Posts Tagged ‘do not be afraid’

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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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

Image result for serpents and scorpions, bible, art, photos

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

Related:

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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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Related:
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The most frquently said line in the Bible may be “do not be afraid.” So why is everyone complaining about anxiety and depression?
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Who and what lives inside each of us?
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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, September 8, 2017 — “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

September 7, 2017

Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 636

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

Reading 1 MI 5:1-4A

The LORD says:
You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah,
too small to be among the clans of Judah,
From you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel;
Whose origin is from of old,
from ancient times.
(Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time
when she who is to give birth has borne,
And the rest of his brethren shall return
to the children of Israel.)
He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock
by the strength of the LORD,
in the majestic name of the LORD, his God;
And they shall remain, for now his greatness
shall reach to the ends of the earth;
he shall be peace.

Or ROM 8:28-30

Brothers and sisters:
We know that all things work for good for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.
For those he foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son,
so that he might be the firstborn
among many brothers.
And those he predestined he also called;
and those he called he also justified;
and those he justified he also glorified.

Responsorial Psalm PS 13:6AB, 6C

R. (Isaiah 61:10) With delight I rejoice in the Lord.
Though I trusted in your mercy,
let my heart rejoice in your salvation.
R. With delight I rejoice in the Lord.
Let me sing of the LORD, “He has been good to me.”
R. With delight I rejoice in the Lord.

Alleluia

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

Gospel MT 1:1-16, 18-23

The Book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ,
the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham became the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.
Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah,
whose mother was Tamar.
Perez became the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab became the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz,
whose mother was Rahab.
Boaz became the father of Obed,
whose mother was Ruth.
Obed became the father of Jesse,
Jesse the father of David the king.

David became the father of Solomon,
whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.
Solomon became the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asaph.
Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Uzziah.
Uzziah became the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amos,
Amos the father of Josiah.
Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers
at the time of the Babylonian exile.

After the Babylonian exile,
Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel the father of Abiud.
Abiud became the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor the father of Zadok.
Zadok became the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud the father of Eleazar.
Eleazar became the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,

which means “God is with us.”

Or MT 1:18-23

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,

which means “God is with us.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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08 SEPTEMBER, 2017, Friday, The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
FINDING OUR PLACE IN THE PLAN OF GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [MICAH 5:1-4 or ROM 8:28-30MT 1:1-1618-23  ]

What does it mean to celebrate a birthday?  Why do we celebrate birthdays in the first place?  Birthdays are more than merely a commemoration of someone’s birth date.  What is the use of remembering when we were born unless there is something to celebrate about the life we have lived since we came into the world?

So we celebrate birthdays primarily to thank God for the gift of life and more importantly, the gift of love.  For us Christians, we thank God not just for the physical life but for the gift of eternal life, which is to share in the love of God.  A physical life without love is not worth living.  Life has no meaning when it is not lived in love.  Only because of love, we want to live on as long as possible because love does not want to end.  We desire to be with our loved ones forever because love gives us meaning, purpose and the reason for our existence.  How wonderful is the thought that we human beings are invited to partake of the love of the Holy Trinity, the love between the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit!

For those of us who are beneficiaries of the person’s gift of life, we want to thank God for blessing us through the person.  Because of that person’s life, we have been blessed, loved, helped and through that person, we have come to know the love and mercy of God.  So if we celebrate someone’s birthday, it is because we want to thank the person and God for all the blessings that we have received through him or her.  So celebrating a birthday is to tell that person that his or her life has made a real difference in our lives.

From this understanding of the nature of birthday celebrations, it is clear that birthday celebrations are not only meant for ourselves but for the love and service of others because we are called to make a difference in the lives of others.  We were created not for ourselves but to fulfill our role in God’s plan of salvation.  Each one of us is called to be a mediator of God’s love through our life.  As St Paul wrote, “They are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son, so that his Son might be the eldest of many brothers. He called those he intended for this; those he called he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory.”   Yes, through our lives, we hope to lead others to become true sons and daughters of God so that all can share in the glory, the joy and love of the Son.  We find our purpose and meaning in life only when we serve the overall purpose of God’s plan for a larger family.

It is within this context that we can appreciate the significance of today’s celebration. It is significant that the liturgy only celebrates two birthdays other than that of Christ’s.  They are the birthdays of our Blessed Mother and that of John the Baptist.  For all others, we celebrate the day they died, since their death is their entrance to the fullness of life in God.   Why does the Church celebrate only these two birthdays?  Well, both of them already received the gift of eternal life; Mary at her conception and John the Baptist when he encountered the Lord in the womb of the Blessed Virgin.  Mary received the gift of Immaculate Conception and John the Baptist was sanctified in the womb of Elizabeth.  Of course, such privileges are gifts from the Lord and not their entitlement.  They received these gifts not primarily for themselves but for us so that what they received could be given to us.  They were blessed with holiness so that they could give us Jesus our Saviour and Lord.  Once again, we are reminded that whatever has been given to us, whether it is our life, health, status, wealth or talents, they have been given to us by God not only for our good but for the service of others.  Just as God blessed Abraham and Mary for the sake of His people, we too must do likewise.

Secondly, if we celebrate their birthdays it is because they were directly related to Christ and participated in His saving work.  John the Baptist was a precursor for Christ, preparing the way of the Lord.  Mary, by her consent to the Incarnation, made possible for Christ our redeemer to come into this world.  This explains why on her birthday, the gospel text is taken from the birth of Christ.  The intention of the Church’s celebration is clear in that all birthdays, including Mary’s, have their meaning only with reference to Christ.  We celebrate Mary’s birthday only because of her close association with Christ’s redemptive work for humanity.  Mary, in assenting to be the mother of the Saviour at the incarnation, also by extension, gave her consent to be associated with her Son’s suffering at the cross.  Mary therefore is truly the woman of convergence of the Old and New Testaments.  As the Anawim, she is likened to Israel preparing for the Lord to come.  As the bride, she is intimately in union with her Son.  As mother, she nurtures us all in the faith in her Son.

By implication, we too are called to take our place in the plan of salvation.  Our goal is to lead others to Christ, as St Paul says.  Birthday celebrations are a reminder that we are called to live for God and for others.  Those who live only for themselves will find life empty and meaningless even in their success.  It is interesting that many successful people, having reached the heights of success and have made tons of money, have come to realize that happiness is not found in accumulating more and more but in giving and sharing what they have with the less fortunate or for the good of society.  Indeed, many in their later life have become philanthropists.  They know they owe much to society and hence feel the obligation to return part of their wealth back to society.  Yes, all of us owe much to society.  We are what we are because of others and the society we come from.  Our success is never due to our hard work alone but to the very many people who have helped us in life from young, in school and in our work.  This accounts for why the government always reminds those who are better off that they are morally obliged to give back to society their wealth and their talents.

But it is not enough to give ourselves to others.  We must ask what God’s specific plan and will are for us, just as Mary and Joseph discerned theirs.  To give ourselves purposefully and meaningfully to society, we must discern what God wants us to do and how to do it.  Doing God’s will and taking up His call to do what He asks of us is more important than doing what we like for Him.  Only then will we find real fulfillment because we can devote ourselves entirely to the plan He has designated for us.  So when we celebrate our birthday, each one of us must continually ask God how He wants us to be a life-giver at a particular place and time.  It is critical for our happiness that we only do what He has chosen for us in His masterpiece of creation.

When we are doing His will, we should not be discouraged even when we go wrong.  We can rest assured and be at peace as we submit to His holy will, knowing that we have done what we could.  For those of us who have not been using our lives in accordance with God’s plan for us, it is never too late. If we have chosen the wrong vocation or choices in life, we can still redeem ourselves.  St Paul consoles us when he wrote, “we know that by turning everything to their good God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those that he has called according to his purpose.”  So in all things, so long as we consecrate them to God, our lives and all that we have and are, God will use them for His purpose.  In this way, like Jesus whose name is Emmanuel, which means God is with us, we too become the presence of God to all those we meet and those whom we are called to serve.

So like Mary, whose birthday we celebrate today, we are called to cooperate with His grace.  Mary was conceived without original sin, but this did not exempt her from using her whole life to glorify God by doing His holy will at every moment of her life, especially in undertaking the vocation of motherhood to Christ the Saviour and of exercising her spiritual maternity in the Church. Because we owe much to Mary in extending the blessings she has received to us, we truly want to thank God for the gift of Mary to us.  Like her, we too want to cooperate with the grace of God.  Like Mary, we want to make ourselves a gift of God to others, having received the gift of life from Him.   In this way, we will not live our lives in vain. The only way to live is to live for others by dying to self.  As we give ourselves to others, we forget about ourselves.  Otherwise self-centeredness will lead us to be too absorbed by our own needs and problems leading us into depression.  May our lives not be lived in vain!  How tragic to end the journey of life without having made our life a gift to humanity!  Let me conclude with this poem to remind us of the shortness of life and how we must live.  “I shall not pass this way again.  I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow-creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Commentary on Micah 5:1-4a or Romans 8:28-30; Ps 12; Matthew 1:1-16, 18-23 From Living Space

The Gospel reading is the genealogy of Jesus as given by Matthew at the beginning of his gospel. It is largely an artificial composition divided into three sets of 14 generations – 52 altogether. It begins with Abraham, the Father of God’s people and there follow many names from the biblical account in the Hebrew Testament.

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It is a very mixed group of people, including the very good and the not good at all. There are also four women in the list, each of them with a special interest of their own. It represents the very diverse history of loyalty and infidelity which was the story of God’s people. Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, is truly identified with our world. “The Word was made flesh and lived among us” – all of us, the good, the bad and indifferent. Mary, too, was born into this world and, with her Son, and, though, like him, without sin is fully part of it. The ancestry leads down to Joseph, the “husband of Mary”. But it is of Mary that Jesus the Messiah is born.

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There is a choice of texts for the First Reading. The first comes from the prophet Micah. He has been speaking against the rulers of Israel who are paying dearly for their sinful ways. In today’s passage he is speaking of the restoration of Israel through a Messiah. Just before today’s passage he speaks against Jerusalem (called Bat-gader) which is under siege by the Assyrians. But in today’s passage he contrasts the powerful ruler of Israel under siege with the tiny city and clan of Bethlehem-Ephrathah, “too small to be among the clans of Judah”.

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For, from this tiny, insignificant place will come “the one who is to be the ruler of Israel”. His origins are from of old, from ancient times, from the royal Davidic line.

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The Lord will give up these people until the time “when she who is to give birth has borne” – a clear reference to Mary, mother of the Messiah. And that Son with the strength of Yahweh will “stand firm and shepherd his flock”. And “his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth, he shall be peace”. The gospels will show how all of these predictions are fulfilled in Jesus. And the birth of the Incarnate Messiah comes through Mary. It is not surprising, then, that we celebrate the birth of such a person in a very special way. And that she herself, in preparation for this, should be blessed with special favours and graces.

