Posts Tagged ‘Edward Leen’

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

August 7, 2018

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

Prayer for the Day

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

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Over and over again in the scripture we see the words “do not be afraid.” God expects us to know and believe that he has our back!
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This little “anti-anxiety” prayer was a part of every Catholic Mass for centuries:
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Deliver us, Lord, from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
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Another anti-anxiety prayer is this one:
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help
of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!

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Sir Anthony Hopkins

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

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Morning Prayer for Saturday, August 4, 2018 — Seeking conscious contact with God

August 4, 2018

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“And this is life eternal, that they may know Thee.” It is the flow of life eternal through spirit, mind, and body that cleanses, heals, restores, and renews. Seek conscious contact with God more and more each day. Make God an abiding presence during the day. Be conscious of His spirit helping you. All that is done without God’s spirit is passing. All that is done with God’s spirit is life eternal.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may be in the stream of eternal life. I pray that I may be cleansed and healed by the Eternal Spirit.

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Morning Prayer for Thursday, June 28, 2018 — Maintain your calm and composure amid pressing duties and unending challenges

June 28, 2018

If you can take your troubles as they come, if you can maintain your
calm and composure amid pressing duties and unending engagements,
if you can rise above the distressing and disturbing circumstances in
which you are set down, you have discovered a priceless secret of
daily living. Even if you are forced to go through life weighed down by
some unescapable misfortune or handicap and yet live each day as it
comes with poise and peace of mind, you have succeeded where most
people have failed. You have wrought a greater achievement than a
person who rules a nation. Have I achieved poise and peace of mind?

Meditation For The Day

Take a blessing with you wherever you go. You have been blessed, so
bless others. Such stores of blessings are awaiting you in the months
and years that lie ahead. Pass on your blessings. Blessing can and does
go around the world, passed on from one person to another. Shed a
little blessing in the heart of one person. That person is cheered to
pass it on, and so, God’s vitalizing, joy-giving message travels on. Be a
transmitter of God’s blessings.

Prayer For The Day

I pray that I may pass on my blessings. I pray that they may flow into
the lives of others.

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Book: Holy Spirit by Fr. Edward Leen
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Every human being has the spark of God within. What we want to do is make that spark into hot, life saving flame! We want the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

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Are we growing in faith? Not afraid to take risks to be a disciple of Christ? Prayer for Monday, June 11, 2018

June 11, 2018
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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Monday, June 11, 2018
A CHURCH COMING OUT OF HERSELF TO THE PERIPHERIES

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Acts 11:21-2613:1-3Mt 10:7-13 ]

The persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem resulted in the Church of Jerusalem going out of herself to other cities.  If not for the persecution, the Christian Church would not have grown because it would have been domesticated and reduced to another sect of Judaism.  So divine providence used such events for the spread of the gospel.   One of the cities that the Jewish Christians went to announce the Good News was Antioch. “A great number believed and were converted to the Lord. The church in Jerusalem heard about this and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. There he could see for himself that God had given grace.”

Barnabas, whose feast we celebrate today, played a key role in the spread of the gospel to all the nations.  Indeed, without Barnabas, Paul, who was then called Saul, might have been left as an unknown figure as many did not quite trust a former persecutor of the Church.  Barnabas might not have been the chosen apostle to the Gentiles, but he was certainly instrumental in rehabilitating Saul in the Christian community, giving him credibility and confidence.  It was his initiative to bring Paul to help him in his ministry.  “Barnabas then left for Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. As things turned out they were to live together in that church a whole year, instructing a number of people.”  Without his graciousness and encouragement, Saul would not have entered the Church to assume leadership.

Barnabas, whose name means encouragement, was truly an encouraging person towards all those who were growing in faith.  He was not afraid to take risks, as in soliciting Paul for help. He encouraged Paul to work with him in instructing the Christians at Antioch.  “He was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith.”  Barnabas was a true example of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  He patiently formed the early Christians in faith.  “He urged them all to remain faithful to the Lord with heartfelt devotion; and a large number of people were won over to the Lord.” He was aware that just because one is converted to the Lord does not mean that he would stay faithful to Him unless he continues to grow in the faith through study, reading the Word of God and sharing the faith with each other.

What is significant is that the community that Barnabas formed was not a conclave of Christians where they were only concerned about themselves.   A sign of a true, living and loving Christian community is when they reach out and proclaim Christ to others, and form new communities.  This is the danger of many so-called Christian communities. They become exclusive elite club members, absorbed in themselves and admitting only those who are good.  This is the saddest part of the Catholic Church because we are at most parochial-minded, even if we are considered “good Catholics.”  We are not reaching out to each other in the parish, much less to non-Christians.  A look at the statistics of our conversion rate will show that we are a maintenance Church.  With 383,000 Catholics or more, we have slightly over a thousand adult baptisms a year.  We are not a vibrant, evangelistic and missionary Church.  We are quite contented to take care of our own parishes instead of growing new parishes and building new churches and new communities.  We rarely build new churches, for after so many years, we are only 32 parishes.  This clearly indicates that we are not growing fast enough to establish new communities.

In the early Church we see Barnabas and Paul being sent out as missionaries.  “One day while they were offering worship to the Lord and keeping a fast, the Holy Spirit said, ‘I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them.’ So it was that after fasting and prayer they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”  They were receptive to the Holy Spirit prompting them to share the Good News with people elsewhere.  Indeed, the Church must be missionary-minded, always finding new ways to establish new communities.  We must avoid being a complacent Church that is inward-looking and protectionist.  We must be ready to welcome new people into the Church and in our ministries.  “Let us go forth, then, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ. Here I repeat for the entire Church what I have often said to the priests and laity of Buenos Aires: I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rath­er than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.”  (Gaudium Evangelii, No. 49)

Pope Francis challenged the Church to go forth.  “All of us are called to take part in this new missionary ’going forth’.  Each Christian and every community must dis­cern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel.”  (Gaudium Evangelii, No. 20) What are these peripheries?  It is not just a geographical periphery but also existential periphery.  We must be bold and creative. “Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: ‘We have always done it this way’. I invite every­one to be bold and creative in this task of re­thinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communi­ties.”  (Gaudium Evangelii, No. 33)  This is what the gospel is inviting us to do when the Lord said to His disciples, “As you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils.”

We must open our doors to the world. Jesus instructed His disciples, “Whatever town or village you go into, ask for someone trustworthy and stay with him until you leave. As you enter his house, salute it, and if the house deserves it, let your peace descend upon it; if it does not, let your peace come back to you.”  There is no coercion on our part but just offering the gift of the Good News.  Indeed, Pope Francis is insistent that “The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One con­crete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if some­one, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door. There are other doors that should not be closed either. Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacra­ments be closed for simply any reason.” (Gaudium Evangelii, No. 47)

This requires us to trust in Jesus and rely on Him alone.  Jesus told the disciples, “Provide yourselves with no gold or silver, not even with a few coppers for your purses, with no haversack for the journey or spare tunic or footwear or a staff, for the workman deserves his keep.”  This mission cannot be accomplished without the Lord and the power of the Holy Spirit, “One day while they were offering worship to the Lord and keeping a fast, the Holy Spirit said, ‘I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them.’ So it was that after fasting and prayer they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”  Like the apostles, we are sent by a praying, spirit-filled and anointed community, regardless whether we are priests, religious, missionaries or laity involved in the mission.  We too must pray and discern how the Spirit is asking the Church today to renew herself and to go out to offer everyone the life of Christ

So let us without fear join the psalmist in singing “a new song to the Lord for he has worked wonders. His right hand and his holy arm have brought salvation. 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.”   Let us go forth as Church, out of our comfort zones, to the existential periphery to announce the gospel of the Lord.  The Lord reminds us, “You have received without charge, give without charge.”  “An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19), and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the out­cast. Such a community has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy.”  (Gaudium Evangelii, No. 24)

Let us be generous in our contribution and support, whether in financial resources or time, to those whom we have sent out as missionaries to proclaim the gospel, those who labour in our diocese and beyond. It is not enough to send them out without supporting them with our prayers and resources.  “The Church which ‘goes forth’ is a com­munity of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice. An evangelizing community is also supportive, standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be.”  (Gaudium Evangelii, No. 24)

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

Heavenly Father,

Pour forth your Holy Spirit to inspire me with these words from Holy Scripture.

Stir in my soul the desire to renew my faith and deepen my relationship with your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ so that I might truly believe in and live the Good News.

Open my heart to hear the Gospel and grant me the confidence to proclaim the Good News to others.

Pour out your Spirit, so that I might be strengthened to go forth and witness to the Gospel in my everyday life through my words and actions.

In moments of hesitation, remind me:

If not me, then who will proclaim the Gospel?

If not now, then when will the Gospel be proclaimed?

If not the truth of the Gospel, then what shall I proclaim?

