross their paths.”
I find that these are the same four signs we might see in someone recovering from drug addiction or alcoholism — They pray; They study (The Big Book and other resources; They act with generosity by helping and sponsoring others (They do a lot of “service to others”); and they evangelize (they do “12 Step work” and help others to get and stay sober).
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