Posts Tagged ‘Edward Leen’

Pain, Suffering, Addiction and Spiritual Growth — 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. 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….

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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:

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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

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, November 29, 2016 — “Seek Always The Holy Spirit” — “Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.”

November 28, 2016

Tuesday of the First Week in Advent
Lectionary: 176

Behold the Lamb Print

Art: Behold the Lamb by T. C. Chiu

Reading 1 IS 11:1-10

On that day,
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A Spirit of counsel and of strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
But he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.On that day,
The root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
The Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.

Responsorial Psalm PS 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17

R. (see 7) Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
He shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
May his name be blessed forever;
as long as the sun his name shall remain.
In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed;
all the nations shall proclaim his happiness.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold, our Lord shall come with power;
he will enlighten the eyes of his servants.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 10:21-24

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

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

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Commentary on Luke 10:21-24 From Living Space
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As Christmas and all it means approaches, the Gospel reminds us of the tremendous privilege that has come to us through our knowing Jesus Christ. “Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.”
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These words were spoken by Jesus just after seventy-two of his disciples had returned from their mission of proclaiming the Kingdom and doing the same work as he was doing. They echo words he had spoken to them earlier: “Knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you; but to the rest, they are made known through parables so that ‘they may look but not see and hear but not understand’ (Luke 8:10). Words which are to be taken not in the sense that only the disciples are offered insight and understanding but rather that the disciples are, by definition, those who open themselves to hear and to see and to understand the message.
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So for us today is a day of special thanksgiving for being so blessed. But with privilege comes responsibility. It is for us to see more clearly who Jesus really is and to have a deeper understanding of his vision and of his ways. It is for us to listen ever more acutely to the Word of God so that it really penetrates our consciousness and is absorbed into our very being.
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The HOLY SPIRIT?
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The very first Christians knew that some people cannot accept that there is the spirit of God within them….
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In 1 Timothy 4: 14-16:
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Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.”
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Recommended reading:
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 Book: Holy Spirit by Edward Leen.
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In Reading today’s Gospel we were immediately reminded of,  “Unless you become like little children…”
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Related:
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Jesus said:  (Click on to see more)
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In the scripture, Jesus and others say, “do not be afraid” a lot. That’s because those who put their trust in God, don’t go haywire as much as the rest of us.  A priest friend of mine says, “Rid your brain of all thought that are not good for you. Half of us in the world say that cannot be done. The other half are doing it — and they are better off for it.”
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Cristo en toda su gloria (Christ in all his glory) by
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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29 NOVEMBER 2016, Tuesday, 1st Week of Advent
CALLED TO SHARE IN THE VOCATION OF CHRIST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ IS 11:1-10; LK 10:21-24   ]

Christmas is a season of hope.  The first week of Advent particularly focuses on the theme of hope.  What is the hope of every man?  It is the hope that the paradise promised to us in Adam would be ours.  It is the hope that our yearning for justice, peace, love and unity would be realized.  This too was the longing of Israel.  It was their hope that there would be a King who would gather Israel together and Israel would once again be given its glory and prosperity as during the reign of David.  Such a vision and hope for justice, peace and unity is expressed in God’s plan for us as well.  If we have the same aspiration for justice, peace and righteousness, it is because we are created in the image of God.

Indeed, in today first’s reading Isaiah too envisaged a day would come when creation, which has been destroyed by sin, would be restored to its original plan.  On that day, according to the Isaian prophecy, “the wolf lives with the lamb, the panther lies down with the kid, calf and lion cub feed together with a little boy to lead them. The cow and the bear make friends, their young lie down together. The lion eats straw like the ox. The infant plays over the cobra’s hole; into the viper’s lair the young child puts his hand. They do no hurt, no harm, on all my holy mountain, for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters swell the sea.”

But how could this dream come true?  Israel after King David had only seen kings that led the people astray and divided.  The kings were more concerned with their interests than that of the people.  Hence, Isaiah prophesied that from the dynasty of David, a Messiah would come, “a shoot springs from the stock of Jesse, a scion thrusts form his roots”.  He would have all the skills and strength of the Solomonic legend for “on him the spirit of the Lord rests, a spirit of wisdom and insight, a spirit of counsel and power, a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.”  Since He is filled with the Spirit of the Lord, He has no fear of man, “he does not judge by appearances, he gives no verdict on hearsay, but judges the wretched with integrity, and with equity gives a verdict for the poor of the land. His word is a rod that strikes the ruthless, his sentences bring death to the wicked.”  Indeed, this king would be scrupulously fair in the administration of justice.  His strength lies not in physical or military might but in his wise and just decisions.

Of course, this prophecy is fulfilled in today’s gospel in Jesus.  In His prayer, Jesus revealed His identity as the Son of the Father.  He said, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children.  Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do.  Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

It is significant that Luke prefaced this prayer of Jesus by specifically mentioning that when Jesus prayed, He was “filled with joy by the Holy Spirit.”  Clearly, this prayer was not uttered simply by human will but in the power and prompting of the Holy Spirit. The implication is that Jesus precisely is that man so filled with the Spirit as prophesied in today’s first reading.  He is truly the Messiah, the personal representative of God.  But more than just a representative, Jesus is the Son of the Father.

In choosing these two texts and juxtaposing them, the Church is already anticipating for us that in Jesus, who is the bearer of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God made flesh, is the fulfillment of the much-awaited king that Israel has always been waiting for.  As the Messiah-king, He would be the one who would lead all men into unity.  He is the only one who could reconcile us with the Father and with each other.  Not only is He the reconciler of humanity but of the whole of creation.

In this context, the disciples were called blessed because they were the privileged ones to come into contact with the Messiah.  Indeed, as Luke has it,  “Then turning to his disciples he spoke to them in private, ‘Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.’”  It is true that the disciples of Jesus were blessed.  But faith in Jesus as the Son of God took time and the full revelation of this only came at the resurrection.

Hence, in a certain sense, we are more blessed than the people of the Old Testament and even the disciples because we are recipients of the final revelation as well.  In Jesus, in incarnation, passion and resurrection, and at Pentecost, we encounter Jesus, the Risen Lord in person.  On this basis, we were then able to celebrate His universal kingship two weeks ago and also to await His second and definitive coming at the end of time.

However, this fullness of revelation which we have been so privileged to receive is not only for us, it is in fact received on behalf of others. We are called to announce Him as the king of peace to others and that He is the hope of humanity.  Only when all recognize Him as king, can there be one kingdom where there is peace, love and unity.  It is therefore our responsibility to proclaim Jesus as the shepherd-king to all, for He is the one who will gather all men into unity with each other.

Indeed, by virtue of our baptism, we have been given the same spirit that anointed Him for the same mission.  We are given the gifts of the Spirit to witness to Christ who is our Prince of peace.  Like the people in the Old and New Testament, we too must play our part in guiding the people to see Christ as their Messiah.  Through the gifts of the Spirit, we are called to announce Christ as the King through our words and deeds of love, compassion and good works.

Indeed, if we are to be His disciples and apostles, we must be filled with His Spirit, the Spirit of the Shepherdas delineated in today’s first reading.  To acquire such a spirit is to have the heart of Christ.  Consequently, the most important thing for a disciple is prayer and intimacy with the Lord.  Through a deep experience of His love, springs our real calling and our vocation.  Without a love for prayer and for the Lord, one cannot speak of a true vocation.