God, our Father, I pray that through the Holy Spirit I might hear the call of the New Evangelization to deepen my faith, grow in confidence to proclaim the Gospel and boldly witness to the saving grace of your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/prayers/prayer-for-the-new-evangelization.cfm

Book:

Bishop Goh reminds us to be “Dynamic Catholics.”

  1. Pray/Meditate
  2. Study
  3. Pour ourselves out in service to others
  4. EVANGELIZE

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Book: Holy Spirit by Fr. Edward Leen

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, June 2, 2018 — Do you know what is of heavenly origin?

June 1, 2018

Tissot, The Chief Priests Take Counsel Together
The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. Mark 11:18

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Saturday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 352

Reading 1 JUDE 17, 20B-25

Beloved, remember the words spoken beforehand
by the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit.
Keep yourselves in the love of God
and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ
that leads to eternal life.
On those who waver, have mercy;
save others by snatching them out of the fire;
on others have mercy with fear,
abhorring even the outer garment stained by the flesh.To the one who is able to keep you from stumbling
and to present you unblemished and exultant,
in the presence of his glory,
to the only God, our savior,
through Jesus Christ our Lord
be glory, majesty, power, and authority
from ages past, now, and for ages to come. Amen.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 63:2, 3-4, 5-6

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

Alleluia  SEE COL 3:16A, 17C

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly;
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel  MK 11:27-33

Jesus and his disciples returned once more to Jerusalem.
As he was walking in the temple area,
the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders
approached him and said to him,
“By what authority are you doing these things?
Or who gave you this authority to do them?”
Jesus said to them, “I shall ask you one question.
Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.
Was John’s baptism of heavenly or of human origin? Answer me.”
They discussed this among themselves and said,
“If we say, ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say,
‘Then why did you not believe him?’
But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?”–
they feared the crowd,
for they all thought John really was a prophet.
So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.”
Then Jesus said to them,
“Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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02 JUNE, 2018, Saturday, 8th Week, Ordinary Time
PERSONAL AUTHORITY OF LEADERS COMES FROM FAITH THAT WORKS ITSELF THROUGH LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ JUDE 17:20-25;  MK 11:27-33 ]

In the gospel today, the authority of Jesus was questioned by the Jewish leaders.  Without mincing their words, they said to him, “What authority have you for acting like this?  Or who gave you the authority to do these things?”  The response given by Jesus might appear to be paradoxical but in fact it forced the Jewish leaders to admit their fear and prejudice against Him.

By citing the example of John the Baptist, who was popularly acknowledged as a great prophet by all the common people and could not be disputed by the Jewish leaders lest they incurred the wrath of the people, it underscores the fact that if John the Baptist had won such respect from the people, it was because of his lifestyle and preaching.  We know that John the Baptist lived a life of poverty in the desert, having only wild locusts and honey for his food.  He preached the baptism of repentance with such forcefulness and conviction that many who heard him could see the power of God at work in him and recognized his words as coming from God Himself.

The implication is that Jesus too based His authority not so much on the institutional office given to Him, as was the case of the Jewish leaders, but on the authority that came from His way of life, His identification with the Father and His works.  In John’s gospel, He said, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.” (Jn 14:11)  So Jesus was telling the Jewish leaders that His authority could be verified by the works that He had done.

Truly, in any discernment of authenticity, we must verify the fruits of the work of the person.  When something is from God or from the Holy Spirit, it will surely bear good fruit.  Not just fruits, but lasting fruits of the Spirit.  Jesus in the gospel taught us that we should judge the tree by its fruits.  So even if we have personal prejudices against a person, let the enduring fruits of his work substantiate his claims that his mission comes from God.  Conversely, if we are not producing good and lasting fruits, then we must be weary of the origin of our work, whether it comes from God or from the human spirit, or worse still, the evil spirit under the guise of the good spirit.

What does it mean for us as priests and lay leaders?  It is not enough to rest our authority on the office, be it by ordination or by appointment.   Institutional authority alone cannot command respect from those whom we serve.  We need to complement our institutional authority with personal authority that comes from a life of faith and love of God.  This is what St Jude said to the Christians.  He exhorted them saying, “You must use your holy faith as your foundation and build on that, praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves within the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you eternal life.”  Indeed, a true Christian leader, clerical or lay, must act from the authority given to him by Jesus through faith in Him as the Risen Lord, and bathe in His love and mercy, so that he would never become too proud, arrogant or self-reliant, but always surrendering his life and ministry to the power of the Holy Spirit.

Secondly, this faith in God’s love and mercy must result in a genuine concern for our brothers and sisters in faith.  It is out of love for them that St Jude urged the Christians to act thus, “when there are some who have doubts, reassure them; when there are some to be saved from the fire, pull them out; but there are others to whom you must be kind with great caution, keeping your distance even from outside clothing which is contaminated by vice.”  A good leader therefore is one who cares for the faith and salvation of his or her fellow brothers and sisters.  Like the Good Shepherd, lay leaders must show fruits of genuine pastoral care for those who are weak in their faith, those who are on the way to perdition and those who are living in sin.   When we are sincere in reaching out to such wounded and stray Christians, they will eventually respond to us as they know we are truly concerned about their well being and not just an attempt at proselytizing.

All of us in a certain sense therefore have the authority to proclaim the gospel even if we do not have institutional authority.  By our very lives, we can bring Jesus to others and convict them of their sin and pride.  Through our good examples of faith and love, we can win the hearts of those who are searching for God.  And as the psalmist tells us, many people are thirsting for God and waiting to see His power and glory.  If we show kindness to such people and they perceive the kindness as coming from God, they will be brought to conversion.

Finally, if we are skeptical about those leaders placed over us or those who claim to be working for God, then we must be sincere in evaluating the genuineness of their authority.  Before we reject their claims that their work is from God, we must be objective in examining their works and their fruits.  We cannot dismiss a person simply because we are not inclined to him or her.  Worse still, quite often, the real motives for our rejection of such leaders are due to our jealousy and insecurity.  Our pride and envy of their success make us envious, and we try to discredit their works.  So we must pray that we do not work against God unwittingly, especially when we can see that a certain project or church group is helping people to live a life of holiness and charity with evangelical zeal.

The last line of today’s first reading sums up the final criteria in our discernment of genuine authority and the works of God, namely, that in all things, we can say confidently, “Glory be to him who can keep you from falling and bring you safe to his glorious presence, innocent and happy.  To God, the only God, who saves us through Jesus Christ our Lord, be the glory, majesty, authority and power, which he had before time began, now and for ever.  Amen.”  In other words, whether as leaders or followers, we must give glory to God for He is the One who is the source of all authority and power.   When anyone begins to think consciously or unconsciously that he or she is the one responsible for the success of the works undertaken, then that person is being deceived by Evil One.  The moment success gets into our head, we are headed for a downfall.  So let us follow Jesus in affirming that our authority and power comes from His Father and that whatever we do, we want to do it in union with Him, doing only His will and His alone.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Homily Ideas for Mark 11: 27-33 “By What Authority”?
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Don’t forget, Jesus was an outcast and “the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him.” (Matthew 27: 41)

In Mark’s account in Chapter 11, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to Jesus over the issue of authority. They had every right to do so. They were the duly appointed leaders of the nation of Israel. But even though they had this authority, they did not understand that the authority of Jesus was much greater than theirs. They wanted to question Jesus‘ authority for teaching the people things which were contrary to what they were teaching them, and for doing miracles on the Sabbath day, which they thought ought not to be done on that day. They believed that Jesus was a false prophet. They did not understand, spiritually, how it is God who raises up men to have and to exercise true spiritual authority among the assembled people of God. They did not understand that this man who was standing in front of them was the Lord of Glory; their Master, their Messiah, and their King; the One through whom the world was made. They just saw Him as a man who was a troublemaker; a man who needed to be brought into line with their own false teaching and authority.

This passage is very important to all believers in Jesus Christ, or all who are considering believing in Him. For it teaches us that we have a very reasonable faith which is based on the authority of God Himself. These verses teach us that we, as believers in Jesus Christ, have no responsibility to submit to the authority of men who would put us into spiritual bondage to themselves.

Any pastor or spiritual leader in the visible Church of Jesus Christ who cannot recognize the difference between an appointment to an office that men appoint other men to; and the particular graces and gifts which God alone gives to establish good spiritual authority in the lives of God‘s people, may come to make great mistakes in the exercise of their authority. There is an authority which God gives and conveys, that enables a man to be raised up to do God‘s good work in promoting the gospel and Christ‘s kingdom; and there is an authority which men give to men, or which men take to themselves, which shuts other men up to themselves rather than to God. Men who are spiritually blind in this regard, may find themselves attempting to put other people around them under their own spiritual authority, rather than establishing the people who attend their church under God‘s true authority. They may actually find themselves trying to take away the true spiritual freedom which God has called all believers to, by attempting to do these things. Indeed, they may actually find themselves opposing the true work of God. So, this afternoon I would like to set before you the Lord Jesus‘ response to the question, ―By what authority are you doing these things?‖ His response was 1st of all – To ask His own question of them. (Verses 27-30) It was 2ndly – To know their reasonings. (Verses 31 and 32) And then 3rdly – It was to refuse to give them the answer to their question. (Verse 33).