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The second choice for the First Reading is from Paul’s Letter to the Romans. He speaks of how all are picked out specially by God. “We know that everything works together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” This is an important statement for us to take on board. We see it in Mary’s acceptance of the angel’s invitation, even though she did not fully understand its implication at the time.

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Like Mary, all of us have been called to be “conformed to the image of the Son”, so that he becomes the first among many brothers and sisters. Mary, too, of course was, even as Mother, totally conformed to the Way of her Son.

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The last words also apply in a special way to Mary: “Those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.”

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Mary, from the first moment of her existence, was totally conformed to the will of her Son, and so deserves the special glory which she merited after her death.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/f0908r/

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From 2015
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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TAKING OUR RIGHTFUL PLACE IN GOD’S PLAN

SCRIPTURE READINGS: MIC 5:1-4ROM 8:28-30MT 1:1-1618-23

The Church traditionally does not celebrate birthdays, especially in the liturgy.  Rather, we celebrate death days, since death is a symbol of our baptism, as we are called to die in Christ.  Hence, the commemoration of saints is always on the day they were martyred or died.  Yet, we celebrate Christ’s birthday, which of course could be easily justified, since His birth is the beginning of our salvation.  But why do we also celebrate Mary’s birthday and also that of John the Baptist?  It has to do with the event of redemption. Just as Christ’s birthday marks the beginning of our salvation, so, too, by celebrating their birthdays we are celebrating their redemption.

The Church believes that Mary, who was sanctified at the moment of conception in the womb of Anne, was already saved by Christ by His pre-emptive death on the cross in time.  In the case of John the Baptist, he was sanctified by Christ when he leapt for joy at the encounter between their mothers.  Within this context we can appreciate the alternative scripture reading from St Paul’s letter to the Romans when he wrote, “They are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son, so that his Son might be the eldest of many brothers. He called those he intended for this; those he called he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory.”

Indeed, if we celebrate Mary’s birthday it is because the Church wants to underscore that the real life which we celebrate is our day of salvation.  Greater than just having physical life is to have eternal life with Christ.  For the same reason, most Catholics in European countries prefer to celebrate their baptismal day, or patron saint’s day, or name’s day, rather than their chronological birth date, as is celebrated by the secular world.  Indeed, real life is eternal life, which is to share in the life of God.  This life, unlike the physical life, will never die.

And what is even more wonderful is that this has been in the mind of God from all eternity.  God from all eternity has not only chosen Mary but all of us to be true images of His Son.  This plan was already announced by the Prophet Micah before the coming of Christ when he said, “The Lord says this: You (Bethlehem), Ephrathah, the least of the clans of Judah, out of you will be born for me the one who is to rule over Israel; his origin goes back to the distant past, to the days of old.”  And when He comes, the prophet said, “He will stand and feed his flock with the power of the Lord, with the majesty of the name of his God. They will live secure, for from then on he will extend his power to the ends of the land. He himself will be peace.”  Christ of course, in our estimation, is the realization of this promise made to the people of old.

So if we celebrate Mary’s birthday, it is because she is so closely associated with Christ’s work.  In her own ways, she was responsible for helping to bring to realization the amazing and gracious plan of God.  That is what the gospel affirms, “Now all this took place to fulfill the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet: The Virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Emmanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us’”.  The one whom she is giving birth is not simply anyone but He is also our Saviour.  As the Angel told Joseph, “She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.”

Consequently, to celebrate Mary’s birthday is to celebrate God’s grace and His mercy.  God is so selfless in love that He would condescend to take upon Himself the humanity of man and all our limitations in order to be in solidarity with us in everything except sin.  This in itself calls for great thanksgiving.  But of course the Incarnation was just the first step of the kenosis of God as it had to be carried to full term in the passion and death of our Lord.  For what does it mean to be human?  It is more than having a human body or even to suffer.  To be human is to suffer all the pains that come with the state of being human, struggling to do God’s will and being willing to empty oneself even unto death. Hence, we celebrate Mary’s birthday only in the context of the birthday and the passion of our Lord.

Another motive for celebrating Mary’s birthday is to marvel at God’s choice in the work of redemption.  The choice of Mary clearly shows that the way God works is so different from the way we work.  He did not choose great people to be His collaborators.  Rather He chose the poor and insignificant.  As the prophet said, God will choose the Messiah from Ephrathah, the least of the clans of Judah.  Above all, He chose Mary to be the mother of His only begotten Son.

Yet, celebrating Mary’s birthday is not merely to praise God alone.  We cannot discount the cooperation of Mary with the grace of God.  Whilst it is true that only God can save us, it is equally true that God would not want to save us without our cooperation.  He wants us to give our personal response to His grace at work in us.  So we also want to praise God for giving her the grace to respond to the invitation of the Angel to bear the Son of God in her womb.

We must not underestimate that the response to be the Mother of God was a decision taken lightly by Mary.  Many of us tend to commit ourselves to someone or some project without thoroughly considering whether we can be faithful to our promises.  This is particularly true in relationships, whether in friendship or in marriage.  Many of us discover too late, that we cannot keep our promises.  This same mistake also is made by good-will people, whether in Church or even at work and in business. At the point of time, it is possible that many made such commitments sincerely, but very few are able to live up to the pledges they made.

In the case of Mary, it must surely have taken her lots of prayer, faith and courage to make that commitment; unlike many of us who like to hold offices and positions in life and in society, but are irresponsible to the office we hold.  We want the crown and the privileges but not the thorns and the sacrifices.  For Mary, she only wanted to do God’s will and to do what was good for her people.  She was conscious of the great sacrifices she would have to endure from the moment she said “yes”.  The price of being the mother of the Saviour cost her her whole life, and untold pain in her heart.  We read in today’s gospel how she, like her Son, was misunderstood by her loved ones, even her most intimate companion, Joseph, who wanted to put her away.  She must have suffered tremendous pain, rejection, misunderstanding and even ridicule on account of her pregnancy.  Who would believe her?  Not even Joseph, if not for the intervention of the Angel. So responding to God’s call is not as easy as we think.

Yet we can learn from Mary, that if we abandon everything to God in faith, He will see us through as He did for Mary, Joseph and His Son.  As St Paul says, “we know that by turning everything to their good God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those that he has called according to his purpose.”  Yes, we must trust in the power of God and His fidelity to those who trust Him and are faithful to Him.  Again St Paul wrote, “He called those he intended for this; those he called he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory.”  Such is the fidelity of God seen in the person of Christ.

So today, let us seek to be like Mary and Her Son.  Every life given to us is meaningful and enriching only when we use that very life with all the blessings and even handicaps that God gives to us for the service of the people of God.  When we give life to people, we find life ourselves.  So we cannot say that we are insignificant, ordinary people with no talents and therefore cannot do anything for anyone or cooperate with the plan of God’s salvation for humanity.  Like Mary, we just have to say “yes” when we are called and chosen by Him through prayer and discernment.  So, to celebrate the birthday of someone is more than a commemoration of the person’s accidental presence in history, but someone who has deliberately chosen to align his or her life with the vocation that the Lord has given to him or her, in a way that serves life, heals people and empower them to be life-givers in Christ.

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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, September 7, 2017 — “We do not cease praying for you.” — “He delivered us from the power of darkness.”

September 6, 2017

Thursday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 434

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Peter drops to his knees before Jesus and says “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
By Raphael (1515)

Reading 1 COL 1:9-14

Brothers and sisters:
From the day we heard about you, we do not cease praying for you
and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will
through all spiritual wisdom and understanding
to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord,
so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit
and growing in the knowledge of God,
strengthened with every power, in accord with his glorious might,
for all endurance and patience,
with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share
in the inheritance of the holy ones in light.
He delivered us from the power of darkness
and transferred us to the Kingdom of his beloved Son,
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 98:2-3AB, 3CD-4, 5-6

R. (2) The Lord has made known his salvation.
The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.
R. The Lord has made known his salvation.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.
R. The Lord has made known his salvation.
Sing praise to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and melodious song.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
sing joyfully before the King, the LORD.
R. The Lord has made known his salvation.

Alleluia MT 4:19

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Come after me, says the Lord,
and I will make you fishers of men.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 5:1-11

While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God,
he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.
He saw two boats there alongside the lake;
the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.
Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon,
he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore.
Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
Simon said in reply,
“Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing,
but at your command I will lower the nets.”
When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish
and their nets were tearing.
They signaled to their partners in the other boat
to come to help them.
They came and filled both boats
so that the boats were in danger of sinking.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said,
“Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him
and all those with him,
and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
who were partners of Simon.
Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid;
from now on you will be catching men.”
When they brought their boats to the shore,
they left everything and followed him.

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07 SEPTEMBER, 2017, Thursday, 22nd Week, Ordinary Time
DO ALL THINGS THROUGH HIS OWN GLORIOUS POWER

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Col 1:9-14Ps 98:2-6Lk 5:1-11  ]

Many of us are like St Peter in the gospel. We too say to the Lord, “Master, we worked hard all night long and caught nothing.”   Indeed, this is how many of us feel.  Many of us work so hard to get our academic degrees, be successful in our projects and in our career, yet at the end of the day, we find all these to be meaningless.  What is the use of working so hard only to come to realize we have toiled in vain?  As the book of Ecclesiastes would says, “all is vanity.”   Indeed, we thought that when we have everything, that is, power, glory, honour and wealth, we will be happy, but as it turns out, these are all illusions.  They did not make us happy or fulfilled in life.  No wonder, they are called idols as these are nothingness.

However, some of us are truly working for God and for His people.  We too invest much of our time doing the work of God, helping the Church and our community, and being involved in the service of the poor and other social involvements.  Moreover, we do all these things over and above our own work and family time.  Yet, in spite of so much energy, time and resources invested into it, we experience only opposition, failure, disappointment and frustration.

In such a situation, we are called to turn to the Lord.  The cause of our failures and disillusionment in life is because we rely on our own wisdom and on our own strength.  St Paul wrote to the Christians, “You will have in you the strength, based on his own glorious power, never to give in, but to bear anything joyfully.”  Indeed, we cannot rely on ourselves to achieve the true and lasting goals of life that can bring us true happiness.  Without Christ, we are bound to fail, and even when we are successful in worldly terms, the achievements at the end of the day will be meaninglessness.

What, then, does it mean to rely on the glorious power of God?  

The precondition for turning to the Lord is the sense of inadequacy and helplessness.  So long as we can depend on ourselves, the Lord will not intervene.  Only in our desperation will the Lord act in our lives so that we know that He is the Lord. Otherwise, it would not be possible to declare, “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Shout to the Lord, all the earth, ring out your joy.”  This was the case of St Peter.  Initially, he depended on his skills and past experiences.  He was so sure of himself that he was reluctant to put down the nets.  As a professional fisherman, the last thing he needed was the advice of a carpenter.  But the Lord wanted to surprise him so that he could witness the power and wisdom of God. 