This is the basis of missionary dynamism.  Without holiness through a deep prayer life, we who have not known Jesus cannot proclaim Him to others.  Only then will your love for Jesus and your knowledge of Jesus grow.  As the Holy Father, Pope St John Paul II told us, mission calls for a “pedagogy of holiness” which should be characterized by the “primacy given to the person of Jesus Christ, to the hearing and proclamation of his Word, to full and active participation in the sacraments, and to the cultivation of prayer as a personal encounter with the Lord.”

Thus, before anything else, those who aspire to be the disciples of Jesus Christ must strive to grow in personal holiness, which is to live the life of the Spirit. To grow in holiness is to live the life that God wants us to live here and now, by being responsible in whatever office we hold in life, be it as worker, parent, student, manager or employer. In this way, people will see you as witnesses of Christ and find in you people who are different from others.

Let us pray that we might be more prayerful, more conscious of our dependence on the Lord, so that we can be more discerning and more aware of what the Lord is calling us to do in life.  Yes, we must pray that we will be more open to God’s plan for our lives.

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

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A theme repeated over and over again in the scriptures is, “Do not be afraid.”
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When someone today asks, “What do we get as Christians?” we might answer: “Do not be afraid. Everything is possible with God.”
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Related here on Peace and Freedom:
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God, I offer myself to Thee –
to build with me and do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love and Thy Way of Life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank You God, AMEN!
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Survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan march during a religious procession in Tolosa on the eastern Philippine island of Leyte on November 18, 2013 over one week after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the area. The United Nations estimates that 13 million people were affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan with around 1.9 million losing their homes. AFP PHOTO / Philippe Lopez (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images) When the going gets tough, we have to get our faith going!

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, January 10, 2016 — “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” — Is The Holy Spirit In Us? If Not, Why Not?

January 9, 2016

The Baptism of the Lord
Lectionary: 21

Jesus shares in our  humanity — in our weak human-ness

Art: John The Baptist Baptizing Jesus

Reading 1 IS 42:1-4, 6-7

Thus says the LORD:
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
a bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

Or IS 40:1-5, 9-11

Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service is at an end,
her guilt is expiated;
indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD
double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Go up on to a high mountain,
Zion, herald of glad tidings;
cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news!
Fear not to cry out
and say to the cities of Judah:
Here is your God!
Here comes with power
the Lord GOD,
who rules by a strong arm;
here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care.

Responsorial Psalm PS 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10

R. (11b) The Lord will bless his people with peace.
Give to the LORD, you sons of God,
give to the LORD glory and praise,
Give to the LORD the glory due his name;
adore the LORD in holy attire.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters,
the LORD, over vast waters.
The voice of the LORD is mighty;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The God of glory thunders,
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The LORD is enthroned above the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as king forever.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.

Or PS 104:1B-2, 3-4, 24-25, 27-28, 29-30

R. (1) O bless the Lord, my soul.
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
you are clothed with majesty and glory,
robed in light as with a cloak.
You have spread out the heavens like a tent-cloth;
R. O bless the Lord, my soul.
You have constructed your palace upon the waters.
You make the clouds your chariot;
you travel on the wings of the wind.
You make the winds your messengers,
and flaming fire your ministers.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul.
How manifold are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you have wrought them all—
the earth is full of your creatures;
the sea also, great and wide,
in which are schools without number
of living things both small and great.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul.
They look to you to give them food in due time.
When you give it to them, they gather it;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul.
If you take away their breath, they perish and return to the dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul.

Reading 2 ACTS 10:34-38

Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered
in the house of Cornelius, saying:
“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.
Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly
is acceptable to him.
You know the word that he sent to the Israelites
as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all,
what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached,
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.”

Or TI 2:11-14; 3:4-7

Beloved:
The grace of God has appeared, saving all
and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires
and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age,
as we await the blessed hope,
the appearance of the glory of our great God
and savior Jesus Christ,
who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness
and to cleanse for himself a people as his own,
eager to do what is good.

When the kindness and generous love
of God our savior appeared,
not because of any righteous deeds we had done
but because of his mercy,
He saved us through the bath of rebirth
and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
whom he richly poured out on us
through Jesus Christ our savior,
so that we might be justified by his grace
and become heirs in hope of eternal life.

Alleluia CF. MK 9:7

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.

Or CF. LK 3:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
John said: One mightier than I is coming;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 3:15-16, 21-22

The people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”After all the people had been baptized
and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying,
heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him
in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.”
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Commentary on Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11; Titus 2:11-14;3:2-7; Luke 3:15-16,21-22 from Living Space

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THE BAPTISM OF JESUS is the third of three great manifestations or revelations which characterise the Christmas season. Today is a kind of transition. We have come to the end of the Christmas season. Yesterday was “Twelfth Night”, the last of the twelve days of Christmas and now we are entering the first week of the Ordinary Season. (Today is also the First Sunday in Ordinary Time, although it is never celebrated. However, the prayers of its Mass will be said during the week.)

The three great revelations we have been celebrating are:

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a. Christmas: when God comes among us with the Good News for the poor, the outcast and the sinner. This is Luke’s version, where Jesus is born in poverty and the first to come to pay him homage are poor and marginalised shepherds.

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b. Epiphany: when God comes among us with a message of salvation for everyone, for all the people of the world, and not just for one select group. This is Matthew’s version and the description of the strange visitors from the East.

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c. Baptism of Jesus: God is seen as specially present in Jesus and working in him and through him.

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Why baptise Jesus?

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We might ask ourselves: Why did Jesus need to be baptised? Most of those coming to John the Baptist were repentant sinners. Our baptism, too, is partly to rescue us from the power of sin by being bathed in the redemptive love of Christ.

How does Jesus himself fit into this? We always say that he is like us in all things, except sin. Moreover, John clearly states that he himself is not the Messiah but only the fore-runner, the herald of his coming. He is not even worthy to undo the sandals of the One who is coming. Undoing sandals was something only slaves did. John felt that, in Jesus’ case, he was not even worthy to do that. And yet – Jesus is to be baptised by John.
There are two answers we can give to this question:

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a. By being baptised in the River Jordan with all those self-proclaimed sinners, Jesus shows his total solidarity with us. “The Word was made flesh and lived among us,” says John’s gospel. He does not say that the Word was made a human person but that ‘he was made flesh’. In biblical language, ‘flesh’ has all the connotations of our human weaknesses. In becoming a human person, Jesus identified with us not just in our humanity but in our weak human-ness. Jesus had the same feelings and reactions that we have; only he never did sin or do anything wrong. This solidarity was indicated by the criticism of the Pharisees that Jesus spent so much time eating and drinking with sinners and outcasts.

Despite his dignity and rank as Son of God, as Messiah, Jesus never did require any external signs of privilege. Most of the time, he looked just the same as everyone else. And, when he got up in the synagogue of his home town and began to amaze people with his insight, his neighbours could not understand it. They had lived for years with him and had no idea of this side of his person.

b. Secondly, something different is happening here beyond an ordinary baptism. Luke says significantly that Jesus was at prayer when his baptism took place. At all the significant moments in his public life, Luke represents Jesus as praying. It was at this moment that the Spirit of God in the visible form of a dove comes down on Jesus.

A voice, clearly that of the Father, says, “You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.” It is clearly a form of “missioning” for Jesus. We could call it is his ‘Pentecost’ experience. It is a clear endorsement from his Father for the work that Jesus is about to begin. (Another important endorsement will come at the Transfiguration.)

So, through his baptism, Jesus is being officially commissioned to begin his public work of teaching, healing and liberating enslaved souls up to the climactic moment of his passion, death and resurrection.

What is Jesus’ mission?