From Pastor Paul Rendall

http://www.reformedbaptistoftama.com/sermons/Se
rmons%20on%20Mark’s%20Gospel/pdf/Mark%20
11%3B%2027-33%20%20By%20What%20Authority.pdf

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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28 MAY 2016, Saturday, 8th Week in Ordinary Time
WITNESSING IN THE MARKET PLACE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Jude 17:20-25; Ps 62:2-6; Mk 11:27-33  ]

In this age of secularization, the gospel has to be brought to the market place where the people are.  We cannot expect people to come to our churches to look for Christ.  A few might come out of desperation.  But the world seems to be more appealing and attractive.  They speak louder and there are more choices.  Our young people are out there, seduced by the world of music, entertainment, arts, pleasure, fun and excitement.  They are glued to their mobile devices, always on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  So if we want to capture them for Jesus, the Church, as the Holy Father, Pope Francis says, must go out to the frontlines of the battle where the sick and wounded people are, not stay in the comfort of our offices, waiting for them to come and seek us out for help.

Yet, there is so much danger when we try to bring the gospel to the market place.  In a world that is so secularized, in order to befriend them, we have to become in many instances, like them, and sometimes unfortunately even one of them.  This gradual process of desacralization has taken place since Vatican II.  Priests and religious tend to become more secularized in their dressing and lifestyle.   No longer do we try to be different from the rest of the world in dressing and sometimes we even adopt the lifestyles of the world.  At times, we wonder what it means to be “holy” today when the original meaning of being holy is to be set apart and to be different.   The question is:  can the world tell that we are different from others, not necessarily in dressing but in values and lifestyle?   Perhaps, for this reason also there is a great fall in the number of priestly and religious vocations as our life does not seem to be much different from that of the laity.  And why give up so much to be a priest or a religious when as a lay person one can spread the gospel anyway.

At the heart of it all is the loss of urgency in the work of evangelization.  With the doctrine that explicit faith in Christ and baptism is no longer necessary for salvation, many Catholics do not see why we should bother to bring people to Christ since they can be saved by and in their own faith tradition.  Unlike in the 15th and 16th Centuries where missionaries came from Europe with the conviction of saving souls for Christ, there is this implicit belief among many Catholics today that we should let those who already have their religion remain as they are.  As for those without religion, so long as they live a good life, it is sufficient. Indeed, today, faith in Christ has weakened tremendously that missionary zeal has been lost to a great extent, not just among the laity but even priests and religious.  Even for those who have become priests and religious, many joined not so much because they are passionate about spreading the gospel message but simply because it is a good life, with comfortable living, a life of bachelorhood, and opportunities to engage in some good works now and then.

Surely, most of us would not think that those who are not baptized would be condemned to hell but that God in His own way would save them.  As the Constitution of the Church in the Modern Word says, “Pressing upon the Christian to be sure, are the need and the duty to battle against evil through manifold tribulations and even to suffer death. But, linked with the paschal mystery and patterned on the dying Christ, he will hasten forward to resurrection in the strength which comes from hope.  All this holds true not only for Christians, but for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way. For, since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery.” (GS 22)  The Constitution of the Church reiterates this teaching when it says, “Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.” (LG 16)

In the light of such challenges, how do we defend the need for the spread of the gospel and how do we continue to witness to Christ in a very secularized, multicultural and multi-religious world?  Once again, we need to find the authority to do what we are doing.  This was the question posed to the Lord in the gospel when the Jewish religious leaders asked, “What authority have you for acting like this?  Or who gave you the authority to do these things?”  The truth is that the Jewish leaders were not interested to know the answer.   They were simply trying to disprove Jesus, to discredit Him so that their authority would be not eroded from the eyes of the people.  They were both envious and intimidated by Jesus, whom they saw as someone who was a threat to their status quo and the institution.  Instead, Jesus exposed their hypocrisy by countering their question with another question of authority.  Indeed, they were not sincere in seeking for the truth but were afraid of the truth.

Similarly, in the work of evangelization, we ourselves need to be clear about our own conviction of Jesus if we were to present Him as the Saviour of the world.  Is our faith found in Him alone? As St Jude says, “Glory be to him who can keep you from falling and bring you safe to his glorious presence, innocent and happy.  To God, the only God, who saves us through Jesus Christ our Lord, be the glory, majesty, authority and power, which he had before time began, now and for ever.  Amen.” Otherwise, the situation is precarious when we try to witness to Christ in the world.  Instead of changing the world, the world changes us instead.  This was the situation of the Christian community during the time of St Jude.  They were faced with the danger of religious leaders teaching heresies and apostasy as many drifted away from the faith and turned away from the Lord.  This was because of the weak foundation of their faith; the bad examples and lifestyles of the Christians and faith in the life that was to come.  Like them, many of our Catholics today are so secularized that they live only for this world.  Many of our Catholic parents are so weak in the knowledge of their faith and are such poor examples of Christian life, so much so we should not expect their children and children’s children to be fervent in their faith except for the grace and mercy of Christ.

It is for this reason that St Jude gave us guidelines to remain firm in our witness even whilst we witness in the market place.  He wrote, “Remember, my dear friends, what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ told you to expect. You must use your holy faith as your foundation and build on that, praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves within the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you eternal life.”  As Catholics, we need to strengthen the foundation of our faith through the ongoing study of doctrines and the Sacred Scriptures.  Unfortunately, many of us not only do not update ourselves in the teachings of the Church but we do not read the Word of God regularly, and be nourished by the Word of life.  When we do not build up our faith, we are potential victims for the Evil One, as the world would confuse us and we will eventually lose the faith.

Secondly, St Jude urges us to pray in the Holy Spirit.  We must never forget the importance of prayer and a personal relationship with the Lord, which is made possible when we pray in the Holy Spirit and live and walk in the Spirit.  With the psalmist, we must thirst for Him, the living water, to quench our spiritual thirst.  “So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory.  For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise.”   Only in the Holy Spirit, can we witness with faith and love.

Thirdly, St Jude reminds us of the hope of the Lord’s return.  We do not live only for this life but for eternal life.  This life is short and in the blink of an eye, we will be no more.  So let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that we will not join our forefathers.  Our time will come and therefore we must live fully in this life with a view of fullness of life eternal after death with Jesus Christ forever.

Only when we are rooted in the truth, filled with the Holy Spirit and living in the ambience of God’s love, are we ready to witness to Christ by strengthening our fellow Catholics who are weak in their faith, as St Jude says, “when there are some who have doubts, reassure them; when there are some to be saved from the fire, pull them out.”   To those outside the faith, we must be watchful that in trying to reach out to them, we do not lose our identity and our values and faith in Christ.  He said, “but there are others to whom you must be kind with great caution, keeping your distance even from outside clothing which is contaminated by vice.”  Let us not betray Christ by our conduct, life, words and deeds.

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

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Bishop Goh reminds us to be “Dynamic Catholics.”

  1. Pray/Meditate
  2. Study
  3. Pour ourselves out in service to others
  4. EVANGELIZE

Related:

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Book: Holy Spirit by Fr. Edward Leen

Meditation for June 1 — I pray that I may be gradually transformed from the old life to the new life.

June 1, 2018

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Meditation For The Day: June 1

You were born with a spark of the Divine within you. It had been all
but smothered by the life you were living. That celestial fire has to be
tended and fed so that it will grow eventually into a real desire to live
the right way. By trying to do the will of God, you grow more and
more in the new way of life. By thinking of God, praying to Him, and
having communion with Him, you gradually grow more like Him. The
way of your transformation from the material to the spiritual is the
way of Divine Companionship.

Prayer For The Day

I pray that I may tend the spark of the Divine within me so that it will
grow. I pray that I may be gradually transformed from the old life to
the new life.

— From the book “24 Hours a Day”

http://www.recoveryreadings.com/dailyrecoveryreadingsJune1.html

Related:

God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!

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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, January 6, 2018 — The Spirit is the one who testifies and the Spirit is truth — The “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” in each of us

January 5, 2018

Christmas Weekday
Lectionary: 209

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Photo: Christ the King Catholic Church (Ann Arbor, Michigan) – interior, Holy Spirit window

Reading 1  1 JN 5:5-13

Beloved:
Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?This is the one who came through water and Blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and Blood.
The Spirit is the one who testifies,
and the Spirit is truth.
So there are three that testify,
the Spirit, the water, and the Blood,
and the three are of one accord.
If we accept human testimony,
the testimony of God is surely greater.
Now the testimony of God is this,
that he has testified on behalf of his Son.
Whoever believes in the Son of God
has this testimony within himself.
Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar
by not believing the testimony God has given about his Son.
And this is the testimony:
God gave us eternal life,
and this life is in his Son.
Whoever possesses the Son has life;
whoever does not possess the Son of God does not have life.I write these things to you so that you may know
that you have eternal life,
you who believe in the name of the Son of God.