Once this condition is met, we need to have faith in Him.  This faith is manifested in obedience.  Obedience is but the expression of faith.  When Jesus told Peter to “Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch”, in obedience, he did.   Faith is therefore the way to draw strength from the Lord.  Faith in Christ enables us to do all things.  It was Peter’s faith that made him surrender to the Lord’s command.  Against all doubt, he told the Lord, “but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.”

Secondly, we need to have love.  We can only trust in God’s power provided we have experienced His love.  This was the case of St Peter.  After the miracle, he was overwhelmed by his sinfulness and God’s mercy.  He must have been so embarrassed by the miracle because the Lord exposed his pride, self-confidence in his own skills and lack of faith in God’s power.   Yet, in spite of his doubts and reluctance, the Lord showed Him mercy.

Similarly, St Paul told the Christians the same thing. “Because that is what he has done: he has taken us out of the power of darkness and created a place for us in the kingdom of the Son that he loves, and in him, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.”  The consciousness of what He has done for us, liberating us from bondage and enlightening us in our blindness itself is a great joy.   Only when we come to realize how much God has loved us and shown us His mercy, will we then be able to trust in His love for us.

Thirdly, to rely on God’s glorious power is to have a certain hope of our calling in life.  St Paul wrote, “You will have in you the strength, based on his own glorious power, never to give in, but to bear anything joyfully, thanking the Father who has made it possible for you to join the saints and with them to inherit the light.”   Indeed, when we know our true calling in life, we will realize that it is more than just making a living, increasing our earthly wealth and power, or living for ourselves or even our loved ones.  When we come to realize that we are called to live for God and one day to be united with Christ and all the saints, sharing in His eternal light, then this great hope installed for us will give us impetus in our struggles and in the sacrifices we put in.  We can give all of ourselves because we know that the hope we have for ourselves and humanity will not be in vain.  As the psalmist says, “The Lord has made known his salvation; has shown his justice to the nations. He has remembered his truth and love for the house of Israel.”

Consequently, we need to strengthen our faith, hope and love in God if we are to find strength in whatever we do.  We need to work for the right motives and for the right goals in life.  This calls for prayerful discernment in whatever we do.  It is for this reason that we need to pray as St Paul wrote, “Ever since the day we heard about you, we have never failed to pray for you, and what we ask God is that through perfect wisdom and spiritual understanding you should reach the fullest knowledge of his will.”

We need to seek perfect wisdom and understanding of His will for us.   Without knowing His will, we will do many things but find no peace and joy.  Seeking the will of God is necessary for us to find His will so that we can give our whole heart and soul to whatever He has called us to do.  This explains why some are not happy in life because they did not respond to the call of God.  They did not follow the vocation that the Lord has given to them.  But if we are clear that this is what the Lord is asking of us, and if we give ourselves wholeheartedly to His plan, we will find happiness.  Indeed, when St Peter, James and John heard the call of Jesus who said to them, “Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch”, “they left everything and followed him.”  This is the second level of obedience.  Having responded to the first obedience of faith when the Lord asked him to lower the net, and encountering His overwhelming mercy, St Peter in the second act of obedience was now ready to leave his career, wealth and security to follow Jesus in catching men for the kingdom.  Because they allowed the Lord to work in and through them, they became great apostles for Christ.

But where is His will to be found if not in the Word of God? If Peter and his companions could eventually in faith respond to Jesus in paying down the nets and then following Him, it was because they had been listening to Jesus who was preaching.  Together with the crowd, they were listening to what the Lord was saying.  We too who seek His will and His wisdom must turn to the scriptures.  We need to pray and meditate on the scriptures so that the Lord can direct us in our ways.  Without a prayerful reading of the Word of God, we would only listen to ourselves.  So conviction of our calling and of His will requires us to spend time in prayer and meditation on the scriptures.  In the Word of God, we find strength, wisdom, inspiration and light.  St Paul wrote to young Bishop Timothy, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  (2 Tim 3:16f)

Let us continue to seek the Lord for His guidance and His will. This was what the Lord said to the Israelites in exile through the prophet Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have in mind for you – it is the Lord who speaks – plans for peace, not disaster, reserving a future full of hope for you. Then when you call to me, and come to plead with me, I will listen to you. When you seek me you shall find me, when you seek me with all your heart; I will let you find me – it is the Lord who speaks.” (Jer 29:11-13)  Seek the Lord, rely on His strength, pray for His wisdom, know His will and act according to it. This is what it means to act from His own glorious power because we are one with the Lord in mind, heart and soul.  St Paul says, in this way, “you will be able to lead the kind of life which the Lord expects of you, a life acceptable to him in all its aspects; showing the results in all the good actions you do and increasing your knowledge of God.”

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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In my mind’s eye, I can just see him kneeling on the ground, shaking in terror, terrified at the power that Jesus wielded so casually.
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We think that in the New Testament God comes to us with the gentle social propriety of an English country parson.

Alas, but it isn’t so. Peter didn’t think so. The Pharisees didn’t think so. The money changers in the Temple didn’t think so. The demoniac at Gadarenes didn’t think so. The Sanhedrin didn’t think so. The guards at the tomb didn’t think so. They all thought Jesus was a powerful man, and some thought Him dangerous.

God is so much larger than we are, and I don’t mean in terms of physical size.

Sometimes we receive the comfort of the Holy Spirit without seeing God; without seeing how big He is, how powerful He is, and so we do not see the contrast between Him and us. On other occasions, we really do see Him in His glory, and we are terrified. We recognize that He comes to us in love to help us, but it’s just that He’s so big, and we are so very small! It’s the disparity of scale that terrifies us! We share Peter’s reaction, we hold our arms up to shade our eyes from his blinding light, “Don’t come near me!” we scream, “I’m not worthy of you!”

http://www.kencollins.com/jesus/jesus-20.htm

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Why Jesus Tells the Disciples to Cast Their Net on the Right Side

By JOSHUA TILGHMAN

Editor’s note: Luke’s account of the fishermen bringing in the fish is today’s Gospel. John Tilgham wrote the essay below about St. John’s account.

Disciples and Jesus FishingMost of us are familiar with the scene in John chapter 21 where Jesus tells the disciples to cast their net on the right side of the boat to catch a bounty of fish. There’s a great deal of symbolic meaning here that I believe is missed. In today’s post we’ll look at this scene in detail and dissect its deeper, esoteric meanings, and how it relates to the journey of the soul.

Chapter 21 is the last chapter of the Gospel of John. Jesus has already been crucified and resurrected, and he decides to show himself to his disciples on a few occasions before the final ascension. Chapter 21 concludes the Gospel of John with Jesus’ third and final appearance (at least according to this gospel). It’s as if Jesus was coming to give his farewell address to the disciples and give them the encouragement they needed to carry on, especially Peter, who, as we already know from a former blog post, represents man’s lower nature and ego that has evolved so much. He becomes the focal point in this last chapter of John for good reason—it is the lower ego that must be united with the higher, spiritual ego for the ascension. In order for this to happen, we must go through a myriad of new experiences, constantly interpreting and assimilating new thoughts and emotions. Such is the meaning of life and the evolution of our consciousness.

Let’s look at a couple of verses in detail to Biblically prove this point, beginning when the disciples decide to go fishing after Jesus has been absent from them:

“Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They [the other disciples] say unto him, We go along with thee. They went forth, and entered into the ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing” (John 21:3).

I need to point out a few important symbols here. Peter represents the lower nature. The other disciples are qualities of the soul that compel the lower nature and ego to evolve through time and experience. That is why Peter is emphasized in the text as the one who decides to go fishing and the other disciples promise to go with him; the lower ego leads us when we are young and spiritually immature.

The ship is a symbol of the lower mind, which tosses on the waves and seas (turmoil of life) to learn and grow. The fact that they fished at “night” is also significant. The night represents our potential for growth, and it is during the night hours that we struggle. And finally, fish symbolize the emotions, ideas, and concepts we experience in life.

With that being explained, let’s move on to the greater meaning of this scene.

“But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus” (John 21:4).

Jesus, shortly to become the ascended Christ, comes in the morning. As you might have guessed, the morning is time for refreshing. It symbolizes moving energy and spiritual growth. The ascended Jesus here is the power of the Christ within, which is now the power that the disciples (soul qualities) and Peter (natural man, ego) need to bear a multitude of fish (higher emotions and ideas) to blossom and evolve. At first Jesus is hidden from them, just as the Christ within is hidden from the ego and natural mind. All of this is further evidenced by what Jesus asks and does in the following scenes:

“Then Jesus [the power of the Christ within] said,Children, have ye anymeat? They answered him, no” (John 21:5).

I have bolded two key words which will help us in our final conclusions. Notice how Jesus calls them children. Children represent the new higher mental faculties and emotions which only the Christ can bear within us. The text is setting us up for a development in the soul. I have also bolded the word “meat.” Meat is a symbol for higher knowledge and emotions which are directly responsible for the soul’s growth. Thus far, the disciples have walked with Jesus throughout his ministry. They have witnessed his power through the crucifixion and resurrection (potential for the higher, or spiritual ego). They are now ready to evolve, and eat meat. But they can’t do it alone. They need the power of the Christ within, or the spiritual energy, to bring them to the next phases in spiritual growth.

Next Jesus then tells them:

“…Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes” (John 21:6).

Notice that the text emphasizes throwing the net onto the right side of the boat. The right side, or our intuitive side of the brain, is what we must engage to birth the Christ within. This is also the side of the brain that is affected in meditation and when we go within. In order to draw in a multitude of new growth, of higher emotions and thoughts, we must engage the right side of the brain, which also signifies the outgoing energy of the Christ within.

This is effectively what the disciples have done when they symbolically cast the net on the right side of the boat.

The “net” is also a very important symbol. Let’s go directly to Gaskell’s dictionary to get a concrete definition:

Net for the Catching of FishA symbol of the astral mechanism which lies behind the physical organs of the five senses, and serves to collect and differentiate the facts of sensation, passing them on as modes of vibration to the mental plane, whereon they become interpreted to the ego as thoughts and feelings of different kinds of qualities.

In other words, the net symbolizes the astral body, which receives or catches the vibrations given off in the physical world. The astral body is the seat of the lower ego, containing our desires, sensations, and lower emotions, which are relayed to the mental body, and interpreted by our mind. This is some pretty heavy information! This Biblical scene is giving us the key to how we evolve the soul and help birth the Christ within. If the fish symbolize the emotions and ideas of life, we must learn to cast our nets on the right side, meaning we must engage in the types of activities that are conducive to birthing the Christ within, or that potential spiritual energy of a higher vibration and plane in order to evolve mentally and emotionally as physical beings. This Bible scene is telling us that there cannot be any shortcuts here. We develop according to how we process and interpret our experiences in the sea of life!