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And what is that work that Jesus is to accomplish through his teaching, preaching and healing? That is described in the First Reading from Isaiah and the Second Reading from the Letter to Titus.

Isaiah promises that valleys will be filled and mountains and hills made low as all obstacles will be removed and the glory of God will be revealed and made accessible to all. The Lord is coming in the person of Jesus: “He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms and carry them in his bosom and gently lead the mother sheep.” He is the Bread of Life and the Good Shepherd.

In the Second Reading the Lord comes to bring salvation and wholeness to all and to help us leave behind all “worldly passions”, all those appetites and longings which are ultimately destructive and harmful to our proper destiny. And our baptism is linked with that of Jesus:
“For when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared,
he saved us,
not because of any works of righteousness that we had done,
but according to his mercy
through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

The Word became flesh so that we could be liberated from the sinful inclinations of the flesh.

His baptism also for us

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At his baptism, that Spirit came down on Jesus. It was not for him alone but so that he might bring “true justice” to all. A just society is one where everyone has what they need to have, where their dignity is respected and affirmed and where people live in right relationships with each other.

So, later in his gospel Matthew applies the words of the prophet Isaiah to Jesus:

He will not argue or shout,
or make loud speeches in the streets.
He will not break off a bent reed,
Or put out a flickering lamp.
He will persist until he causes justice to triumph,
And in him all peoples will put their hope (Matthew 12:19-20a).

Here expressed in truly poetic images is a picture of the compassionate Jesus who welcomed sinners and sat down to eat with them; the Good Shepherd who left the ninety-nine “good” ones to go and find just one which had gone astray to bring it back.

Continuing to quote from Isaiah, Matthew applies these words explicitly to Jesus:

Faithfully he brings true justice;
he will neither waver, nor be crushed
until true justice is established on earth (Matthew 12:20b-21.

Jesus, in spite of hostility, rejection and efforts to destroy him, will persevere to the end. In fact, it will be in his apparent destruction, his degrading death as a public criminal that he will galvanise millions to follow him for centuries to come. Jesus’ work is above all to liberate us and set us free. For all of this, Jesus was baptised and commissioned by his Father.

Reflecting on our own baptism

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Today is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on our own baptism. It is not something which happened a long time and which “made” us Catholics. It is not just a ceremony lasting a few minutes which produces magical effects; it is the beginning of a lifelong journey. It is the beginning of a process of growing into the Body of Christ as its members.

Our baptism is essentially a community experience; it is not just a private or a family event although in the way it was “celebrated” it may have looked like that. It involves active participation in the life of the Church and not just passive membership.

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Perhaps we could paraphrase the words of John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address: “Ask not what the Church can do for you but what you can do for the Church.”

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Each one of us is called to be a living witness to the Gospel: to be the salt of the earth, a city on a hill, a lamp radiating light for all. Our baptism is a never-ending call to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Every word of Isaiah can also be applied to each one of us who has been baptised. So let us today renew our faith in and our commitment to follow Jesus. Let us re-affirm our readiness to carry on his work.

For it is a sobering fact that without our co-operation, much of God’s work will never get done.

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He reaches out to us. Do we reach back? Art: Blessed Art Thou among Women, by Walter Rane

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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10 JANUARY 2016, Sunday, Baptism of the Lord
THE MISSION TO REVEAL GOD PRESUPPOSES OUR SONSHIP IN CHRIST THROUGH THE ANOINTING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
SCRIPTURE READINGS: ISA 42:1-4, 6-7; ACTS 10:34-38; LK 13:15-16, 21-22

The world, in spite of its technological progress, is still empty and life seems to be meaningless.  Like the Israelites in the first reading who were in exile, we too seek for justice in the face of sufferings and evil, for light in our dungeon of meaningless living; and for liberation from our own sinfulness.  Like the Jews during the time of Jesus, we too have this “feeling of expectancy” that the Messiah or the Saviour would come to lead us out of our captivity.  We are looking for light, for hope.

But why is it that man finds life empty and meaningless?  The scripture readings tell us it is because we have “fallen into the power of the devil.”  We have lost our relationship with God and lost our self-identity as well.  This was the situation of the Israelites in the first reading.  They forgot about God and who they were and thus, they were exiled.  They forgot that God is their Father and that they are the sons and daughters of God.  Indeed, St Paul tells us in the second reading “God does not have favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him.”  Yes, all of us are called to be His sons.  But we have forgotten our sonship because we have forgotten about God due to our sins which have brought about this alienation and self-forgetfulness.

Today at His baptism, we see Jesus as one who was very much in contact with God.  We are told He was at prayer after His baptism.  Through His openness to God in prayer, the heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him and a voice came from heaven revealed to Jesus who He was.  “You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.”  Jesus was conscious that God was His Father and He was the Beloved Son of the Father.  It was His Abba experience that was the reason for His wanting to proclaim His Father’s unconditional love to all.

The corollary of His Sonship was to reveal God through His life and being.  We are told that “Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil.”  Through His life, words and especially in His good works, Jesus revealed God in His life as love and compassion.  Yes, if Jesus were truly the Son of God that is the expression of who God is, necessarily, this reality must be manifested in His life.  So in all that He said and did, Jesus manifested the presence of God.  This explains why on hindsight the gospels could write about Jesus as the incarnation of God.  Hence, His work manifested His sonship as much as His sonship is the reason for His reason for doing good, since only God is good.

But not only did Jesus reveal God as His Father through His Sonship, He also revealed the Holy Spirit as well.  This was because without the Holy Spirit, He would not have been able to do His work and mission.  Hence, we are also told explicitly that “God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power.”  It was at His baptism that the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus.  Throughout His life and work, the Holy Spirit was visibly at work in Him.  People could see that His work was the work of God; not the work of man nor even the work for God.

If this was the baptism of Jesus, which was God revealing Himself in the Son through the power of the Holy Spirit, then in the same way by virtue of our baptism, God also wants to reveal His presence in us.  This is our mission as well.  Just as Christ revealed God through His humanity, we too are called to reveal God by our humanity.  People will not be able to see God unless they see God in us.

We can reveal God’s presence by living out the Sonship of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.  We too are called to do the same so that God’s love is real in this world.  We are called upon to live a life of justice.  We are called to live enlightened and liberated lives.  We are called to be the hope of the people and the light of nations.  For unless they see God, they will not know who they are to God, His children.

What must we do for the presence of God to be in us so that we will be endowed with the Spirit of God?

Firstly, we are called to be baptized with water.  Water is a symbol of purification.  Water is a symbol of dying to our sinfulness and our lack of fidelity to our real calling.  To be baptized with the water of John the Baptist, is to be baptized with repentance.  We must turn away from the kind of life we are living.

Secondly, we must be baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  John’s baptism of water is not sufficient.  That is why we must be baptized with the Holy and with fire, which is the Christian sacrament of baptism and confirmation.  In other words, we must be purified by the fire of the Holy Spirit which is the love of God.  This we receive at baptism and at confirmation.  Through the love of God, we become sanctified in Him.  Only when we experience the love of the Holy Spirit, the fire of God, can we find the empowerment to live out the life of Christ.  Through the fire of love, we too find the zeal to spread His kingdom in the world.