Responsorial Psalm  PS147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20

R. (12a) Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Glorify the LORD, O Jerusalem;
praise your God, O Zion.
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;
he has blessed your children within you.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He has granted peace in your borders;
with the best of wheat he fills you.
He sends forth his command to the earth;
swiftly runs his word!
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He has proclaimed his word to Jacob,
his statutes and his ordinances to Israel.
He has not done thus for any other nation;
his ordinances he has not made known to them. Alleluia.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia SEE MK 9:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The heavens were opened and the voice of the Father thundered:
This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 1:7-11

This is what John the Baptist proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee
and was baptized in the Jordan by John.
On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open
and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”or

LK 3:23-38 OR 3:23, 31-34, 36, 38

When Jesus began his ministry he was about thirty years of age.
He was the son, as was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli,
the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi,
the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias,
the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli,
the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias,
the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda,
the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel,
the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melchi,
the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam,
the son of Er, the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer,
the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi,
the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph,
the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea,
the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan,
the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed,
the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon,
the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni,
the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah,
the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham,
the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug,
the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber,
the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad,
the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,
the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared,
the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enos,
the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

or

When Jesus began his ministry he was about thirty years of age.
He was the son, as was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli,
the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha,
the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse,
the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala,
the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin,
the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez,
the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac,
the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,
the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem,
the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Enos,
the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

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Genealogy of Jesus

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genealogy_of_Jesus

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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06 JANUARY, 2018, Saturday, Weekday of Christmas Time
OUR CAPACITY TO LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 JOHN 5:5-13PS 147:12-13,14-15,19-20MK 1:6-11  ]

The theme of the First Letter of John is the love of God and the implications of His love for us.  As the children of God, we too are called to love one another.  In yesterday’s reading, St John wrote, “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.  How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?  Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”  (1 Jn 3:16-18)  The question that is raised today is, how then can we find the capacity to love as He loved?

This capacity to love as He loved us depends on whether we believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  St John said, “I have written all this to you so that you who believe in the name of the Son of God may be sure that you have eternal life.”   Faith in Jesus as the Son of God means to believe that He is truly human and divine.  St John in his time was battling with a heresy called Gnosticism where the true humanity and divinity of Jesus was not fully accepted.  Some thought that Jesus was only divine when he was baptized and “the Christ” left his body just before He died.  This heretical theological position was expounded to protect the divinity of Christ, since God cannot die.   If that were the case, then there is no real salvation for humanity because only God can take away our sins.

The faith of the Church in Jesus is clear.  Jesus is truly the Son of God and the Son of man in one person since the moment of His incarnation.  Only this faith in His divine sonship can help us to overcome all trials in life and give us the capacity to love as He loved.  “Who can overcome the world? Only the man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”  Only Jesus who was truly man, doing the will of God even though He was divine, can give us hope that we too can do the will of God with a human will.  Indeed, He “emptied himself,  taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.”  (Phil 2:7)

What, then, is the basis for us to believe that Jesus is truly the Son of God and not just a man?  St John gives us three criteria.  “Jesus Christ who came by water and blood, not with water only, but with water and blood; with the Spirit as another witness – since the Spirit is the truth – so that there are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water and the blood, and all three of them agree.”  In the bible, when there are three witnesses, the testimony is considered valid.  Furthermore, St John said, “We accept the testimony of human witnesses, but God’s testimony is much greater, and this is God’s testimony, given as evidence for his Son.”

In the first place, the water refers to the baptism of our Lord.  We are aware that Jesus was baptized even though as the Son of God, He was sinless and hence did not require baptism.  When John the Baptist deterred Him from getting baptized, Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” (Mt 3:15)  Jesus received baptism as a man from John the Baptist in order to be identified with sinners like us so that He could assume in His body our sins.  St Paul remarked, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  (2 Cor 5:21)

Baptism too was the beginning of His mission.  He was confirmed as the Son of God so that He could live out His sonship for others to follow the same.  “A voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’”  Confirmed by His Father, this gave Him the impetus to bring all others into sonship in Him by inviting us to follow Him, living His way of life. “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God;  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  (Jn 1:12f)  As a consequence, by virtue of our baptism, we are to live His life.

Secondly, Jesus came “not with water only, but with water and blood.”  In other words, Jesus not only came as a man even though He was God but as St Paul said, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.”  (Phil 2:8) The death of Jesus on the cross reveals to us the ultimate meaning of sonship in Christ.  It means that we are called to empty our lives totally for the love of God and our fellowmen, even unto death.  The command to love has no limits.  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.”  (Jn 15:12-14)  Truly, in the death of Christ, we see the unconditional and total love of God, not just of Christ but of His Father as well.  “He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?”  (Rom 8:32)

Thirdly, it was not just that Jesus was baptized and that He died, more importantly, the Holy Spirit was with Jesus throughout His life.  He is the witness to Christ as the Son of God.  “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.”  (Jn 15:26)  The Spirit came upon Jesus when He was baptized.  “No sooner had he come up out of the water than he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him.” Throughout His ministry, Jesus was working in the power of the Holy Spirit.  The apostles testified “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”  (Acts 10:38)

Most of all, Jesus did not end His life just in death, He was also raised in the power of the Holy Spirit.  “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.”  (Rom 8:11)  “Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  (Phil 2:9-11)  If this is God’s testimony for His Son, it means therefore “Everybody who believes in the Son of God has this testimony inside him; and anyone who will not believe God is making God out to be a liar, because he has not trusted the testimony God has given about his Son.”

Consequently, only with faith in Christ’s divine sonship can we be given new life in the Spirit.  John the Baptist said, “Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.”  After His resurrection and ascension, He sent the Holy Spirit upon them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”  (Jn 20:22f)  This same Holy Spirit is given to us at our baptism and renewed at confirmation when we are sent out on mission.  We are made sons and daughters in Christ.  Sharing in His life, we are called also to share in His suffering and glory.  “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba!  Father!”  it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”  (Rom 8:15-17)

This same Holy Spirit not only empowers us to be His disciples by giving us the Spirit of Christ but also gives us the power to do what He did.  Jesus assured His disciples, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.  I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”  (Jn 14:12-14)  True enough, we read in Mark’s gospel, “And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it”  (Mk 16:20) by using His name to cast out demons, speak in new tongues, lay their hands on the sick.  (cf Mk 16:17f)

Consequently, we can understand why the Christian experience of God’s love follows that of Christ’s;sharing in His baptism as we die to our sins and so begin the path of sonship; following Him to the extent of dying with Him on the cross, so that we can share in His resurrection.  This is all made possible through the work of the Holy Spirit given to us at our baptism and confirmation and reinforced by the Eucharist.  This explains why the Christian experience of God is called the Rite of Christian Initiation.  Unless, we share a common experience of sonship in Christ, we cannot do what He did.

Today, as we celebrate the Eucharist, we are called to renew the Holy Spirit given to us at baptism and confirmation, for it is the same Holy Spirit that transforms the bread and wine into His Body and Blood.  Only by receiving the Eucharist frequently, do we receive the Holy Spirit anew as well.  By inserting ourselves into Christ and His Church, the mystical body of Christ, we can grow in faith, in love and in our sonship so that we can live the life of the Spirit, the life of Christ.  Unless we renew the Holy Spirit in us daily through the Eucharist, the Sacraments and prayers, we will lose the power to be witnesses of His love.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Fr. Edward Leen’s book “Holy Spirit” is a great read for any Christian. Leen believes that the Holy Spirit lives inside each of us in a phenomena known as the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit.” Believers say this indwelling of the Holy Spirit makes for the “Sanctity of Human Life” in each of us. And how do we make the most of this most precious gift? We live within God’s Law (The Commandments), and we seek to do the Will of God.

Matthew Kelly tells us in “The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic” to pray and meditate, to study and stay true to the scriptures, to pour ourselves out in loving service to others and to evangelize to have a spectacular God-centered life!

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“Twelve-step programs teachs, of course, twelve steps. Matthew Kelly suggests we can boil those down to just Four Signs of a Dynamic Christian/Catholic.”

Related:

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 (By Bishop Robert Barron)

Pain, Suffering, Addiction and Spiritual Growth — Everyone Has Issues to Resolve — Here Are Some Resources

June 15, 2017

A friend asked us for a quick update on our spiritual journey — Here are some resources for others to consider….