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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01 SEPTEMBER 2016, Thursday, 22nd Week of Ordinary Time
THINKING OUT OF THE BOX IS TO PUT INTO THE DEEP

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1 COR 3:18-23; LK 5:1-11 ]We are constantly challenged to think out of the box; to dare to do things differently.  It is not good enough to maintain the status quo, even if we are doing well. This is true for evangelization and our pastoral ministry as well. But doing things differently involves taking risks, which many of us are averse to, because we lack creativity, or courage, or worse still, because of complacency or inertia. So we maintain the same old routine, the same old approaches, flogging the same old team, and playing by the same old rules. And of course we get disheartened, because we seem to be working a lot harder, day and night, and yet we seem to be getting nowhere. As if this is not bad enough, we pour cold water on the initiatives of those who try to do things differently, or introduce new programmes in an effort to revitalize our parishes or those groups under our charge. This explains why we are not growing, if not lagging behind.The gospel tells us that we must, like St Peter, be willing to put out into the deep.  This is the advice of Jesus.  We are to take risks.  St Peter was invited to do just that.  He was asked to go beyond discipleship, to be an apostle.  It is within this context that today’s gospel speaks of Peter’s call to be Christ’s apostle in the proclamation of the kingdom.

What is it that truly prevents us from taking risks?  The primary obstacle is pride.  St Peter thought he knew all there was to know about fishing. And he thought that he had tried everything already, and there was no fish, so how could he accept that Jesus knew any more than he did.  Indeed, oftentimes we refuse to open our minds to learning from others, because we think we know best.  Pride makes us self-sufficient and leads us to think highly of ourselves. Without humility, we cannot learn from others.  But as St Paul says, “Make no mistake about it: if any one of you who thinks of himself as wise, in the ordinary sense of the word, then he must learn to be a fool before he really can be wise.  Why? Because the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.  As scripture says: “The Lord knows wise men’s thoughts: he knows how useless they are: or again: God is not convinced by the arguments of the wise.”

This was the same problem facing the Christians in Corinth.  They were clinging to Paul, Apollos and some leaders. As a result, the community became sectarian, each group seeing the others as competitors rather than collaborators.  Yet, Paul made it clear that they were not to be idolized because all that they had came from God.  They were mere servants and instruments for the Lord. There is nothing to boast about except the grace of God.  St Paul says, “So there is nothing to boast about in anything human: Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life and death, the present and the future, are all your servants; but you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.”

However, pride can also be manifested in the fear of failure.  We do not want to make mistakes.  We like to play safe and not get into trouble, especially with our superiors.  Too much is at stake.  Superiors are also partly to be blamed when subordinates do not take initiatives.  Our subordinates might perceive that we do not wish to rock the boat or change the status quo.  We are not open to new ways of doing things.  For this reason, we produce mediocre leaders and subservient subordinates, without any creativity or zeal.

However, it was faith that saved Peter.  He put out into the deep and the miracle of the fish happened.  It was so overwhelming an experience.  We are told that “… he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners.”  We too are called to trust in the Lord and take the risk. We are called to surrender our lives to Him so that He can work miracles in our lives. Faith is to believe in the impossible.  Faith is to trust in the inspiration of God.  Only when we surrender, can God work miracles in us.

How can this faith be nurtured?  Let us take a look at Peter. We are told that he was exposed to the ministry and person of Jesus.  He had witnessed how Jesus healed his mother-in-law and many who were sick.  But observation is not sufficient.  He was not yet ready to be more than a disciple of Jesus.  He saw the miracles, but was not converted from within, because it was not his personal conversion.

However in today’s incident, although Peter seemed to be disinterested when Jesus was preaching to the crowd, in truth, he was not simply hearing the teaching of Jesus.  He was contemplating all that Jesus said and did.  Whilst listening to Jesus’ preaching, he must have been recollecting all the things that Jesus had said and how He acted in His relationship with sinners, the poor and how He healed the sick.  He must have been contemplating deeply the message of Jesus for him as well. He was no traditionalist.  He was breaking the rules and the customs. He was not a slave to convention, but would reinterpret the practices and teachings more radically.  We too are called to contemplate how Jesus was always acting and thinking out of the box.  We must understand how Jesus was able to challenge the norms of His time.  He must have drawn courage from His faith in His Father.

This reflection prepared Peter for the miraculous catch.  By listening to the teaching of Jesus, Peter gradually gained faith in Jesus.  Indeed, the miracle happened because of Peter’s act of faith.  Through faith, Peter came to a profound experience of God and subsequently discovered himself, his pride and sinfulness.  Before Jesus, he recognized the divinity of Christ in Jesus.  Thus, “when Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying, ‘Leave me Lord; I am a sinful man.’“  In that personal experience, which came from contemplation and wonder, he found and experienced the presence of God.  It was beyond his imagination that God would take him personally and speak to him in such a personal way.

With that conversion, he was called to proclaim Jesus to the world.  He was ready to take risks in being His apostle, knowing that it would not be his strength but the power of God.  From that experience, he knew the Lord would work through him.  He knew nothing is impossible for God to work.  From that moment, “Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.’  Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.”

We too, if we are to be true apostles of Christ and ready to take the risk of proclaiming the gospel in and out of season, without fear and with boldness, then we must encounter Jesus in a personal manner. We need to pray for a conversion experience, which entails a rediscovery of the mercy and love of God in Jesus for us, bringing about our personal transformation in the way we look at life.  It is this surprising advent of God’s grace into our lives that empowers us to proclaim the gospel as such – Good News – in a new, creative and dynamic manner.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Reflections from the Abbott (From His Sermon, February 7, 2016)
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Gospel According to Saint Luke 5:1-11

This Gospel passage can be called a literary and religious masterpiece. By careful use of description, dialogue, suspense and emotion, the Evangelist Saint Luke, traditionally thought to have been an artist, paints with words a wonderful portrait of the calling of the Apostles. Saint Luke describes the call that will ultimately determine the vocation of various people who will proclaim the message of salvation in Jesus Christ.

Saint Luke first stresses that people are crowding around Jesus early on in his ministry in order to hear the word of God. Here is the long-expected Savior in their midst, though they can hardly grasp the full meaning of his presence. Only over time is it clearer to them that Jesus is the Anointed of God, the prophet and beloved Son of God, sharing our human nature but at the same time divine.

Jesus is teaching on the Lake of Gennesaret in Galilee seated in the boat that belonged to Peter. This underlines the fact of the continued presence of the Lord in the apostolic work of the Church, whose Lord will always be present, in goods time and bad. A large crowd listens attentively to Jesus and prefigures the multitudes who will one day form the Church of Christ on earth.

The Gospel text goes on to describe an extraordinary catch of fish at Jesus’ command. It happens in very unfavorable circumstances, after a night of catching nothing on the part of Peter and his companions. What looked like a hopeless situation turns into an amazing success story. But the point is deeper: under the care of the Lord the Church will flourish and many will find their home there. Peter, who will play a central role in the growth of the Christ’s Church, is told he will be a fisher of souls.

For Simon Peter, the first step toward partaking in the future mission of Jesus is a total surrender into the hands of the Lord. The Church will becontinually called to imitate this whole-hearted surrender. “Do not be afraid,” is the message Jesus offers to Peter and that is our assurance as well. We may tend toward fear and flight at times or often, but are called to resist that and to really trust that God is with us, carrying us, leading us in love and gentleness. That should be comfort for one and all in the Church and for those pondering entrance into the barque (boat) of Peter, the Church.

In the face of massive responsibility, Peter understandably confesses his unworthiness and weakness. This sense with probably remained his whole life and may be our experience as well. “Who am I to take on a place in the Church, to be part of Christ’s Body?,” we might ask. The message of Jesus remains constant: do not be afraid. The presence and power of Jesus is always active, and as the one who overcame death by death, we can rest assured that we will not be abandoned or left as orphans. That is unthinkable from God’s perspective.

The same phrase, “Do not be afraid,” is spoken by the Risen Christ to his disciples. Clearly the Lord desires that we be at ease, rest assured of his help and never despair of God’s mercy. This is an important theme in this Jubilee Year of Mercy which Pope Francis has designated for the Universal Church.

The power of Jesus’ word on people is clear in the response of Peter and his companions by their complete surrender and ultimate adherence to the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Peter here also symbolizes or stands in for the entire Church as a community called to belong and to be fully committed to Christ our Savior. This is the moment of Peter’s metanoia (change of heart or direction), when the Lord speaks to him personally, but to each apostle and follower of Jesus as well.

Simon Peter was called to be the leader of the apostolic mission of the Lord. Our call may be less lofty, but no less important as “bearers of Christ,” to all those we meet.

The first reading for Mass this Sunday, the call of the great prophet Isaiah, is a prefiguring of what Peter experienced in being called and not feeling not up to the task, but ultimately willing to leave all false security behind and place his life under the care of the Living God. We are called to do likewise.

Today our prayer might be that God’s Holy Spirit fill and inspire the entire Church, laity and clergy alike, with eagerness, wisdom and courage to proclaim Jesus and the message of mercy and hope that Jesus incarnates.

The Holy Spirit of God formed Jesus in the Virgin Mary and assisted the Lord for his mission of salvation to the ends of the earth. This same Holy Spirit works is in the Church today, bestowing the gift of proclaiming God’s Word, despite all human weakness, opposition in the work or fear that those preaching or hearing might encounter. Jesus is saying to the Church today, bowing before him, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will be catching people for eternal life.”

Prior Christian Leisy, OSB

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

Abiquiu, New Mexico

Siurce https://christdesert.org/2016/02/fifth-sunday-in-ordinary-time-year-c-february-7-2016/

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, August 27, 2017 — “Upon this rock I will build my church.” — Faith in Christ as The Foundation for Leadership

August 25, 2017

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 121

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Reading 1  IS 22:19-23

Thus says the LORD to Shebna, master of the palace:
“I will thrust you from your office
and pull you down from your station.
On that day I will summon my servant
Eliakim, son of Hilkiah;
I will clothe him with your robe,
and gird him with your sash,
and give over to him your authority.
He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
and to the house of Judah.
I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder;
when he opens, no one shall shut
when he shuts, no one shall open.
I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot,
to be a place of honor for his family.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 138:1-2, 2-3, 6, 8

R. (8bc) Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,
for you have heard the words of my mouth;
in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;
I will worship at your holy temple.
R. Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.
I will give thanks to your name,
because of your kindness and your truth:
When I called, you answered me;
you built up strength within me.
R. Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.
The LORD is exalted, yet the lowly he sees,
and the proud he knows from afar.
Your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;
forsake not the work of your hands.
R. Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.

Reading 2  ROM 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord
or who has been his counselor?
Or who has given the Lord anything
that he may be repaid?

For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be glory forever. Amen.