But most of all, we need always to renew this Spirit in us through prayer.  We are told specifically in the gospel that after His baptism, Jesus was at prayer.  Only then did the revelation take place.  We must spend our time in prayer so that we come to know God more personally and ourselves more and more.  Only through prayer, which is our union with God in the Spirit, can we be empowered to live out the sonship of God.  Without prayer, our mission would be defective and powerless.  Yes, the mission of every Christian must be like that of Jesus, immersed in the love of the Father and empowered by the love and zeal of the Holy Spirit.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

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Book “Holy Spirit” by Edward Leen. Father Leen was a teacher who encouraged everyone to “invite the Holy Spirit into ourselves and our lives.” He encouraged all to seek “The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit”

The “Indwelling of the Holy Spirit,” if we seek — will reward us with a good conscience — an inner feeling or voice that drives us always toward, love, the good and the right. If we work to develop this indwelling we will be rewarded.
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Unfortunately, in today’s secular society, we seem to have fewer who are seeking. So how can they possibly find?
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The Gospels tell us to pray, meditate and consume Christ — make him a part of us and us in him.
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This is intertwined with the mystery of the Eucharist….
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We don’t have to “get it.” But we’ll be a lot happier if we do it!

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.

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
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Related here on Peace and Freedom:
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God, I offer myself to Thee –
to build with me and do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love and Thy Way of Life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank You God, AMEN!
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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, August 25, 2015 — We drew courage through our God — Self-Indulgence Is Not His Way — Unless You can Be Like Little Children

August 24, 2015

Tuesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 426

Jesus went to great lengths to teach us about the sin of pride — using Scribes and Pharisees as a symbol of prideful people seeking mostly to get money and fame, attention on this earth.

Reading 1 1 THES 2:1-8

You yourselves know, brothers and sisters,
that our reception among you was not without effect.
Rather, after we had suffered and been insolently treated,
as you know, in Philippi,
we drew courage through our God
to speak to you the Gospel of God with much struggle.
Our exhortation was not from delusion or impure motives,
nor did it work through deception.
But as we were judged worthy by God to be entrusted with the Gospel,
that is how we speak,
not as trying to please men,
but rather God, who judges our hearts.
Nor, indeed, did we ever appear with flattering speech, as you know,
or with a pretext for greed–God is witness–
nor did we seek praise from men,
either from you or from others,
although we were able to impose our weight as Apostles of Christ.
Rather, we were gentle among you,
as a nursing mother cares for her children.
With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you
not only the Gospel of God, but our very selves as well,
so dearly beloved had you become to us.

Responsorial Psalm PS 139:1-3, 4-6

R. (1) You have searched me and you know me, Lord.
O LORD, you have probed me and you know me;
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar.
R. You have searched me and you know me, Lord.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know the whole of it.
Behind me and before, you hem me in
and rest your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
too lofty for me to attain.
R. You have searched me and you know me, Lord.

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Alleluia HEB 4:12

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The word of God is living and effective,
able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 23:23-26

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Jesus said:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin,
and have neglected the weightier things of the law:
judgment and mercy and fidelity.
But these you should have done, without neglecting the others.
Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You cleanse the outside of cup and dish,
but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.
Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup,
so that the outside also may be clean.”
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Unless you change and become like little children… Photo: Indonesian triplets Aisya Anjani, Aditya Harimurti and Artha Pradipta, nine, with younger sister Adinda Rania, seven. PHOTO: COURTESY OF EVA MAZRIEVA
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First Thoughts From Peace and Freedom:
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One of the stories of Jesus that is told and re-told without our total ability to grasp the meaning is this:
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“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
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Jesus seems to be telling us that he prefers the humble, joyous and  laughing  children than the “learned” and law abiding Scribes and Pharisees.
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In short: God doesn’t want us to be “Big Shots.”
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The more we meditate on this the more we realize this is a piece of a puzzle in Jesus’ teachings that compliments many other teachings such as “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:25)
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He wants us to drop everything and follow Him. He even says “the dead will bury the dead.”  (Matthew 8:22)
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Do we believe Him?
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Jesus isn’t too interested in the role of our flesh — other than to emphasize the very important concept that our soul lives in our flesh in this life. The Holy Spirit is in each one of us, to a greater or lesser degree.
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“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19)
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All we have to do is to love one another and to invite the Holy Spirit into us more every day.
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Finally, the scriptures have over 300 lines that all reflect upon this thought: “Do not be afraid.” Once we put ourselves into God’s hands we are wasting time if we insist upon holding on to anxiety, fear and trepidation.
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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• The Gospel today presents two other times that this expression was used: ‘Alas for you…’ when Jesus speaks against the religious leaders of his time. The two ‘Alas for you…’ of today denounce the lack of coherence between word and attitude, between exterior and interior. Today we continue our reflection which we begun yesterday.
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• Matthew 23, 23-24: The fifth ‘Alas for you…’ against those who insist on the observance and forget mercy. You pay your tithe of mint and dill and cummin and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law: justice, mercy and fidelity”. This fifth ‘Alas for you…’ of Jesus is against the religious leaders of that time and can be repeated against many religious of the following century even up to our time. Many times, in the name of Jesus, we insist on details and we forget mercy. For example, Jansenism reduces lived faith to something arid, insisting on the observance and penance which led people away from the way of love. The Carmelite Sister Teresa of Lisieux grew in the Jansenism environment which marked France at the end of the XIX century. Beginning from a personal painful experience, she knew how to recover the gratuity of love of God, a force which should animate the observance of the norms from within; because without love, the observance makes an idol of God.
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• Matthew 23, 25-26: The sixth ‘Alas for you…’ against those who clean things on the outside and are dirty inside. “You clean the outside of the cup and dish and leave the inside full of extortion and intemperance. In the Sermon on the Mountain, Jesus criticises those who observe the letter of the Law and transgress the spirit of the Law. He says: “You have heard how it was said to our ancestors, You shall not kill, and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say to you anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court. Anyone who calls his brother ‘Fool’ will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and anyone who calls him ‘Traitor’ will answer for it in hell fire.
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You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery, but I say this to you, if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5, 21-22. 27-28). It is not sufficient to observe the letter of the Law. It is not sufficient not to kill, not to rob, not to commit adultery, not to swear in order to be faithful to what God asks of us. The one who observes fully the Law of God is the one who, besides observing the letter, goes deeply to the root and pulls out from within “the desires of extortion and intemperance” which may lead to murder, theft, and adultery. The fullness of the law is realized in the practice of love.
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Personal questions
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• There are two expressions of ‘Alas for you…’ two reasons to receive the criticism from Jesus. Which of these two applies to me?
• Observance and gratuity: Which of these applies to me?
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Concluding Prayer
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Proclaim God’s salvation day after day,
declare his glory among the nations,
his marvels to every people! (Ps 96,2-3)
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Scribes and Pharisees By James Tissot
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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THE WOES OF INSINCERITYSCRIPTURE READINGS: 1THESSA 2:1-8; MT 23:23-26

The message of today’s scripture readings can be summarized in just one word: sincerity.  How sincere we are with ourselves will determine how sincere we are with others.  Our lack of sincerity not only deceives others but we ultimately deceive ourselves too.  By being insincere with ourselves, we hurt ourselves much, much more than we hurt others.  A person who is not sincere with himself is not one with himself.  When we are not integrated, we become divided within and this is where the real source of division begins.  When a person is divided within himself, that inner division is manifested in his division with others and with God.  That is why Jesus pronounced them as woes to us.  Why are they woes to us more than to others?

Firstly, when we are concerned with the trivials of the law, it is but our way of escaping the reality of the situation.  Catholics, for example, are more concerned with whether they attend mass on Sundays and that they make it before the gospel reading is over, or that they abstain from meat on Fridays than whether they are practising justice and charity towards their fellow human beings or even their family members at home or in the office.  What is the use of observing the details of the law when it does not make us more loving and just people?  Instead, we might begin to think that we are so righteous when we are not.  That is why it is a tragedy and a woe.