Related:

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Above: This is the life of the average American man. At the bottom (the biggest part) is sex, drugs and rock and roll. (Notice there is a lot of wreckage near here!) As we move up, through the years, God hopes we are growing spiritually and throwing out things that get us into trouble. When we get to the top, He hopes we can reach out closer to Him. Many of us choose to fail….

If you stay at the bottom, You’ll die in the desert

Related:

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Research Going Badly: I tried everything before I tried to allow God to find me!

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The Brain and Being Human:

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, December 29, 2016 — “But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.” — “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death.” — Getting To Know Jesus

December 28, 2016

The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas
Lectionary: 202

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The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple by Rembrandt

Reading 1 1 JN 2:3-11

Beloved:
The way we may be sure that we know Jesus
is to keep his commandments.
Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments
is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
But whoever keeps his word,
the love of God is truly perfected in him.
This is the way we may know that we are in union with him:
whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked.
Beloved, I am writing no new commandment to you
but an old commandment that you had from the beginning.
The old commandment is the word that you have heard.
And yet I do write a new commandment to you,
which holds true in him and among you,
for the darkness is passing away,
and the true light is already shining.
Whoever says he is in the light,
yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness.
Whoever loves his brother remains in the light,
and there is nothing in him to cause a fall.
Whoever hates his brother is in darkness;
he walks in darkness
and does not know where he is going
because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Responsorial Psalm PS 96:1-2A, 2B-3, 5B-6

R. (11a) Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.
R. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!
Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.
R. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!
The LORD made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty go before him;
praise and grandeur are in his sanctuary.
R. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!

Alleluia LK 2:32

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
A light of revelation to the Gentiles
and glory for your people Israel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 2:22-35

When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

“Lord, now let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:
my own eyes have seen the salvation
which you prepared in the sight of every people,
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
(and you yourself a sword will pierce)
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

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Commentary on Luke 2:22-35 From Living Space

The Holy Family was a Jewish family and both Jesus and his parents are shown as faithfully carrying out the requirements of the Law. In today’s Gospel there is a double ceremony described: one is the purification of the mother and second is the offering of the first-born child to the Lord. In the past, we used to refer to the feast on February 2 as the Purification but now we prefer to speak of the Presentation.

Clearly, the notion of the need for a mother to be purified after giving birth is not something we feel comfortable with now. For the Jews the spilling of blood was a source of uncleanness and so, after giving birth, there had to be, after a designated number of days, a ceremony of purification. Sometimes the husband too went through a similar ceremony. Given the special circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus, the idea of purification seems even less desirable although Luke does not seem to have any problem with it.

According to the Mosaic law (Lev 12:2-8), a woman who gave birth to a boy was not allowed to touch anything sacred for 40 days (in the case of a baby girl, the period was even longer) nor could she enter the Temple precincts because of her ritual “impurity”. At the end of this period, as mentioned by Luke, she was required to offer a year-old lamb as a burnt offering and a turtle dove or a young pigeon as expiation for sin. Those who could not afford the lamb could offer two birds instead.

The parents also presented their first-born son as an offering to the Lord, again in accordance with Jewish law (Exod 13:2,12) but this did not have to be done in the Temple. Presenting the child in the Temple seems to re-echo the scene in the First Book of Samuel where Hannah offers her son Samuel for services in the sanctuary. There is no mention in Luke’s account of the five shekels that was supposed to be paid to a member of the priestly family to ‘buy back’ the child.

The account now goes on to mention two elderly people – Simeon and Anna. (Anna will not appear until tomorrow.) They represented all those devout Jews who were looking forward to the expected coming of the Messiah and the restoration of God’s rule, God’s kingship, in Israel.

Simeon had received a promise that he would not die until he had laid eyes on the Messiah. Under the promptings of the Spirit he enters the Temple just as Mary and Joseph are there with their child. He recognises who the Child is and then says a prayer of thanksgiving and surrender to his God. We call this prayer the Nunc dimittis (‘Now you may send away…’), a hymn which is now used during the Night Prayer of the Church. In harmony with Luke’s vision of Jesus, he describes Jesus as a Light for the Gentiles and the Glory of the people of Israel. And so, Feast of the Presentation is a feast of light which we sometimes call ‘Candlemas’. It is a time when candles are blessed and lit to reflect Christ as our Light.

Meanwhile Mary and Joseph are astounded at what is being said about their child. Even they have not yet come to a full realisation of just who he is.

But all is not sweetness and light. Simeon goes on to say some hard-sounding words. The Child, he says, “is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that is contradicted”. To say that Jesus brings about the fall of people is a difficult idea to come to terms with. It seems to fly in the face of the loving, forgiving and compassionate Jesus of the Gospel. And yet the paradox is that many, for reasons of their own, can totally reject the way of life that Jesus proposes. In doing so they also turn away from the direction where their fulfilment as persons lies. Jesus’ life is a sign, a sign which points us in the direction of God but there are many who contradict that sign and go in other directions.

But Simeon has more to say. To Jesus’ Mother he says: “You yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Mary will not know the meaning of these words for many years to come, although a small foretaste will come when Jesus is lost as a boy in Jerusalem. Mary may be full of grace but, no more than her Son, will she spared from sharing some of the pain which he will endure. It is all part of that unconditional ‘Yes’ which Mary made to the angel in Nazareth. It is contained, too, in the offering of her Son that she has just made to God his Father.

There is a scene in the gospel of Luke where a woman, having been impressed by the teaching of Jesus, cries out: “Blessed is the womb that carried you and blessed is the breast that you sucked!” A great tribute to Mary for having produced such a magnificent Son. But Jesus replies: “Blessed, rather, are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” Mary’s true greatness is not in the privileges bestowed on her by God but in her unconditional acceptance of everything God asked of her.

For each one of us it is the same. Today, let us say a big ‘Yes’ to God no matter what he sends us.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/c1229g/

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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29 DECEMBER, 2016, Thursday, 5th Day Within the Octave of Christmas
DO YOU KNOW JESUS?

SCRIPTURE READINGS: 1 John 2:3-11; Luke 2:22-35 ]

Christ is born.  But do we know Him?  I presume most Catholics would say that they know Jesus.  Knowing someone of course has different meanings.   Most Catholics know Jesus intellectually.  They have some factual information about Jesus that they studied in their catechism classes or through personal reading.  Some know Jesus more intimately through prayer, worship, and meditation on the Word of God. Others encountered Jesus in the sacraments or had the privilege of a radical Christ-experience.  Even then, such Christ experiences have different depths.  The Seven Mansions, as described by St Teresa of Avila, shows the different levels of entering into the mystery of Christ and His love.

Nevertheless, in the final analysis, to know means to share in the life and love of someone.  When we know someone, we imbibe in the person’s values and perspectives of life.  We are identified with those whom we love.  This is particularly true of married couples.  Intimacy is more than just physical union but a union of heart and mind in all that we do and think.  Otherwise, such physical intimacy is superficial and have not much benefit than just an act of pleasure.   But if there is mutual willing and thinking, such intimacy crowns the union and becomes a real celebration.

This is what St John means when he wrote, “We can be sure that we know God only by keeping his commandments. Anyone who says, ‘I know him’, and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, refusing to admit the truth.”  Keeping the commandments of God is easy only if we love Him deeply and could identify with Him completely.  Otherwise, the commandments become a burden, a restriction, and an imposition.  It is never difficult to obey someone whom we love, not just affectively, but when we are able to see the truth from the person’s perspective.  Christ had no issues with obeying the Father because He knew the Father and the Father knew Him.  (cf Mt 11:27)  He freely gave up His life out of obedience not reluctantly but willingly for the love of His Father.  (cf Jn 10:18)

Secondly, St John says, “We can be sure that we are in God only when the one who claims to be living in him is living the same kind of life as Christ lived.”  The litmus test of whether God or Christ is in us is whether we live the life that Jesus has taught us to live.  To be in Christ means to say with St Paul, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  (Gal 2:20) So the best way to gauge our knowledge of God is not in doctrinal knowledge or even our God-experiences, but by the fruits of the Spirit that are manifested in our lives.  These fruits of the Spirit are common to all, but the gifts of the Spirit differ.  Regardless of the gifts we receive, it does not matter so long as we produce the fruits of the Spirit, as St Paul wrote to the Galatians.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.” (Gal 5:22f)

Thirdly, we know that we are in Christ only when we love our brothers and sisters. St John wrote, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the dark. But anyone who loves his brother is living in the light and need not be afraid of stumbling; unlike the man who hates his brother and is in the darkness, not knowing where he is going, because it is too dark to see.”  Anyone who has the heart of God will love everyone intensely the way God loves each one of us, regardless of our race, language or religion.  Everyone is precious to God, even those who do not know Him, or are His enemies.  God wants to save us all because He loves us all.  If God is in us, then we will recognize that our common love for the Father and our sonship in Christ makes us brothers and sisters of all, regardless.