AlleluiaMT 16:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 16:13-20

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Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Then he strictly ordered his disciples
to tell no one that he was the Christ.

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Reflection From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

“Who do you say that I am?”  –This is a question not only for the early followers of Jesus bur for each of us every day of our life.  “Who do you say that I am?”

So many today, even Christians, think of Jesus as a good man and a good moral teacher, but do not consider Him to be God and Lord.  For many, there is a real lack of knowledge about what the Scriptures say of Jesus.  For the early followers of Jesus, it was clear that if they believed in Jesus, they could only believe in Him as God and Lord.  Jesus is the fulfillment of the Scriptures, the fulfillment of the prophecies of a Messiah, of an Anointed One, of the Savior who was to come.

If we want to know who Jesus is, we must begin to know the Scriptures.  The first reading today is from the Prophet Isaiah.  It tells about Shebna, who is taken out of the office of being in charge of the household of King Hezekiah of Judah—because of his pride.  Eliakim is put in his place.  The important part of this story is that the one in charge of the household had the keys to everything and was able to make decisions about who could enter and who could leave, what door is opened and what door is closed.  This is clearly an important role under the king.  If we look at this in terms of the Gospel, then Jesus appoints Peter in charge of the Kingdom of Heaven—in charge of the Church in this life.

The second reading is from the Letter to the Romans.  We hear this:  “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!”  Today so many people find it difficult to believe that there is a God and that a God would really be interested in our lives.  This is because far too often God is seen simply an a being like ourselves.  Western countries in particular have a difficult time in accepting that there is a God and that God is all powerful, all wise, all holy, all knowing, etc.  Instead the tendency is reduce God down to a super human and then dismiss God as not really existing.

The Catholic Christian concept of God speaks to the reality of a God who is more than anything that we can imagine, more powerful, capable of all things, loving beyond any love we can imagine, and so on.  Jesus comes in our flesh but is truly God.  So with the Letter to the Romans, we also should be able to repeat in awe:  “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!”

This is a God who established a Church so that people can come to know the reality of God and God’s love and mercy.  This is a God whose only Son comes to us in love as a Savior.  This is a God who is not afraid to put his life in our hands and to give Himself to us in a flawed and deeply human Church which is at the same time infallible and filled with divinity.  May this Sunday draw us deeper into these divine mysteries.

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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2t AUGUST, 2017, Sunday
A PERSONAL FAITH IN CHRIST AS THE FOUNDATION OF LEADERSHIP

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ISAIAH 22:19-23ROMANS 11:33-36MATTHEW 16:13-20]

Leadership is critical in any organization, human or divine.  The survival of a nation or any group is dependent on its leadership.  An institution is as strong as its leaders.   It is said that there are no bad soldiers; only bad commanders.  We need strong leaders to train and form good soldiers.  The scripture readings today invite us to reflect on the appointment and exercise of leadership.

Instead of turning to God, the leaders of Judah relied on alliance with pagan nations and military defenses.  They ignored the voice of God spoken through Isaiah that God would defend the city.  Above all, they did not clean up the inner house of injustice and idolatry. They lacked faith.  And when in a state of hopelessness, they fell into despair, eating and living as if there was no tomorrow.  Instead of repenting they chose to feast when attacked from every side.

What is significant is that when leaders like Shebna, a high court official, lack faith, it affects the rest of the country.  He was materialistic and self-seeking like the rest.  He favored alliance with foreigners instead of listening to Isaiah.  Indeed, this is an important lesson for us to learn as leaders.  Very often leaders forget to realize that not only do their words and decisions, but their actions and lifestyles affect and influence those under them considerably.  The people lost hope not only because of the Assyrians but because their own leaders fell into despair and did not lead the way.  For this reason, we must consider carefully the kind of leaders we appoint to lead us.

Who, then, would qualify as a Christian leader?  What is the basis for Christian leadership?  First and foremost, leadership is a divine calling.  In the world, people project and sell themselves as leaders.  They seek election into power.  Some even use unscrupulous means to acquire power.  Christian leadership however, is by election and the will of God.   It is not about politics but a discernment of God’s call.  God is the one who dismisses and chooses, as in the case of Shebna and Eliakim.  This is also true in the appointment of Peter as the rock, the leader of the Church.  “So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it.”   So one does not choose to be a leader on the basis of one’s merits but one is called to assume leadership by God who speaks through His people.

What, then, is the primary task of a leader?  He is called to be a father to the community.  He represents the heavenly Father.  He is the anointed one. “He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the House of Judah.”   Hence, the most important quality of a leader is compassion.   He is called to be a protector, defender and an encourager to those under his trust.  A leader is one who gives life to others, just as the father gives life to his children.   A leader seeks to protect his subordinates, especially the weak and the marginalized, just as a father gives more attention to the weaker children in his household. 

Secondly, the task of a leader is to preserve peace and unity and bring stability to the house.  Indeed, the task of a leader is to unite the different forces and elements under his charge.  The most challenging task of a leader is to ensure that there is peace, harmony and unity.  He is called to be a mediator and a source of unity, like our Holy Father in the Catholic Church.

For this reason, a leader needs to be vested with authority.  This authority was given to St Peter and the apostles when Jesus said, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.”  The key refers to authority to carry out Church discipline, legislation and administration.  It concerns the power to judge and forgive sins.   It is also the authority to teach, to instruct and proclaim the Word of God without error.  All leaders therefore are installed or, for religious leaders, ordained, so that they have the rightful authority to teach and discipline those under their care.

Authority is always for service.  The moment one seeks authority to bolster his or her ego or use it for his or her interests, that authority is abused.  As it is said, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  We need to ensure that the authority vested in us is never used in our favour or for our convenience but at the service of the larger community and for the greater good of all.   Authority is exercised to bring unity and peace; not to divide or control people.

What, then, are the necessary qualities of a good Christian leader?  The most important quality is faith!  He must be a man of deep faith in Christ.  This faith must be a personal faith. It cannot be borrowed or based on text books.  Rather, it must be a personal discovery, a realization and an encounter with Jesus.  Anything less than a personal encounter would mean that the faith of the person is in a precarious position.  That is why Jesus challenged the disciples, “’Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  And they said, ‘’Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’”  Without a personal faith in Christ, we cannot share Jesus with others convincingly.   Most of all, in the face of struggles and temptations, we will lose courage because of fear for our lives and safety.  We are not proclaiming the ideology of a dead man but a living Christ.

Furthermore, this faith in Jesus must be nothing less than faith in Jesus as the Son of God.  Then Simon Peter spoke up, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This is the rock of Peter’s faith.  All believers are joined to this Church by faith in Jesus as the savior when we confess this same faith.  Nothing less than a confession in the divinity of Christ is required if we are to stay firm in times of trials and scandals.  If our faith is more than in a human person called Jesus, but also that He is the Son of God, then we will be able to overcome all things in life.

This faith is also faith in Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.  It is not enough to believe in Jesus as the Son of the Living God.  That was the mistake of St Peter who could not accept that the way to victory is through the cross.  We must come to faith in Jesus as the rock and foundation through the Paschal Mystery.   Thus, Jesus told His disciples not to publicize Peter’s confession.  The listeners must find out for themselves.  It cannot be from a secondary source. Until the paschal mystery happened, they needed to grow in understanding of this confession of faith.  St Peter got the right answer but the wrong meaning.

Finally, as Church, we are built on the foundation of the apostles with Jesus as the cornerstone.  St Peter and St Paul founded their faith on Christ who is the cornerstone of the Church.  They built the Church on the foundation of Christ alone.  There is no other foundation.  We need to have faith in Peter who is the appointed leader of the Church.  He reveals the true identity of Christ to us, just as Jesus revealed Peter’s identity and role to us.  So our faith is also in fidelity to the apostolic faith and not just our own.

Hence, as leaders, we must not rely on our strength and ingenuity, thinking that we can do everything without Christ and His Church.  Thus, it is indispensable for leaders to pray and be in union with God.  A leader who does not pray and reflect will only operate on the human wisdom of the world.  He must be in close connection with God, basking himself in His love, and penetrating the will of God for himself and for his people.  A leader must spend more time in prayer and reflection if he were to lead as the anointed one of God. Otherwise, he will only allow his ego, fear and human ingenuity to determine how he acts.  But when a leader is always praying and seeking to glorify God and working for the good of his people, then his decisions will always be selfless, life-giving, liberating and empowering.

Prayer strengthens our faith in Christ the Son of the Living God since this realization is given through revelation, not by human reasoning.  It is not by reason alone that we come to God.  On the contrary, faith is necessary to complement reason, for the mysteries of God cannot be comprehended by man, especially His inner life and His divine plan for humanity.

So as leaders we need not be afraid of the future and of the responsibilities ahead of us.  We can trust in the faithfulness of God.  The real problem is not whether God is faithful to but whether we will trust Him enough to surrender our plans, success and failures to His divine providence and wisdom.   So let us take heed and respond to the call of God for leadership.  If God has chosen us, He will qualify us.

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

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, August 22, 2017 — “For God all things are possible.” — “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

August 21, 2017

Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 420

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Reading 1  JGS 6:11-24A

The angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth in Ophrah
that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite.
While his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press
to save it from the Midianites,
the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said,
“The LORD is with you, O champion!”
Gideon said to him, “My Lord, if the LORD is with us,
why has all this happened to us?
Where are his wondrous deeds of which our fathers
told us when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’
For now the LORD has abandoned us
and has delivered us into the power of Midian.”
The LORD turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have
and save Israel from the power of Midian.
It is I who send you.”
But Gideon answered him, “Please, my lord, how can I save Israel?
My family is the lowliest in Manasseh,
and I am the most insignificant in my father’s house.”
“I shall be with you,” the LORD said to him,
“and you will cut down Midian to the last man.”
Gideon answered him, “If I find favor with you,
give me a sign that you are speaking with me.
Do not depart from here, I pray you, until I come back to you
and bring out my offering and set it before you.”
He answered, “I will await your return.”

So Gideon went off and prepared a kid and a measure of flour
in the form of unleavened cakes.
Putting the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot,
he brought them out to him under the terebinth
and presented them.
The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and unleavened cakes
and lay them on this rock; then pour out the broth.”
When he had done so,
the angel of the LORD stretched out the tip of the staff he held,
and touched the meat and unleavened cakes.
Thereupon a fire came up from the rock
that consumed the meat and unleavened cakes,
and the angel of the LORD disappeared from sight.
Gideon, now aware that it had been the angel of the LORD,
said, “Alas, Lord GOD,
that I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!”
The LORD answered him,
“Be calm, do not fear. You shall not die.”
So Gideon built there an altar to the LORD
and called it Yahweh-shalom.

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

R. (see 9b) The Lord speaks of peace to his people.
I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD–for he proclaims peace
To his people, and to his faithful ones,
and to those who put in him their hope.
R. The Lord speaks of peace to his people.
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. The Lord speaks of peace to his people.
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. The Lord speaks of peace to his people.