Secondly, when we are concerned more with the externals than the interior disposition, we know that we are not what we claim to be.  We might be civil and polite to others, but deep within we know that our motives are not sincere.  We know that we are putting up a show.  Such insincerity cannot but make us hate ourselves.  And to know that we have deceived others, make us even more angry with ourselves because we know better.  And because we are concerned with externals, we become slaves to others.  We have lost our inner and outer freedom.  Whereas for a person who is true to himself, and is more concerned with his internal disposition, the external behaviour will manifest itself accordingly.  His goodness will simply flow out from his heart.  He does not even need to think how to be good.  And because his goodness comes from within him, such good works are truly selfless and liberating.

Today, in the first reading, we have the example of St Paul.  He is truly one of the most sincere men that we read in the bible.  St Paul is so true to himself.  He is not ashamed of his mistakes and his weaknesses; but at the same time, he is conscious of God’s grace and blessings.  In all his letters, we can feel that this man always speaks from the depths of his heart in utter concern and love for his fellow human beings.  Yes, as he said in today’s letter, he does not use deceit or any sort of trickery or flattery.  He does not even seek to please man but only to please God.   He is not out to get glory for himself, but only for Christ.

Indeed, to seek to please God alone is nothing else but to be true to Him alone; to be true to self, doing all things for Him.  For such a person, he is truly liberated and is at peace within himself.  Only a person who is truly sincere to self can be happy.

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, May 15, 2015 — “If there is not an underlying joy in our lives, we should wonder just how close we really are to Jesus.”

May 14, 2015

Friday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Lectionary: 295

Reading 1 Acts 18:9-18

One night while Paul was in Corinth, the Lord said to him in a vision,
“Do not be afraid.
Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you.
No one will attack and harm you,
for I have many people in this city.”
He settled there for a year and a half
and taught the word of God among them.But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia,
the Jews rose up together against Paul
and brought him to the tribunal, saying,
“This man is inducing people to worship God contrary to the law.”
When Paul was about to reply, Gallio spoke to the Jews,
“If it were a matter of some crime or malicious fraud,
I should with reason hear the complaint of you Jews;
but since it is a question of arguments over doctrine and titles
and your own law, see to it yourselves.
I do not wish to be a judge of such matters.”
And he drove them away from the tribunal.
They all seized Sosthenes, the synagogue official,
and beat him in full view of the tribunal.
But none of this was of concern to Gallio.Paul remained for quite some time,
and after saying farewell to the brothers he sailed for Syria,
together with Priscilla and Aquila.
At Cenchreae he had shaved his head because he had taken a vow.

Responsorial Psalm PS 47:2-3, 4-5, 6-7

R. (8a) God is king of all the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
All you peoples, clap your hands,
shout to God with cries of gladness,
For the LORD, the Most High, the awesome,
is the great king over all the earth.
R. God is king of all the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He brings people under us;
nations under our feet.
He chooses for us our inheritance,
the glory of Jacob, whom he loves.
R. God is king of all the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy;
the LORD, amid trumpet blasts.
Sing praise to God, sing praise;
sing praise to our king, sing praise.
R. God is king of all the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia See Lk 24:46, 26

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Christ had to suffer and to rise from the dead,
and so enter into his glory.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Jn 16:20-23

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn,
while the world rejoices;
you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.
When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived;
but when she has given birth to a child,
she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy
that a child has been born into the world.
So you also are now in anguish.
But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy away from you.
On that day you will not question me about anything.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.”
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Commentary on John 16:20-23 from Living Space

Today’s Gospel repeats much of yesterday’s about the sorrow the disciples will experience when Jesus goes away (in his suffering and death) and the joy they will experience when he soon returns (in his resurrection).

Jesus compares their experience to a woman about to give birth to a child. During the time of delivery she suffers greatly but is so happy once her child is born. The joy of seeing her newborn child face to face is worth any pain. The disciples will have to go through a similar experience as the new Jesus, the Risen Christ, enters his new life and the new People of God, his post-resurrection Body, comes to birth.

Today’s passage adds the promise that, when Jesus sees them again, they will experience a joy “no one can take from you”. And they will no longer have need to ask the questions they are asking now. It does not mean that there will not be more sufferings in the future. There will be and some of them will give their lives for their commitment to Jesus and the Kingdom. But, for those who are close to Jesus, pain and joy are not incompatible.

Let us pray that we, too, who have the enduring presence of the Risen Jesus with us at all times, wherever we happen to be, experience – in spite of inevitable trials and disappointments – the same kind of joy. In fact, we have reason to be concerned if there is not an underlying joy in our lives. It should make us wonder just how close we really are to Jesus.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1066g/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection• During these days between the Ascension and Pentecost, the Gospels of the day are taken from chapters 16 to 21 of the Gospel of Saint John, and form part of the Gospel called: “Book of Consolation or of the Revelation acting in the Community” (Jn 13, 1 to 21, 31). This Book is divided as follows: the farewell to the friends (Jn 13, 1a to 14, 31); witness of Jesus and prayer to the Father (Jn 15, 1 to 17, 28); the accomplished work (Jn 18, 1 to 20, 31). The environment of sadness and of expectation. Sadness, because Jesus leaves and the nostalgia invades the heart. Expectation, because the hour is arriving of receiving the promised gift, that of the Consoler who will make all sadness disappear and will once again bring the joy of the friendly presence of Jesus in the midst of the community.

• John 16, 20: The sadness will be transformed into joy. Jesus says: “In all truth I tell you: you will be weeping and wailing while the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy”. The frequent reference to sadness and suffering express the environment of the communities at the end of the first century in Asia Minor (today, Turkey), for which John wrote his Gospel. They lived in a difficult situation of persecution and oppression which caused sadness. The Apostles had taught that Jesus would have returned afterwards, but the “parusia”, the glorious return of Jesus had not arrived and persecution increased. Many were impatient: “Until when?” (cfr. 2 Th 2, 1-5; 2 P 3, 8-9). Besides, a person bears a situation of suffering and of persecution when he/she knows that suffering is the way and the condition to attain perfect joy. And thus, even having death before the eyes, the person bears and faces suffering and pain. This is why the Gospel makes this beautiful comparison with the pangs of childbirth.

• John 16, 21: The comparison with pangs of childbirth. All understand this comparison, especially mothers: “The woman in childbirth suffers because her time has come; but when she has given birth to the child she forgets the suffering in her joy that a human being has been born into the world”. The suffering and sadness caused by persecution, even without offering any horizon of improvement, are not the stertor of death, but rather the pangs of childbirth. Mothers know all this by experience. The pain is terrible, but they bear it, because they know that the pain, the suffering is a source of new life. Thus, is the suffering of the persecution of Christians, and thus, any suffering should be lived, that is, in the light of the experience of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.

• John 16, 22-23a: Eternal joy. Jesus explains the comparison: “So it is with you: you are sad now, but I shall see you again, and your hearts will be full of joy and that joy no one shall take from you”. When that day comes, you will not ask me any questions. This is the certainty that gives courage to the tired and persecuted communities of Asia Minor and which makes one exult with joy in the midst of suffering and pain. As the poet says: “It hurts, but I sing!” Or as the mystic Saint John of the Cross says: “In a dark night, with an inflamed yearning for love, oh happy venture, I went out without being noticed, in my house all slept!” The expression on that day indicates the definitive coming of the Kingdom which brings with it its clarity. In the light of God, there will no longer be need to ask anything. The light of God is the full and total response to all the questions which could arise within the human heart.