In the gospel, we have someone who knew Jesus intimately.  We read the prophecy of Simeon.  When he saw the child, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he said, “‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised; because my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see, a light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of your people Israel.”  Such confession of faith in Christ goes beyond logic and understanding.  Through the grace of God alone, Simeon, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, could immediately recognize Jesus, that little baby, as the Promised Messiah, the one who will be the light of the nations, enlightening all in the truth about God and about themselves.   Most of all, by His life, His works, teachings, His death and resurrection, He will glorify God.  The little child in the arms of His blessed mother was foretold to bring great and revolutionary changes in the lives of humanity.  Simeon said to Mary, “You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.”

If we come to this truth and this knowledge of Christ, it is almost as if we have entered the sixth or seventh castle of the doctrine of St Teresa of Avila because at this point, there is no turning back.  We just want to be with God and bask in His love and mercy forever.  This experience of Simeon of wanting to go back to God is the consequence of encountering the glory of God in the humanity of Christ.  Like the psalmist, we would want to sing for joy. “Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad.  O sing a new song to the Lord, sing to the Lord all the earth. O sing to the Lord, bless his name.  Proclaim his help day by day, tell among the nations his glory and his wonders among all the peoples.”  Within this context, we can appreciate the sharing of St Paul when he spoke of his dilemma.  “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”  (Phil 1:21-24)  More importantly, he also said, “with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”  (Phil 1:20)

In the light of our reflection, we must therefore consider how much we know the Lord.  What is the depth of our relationship with Him?  Let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that we love the Lord and know Him so much when we are not ready to die with Him or follow His way of life.   We can say all about Jesus, talk about Him, serve Him in ministry, but if we are not ready to live as He lived, love as He loved, suffer as He suffered, forgive as He forgave, then we are still far from knowing Him.  Our knowledge is only a cerebral knowledge; it has not yet reached our hearts nor touched the depths of our spirit.

Realizing how superficial our knowledge and love for the Lord as seen in our sinful way of life, in giving in to sin and selfishness and living in darkness, we must follow Mary in contemplating on Him more and more.  “The child’s father and mother stood there wondering at the things that were being said about him.”   Unless we are willing to make time to contemplate on the Lord, we will never get to know Him from our being.  Intimacy with the Lord is a gift.  We must nurture this gift by entering into the mind and heart of Christ more and more each day through silence, prayer and reading of the Word of God. So we too must pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit to lead us to Jesus.

Simeon tells us how we can prepare for the Holy Spirit by living a devout and holy life.  Simeon “was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to Israel’s comforting and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord.”   Let us, with the grace of God, be the glory of God for others by living the radical life that the Lord is inviting us to live.  This life of Christ, St John says, is “what is being carried out in your lives as it was in his, is a new commandment; because the night is over and the real light is already shining.”  Christ gives newness in the way we should fulfill the commandments which are as old as Moses.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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We Can Also Be Like Christ

Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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29 DECEMBER 2015, Tuesday, 5th Day Within Octave of Christmas (Last Year)
HOW CAN WE BE SURE THAT WE KNOW GOD?

SCRIPTURE READINGS: 1 JOHN 2:3-11; LUKE 2:22-35

How can we be sure that we know God? This is the question that St John is asking us.  St John in his days was facing the same challenges we are confronted with today.  This is particularly true for those who are priests, religious and those active and pious Catholics in Church.  Quite often, we deceive ourselves into thinking that we know God when we do not.

Like the Greeks, we measure our knowledge of God in terms of insight, an intellectual knowledge of God. There is always the tendency to substitute personal knowledge of God with intellectual knowledge.  This is the greatest temptation of priests, students of theology and scripture, teachers of the faith, catechists and those giving talks and conducting retreats.  We can talk, teach and preach eloquently, because we have acquired some intellectual knowledge of the faith.  But deep in our hearts, we know that we do not know Him because we do not have any real interpersonal relationship with Him.  We use only our head but we have no contact with Him in our hearts.

For others, they think they know God because they have had a mystical knowledge of Him.  Some have had beautiful religious experiences.  They are taken up by the graces of God and the consolations of visions, healing, joy and peace they received.  Those who receive such personal encounters with God often feel very high and elated.  Sometimes, they think that they are already living in the seventh castle of St Teresa of Avila.   For this reason, they keep on hanging to the consolations of God and would go for those services that provide such emotional “highs” and mystical experiences.  Such believers probably have a heart contact with God but their minds have no knowledge of the Lord.

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Above: Centuries old book, “The Imitation of Christ”

Then, there is the third category of people who are very active in Church.  They use their hands in encountering God.  It is the incarnational way.  They are very much involved in organizing activities, doing this and that for the Church or for the poor.  They are unlike the first two groups; not the thinking or the feeling types, but the doers.   They need to be always in activity so that they can feel charged and high all the time, especially when they experience success and appreciation.  Such emotional and psychological fulfilment serve more the ego, the ambition and a defence mechanism to boost a low self-esteem character than really a work borne out of the love of God.  Necessarily, when things are not doing well, they get discouraged and give up easily; or when they are challenged by others, they feel hurt and wounded because they think they are rejected.

Whilst all the above ways are not excluded in coming to know God, the only sure criterion that we can attest to truly knowing God is as St John wrote, “We can be sure that we are in God only when the one who claims to be living in him is living the same kind of life as Christ lived.”  Indeed, this is the only criterion that is needed to ascertain how much we know God.  It is not based on whether we have a theological degree, how many books we have read, or the mystical experiences we have had, or how involved we are in church or in the service of the poor, but whether the life of Christ is in us.

If our life reflects the life of Christ, then we can be confident that we are growing in knowledge of Christ.  The others are means but not the end.  Indeed, this is what Christmas is all about.  That is why immediately after the feast of Christmas, the Church celebrates the Feast of St Stephen, the first martyr who not only served Christ, or died for Him but with Christ and in Christ, reenacting His passion and death, by forgiving his enemies, praying for them and commending his soul to God.

This was followed by the Feast of St John, whose whole life was a martyrdom of bearing witness to Christ in a life of love and devotion to the Lord and His Church.  Yesterday was the feast of the Holy Innocents who witnessed to Christ by dying an innocent and unjust death.   They too gave witness to Christ through unjust suffering, like Christ who died for us.  Today, we also celebrate another great saint, Thomas Becket who gave his life for the Church because he was not ready to collaborate with the evil doings of the king by being his Chancellor.  Indeed, with courage he said, “I served our Theobald (former archbishop of Canterbury) well when I was with him: I served King Henry well as Chancellor: I am his no more, and I must serve the Church.”  All of them could truly be said to be witnesses of Christ by their lives and by their deaths.

But what would such a life of Christ entail?  It means living out the commandments of Christ.  This is what St John wrote, “We can be sure that we know God only by keeping his commandments. Anyone who says, ‘I know him’, and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, refusing to admit the truth. But when anyone does obey what he has said, God’s love comes to perfection in him.” The obedience rendered to God is not just an external observance of the commandments like the scribes, Pharisees and some legal-based Christians.  Rather, the obedience asked of us must come from an inner conviction of the commandments as a real expression of the mind and heart of God.  Only those who know the Lord will understand the intention, the purpose, the goodness and the values of the commandments.  So it is not so much simply obeying the commandments; rather, it is our sharing of Christ’s mind and heart.   For this reason too, when we obey, that is, practice the commandments given by the Lord, we enter deeper into His being, and share in His love.   Perfection of Christian life therefore is measured by how much the mind and heart of God is in us, in the way we live our lives. “But when anyone does obey what he has said, God’s love comes to perfection in him.”

In the final analysis, there is only one commandment that sums up the entire list of commandments.  St John makes it clear thatthe commandment is old and yet new.  It is old in the sense that the commandment to love God and our neighbour has already been spelt out in the Old Testament.  But there is newness as well because Christ not only asked us to observe the commandments but to love each other as He has loved us. “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  (Jn 13:34f)  We are called to love as Jesus loved, to forgive as Jesus forgave, to be merciful and compassionate as He was.  So we are to love each other to the same extent that He has loved us.  Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta says, “God pays attention to our love.  Not one of us is indispensable.  God has the means to do all things and to do away with the work of the most capable human being.  We can work until we drop.  We can work excessively.  If what we do is not connected to love, however, our work is useless in God’s eyes.”  In the same vain, St Paul wrote, “If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”   (1 Cor 13:3)

Consequently, one clear sign that we have not arrived at the knowledge of God is when we cannot forgive our brothers and sisters or when we continue to hate them.  The lack of forgiveness indicates that we have not yet received His love and mercy for ourselves and the heart and mind of the Lord is not ours.  A man who cannot love his brother, that is, the one nearest to him, his loved ones, his relatives, his colleagues, his superiors and his workers, then he has not yet known the Lord.   The greatest challenge in loving our brothers and sisters is not loving those far away but those who are near, in our backyard, our elderly at home, the difficult spouse, the disobedient children and the incorrigible sibling who is irresponsible with his or her life, not contributing to the family.