Alleluia  2 COR 8:9

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus Christ became poor although he was rich
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel  MT 19:23-30

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich
to enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Again I say to you,
it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said,
“Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men this is impossible,
but for God all things are possible.”
Then Peter said to him in reply,
“We have given up everything and followed you.
What will there be for us?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you
that you who have followed me, in the new age,
when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory,
will yourselves sit on twelve thrones,
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters
or father or mother or children or lands
for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more,
and will inherit eternal life.
But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

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Gideon and the angel by David T. Lamb
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God sometimes protects us from suffering (he’ll deliver Israel through Gideon), but somethings he sends suffering to get our attention (he handed Israel over to the Midianites), and other times he allows suffering almost randomly (e.g., Job).  The problem is discerning how God is working in the midst of suffering, and why.

One of the major problems with the people of God in the Old Testament is the worshipping of idols, ie. idolatry.

They were called to be God’s people and to worship the one true God and yet they turned to idols and bowed down and prostrated them in worship of images or idols that represented or were thought to embody various pagan deities.

But what was it that made them turn to idolatry? What was the attraction of idolatry that made them unfaithful to God who had showed them such great signs and wonders?

The attraction, and the seduction, came in many forms: fertility of animals and crop and the connected ritual sex, material gains, power and conquest of other nations, etc.

Being faithful to God would seem boring to say the least, with those laws and commandments, and they felt like losers compared to the other idol-worshipping pagans around them.

But what they fail to see is that they were also being slowly seduced by an evil power that was drawing them away from God, and leading them down the road of immorality and wickedness.

As we heard in the 1st reading, God punished them for their unfaithfulness but He also appointed judges to rescue them from their enemies. But once the judge was dead, they relapsed and behaved even worse than their ancestors. Obviously, the evil power never gives up in pulling the people away from God.

In the scripture, the rich young man who wanted to possess eternal life wands to know how. Jesus wanted him to follow him on the condition that he gives up his earthly riches.

Jesus was trying to pull him out of the clutches of the idolatry of earthly wealth, but like his ancestors, he was too attracted and obsessed by it.

As for ourselves, do we know what earthly attractions we are attached to or obsessed with? Let us ask Jesus to pull us out of it and to be faithful to Him.

If Jesus is not our first above all, then in the end, we will have nothing at all; neither here nor in eternity.

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Commentary on Matthew 19:23-30 From Living Space

After hearing the sad story of the rich young man who could not accept his invitation to be a disciple, Jesus gives some comments on the effects of wealth. It is next to impossible for the rich man to enter the kingdom of God, says Jesus. It would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. (It is said that Jesus was referring to a narrow entrance in the city wall of Jerusalem called the ‘eye of the needle’. In either case, Jesus is indicating something which is extremely difficult, in fact, next to impossible.)

Some of us may feel slightly uncomfortable about this. Even if we are not rich ourselves, we might like to see our children get rich some day or we admire people who have, by their hard work, become wealthy. What is wrong with having a lot of money which one has earned by the one’s own sweat and labour?

What does the Gospel mean by being rich? To be rich here means to have a large surplus of money and possessions while around one are people who do not have what they need to live a life of dignity. How can I continue to hold on to “my” possessions when such a situation prevails? How can I claim to belong to the kingdom, the reign of God, which is a kingdom of love and justice? “I was hungry and thirsty and sick and in prison” and you did not give me to eat or drink, you did not visit me or show any compassion. Instead, you piled up all that money in the bank or on the stock exchange or you splurged it on BMWs and fancy restaurants and expensive clothes.

To be rich in the Gospel means refusing to share what you have with those who have not. As long as you behave like that, you cannot be eligible for the Kingdom. It really is like trying to get a camel through the eye of a needle. There is a radical incompatibility.

The disciples were quite amazed at Jesus’ words. They were thinking along lines traditional to their culture and their religion. Wealth was a sign of God’s blessings; poverty and sickness a sign of his punishment. But Jesus is turning their traditions on their head.

It was something the young man could not understand either. He was under the impression that his wealth was a grace, a sign of God’s favour. The idea of giving alms was to be highly commended but to share his wealth with the poor and create a more just playing field was something for which he felt no obligation and which made no sense.

Then Peter, the optimist, begins to see the bright side. “What about us? We have left everything and followed you.” Jesus gives a twofold reply.

As the leaders of the new community and people who have generously put their whole security in Jesus, his disciples will be especially rewarded. And indeed everyone who leaves family and goods for Jesus’ sake will be rewarded many times over with father, mother, brothers, sisters, goods. This is not just a pie-in-the-sky promise. It is one that can be realised and, in many parts of the world, is being realised. When everyone works for the good of the other, everyone benefits.

The wealth-is-good world believes that it is every man for himself. There is only a limited amount of the cake and it is up to each one to get as big a piece as he can. Too bad about the losers.

In the world of Jesus, everyone gets because everyone gives; because everyone gives, everyone receives. It is not a ‘gimme’ world; it is a reaching out to others world. And when everyone reaches out, everyone is benefiting. In such a world, I do not have to worry about a roof over my head, or about brothers and sisters, or property or security. It is the realisation of “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need.” It is where love and justice meet. For too many people in our world, there is neither love nor justice.

If the rich man had liberated himself from his wealth and shared it with the poor and become a follower of Jesus in the new community, he might never have been rich again but he would have had all his needs attended to.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2203g/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 AUGUST, 2017, Tuesday, 20th Week, Ordinary Time
CALLED AND EMPOWERED

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Jdg 6:11-24Mt 19:23-30 ]

There are so many challenges facing the Church, society and the world today.  The Church is facing many challenges from within and without.  From within, the Church has to deal with scandals, bureaucracy, connectivity to our people.   From without, the Church has to deal with the question of mission in the new era of ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue and secularism.  Above all, within and without, the Church is divided on ethical and moral issues, especially those that deal with family and marriage.  Society is divided as there are no common values to hold all together because of relativism.  There is also the tension of integrating migrants into the host country.   The world is more unstable today because of wars and the abuse of ecology.  If not properly handled, the world could risk destruction.

In the face of these challenges, many simply lament about the state of the Church, society and the world.  Like Gideon, we feel distressed at the developments in the world.  When we are facing trials, not just on the global front but within our own families, because of broken marriages and dysfunctional children, we cannot but blame God and the world for the state we are in.  Gideon said, “Forgive me, my lord, but if the Lord is with us, then why is it that all this is happening to us now? And where are all the wonders our ancestors tell us of when they say, ‘Did not the Lord bring us out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has deserted us; he has abandoned us to Midian.”   Indeed, where is the God whom we believe in, the God of love, mercy and might?  So much so in our trials, we wonder whether God really exists, because He does not seem to be able to help us.

Instead of looking outside ourselves and finding fault with the situation, the truth is that the problems of society begin with us.   We do not see that the problems are created by us.  When Gideon complained why God had deserted them, it was a wrong judgment.  God did not abandon Israel but rather, it was they who abandoned the Lord and sought false gods.  They did not obey the commandments given to them to help them in their relationship with God and with each other.  So it was they who left God and went on their own ways instead of following the ways of God.  They believed in themselves.   It is true of the world today.   In a world of relativism, everyone seeks to go his or her own way.  It is based on subjectivism.  We find all sorts of reason to justify our opinions.

We pride ourselves for being pragmatic people, doing what is best at the point in time without having the wisdom and insight to consider the implications of our decisions for tomorrow and for the future of humanity.  We just have to examine the short-sighted policies advocated by the world today, be it the redefinition of family and marriage, population control, abortion and euthanasia, the destruction of ecology, etc, all because we want to have a good life now.   So the sufferings we are going through and the problems we are facing is the result of so-called pragmatic policies and decisions that we made earlier.   Only from hindsight do we learn that policies which we thought were good for humanity are actually destructive. So instead of over-population, we are now have a depopulation; with the resultant effect that a decreasing workforce is now having to shoulder the burden of looking after a burgeoning aged population, in addition to the young.

Indeed, this is the folly of the world.  This is what the scripture readings are telling us.  The ways of God are not our ways.   The way to find life is not through riches, power and glory.  Indeed, the Lord said, “I tell you solemnly, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Such teaching of Jesus was revolutionary because it was always thought that wealth is a sign of God’s blessings and poverty, the consequence of sin.  Hence, “when the disciples heard this they were astonished.  ‘Who can be saved, then?’”

This was the same question that Gideon raised when the Lord said to him, “’Go in the strength now upholding you, and you will rescue Israel from the power of Midian.  Do I not send you myself?’ Gideon answered him, ‘Forgive me, my Lord, but how can I deliver Israel? My clan, you must know, is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least important in my family.’”   He was too weak to be sent to save his people.   He found himself inadequate and lacking the capacity to accomplish the task of setting his people free from the enemies.  His immediate reaction was, “I am not the one!  I cannot do it!”   Isn’t this our response too when called upon to undertake a mission or an appointment for the greater good of the community?  We would say, “Choose someone else, not me!”

The truth is that we are shirking our responsibilities.  Instead of stepping out to make a difference in the lives of our fellowmen, we lament and hide.  This was the case of Gideon.  He was hiding from his enemies.  Gideon “was threshing wheat inside the winepress to keep it hidden from Midian.”  Indeed, those who are called are not willing to sacrifice themselves for the service of the Church, society and the country.  They want to protect their comfort zone.   This was the same attitude of the rich man in the gospel.  He was a man of great wealth and when asked to sell everything to give to the poor and follow Jesus, he declined.

The sad reality in the world today is not that there are not enough leaders to lead.  We have prophets and leaders, but not many are ready to sacrifice their comfort, convenience and security to offer themselves for public service, either in Church, in NGOs or in the government.  God has never failed to supply us with good leaders and shepherds.  But not many are responding because they are afraid of the sacrifices both to themselves and their families.  But if we are called, we cannot say “no” since we have been endowed with the talents and skills for the job.  Otherwise, by leaving our job to others who are not called, the little that we have will be taken away because bad leaders will destroy not just themselves but the whole Church, society and country.

The Lord wants to give the world peace through us.  This is what the psalmist says, “I will hear what the Lord God has to say, a voice that speaks of peace, peace for his people and his friends and those who turn to him in their hearts.   Mercy and faithfulness have met; justice and peace have embraced. Faithfulness shall spring from the earth and justice look down from heaven. The Lord will make us prosper and our earth shall yield its fruit. Justice shall march before him and peace shall follow his steps.”  We know that we are called when God stirs our hearts like He stirred Gideon’s.  He knew that something was not right and something had to be done.  But instead of offering himself, he was thinking that others should do it.  In the same way too, it is not right to complain about the poor leadership in our Church and country if we do not give ourselves for service.

If we are willing to say “Yes”, God will make peace a reality through us.  It will not be with our own strength.   Just as Jesus gazed at the disciples, He would also gaze at us and say, “For men, this is impossible; for God everything is possible.”   Indeed, we are called to rely on God alone in all that we do.   By our own strength and reasoning, we cannot go far.  Without the superior light of faith and revelation, we cannot see the long-term implications of the rationalistic decisions we make for today.  This was what the Lord said to Gideon.  “Go in the strength now upholding you, and you will rescue Israel from the power of Midian.  Do I not send you myself? I will be with you and you shall crush Midian as though it were a single man.”  We are not to depend on our riches and self-sufficiency.   We are called to rely on His grace alone.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Children hold up signs begging for food and water near Cebu, the Philippines, after Typhoon Haiyan, November 2013
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From The Carmelites
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Matthew 19, 27: The question of Peter. The background of the misunderstanding of the disciples appears in the question asked by Peter: “Look, we have left everything and have followed you. What are we to have then?” In spite of the beautiful generosity of abandoning everything, they still have the old mentality. They have abandoned everything in order to get something in exchange. They still had not understood well the sense of service and of gratuity.

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Jesus gives the keys to Peter

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Matthew 19, 28-30: The response of Jesus. “In truth I tell you, when everything is made new again and the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory you yourselves will sit on twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or land for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times as much and also inherit eternal life. Many, who are first, will be last, and the last, first”. In this response, Jesus describes the new world, the foundation of which had been placed by his work and that of the disciples. Jesus stresses three important points: (a) The disciples will sit on twelve thrones next to Jesus to judge the twelve tribes of Israel (cfr. Rev 4, 4). (b) In exchange they will receive many things which they had abandoned: houses, brothers, sisters, mother, children land and will inherit eternal life. (c) The future world will be the reverse of the present world. There, the last ones will be the first ones and the first ones will be the last ones. The community around Jesus is the seed and the manifestation of this new world. Up until now the small community of the poor continues to be the seed and manifestation of the Kingdom.

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Every time that in the history of the people of the Bible a new movement arises to renew the Covenant, it begins by re-establishing the rights of the poor, of the excluded. Without that, the Covenant will not be reconstructed. This is the sense and the reason for the insertion and the mission of the community of Jesus, in the midst of the poor. It draws from the roots and it inaugurates the New Covenant.

Concluding Prayer
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Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death I should fear no danger, for you Lord, are at my side. Your staff and your crook are there to soothe me. (Ps 23,4)
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Jesus offers his cross to Peter
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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, August 19, 2017 — “If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve.”

August 18, 2017

Saturday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 418

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Art: Joshua’s Army Marches Around Jericho

Reading 1  JOS 24:14-29

Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem,
and addressed them, saying:
“Fear the LORD and serve him completely and sincerely.
Cast out the gods your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt,
and serve the LORD.
If it does not please you to serve the LORD,
decide today whom you will serve,
the gods your fathers served beyond the River
or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling.
As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

But the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD
for the service of other gods.
For it was the LORD, our God,
who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt,
out of a state of slavery.
He performed those great miracles before our very eyes
and protected us along our entire journey and among all the peoples
through whom we passed.
At our approach the LORD drove out all the peoples,
including the Amorites who dwelt in the land.
Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”

Joshua in turn said to the people,
“You may not be able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God;
he is a jealous God who will not forgive
your transgressions or your sins.
If, after the good he has done for you,
you forsake the LORD and serve strange gods,
he will do evil to you and destroy you.”

But the people answered Joshua, “We will still serve the LORD.”
Joshua therefore said to the people,
“You are your own witnesses that you have chosen to serve the LORD.”
They replied, “We are, indeed!”
Joshua continued:
“Now, therefore, put away the strange gods that are among you
and turn your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.”
Then the people promised Joshua,
“We will serve the LORD, our God, and obey his voice.”

So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day
and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem,
which he recorded in the book of the law of God.
Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak
that was in the sanctuary of the LORD.
And Joshua said to all the people, “This stone shall be our witness,
for it has heard all the words which the LORD spoke to us.
It shall be a witness against you, should you wish to deny your God.”
Then Joshua dismissed the people, each to his own heritage.

After these events, Joshua, son of Nun, servant of the LORD,
died at the age of a hundred and ten.

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

R. (see 5a) You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.

Alleluia SEE 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.

Gospel MT 19:13-15

Children were brought to Jesus
that he might lay his hands on them and pray.
The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said,
“Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them;
for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
After he placed his hands on them, he went away.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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19 AUGUST, 2017, Saturday, 19th Week, Ordinary Time
RENEWING OUR COMMITMENT TO THE LORD AND HIS PEOPLE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Jos 24:14-29Ps 16:1-2,5,7-8,11Mt 19:13-15 ]

Today, it is difficult to find people who are committed to their vocation in life or the work they do.  This is particularly true of relationships.  Marriage is no longer a lifelong commitment.  People marry with great skepticism that the marriage would last.  What is true of marriage is also true of vocation.  The number of priests and religious leaving the ministry is increasing each day.  Some leave just a couple of years after their ordination.  Even those who stay are doing so for security reasons as they have lost their zeal in serving the Lord and His people.  This is even truer of jobs.  Very seldom do we have a worker who is loyal to the company for life.  The moment they find a better job, they leave.

Joshua who led the people into the Promised Land was fully aware of the temptations ahead of them. Upon settling down in the land of Canaan, they would become rich and influenced by the Canaanite culture and religion.  In the desert, they had nothing and no one to rely on except God alone.  But once they have settled down in the Promised Land, they would be able to plant their own crops and be self-sufficient.  For this reason, Joshua felt the need to have the people reaffirm their commitment to the Lord.  They were asked to renew their decision to follow the Lord with all their heart.

Today, we too are called to renew our commitment to the Lord.  This commitment could be our priestly or marriage promises or religious vows.  This is particularly relevant especially when we celebrate our anniversary.  It is an occasion to renew our promises and vows to the vocation that we have chosen.  What does it take to renew our commitment to the Lord and His people? 

Firstly, we need to put away our false gods.  If the Lord is our God, then we must destroy in us what makes us worship the alien gods in our lives.  It means that we put away every form of idolatry, such as pride, insecurity, greed, jealousy, and the vain pursuits of the world.   Instead of listening to the world, we listen only to the Lord.  “Joshua said to all the people: ‘Fear the Lord and serve him perfectly and sincerely; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if you will not serve the Lord, choose today whom you wish to serve, whether the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are now living.”   Indeed, we need to examine how much we have strayed from the living God.  The truth is that many of us say “yes” to God, but along the way, like the Israelites, we turn away from the living God because we are attracted by the illusions of the world, power, glory and materialism.

Secondly, we need to encounter the Lord’s mercy and power.  We cannot commit ourselves to the Lord unless we know that He is indeed the Lord.  The decision to commit themsleves to the God of Israel was not just based on blind faith.  On the contrary, they had seen the powers and mercy of God. “The people answered, ‘We have no intention of deserting the Lord and serving other gods! Was it not the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors out of the land of Egypt, the house of slavery, who worked those great wonders before our eyes and preserved us all along the way we travelled and among all the peoples through whom we journeyed? What is more, the Lord drove all those people out before us, as well as the Amorites who used to live in this country. We too will serve the Lord, for he is our God.’”  The strength of our commitment to serve the Lord is affected by how we see the Lord at work in our lives, in our vocation, in our marriage and in our commitment.  When we see that what we are doing with the help of His grace is bringing fruits to those for whom we are laboring, that gives us the impetus to do even more and to trust Him more.

Thirdly, we need exemplary models like Joshua.  If there is a lack of commitment in vocation and relationships, it is because we have poor mentors.   Many of us join the priestly and religious vocation because we have observed the good mentors before us who gave up their lives to serve God and His people. It is the same for marriages as well.  But today, we lack mentors who live up to their commitment with fidelity, joy and passion.  Joshua, the leader of Israel, led not by using power over the people but by his own example.  With conviction, he unwaveringly declared, “As for me and my House, we serve the Lord.”   Regardless of what the others might choose, Joshua was definite about his choice, which was to serve the Lord.  This decision he made was not just a verbal decision but one that he lived out for the rest of his life.

Fourthly, we must consider the implications of our choice.  Joshua reminded the people of their decision.  He said, “You cannot serve the Lord, because he is a holy God, he is a jealous God who will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you desert the Lord to follow alien gods he in turn will afflict and destroy you after the goodness he has shown you.”   It is not enough simply to say “yes” without thinking of the implications.  Getting married is easy, staying married is difficult.  Indeed, there are serious implications when those who take promises and vows do not live up to them.  This is true of priests, religious and married people, or those appointed for leadership.  What we do does not only affect us but the community whom we are called to serve.  So the failure to live up to our commitment will not only hurt us but hurt everyone as well.

In the light of these challenges, how then can we live up to our promises and commitments knowing how difficult it is?  We must give our whole heart to the Lord.  “Joshua said to the people, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.’ They answered, ‘We are witnesses.’ ‘Then cast away the alien gods among you and give your hearts to the Lord the God of Israel!’ The people answered Joshua, ‘It is the Lord our God we choose to serve; it is his voice that we obey.’”  To give our whole heart to the Lord means that we will obey His will in all that we do.  It means that we will do everything for the love of Him and the glory of His name.  Is the Lord the center of our lives?  Do we pledge total allegiance to Him above all things and persons?  The strength of our commitment and surrender will determine how much we will be faithful to Him.

Like the psalmist, we must be able to declare that the Lord is our portion. “You are my inheritance, O Lord.  Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.  I say to the Lord: ‘You are my God.’  O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup; it is you yourself who are my prize. I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel, who even at night directs my heart.  I keep the Lord ever in my sight: since he is at my right hand, I shall stand firm. You will show me the path of life, the fullness of joy in your presence, at your right hand happiness for ever.”  Unless God is our inheritance and not the world, we cannot give ourselves utterly to our commitment.

In the final analysis, we must surrender in faith like a child to enter the Kingdom of God.  When the disciples wanted to turn away the little ones from coming to Him for a blessing, Jesus said, “Let the little children alone, and do not stop them coming to me; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”  With a childlike faith, we are called to surrender our lives to the Lord and to our heavenly Father.  Only those who have experienced the Fatherly love of God can surrender in trust to Him.  Children trust in their parents and elders because they feel loved and protected.  Otherwise, they become suspicious of people, especially those in authority, if they have been abused or taken advantage of.   For this reason, we are called to have a special care for the young because how they are formed, guided and mentored in love will affect their ability to make their own commitments to God and their vocation in future.   If they have proper fatherly love and care, they would be able to be more stable in relationships and commitments.  Fatherly love on earth will help them to encounter the heavenly Father’s love for them in Christ Jesus.

Finally, let us remember our commitment to the Lord through the external sign, such as a wedding ring or a religious ring.  We need these external signs and ceremonies to keep our faith and promises alive.  Renewal of our commitment through the celebration of anniversaries are great moments to review and thank God for His commitment to us.  That was why, Joshua renewed the covenant by setting up a stone or an altar. “He took a great stone and set it up there, under the oak in the sanctuary of the Lord, and Joshua said to all the people, ‘See! This stone shall be a witness against us because it has heard all the words that the Lord has spoken to us: it shall be a witness against you in case you deny your God.’”

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

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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• The Gospel today is very brief; only three verses. The Gospel describes how Jesus accepts the children.

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• Matthew 19, 13: The attitude of the disciples concerning the children. People brought little children to Jesus, for him to lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples scolded the mothers. Why? Perhaps because this was according to the severe norms of the Law of purity, the small children in the conditions in which they lived were considered unclean, impure. If they touched Jesus, he would become impure. Because of this, it was important to avoid that they should get close to him and that they touch him. Because it already had happened one time, when a leper touched Jesus. Jesus became unclean, impure and could no longer enter the city. He had to remain in deserted places (Mk 1, 4-45).

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• Matthew 19, 14-15: The attitude of Jesus: he accepts and defends the life of the children. Jesus reproved the disciples and said: Let the little children alone, and do not stop them from coming to me, for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs”. Jesus does not care about transgressing the norms which prevent fraternity and acceptance to be given to the little ones. The new experience of God, the Father has marked the life of Jesus and gives him new eyes to perceive and to value the relationship between persons. Jesus gets on the side of the little ones, of the excluded and assumes their defence. It impresses when we see together everything which the Bible says regarding the attitudes of Jesus in defence of the life of the children, of the little ones:

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a) To give thanks for the Kingdom present in the little ones. Jesus’ joy is great when he sees that the children, the little ones understand the things of the Kingdom which he announced to the people. “Father, I thank you!” (Mt 11, 25-26) Jesus recognizes that the little ones understand more about the things of the Kingdom, than the doctors!

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b) To defend the right to shout or cry out. When Jesus, entered the Temple, he upset the tables of the money changers, and the children were those who shouted: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Mt 21, 15). Criticized by the high priests and the Scribes, Jesus defends them and in his defence he recalls the Scriptures (Mt 21, 16).

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c) To identify oneself with the little ones. Jesus embraces the little ones and identifies himself with them. Anyone who accepts a little one accepts Jesus (Mk 9, 37). “In so far as you have done it to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me”. (Mt 25, 40).

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d) To accept and not to scandalize. One of the hardest words of Jesus is against those who are a cause of scandal for the little ones, that is, who are the cause why the little ones no longer believe in God. Because of this, it would have been better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around their neck (Lk 17, 1-2; Mt 18, 5-7). Jesus condemns the system, both the political one as well as the religious one, which is the reason why the little ones, the humble people, lose faith in God.

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e) To become like children. Jesus asks his disciples to become like children and to accept the Kingdom as children do. Without this, it is impossible to enter into the Kingdom (Lk 9,46-48). It indicates that the children are professors of the adults. That was not normal. We are accustomed to the contrary.

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f) To accept and to touch. (Today’s Gospel). The mothers with their children who get close to Jesus to ask him to bless the children. The Apostles react and drive them away. Jesus corrects the adults and accepts the mothers with the children. He touches the children and embraces them. “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them!” (Mk 10, 13-16; Mt 19, 13-15). According to the norms of that time, both the mothers and their small children, practically, lived in a state of legal impurity. Jesus does not allow himself to be drawn by this.

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g) To accept and to take care. Many are the children and the young people whom he accepts, takes care of and rises from the dead: the daughter of Jairus, who was 12 years old (Mk 5, 41-42), the daughter of the Canaanite woman (Mk 7, 29-30), the son of the widow of Nain (Lk 7, 14-15), the epileptic child (Mk 9, 25-26), the son of the Centurion (Lk 7, 9-10), the son of the public officer (Jn 4,50), the boy with five loaves of bread and two fishes (Jn 6,9).

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Personal questions

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• Children: what have you learnt from children throughout the years of your life? And what do children learn about God, about Jesus and his life, from you?
• Which is the image of Jesus which I give to children? A sever God, a good God, distant or absent?

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Concluding Prayer

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Lord, give me back the joy of your salvation,
sustain in me a generous spirit.
I shall teach the wicked your paths,
and sinners will return to you. (Ps 51,12-13)

http://www.ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-matthew-1913-15

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Related:
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A theme repeated over and over again in the scriptures is, “Do not be afraid.”
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When someone today asks, “What do we get as Christians?” we might answer: “Do not be afraid. Everything is possible with God.”
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Related here on Peace and Freedom:
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God, I offer myself to Thee –
to build with me and do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love and Thy Way of Life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank You God, AMEN!
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Survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan march during a religious procession in Tolosa on the eastern Philippine island of Leyte  over one week after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the area. The United Nations estimates that 13 million people were affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan with around 1.9 million losing their homes. AFP PHOTO / Philippe Lopez (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images) When the going gets tough, we have to get our faith going!

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From Last Year…..

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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13 AUGUST 2016, Saturday, 19th Week of Ordinary Time
INTER-GENERATIONAL SIN

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  EZ 18:1-10.13.30-32; MT 19:13-15 ]

The question of inter-generational sin and original sin has always been a source of contention and disagreement.  The objection lies in that if sin must be willingly committed by one who is free, then it is not fair that we suffer the sins of our parents and ancestors through no fault of ours.

The cause of such misunderstanding is due to the fact that the word “sin” is used analogously and not literally. Of course, we cannot inherit the sins personally committed by someone else.  Nevertheless, we can inherit the guilt as a consequence of their sins.

In the Old Testament, great emphasis was given to the collective sin of the community.  This was because salvation was always taken to be of a people or a nation.  People tended to see themselves as a community rather than as individuals.  The success or failure of one would have had repercussions on the rest of the community. More so, if the person who sinned was the head of the community, as his sin would have involved the whole nation.  Hence, the sin of the king or the leader of the tribe, or the father of the household, would cause all those under his care to suffer the punishment for his sins.

Thus, we can understand why the bible, since the time of Moses, speaks about the sins of our forefathers affecting us. We cannot deny that in some ways we are influenced by both the culture of the society we are born into and also the spiritual influence of our parents.  Although it would not be right to speak of genetic sin, certainly the emotions and the psychological state of our parents would have affected us even when we were in the womb of our mothers and when we were being brought up by them as well.  Therefore we must recognize that we do suffer the effects of the sins of our parents, although we do not and cannot inherit their sins.  Indeed, Ezekiel himself did not sin, but like the good and righteous ones of Israel, he too was in exile because of the sins of his fellowmen.

Of course, there is a danger that we can exonerate ourselves of all guilt and push the blame on our forefathers.  This is what Ezekiel sought to do in today’s first reading.  We must see sin in perspective. Ultimately, God does not condemn us for the sins of our parents, but only our personal sins.   So it is more important that we take cognizance of our own personal sins rather than blaming them on our parents. Yes, we suffer the consequences, but we have the freedom and the will to change the orientation.  The power to overcome our sins is within us.  We need not resign ourselves to committing the same sins our parents did.  In other words, the prophet is saying that we are responsible for our own sins.  “As I live – it is the Lord who speaks – there will no longer be any reason to repeat this proverb in Israel.  See now: all life belongs to me; the father’s life and the son’s life, both alike belong to me.  The man who has sinned, he is the one who shall die.”

Isn’t this what the doctrine of original sin, and by extension, that of inter-generational sin, wants to convey, namely, that we share the fallen nature of our parents?  This fallen nature has affected us physically, emotionally, spiritually and psychologically.  We are wounded right from the start.  Original sin itself strictly is not yet a sin, except insofar as the fact that right from the start of our conception we are not in union with God.  However, soon it will become a sin in a real sense because we will then reenact what our parents had done by our personal sins.

Of course, inter-generational healing does not exclude our asking forgiveness for our own personal sins.  The responsorial psalm and the prophet made it clear that we must repent of our personal sins and not lay all the blame on our relations.  Like the psalmist, we must seek sincere repentance for our sins and ask the Lord to cleanse us and recreate in us a new heart.

In the same vein too, baptism also takes away our sins insofar as we are separated from God.  Through baptism, we are reconciled with God. Our sins, original and personal, are forgiven.  As a consequence of the grace of Christ, we experience an inner renewal of body, mind and spirit.  We should not have any doubts about the power of the sacrament of baptism to free us from sin and the Evil One.  The grace given to us at baptism is always there.

How is it possible that our sins are taken away at baptism?  The same principle holds with regard to the vicarious death of Christ.  Jesus, as the New Adam, rescinded all that was lost by the First Adam.  As St Paul says, “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.  Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” (Rom 5:17-19).  Jesus as the head, and we being His body, enables us to share in His victory over sin and death.

However the Council of Trent also teaches that concupiscence still remains in us in spite of our baptism. Nevertheless it is not a sin, but a tendency to sin remains.  Our human nature remains weak but with the grace of Christ we can overcome temptation to sin.  Hence, we are now in communion with God in principle.  We are renewed in Him and we are His children.  But the warfare still carries on and the battle against sin must continue to be fought with the grace of God.  So, existentially we all remain sinners even after baptism.  After all, who does not sin after baptism; unless we are baptized before death!  Metaphysically however, we are saints.  To preserve our holiness, we must strengthen our prayer and spiritual life; frequent the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.

The importance and relevance of inter-generational healing, therefore, is that it is not a matter of asking forgiveness for the sins we have inherited from our parents, rather, it is to ask God to forgive their sins on one hand; and on the other, we choose to forgive them for the effects of their sins upon us.   Through forgiveness we help the departed souls to rest in peace and return to the Lord; at the same time we free ourselves from curses, guilt and our bondage to their past.  So generational healing is the practical application of the grace of Christ given to us at baptism to heal our wounds, especially emotional and psychological traits inherited from our wounded forefathers and those who have had an influence over us directly or indirectly.

The gospel text today brings to light the relevance of generational healing.  If Jesus reprimanded the disciples for forbidding the children to go to Him, it was because He understood how we can influence our children for better or for worse.  Knowing that we come from dysfunctional and imperfect parents, they too, need prayers to be healed of the negative traits they received from their parents and relatives.  Of course the other meaning of blessing the children is to remind us that unless we are innocent, receptive and trusting in God, like children, we cannot share in the life of God.

As parents, we must therefore consider carefully what we do and say and how these will affect our children for better or for worse.  Recognizing how much influence we can have over our loved ones, let us strive to live a life of holiness so that we can impart goodness to them instead of evil.  On our part, recognizing that we are wounded from our past, we must continually seek the Lord for inner healing and at the same time, pray for the forgiveness of the souls of the faithful departed, that they too will embrace the loving mercy of God’s forgiveness and be united with the Lord in heaven.

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

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