For Personal Confrontation

• Sadness and joy. They exist together in life. How do these exist in your life?

• Pangs of childbirth. This experience is found in the origin of life of each one of us. My mother suffered the pain with hope, and this is why I am alive. Stop and think about this mystery of life.

Concluding Prayer

Clap your hands, all peoples,
acclaim God with shouts of joy.
For Yahweh, the Most High, is glorious,
the great king over all the earth. (Ps 47,1-2)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-john-1620-23a

Related:

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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THE INDWELLING PRESENCE OF JESUS AS THE CAUSE OF OUR PERMANENT JOY IN THE WORLDSCRIPTURE READINGS: ACTS 18:9-18; JN 16:20-23

It is understandable why the disciples were feeling rather sad as Jesus was not only leaving them but that he had to suffer an ignominious and tragic end. The hostility between the authorities and Jesus was growing each day and His death seems imminent and inevitable. Within this context, Jesus tried to reassure His disciples that their sorrow will turn into joy.

Indeed, it is one of the characteristics of human beings that we have a natural capacity to be open for new life and to forget our past. It is this capacity that enables us to live in the midst of our struggles. So long as we continue to endure, we can hope that one day the storms will end and sunshine would be here again. And most of us have not been proven wrong. Yesterday, we might have suffered a set-back in our project, business or career but through endurance and patience, we find that by picking up the pieces, success or fortune returns.

This is also true in relationships. In going through bereavement, we cannot but yearn for the physical presence of our loved one. But time heals because as we get back to life and start involving ourselves in other activities; very soon, we learn to live without the person and find that there are so many other ways to be happy and joyful.

We learn to live our lives meaningfully again. So too in a broken relationship! When we are having great difficulties living or relating with a person, we become bitter as a result of misunderstandings, accusations and harsh words that were spoken. But once we become reconciled, all the pains and hurts are forgotten and we remember the good days again.

Indeed, if we were unable to go beyond our sufferings, it would be tragic for us. By not looking beyond our world and our sufferings, depression will eventually set in. Many people just cannot leave their past behind. They cannot forgive their own mistakes or the mistakes of others. They continue to harbour negative thoughts in their minds. For such people, life has stopped. They are not open to the newness of life, the unimaginable things that can happen and which God wants to give them. Unfortunately, they only cling to what it might have been and what they have lost. They cannot see that to leave something and someone is also to begin another new experience. Indeed, we feel sorry for such people because they only know how to wallow in their miseries, unable to come out from the tombs that they have built for themselves.

But even if we were able to be positive and overcome our setbacks and mistakes, we cannot call this something exceptional or even really Christian. For this is only natural, as Jesus tells us in today’s gospel. This natural tendency to forget about our sufferings when the joy returns is what Jesus said. We are just like those women in childbirth who suffer; but after giving birth, they forget their sufferings because of the joy of a child.

But such kind of joy cannot be truly called Christian joy. If happiness and joy were dependent on whether we are successful then we would be the most miserable people in the world. For then, joy would be so illusive and temporary. This would contradict Jesus’ promise in the gospel that our “hearts will be full of joy and that joy no one” shall take from us. So, Christian joy is a permanent joy. It is a joy even in sufferings.

When we consider the lives of the early Christians and even many Christians today, although not spared of sufferings and trials in life, yet they remained generally tranquil and peaceful. Yes, even St Paul, in all his missionary journeys, when he had to encounter hostile forces and people who were against his preaching, he remained firm and calm in the face of opposition.

What, then, is the secret of this lasting joy that is full? The key to this joy is seeing Jesus. Yes, only an encounter with the Risen Lord can empower us to remain faithful and strong, especially when things are against us. Unless our experience of the Risen Lord is real in our lives, we will not have the hope and courage to remain at peace within ourselves when we meet with problems. But if the Risen Lord is experienced so intimately in us, then we know there is nothing to fear. If the Lord is risen and is already seated at the right hand of the Father after putting all things, especially sin and death under His feet, then why should we worry? On the contrary, we know that everything is in God’s hands and He will somehow see us through. And indeed is this not the case for those who have faith in Jesus? For quite often, from hindsight, we understand why we have to go through certain trials and difficulties in life.

Indeed, when we meet the Lord personally in our lives, then, as Jesus promised us, “when that day comes you will not ask me any questions.” How is that so? Because when we see how powerfully He is at work in us and in our lives, we will have no more questions and doubts, since His very presence and love is the ultimate guarantee that He is with us. What we need in life is not answers to our problems. What we really need is to know that people care and that God cares for us. With this reassurance, we are ready to accept the mysteries of life. Truly, if St Paul were able to have such confidence in his missions, it was because of the vision that he had received from the Lord who spoke to him, “Do not be afraid to speak out, nor allow yourself to be silenced: I am with you.”

Hence, we need to be more prayerful during these last few days of the Easter season in preparation for the Feast of Pentecost. Only with the Holy Spirit, can the Lord become so present to us and in us that we will never doubt He is with us. Yes, let us always, especially in our difficult moments, remind ourselves that He is with us. Clinging in faith to the promise of the Risen Lord, we can then remain at peace even in the midst of the storms of life.

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http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

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Bishop Goh’s reflection (above) reminded us of a few books.

Bishop William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore says, “Our goal should be the indwelling of Jesus in us to guide, love and keep us calm no matter our trials.” Edward Leen teaches in “Holy Spirit” that he believes our indwelling is the Holy Spirit himself….

To sum up the teaching in “Sermon on the Mount” by Emmet Fox: “Never hold on to a thought or feeling that is not good for you.”

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, May 11, 2015 — When the Advocate comes — whom I will send you from the Father — the Spirit of truth will be upon you

May 10, 2015

Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Lectionary: 291

Reading 1 Acts 16:11-15

We set sail from Troas, making a straight run for Samothrace,
and on the next day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi,
a leading city in that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony.
We spent some time in that city.
On the sabbath we went outside the city gate along the river
where we thought there would be a place of prayer.
We sat and spoke with the women who had gathered there.
One of them, a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth,
from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened,
and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention
to what Paul was saying.
After she and her household had been baptized,
she offered us an invitation,
“If you consider me a believer in the Lord,
come and stay at my home,” and she prevailed on us.
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Art: Lydia — a dealer in purple cloth listened to the word of God

Responsorial Psalm PS 149:1b-2, 3-4, 5-6a and 9b

R. (see 4a) The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Sing to the LORD a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches.
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia Jn 15:26b, 27a

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

Gospel Jn 15:26—16:4a

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father,
he will testify to me.
And you also testify,
because you have been with me from the beginning.“I have told you this so that you may not fall away.
They will expel you from the synagogues;
in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you
will think he is offering worship to God.
They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me.
I have told you this so that when their hour comes
you may remember that I told you.”

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Commentary on John 15:26 from Living Space

We continue reading the discourse of Jesus to his disciples at the Last Supper.

Today he promises that the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth will come, sent both by the Father and by Jesus the Son. As we saw earlier, Paraclete (Gk parakletes, paraklhths) means a person who stands by one and gives support. It can be applied to a defence lawyer in a court of law. So the word is sometimes translated ‘Advocate’. It can be anyone who gives comfort, good advice or moral support. Various forms of the word are used about eight times in a short and beautiful passage at the opening of St Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor 1:3-7).