St John wrote, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the dark. But anyone who loves his brother is living in the light and need not be afraid of stumbling; unlike the man who hates his brother and is in the darkness, not knowing where he is going, because it is too dark to see.”  A man full of hatred cannot see the goodness in another.  He lives in the dark because of his vindictiveness.  He cannot see any good or truth that comes from the person he hates, even when objectively he is doing good.  Hatred blinds us to many things in life.  We see the other as our enemy, competitor and a nuisance.  But when we love, then we begin to see them in a different light.  Only the light of Christ, the light of love, can help us to see our brothers and sisters, especially those who are weak and difficult, with compassion and forgiveness because we know that they are deeply wounded and hurt.

How then can we love like Christ?  Clearly, we need to allow Christ to love us first.  Today, we need the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who came down upon Simeon and enabled him to recognize Christ.   We too need to pray so that we can behold what he did and said, “Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised; because my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see, a light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of your people Israel.”   Once loved by the Lord, we must follow up by contemplating on His love and His life, especially through the scriptures.  Without meditation and contemplation on His face, the life of Christ cannot be imprinted in our minds and hearts.  The truth remains that a true knowledge of God cannot be ours without intimacy with the Lord in prayer.  Theological studies, spiritual experiences, doing good works can help us to encounter God but all these cannot be replaced by making the mind and heart of Christ our own.  Imitation of Christ can only come after contemplation of Christ.  Once imprinted on our hearts, we can also be like Christ, the light for the Gentiles, radiating the love and glory of God in and through our lives.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Man’s Spiritual Dimension Governs All Human Rights

We seem to live today in a world of upheaval.

The Islamic State proclaims a caliphate, and promises heavenly rewards for the killing of those who reject Islam.

Christians are being slaughtered in great numbers.

All around the globe, people argue over human rights.

But where do our “human rights” come from?

China’s Communist government says only the Communist Party can bestow human rights. In the Muslim world, there seems to be a belief that only adherent to the Quran merit human rights. Apparently, murder and beheading of non-Muslims is acceptable to the Profit.

Yet Christians believe that human rights are bestowed by God. Christianity is rooted in the belief that man has an undeniable spiritual dimension. Many Christians believe that the Holy Spirit dwells within each and every human being — and this spirituality can be increased or minimized by the way each of us lives the Gospel.

As we prepare to welcome in a new year, it is time for us to prepare the way, to evaluate our own spiritual growth and to make resolutions that will bring us closer to God, and the spiritual person God wanted each and every one of us to become.

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

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Related:
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Included in The Good News: God Lives Within Us
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Book: Holy Spirit by Edward Leen
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Book: Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic by Matthew Kelly
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Many people have said to us that the four signs of a “Dynamic Catholic” are also the characteristics of many Christians of all denominations and people in recovery programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous. The four necessary things good Catholics do (and the really good AAs also do them) —
1. They Pray and Meditate.
2. They read and study;
3. They “pour themselves out in loving service to others” and
4. They  evangelize. AAs call this “Twelve Stepping.” They use their story of recovery and sobriety to assist others in their journey to do the same.

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, December 21, 2016 — “If the Lord is to dwell in our hearts, we must make time for silence and prayer.”

December 20, 2016

Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Advent
Lectionary: 197

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Reading 1 SG 2:8-14

Hark! my lover–here he comes
springing across the mountains,
leaping across the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Here he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattices.
My lover speaks; he says to me,
“Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one,
and come!
“For see, the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
and come!“O my dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the secret recesses of the cliff,
Let me see you,
let me hear your voice,
For your voice is sweet,
and you are lovely.”

Or ZEP 3:14-18A

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you,
he has turned away your enemies;
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
He will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:2-3, 11-12, 20-21

R. (1a; 3a) Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises.
Sing to him a new song;
pluck the strings skillfully, with shouts of gladness.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever;
the design of his heart, through all generations.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield,
For in him our hearts rejoice;
in his holy name we trust.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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The Visitation By Philippe de Champaigne.

Gospel LK 1:39-45

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

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From Living Space from The Carmelites

Commentary on Song of Solomon 2:8-14 and Zephaniah 3:14-18

We have a choice of two First Readings today. The second, which is from the prophet Zephaniah, is for those who may find the passionate love implied in the passage from the Song of Songs a little strong for a liturgical celebration. The Song of Songs (also known as The Song of Solomon) is a collection of about 25 poems or parts of poems about human love and courtship, suitable for singing at weddings. “The poetry is graceful, sensuous and replete with erotic imagery and allusions to the ancient myth of the love of a god and a goddess on which the fertility of nature was thought to depend. (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, loc. cit.). The pronouns (He, She…) imply that the speakers are a bridegroom (Lover), bride (Beloved) and chorus. Although it is called ‘The Song of Solomon’ the actual author is unknown. And, although dating from about the 3rd century BC, the symbols and motifs date from early mythology and have become the language of human love and courtship.

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Strangely enough, the book has no obvious religious content compared to other books in the Bible and it can only be given such an interpretation by finding a deeper symbolism in its highly graphic language. Its inclusion in the Old Testament can be explained by the Lord being called the “husband” of his people (Hos 2:16-19). In the Christian tradition, it has been understood as an allegory of the love of Christ for his bride, the Church (Rev 21:2,9), or as symbolising the intimate experience of divine love in the individual soul. The links between mystical experience and sexual ecstasy are not so far apart. We should be grateful that such a beautiful work has been included in our collection of God’s Word.
The choice of the reading for today is obviously linked to the Gospel account of the Visitation of Mary and Jesus to Elizabeth and John. The love expressed in the First Reading clearly points to a close, warm relationship between Jesus and John, where John represents each one of us. Perhaps we do not use this kind of passionate language when speaking to Jesus but there have been mystics who have not hesitated to do so. One thinks of John of the Cross or Ignatius of Loyola and even more of Teresa of Avila.

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As the passage opens, it is the Beloved, the girl who is speaking. She is living with her parents in the city. Not unlike the lover in one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies, the Lover appears at the Beloved’s window. The door is closed and there is a forbidding wall. “He looks in at the window, he peers through the lattice.” He urges her to come away with him to the countryside. “Come then, my love, my lovely one, come.”

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The cold of winter, which is also the rainy season is past. It is now spring, the time of new life. Nature is bursting out in leaf and flower and the migrant birds have returned to make their nests. The cooing of turtle doves is heard, the first figs are appearing and the vines are in fragrant flower. And, of course, for humans, too, it is the season of love.
The Beloved is hiding in the clefts of the rock, a euphemism for her home, a place inaccessible to the Lover. “Show me your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet and your face beautiful.”

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Jesus, too, is still hidden in the womb of his mother. His mother’s voice is enough to create a joyful reaction in John, in Elizabeth’s womb. He knows that where the Mother is, the Son must also be close by.

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It is important to realise that our Christian faith is not just a list of intellectual doctrines. Ultimately it is a life based on love, intimacy and affection for our brothers and sisters.

ALTERNATIVE  FIRST READING – from the prophet Zephaniah (Zephaniah 3:14-18)

Zephaniah was a prophet during the reign of King Josiah (640-609 BC) who did much to restore traditional Jewish religious customs. But his example was not followed and Zephaniah foretold disaster and this indeed happened with the collapse of the Assyrian empire brought about by the Babylonians who went to attack Egypt, an ally of Assyria. Josiah took sides with Egypt and was killed in a battle. It was to set the stage for one of Israel’s most painful memories – the Babylonian Captivity. While much of Zephaniah is a condemnation of religious infidelity, the last part from which today’s reading comes is a promise of better times to come for those who wait patiently for the Lord.

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Today’s passage consists of two psalms or hymns looking forward to the full restoration of Jerusalem to its former glory and religious faithfulness. The whole people (“daughter of Zion…daughter of Jerusalem”) are invited to celebrate the coming salvation. Words echoed in the words of the angel to Mary: “Rejoice! The Lord is with you.”

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In today’s celebration, it is the close presence of the Lord which is emphasised. “The Lord, the King of Israel, is in your midst; you have no more evil to fear.” And again: “The Lord your God is in your midst.”

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Again, “The lord your God is in your midst…
He will exult with joy over you,
he will renew you by his love;
he will dance with shouts of joy for you…”

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There is also an air of joy. “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion!.. Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem.”

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All of this can fittingly be applied to Elizabeth as she welcomes Mary and Jesus and indicated by John jumping for joy in the womb of his mother. Let us too share their joy as we prepare to welcome the coming of our God among us in Jesus.