Here the Spirit that God bestows through Jesus on his disciples will be one who will comfort and strengthen them in the sometimes difficult days ahead and will guide them in their fuller understanding of what Jesus has taught them. The Spirit will confirm all that Jesus has said and done.

The disciples too are, with the help of the same Spirit, to give witness to all that Jesus has said and done.

And again he warns them that they will need all the help they can get from the support of the Spirit. “They will expel you from synagogues and indeed the hour is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is doing a holy duty for God.” A prophecy which was very soon to be fulfilled and continues to be fulfilled down to our own day.

And people will do this because they do not really know the Father or Jesus. If they did, they too would believe and would recognise the presence of Jesus in the Christian community and its message.

So, as has been mentioned several times already, we are not to be surprised if we find ourselves – as Christians – the object of attack, of slander, of abuse, of misunderstandings, of contempt. St Ignatius of Loyola is said to have prayed that the members of the order which he founded would always be persecuted. It was a sign that they were doing their job. It is a strange paradox but the message of Christian love and forgiveness, the message of peace and justice is found by many to be very threatening and must be attacked.

Saint Ignatius Loyola, by artist Cristoforo Savolini, 17th century

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

BEING WITNESSES OF TRUTH PRESUPPOSES THAT WE HAVE BEEN WITH JESUS AND HAVE RECEIVED HIS SPIRIT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: Acts 16:11-15; John 15:26-16:4

The world is seeking for happiness.  Even the rich and powerful are looking for happiness.  But they know better than the poor that happiness is not found in wealth or status.  This was the case of Lydia in today’s first reading.  She was a rich and “devout woman from the town of Thyatira who was in the purple-dye trade.”

The world is misguided. It is seeking for happiness without God. We are living in an age of relativism.  This is the greatest challenge of the third millennium.  Those who believe in the essential truths are condemned because the world has chosen to embrace the principles of relativism.

How prophetic the words of Jesus when He said, “I have told you all this so that your faith may not be shaken. They will expel you from the synagogues, and indeed the hour is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is doing a holy duty for God. They will do these things because they have never known either the Father or myself. But I have told you all this, so that when the time for it comes you may remember that I told you.”  Indeed, because we proclaim the truth, we are hated by the world.  We cannot speak against evil today because that is relative.  Only the relativists have the truth it seems, but not the fundamentalists, who profess to have found the essential truths about life and love.

However, it must be made clear that the Church is not against the world.  The Church is at the service of humanity.  She wants to offer life and true love to the world.  But love and truth must come together.  How can there be true love without truth?  The problem with the world is that they are looking for love without truth.  People want marriage without commitment and sacrifices. People want to build unity without truth.  Unity founded on false compromises will not last.  Compromise in itself is not wrong, so long as we do not shortchange the truth.

Christians are called to be witnesses to the truth.  This is especially so for Church leaders and those in authority.  We preach about speaking the truth, but we do not necessarily speak the truth.  Often, it is because we lack the courage to speak against injustice, sin and evil, and thus conveniently sweep these things under the carpet, believing that is the way to preserve our peace. We want to be peacekeepers not peacemakers.  When leaders are unable to uphold truth and justice, how can we be true witnesses of Christ?

To speak the truth is possible only if we have been with Jesus.  “And you too will be witnesses, because you have been with me from the outset.”  Knowing Christ, His person and teaching, is primary in knowing the truth.  We must come to understand why Jesus is the Truth and the fullness of the revelation of God and man.  He revealed the true meaning of human existence through His life and the paschal mystery.  He is the Way in this present age of diverse ideological trends.  However, the greatest enemy of the Church is not from without but from within.  Many of us do not understand the teachings of the Church.  We have fallen into the ideological currents of the world.  We are not of one mind with the Church.  Instead of defending the Church’s teachings, we attack the Church and confuse and mislead those seeking the truth.

However in order to experience the truth personally and not know it simply as a Word, we need the Holy Spirit to lead us to Jesus.  Hence, Jesus promised us, “‘When the Advocate comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father, he will be my witness.”

Secondly, we need the Holy Spirit to enlighten us and to help us read the signs of the times and apply the principles in today’s situations.  We need to receive His Spirit so as to deepen our understanding of the truth.  Only the Holy Spirit can give us the personal realization of the truth and convince us.  The Holy Spirit gives us the inner eye to see beyond what is apparent.  Indeed, it was the Spirit of Jesus who opened Lydia’s heart “to accept what Paul was saying.”  Of course, she cooperated with God by being open, listening to the apostles.  In turn she brought conversion to her whole family.  “After she and her household had been baptized she sent us an invitation: ‘If you really think me a true believer in the Lord,’ she said ‘come and stay with us’; and she would take no refusal.”

Today, we must pray for clarity and courage.  We must know what the Church is teaching. If we disagree with what is taught in scriptures and by the Church, we should doubt our doubts rather than doubt our faith.  We must seek the truth for ourselves. Most of all, we must continue to contemplate on the face of Jesus with the help of the Holy Spirit, knowing that without His grace, we cannot know the truth.

In the final analysis, truth is a gift from the Lord as the gospel tells us.  Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have shown us what it means to be courageous witnesses to the truth, both in word and deed.  Pope Emeritus Benedict loves the Church and made himself available to be the Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, even though it made him unpopular, because he tried to be faithful to the truth.  He refused to compromise and was assailed by the world for being conservative when he was simply conserving the truth.  Let us pray that in celebrating the Eucharist we too, are ready like Jesus to die for the truth by living it out in our lives.

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http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

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We recommend the book “Holy Spirit” By Edward Leen. It changed my life. It can change yours too.

“Pain and suffering are the touchstones of spiritual growth.”

Turn My Mourning into Dancing

– Henri Nouwen

Related:

Edward Leen, “Progress Through mental Prayer”

http://www.ewtn.com/library/SPIRIT/MENTAL.TXT

Sometimes we must surrender before we become free…..

The Journey of a Spiritual Life: “Alcoholics Anonymous is the beginning, not the end.”

April 7, 2015

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By John Francis C.

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience.”

Since my first few years as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, the voices of spiritual teachers throughout the centuries have reverberated within me with the message that the Principles we find in AA are deeply a part of all the greatest spiritual thinkers of the ages.

In Appendix V of the Big Book, called “The Religious View on A.A.,” Father Edward Dowling, S.J. writes:

“Alcoholic Anonymous is natural; it is natural at the point where nature comes closest to the supernatural, namely in humiliations and in consequent humility. There is something spiritual about an art museum or a symphony, and the Catholic Church approves of our use of them. There is something spiritual about A.A. too, and Catholic participation in it almost invariably results in poor Catholics becoming better Catholics.”

Many times during my journey, while reading some of the great spiritual writers and teachers, my mind wanders some and reminds me of the intersection between what is written in the Gospels and analyzed through the ages, and the simple truths of the Big Book.

While reading St. Augustine it occurred to me that many in AA would find Augustine a perfect soul-mate. He started as a lawyer who was constantly fighting against Christian teachings. His personal slave was also his lover, by whom he had a child. He lived in the same house as his Mother who constantly prayer for his salvation. He ended as a bishop — and the author of some of the most learned texts in the library of great Christian thought.

Similarly, St. Francis de Sales, takes us on a spiritual journey in “An Introduction to the Devout Life.” St. Francis de Sales frequently preached upon the essential nature of man’s total dependence upon God. Francis speaks to us in laymen’s terms and he always challenges us to find and do the Will of God.

Reading “An Introduction to the Devout Life” by St Francis de Sales probably increased my understanding of the life AA wants us to live, more than any other single book.

A few AAs have told me they found the use of the word “devout” off putting. Of course, until our devotion to alcohol dissipates for some time, many of us are unsure of how and where to devote our new-found energy.

For readers that might find reading this most complete of Francis’s works too time consuming, several key topics have been broken out and published separately in short, easy to read volumes dedicated to small portions of the spiritual life.

“Consoling Thoughts on Sickness and Death,” by St Francis de Sales (Edited by Pere Huguet) gave me my first understanding of Christian suffering and death, which we read while assisting another AA with lung cancer, radiation, chemotherapy and finally, death.

“Abandonment to Divine Providence,” by J.P. de Caussade teaches us how to “pour ourselves out” in service to others. By pouring out for another, we forget to focus upon our own selfish ego and learn some small amount of humility — a commodity not often highly valued in our modern society.  But humility is the key commodity of Jesus and the disciples.

When we pour out, we make room for the someone much more helpful than “self.” We make room for the “Indwelling of the Holy Spirit.”

Even after more than sixteen years of Catholic education, I confess that I had no clue to how the Holy Spirit was meant to be a part of my life.

Father Edward Leen, a sober Irish priest and author of “Holy Spirit” set me straight.

Simply put, Fr. Leen teaches that from birth be have sanctity in the form of our soul and the one who dwells within us: The Holy Spirit. Leen encourages us who start with only a small light within us — something the size of the pilot light in a gas stove —  and to stoke that fire up so that it glows within us and changes how we lead our lives.

All of the authors and books that became essential to my small but growing understanding of the spiritual life are frequently cited here in the Peace and Freedom web site — especially in the daily “Prayer and Meditation” articles.

And why would anyone go on a journey of spiritual awakening by reading and studying spiritual books? Well, after AA gets our sobriety started, each of us has to decide what to do next. Service to others, especially other alcoholics, is the best way to stay sober, according to the Big Book. But we also have this little problem of eternity waiting for us somewhere. Time marched on while we were drunk and not too cognizant of our spiritual nature and our spiritual journey. After we get sober, it becomes difficult to ignore the goodness of God. Once out of a deep, dark pit — we naturally want to give thanks for this miracle and look ahead to eternity, instead of living in constant fear.

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Father Benedict J. Groeschel C.F.R.

On Easter Morning, just a few days ago, I picked up Father Benedict J. Groeschel’s book “The Reform of Renewal,” opened it at random, and read the first thing that my eyes had found:

“Realize that you are really powerless to overcome serious spiritual obstacles, because the things that are opposed to your conversion are usually more immediately attractive. This is most obvious in the case of compulsive behavior, but it is a hidden fact in many other problems. We simply cannot heal ourselves. For this reason fervent intercessory prayer is necessary. We must constantly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that we do not save ourselves. Often we do not understand our own motives. We need to analyze the roots of our spiritual problems.”

Groeschel cautions us against resentments.

“This is important because we can all blame someone else for out problems. People with Spiritual problems may blame God, their parents, the Church, life or others…”

A few lines down the page Fr. Groeschel discusses the steps that might be helpful in moving us toward a better life and cautions readers to seek out a spiritual director to assist in the process of recovery, conversion or whatever we care to call it.

Fr. Groeschel mentions in his books that he is “an honorary member of Alcoholics Anonymous.”  When we asked him about that he said, “I was not addicted to alcohol, but many spiritual people told me that Alcoholics Anonymous provided the most powerful spiritual renewal method of the twentieth century,” so I went to learn where the smart people were.

He also said, once we become sober, our spiritual life begins. “Alcoholics Anonymous is the beginning, not the end,” he told us.

Father Groeschel and many of my other favorite teachers have gone off to heaven now; and as I encounter more pain and suffering I still relish the joy and love of recovery — and how each of us can change a life for the better on our Spiritual Way.

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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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“Introduction to the Devout Life,” By St. Francis de Sales

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“Self- Abandonment to Divine Providence” by de Caussade — the goal is total dependence upon God.

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“Holy Spirit” by Edward Leen

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Books and published works by Father Benedict Groeschel:
  • God and Us, Daughters of St. Paul, 1982
  • Listening at Prayer, Paulist Press, 1984
  • Spiritual Passages: The Psychology of Spiritual Development “for those who seek”, Crossroad, 1984
  • The Courage to be Chaste, Paulist Press, 1985. ISBN 978-0-8091-2705-4
  • Stumbling Blocks or Stepping Stones: Spiritual Answers to Psychological Questions, Paulist Press, 1988
  • Thy Will Be Done: A Spiritual Portrait of Terence Cardinal Cooke, Alba House, 1990
  • The Reform of Renewal, Ignatius Press, 1990. ISBN 978-0-89870-286-6
  • A Still Small Voice: A Practical Guide on Reported Revelations, Ignatius Press, 1993. ISBN 978-0-89870-436-5
  • Healing the Original Wound: Reflections on the Full Meaning of Salvation, Servant, 1993
  • Heaven in Our Hands: Living the Beatitudes, Servant, 1994
  • Augustine: Major Writings (Crossroad Spiritual Legacy Series), Crossroad, 1995
  • Arise From Darkness: What to Do When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, Ignatius Press, 1995. ISBN 978-0-89870-525-6
  • In the Presence of Our Lord, Our Sunday Visitor, 1997
  • A Priest Forever: The Life of Eugene Hamilton, Our Sunday Visitor, 1998
  • Praying In The Presence Of Our Lord: Prayers For Eucharistic Adoration, Our Sunday Visitor, 1999
  • Quiet Moments: 120 Daily Readings, Servant, 2000
  • The Journey Toward God, Servant, 2000
  • The Cross at Ground Zero, Our Sunday Visitor, 2001
  • Behold, He Comes: Meditations on the Incarnation, Servant, 2001
  • From Scandal to Hope, Our Sunday Visitor, 2002
  • The King, Crucified And Risen: On The Passion And Glory Of Christ, Servant, 2002
  • Rosary: The Chain of Hope, Ignatius Press, 2003. ISBN 978-0-89870-983-4
  • There Are No Accidents: In All Things Trust in God, Our Sunday Visitor, 2004
  • Praying To Our Lord Jesus Christ: Prayers and Meditations Through the Centuries, Ignatius Press, 2004. ISBN 978-1-58617-041-7
  • A Drama of Reform, Ignatius Press, 2005. ISBN 978-1-58617-114-8
  • The Virtue Driven Life, Our Sunday Visitor, 2006
  • Praying with the Creed: Meditations from the Oratory, Our Sunday Visitor, 2007
  • Questions and Answers About Your Journey to God, Our Sunday Visitor, 2007
  • Everyday Encounters with God: What Our Experiences Teach Us about the Divine, Word Among Us, 2008
  • Experiencing the Mystery of Christ: Meditations from Oratory, Our Sunday Visitor, 2008
  • The Journey of Faith: How to Deepen Your Faith in God, Christ, and the Church, Our Sunday Visitor, 2009
  • Tears of God, Ignatius Press, 2009
  • After This Life: What Catholics Believe About What Happens Next, Our Sunday Visitor, 2009
  • Praying Constantly: Bringing Your Faith to Life, Our Sunday Visitor, 2010
  • Travelers Along the Way: The Men and Women Who Shaped My Life, Servant, 2010
  • I am with You Always, Ignatius Press, 2010. ISBN 978-1-58617-257-2
  • The Saints in My Life: My Favorite Spiritual Companions, Our Sunday Visitor, 2011
  • Jesus and Mary: In Praise of Their Glorious Names, Our Sunday Visitor, 2012