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Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/A1221r/

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Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669). The Visitation, 1640

Rembrandt uses light and shadow to train the viewer’s eye through the canvas. The brightest light falls on Mary and then Elizabeth. Mary has just traveled to see her cousin, whom the angel told her would be with child in her old age. There they both stand, pregnant by divine intervention—Elizabeth with John the Baptist and Mary with the Christ.

Rembrandt’s light focuses on the two women like a spotlight coming down from the heavens. As our eyes adjust to the scene we see the two servants. Beyond them at the edges of the frame we see Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah the priest, to the left and Joseph down and to the right.

A few years ago this Rembrandt traveled to my city as part of an exhibit about the Dutch Golden Age. I was struck by small size of the painting. It is just a little bigger than two by two and half feet. Still, Rembrandt doesn’t waste an inch of composition space, filling the dark background with an elaborate cityscape and the foreground with detailed foliage and architecture. The peacock looking on from the bottom left signifies Jesus’s royalty and immortality. Peacocks were regarded as kingly and there was a myth in Rembrandt’s day that their flesh never decayed.

The scene shows an ornate world in motion, but the meeting between these two women, though their pregnancies would transform that world forever, takes place with no fan-fare. As Isaiah said, there would be nothing about Jesus’s coming that would capture the world’s attention.

 

Consider

“When the angel Gabriel stood before Mary, the hypothetical gave way to the real. The ordinary stories all at once glistened under the extraordinary light of this celestial storyteller.

“As she listened, there rose inside her a sense that the glory of his tale was nothing new, but rather was older than time. She only needed uncommon light to see it. She had, Gabriel told her, found favor with God. She shouldn’t fear this visit or the message he brought.

“It must have been strange to stand before this seraph dressed in light, strong and otherworldly, and hear him tell her not to be afraid. Perhaps it was even stranger for Mary to discover that God had formed an overall impression of her. She was known by God, and he favored her. He liked what he saw?

“The angel then came to the reason for his visit. He told Mary she would conceive a son, who would rescue his people from their sins. God had already chosen his name— Jesus, which meant “salvation.”[1]

 

Examine

What do you think the angel means when he tells Mary she has found favor with God?

In what ways is the Christmas story globally epic? In what ways is it deeply personal? Are you drawn to one of those poles more than the other? Which one? Why?

Where are some places in your life where you need the help of a God who governs the cosmos? Where are some places in your life where you need a God who can cut into the deeply personal details of your heart?

http://russ-ramsey.com/day-19-the-ordinary-overshadowed-reflection-questions-and-art-during-advent/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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21 DECEMBER, 2016, Wednesday, Weekday of Advent
JOY IS BORN OF THE PROMISE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: Song of Songs 2:8-14 or Zep 3:14-18a; Ps 32:2-3,11-12,20-21; Luke 1:39-45   ]

Christmas is often associated with joy.  One of the carols that we like to sing is “Joy to the world!”   What is the basis of this joy?  Namely, that the savior has come and that Christ has come to reign with His love and truth.  With Christ’s coming, there will be peace in our land and there will be love among men.  The thought of Christ’s coming therefore fills those without love and without peace with expectant joy.  This joy is born out of this promise.  This is the message of today’s scripture readings as we enter the 5th day of the “O” Antiphons that prepare us for the coming of Christ.

Indeed in the first reading from the Book of Songs, the mystical love and union between God and His bride, the Church is portrayed in terms of human love between two lovers.  The Book of the Song of Songs is really a compendium of love songs for a wedding.  Love is full of joy and admiration at the beauty of our loved ones.  “I hear my Beloved.  See how he comes leaping on the mountains, bounding over the hills. My Beloved is like a gazelle, like a young stag.”  She says, “My dove, hiding in the clefts of the rock, in the coverts of the cliff, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is beautiful.”  Love is attentive, always paying attention and observing the details of our beloved.   “See where he stands behind our wall. He looks in at the window, he peers through the lattice.”   Where there is love, there is newness of life and we see things in a new perspective.  “For see, winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth. The season of glad songs has come, the cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree is forming its first figs and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance.”

Indeed, anyone who is in love with God is filled with joy.  When the love of God fills the person’s hearts, the things of this world pale in comparison with His love.  “If one offered for love all the wealth of one’s house, it would be utterly scorned.” (Songs 8:7b) Love gives us meaning and purpose in life.  To fall in love with God is the greatest thing on this earth.  When God’s love is in our hearts, we find deeper inner peace, joy and security.  St Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  (1 Cor 13:19b-20)

Secondly, the joy of Christmas comes from liberation.  In the optional reading from Zephaniah, the prophet said, “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has repealed your sentence; he has driven your enemies away.”   Indeed, the Lord has come to take away our shame.  He has come to take away all that harm and destroy us.  He will help us to overcome our inner enemies, that is our sins and selfishness; and He will liberate us from our external enemies, pain, suffering and injustices.  The prophet assures us that God is our warrior.  He will fight the battle for us.  We only need to rely on His strength and might.  “The Lord, the king of Israel, is in your midst; you have no more evil to fear. When that day comes, word will come to Jerusalem: Zion, have no fear, do not let your hands fall limp. The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior.”   Both in today’s acclamation before the gospel and at the Magnificat at vespers, we pray, “O Key of David, who open the gates of the eternal kingdom, come to liberate from prison the captive who lives in darkness.”

Truly, when the Lord is in us, we feel liberated from all fears, worries and anxieties.  All our sins come from fear and the desire to protect our self-interests.  We fear death, hunger and pain.  But the Lord shows us that love is stronger than death and selfishness.  So like the lover, we say to the Lord, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.”  (Songs 8:6-7a)

The Good News is that the Lord is coming and He has come.  “My Beloved lifts up his voice, he says to me, ‘Come then, my love, my lovely one, come.”  The Lord is saying to us, “Come then, my love, my lovely one, come.”  In a real way, the Lord comes to us in the Incarnation.  In the gospel reading, we read of how the Lord came to visit Elizabeth in the womb of Mary.  “Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”   The coming of the Lord filled Elizabeth with joy and John the Baptist also leapt for joy.

The Lord comes to us again and again.  He comes to us when we receive Him in the Eucharist, just as our Blessed Mother carried the Lord in the tabernacle of her womb.  Whenever we receive the Eucharist with a pure heart, a clear conscience and a devout spirit, the Lord enters into our lives and renews the Holy Spirit given to us at our baptism.   If our disposition is right, the Lord comes, but most of the time we do not recognize His real presence in the Eucharist.  This explains why although many Catholics receive communion every Sunday, nothing is happening in their lives. They receive without reverence, without a conscious recognition of Christ’s presence in the bread and most of all, in the seriousness of their sins.

Still, the Lord can come to us anew if we receive Him in the sacrament of reconciliation.  The Lord wants to set us free from our prison of sin and misery.  Our pride, self-righteousness, egotism and anger often blind us to the reality of the truth.   If we want to be set free to find love and peace, then we need to seek His forgiveness; and then extend this forgiveness to our fellowmen and all those who have hurt us.  So if we have not yet frequented the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we will be losing a great opportunity of grace.  How can there be peace and joy at Christmas when one is not reconciled with God and with our loved ones and our fellowmen?  If we want peace, let us make peace with ourselves, with God and others.

The Lord comes especially also in the compassion and mercy that others show to us, or vice versa.  Mary, hearing that Elizabeth was pregnant in her old age immediately responded to her help.  She travelled a great distance to help her cousin.  We too like Mary are called to be channels of grace and love.  She not only literally brought Jesus to Elizabeth and John the Baptist but she herself became the presence of Jesus to them.  Through her kindness and graciousness, Elizabeth immediately sensed the divine presence in her heart and womb.  We too must do the same.  As we reach out to the lonely, the sick, the wounded, the hungry and the poor, we come to encounter Christ in them and they encounter Christ in us.

If the Lord were to dwell in our hearts, we must make time for silence and prayer.  “Give thanks to the Lord upon the harp, with a ten-stringed lute sing him songs. O sing him a song that is new, play loudly, with all your skill.”  This last week of Advent is an intense period of expectancy which is aroused and strengthened by prayer, meditation and contemplation.  We must seek and desire that our Lord comes into our lives.  Like the love who said, “Upon my bed at night I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer. I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loves.” (Songs 3:1-2)  Let us wait for the Lord in prayer and good works.  “Our soul is waiting for the Lord. The Lord is our help and our shield. In him do our hearts find joy. We trust in his holy name.”  Let us not delay any longer but have faith.  “Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Related:

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Edward Leen totally believes in the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” in every human being. His book “Holy Spirit” works for everbody.

Karl Rahner also believed in the gift of the Holy Spirit in every human being. Rahner says, “To get more, give more.”

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Worrying claim: Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ¿death pathway¿ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly

Worrying claim: In Britain, Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ‘death pathway’ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly