Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth and John’

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, May 31, 2016 — “The LORD has removed the judgment against you has turned away your enemies.” (The Greatest Reprieve)

May 30, 2016

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 572

The Visitation, By Antonio de Pereda y Salgado

“Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction and persevere in prayer.”

Reading 1 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.

Or ROM 12:9-16

Brothers and sisters:
Let love be sincere;
hate what is evil,
hold on to what is good;
love one another with mutual affection;
anticipate one another in showing honor.
Do not grow slack in zeal,
be fervent in spirit,
serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope,
endure in affliction,
persevere in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the holy ones,
exercise hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you,
bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice,
weep with those who weep.
Have the same regard for one another;
do not be haughty but associate with the lowly;
do not be wise in your own estimation.

Responsorial PsalmISAIAH 12:2-3, 4BCD, 5-6

R. (6) Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.
R. Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;
among the nations make known his deeds,
proclaim how exalted is his name.
R. Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,
for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel!
R. Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

Alleluia SEE LK 1:45

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, O Virgin Mary, who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting the infant leaped in her womb.’

Gospel LK 1:39-56

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

And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.”

Mary remained with her about three months
and then returned to her home.

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Homily Ideas for The Visitation
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Today’s feast celebrates the special place that Mary has in the life of the Church. This place is first of all defined by her being chosen to be the mother of Jesus, his only human parent. This alone gives her a uniqueness which is shared by no other person who has ever lived.

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As with the case of Jesus’ resurrection, we need to look at the meaning of what the feast is about rather than being too literal in our understanding of how it is described in scripture.

Today’s Gospel is the story of Mary’s visitation to her cousin, Elizabeth, when both were expecting their first child. The story contains most of the elements which contribute to the status we give to Mary in our Church.

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First, we see Mary setting out with haste from Nazareth to a small town in the hills of Judea, not far from Jerusalem (where Zechariah served as a priest in the Temple), to visit her older cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant with the child we know as John the Baptist. Mary herself, of course, is carrying her own child, Jesus. It is highly significant that it is Mary and Jesus who go to visit Elizabeth and John. Already in the womb, Jesus is showing that urge to serve rather than be served. Mary, too, shares that urge. And, at the presence of Jesus and his mother, the child in Elizabeth’s womb jumps for joy.

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Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, excitedly bursts out into praise. She recognises the special position of Mary and her Son: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Mary is indeed unique and blessed in being chosen to be the mother of our saving King and Lord. Elizabeth is deeply moved that it is Jesus and his Mother that come to her and John: “And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” And yet that is what is happening to each of us all the time, and especially in every celebration of the Eucharist when the Lord comes to us in the sharing of his Word and in the breaking of the bread and our sharing in the cup.

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And there is a special word of praise for Mary also: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” This brings us to the second characteristic of Mary: her faith and total trust in God. That was expressed in her fiat (‘Let it be done to me…’), when, even though not fully understanding what was being asked of her, she unconditionally accepted to submit to God’s plan.

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It is now Mary’s turn to sing God’s praises in the lovely song we called the Magnificat, which the Church sings at its evening prayer every day. It is full of reflections on what makes Mary great in the eyes of God.

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“He has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.”

Mary was a simple unmarried girl living in obscurity in a small town in an out of the way Roman province.

“Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

Mary’s greatness was not just in being chosen to be Jesus’ mother but in her total acceptance of that responsibility in faith and trust, accepting blindly all that it might entail. And, indeed, she had no idea the price she would have to pay to be the mother of Jesus. But, again, like her Son she had emptied herself in total service to him and to day we celebrate her reward, her being raised to the highest place among the human race.

In the human race we see today, perhaps we have forgotten how to full appreciate and protect human life.

We need to constantly look to Mary and Joseph who never question God’s plan — but fully accept what they have been chosen to do.

May we do the same with half as much fidelity. That would be a miracle for me!

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A Word About The Sanctity of Human Life

Catholics are taught that all life is sacred from conception until natural death, and the taking of innocent human life, whether born or unborn, is morally wrong. The Church teaches, “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, Who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being” (Donum Vitae, 5). This puts Catholics at odds with many people on issues of abortion and euthanasia.

Related:

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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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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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31 MAY 2016, Tuesday, 9th Week in Ordinary Time

The Feast of the Visitation

MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL OF JOY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ZEPH 3:14-18 OR ROM 12:9-16; LUKE 1:39-56  ]

The scripture readings of today’s feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary exude joy from beginning to end, both in the first reading and in the gospel.  To the Israelites in exile, the prophet said, “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem!” For Mary, she too exulted in joy.  “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my saviour; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.” John the Baptist also leapt for joy.  Elizabeth exclaimed, “”Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy.”

We have just completed the Feast of Pentecost when the Lord commanded us all to go and proclaim the Good News to all creation.  This Good News therefore must be one that gives joy to those who receive them.  But it can only be of great joy to those who hear them provided the messengers themselves are filled with joy.  On this feast of the Visitation of Mary, we are called to imitate Mary by being messengers of joy to others.  In this way, we too become like Mary, bearing the visitation of our Lord.

How can we be joyful messengers of the gospel unless we ourselves have been recipients of joy?  We cannot give what we have not received.  Mary was the recipient of that joy herself.  She was not only called to be the mother of the Saviour but her real joy was that the Lord was not only with her but in her.   She was filled with joy simply because God was so close to her, truly the Emmanuel.  This is but the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zephaniah when he said, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult with joy over you, he will renew you by his love; he will dance with shouts of joy for you as on a day of festival.”

When we know that the Lord is with us as our warrior and commander, we have no fear, just as the angel said to Mary, “Do not be afraid.”  In a similar vein, the prophet said, “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.”  Thus Mary could exalt when she herself with confidence proclaimed the saving help of God. “Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him. He has shown the power of his arm, he has routed the proud of heart. He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away. He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy – according to the promise he made to our ancestors – of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Indeed, when the Lord is with us, we are free from slavery and bondage, like the Israelites.  The Lord has given us new purpose, new hope and meaning.  So the Good News is proclaimed to the downtrodden, the lowly and the poor.  God has come to assure us that He is with us.  This explains the joy of Mary, Elizabeth and John the Baptist.  So, too, in the resurrection appearances, the disciples were filled with joy when the Lord appeared to them.  To have Jesus so near to them, in their womb and in their midst gave them joy that was incomparable.  Indeed, whoever knows that the Lord is with him or her will no longer fear about tomorrow!   St Paul wrote, “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” (Rom 14:8)   We too are filled with joy whenever we are at prayer and feeling His healing and assuring presence.

But for some of us, we have lost this joy.  What is the reason for losing the joy of the Lord?  What are the enemies of our joy?  In truth, unlike the Israelites, our real enemies are not external enemies. It has to do with ourselves.  

Our enemy, as the Magnificat tells us, firstly is the lack of faith.  We lack faith in the Lord and therefore we live in fear and anxiety.  Mary was called to be the mother of the Saviour.  Of all peoples, we would expect Mary to be full of fear and anxiety at the prospect of her pregnancy; how she would have to explain to Joseph and her family, and her community.  But we read that upon receiving the message of the angel, she left everything into the hands of the Lord.  Instead of focusing on her needs and her future, she turned outwards and immediately went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who too was pregnant with John the Baptist, in her old age.  Indeed, the remark of Elizabeth captures the spirit of Mary when she said, “Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Secondly, it is the enemy of pride.  Mary said, “He has shown the power of his arm, he has routed the proud of heart. He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.”  Only the humble and lowly, the anawim can receive the blessings of God.  Many of us rely on our own strength, on our wealth, power and talents.   That explains why the modern man and woman are so proud of their achievements.  They think that their success is all due to their hard work, ingenuity and intelligence.  Such people are arrogant and look down on others who are not as successful as them.  But the day they are struck down, with a marriage failure, an incurable illness, a tragedy or an accident, they will come to realize their nothingness and finiteness.

Thirdly, it is the enemy of self-sufficiency.  “The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.”  Many of us cannot feel the presence of God in our lives because we do not need Him.  We think we can manage by ourselves.  This is what the humanist is saying to us.  We do not need God.  We can solve all problems by ourselves.  We have intelligence and with will, we can conquer the sky.  There is nothing we cannot do, no problem we cannot solve.  Such self-sufficient people cannot feel with others.  They lack the humility to know their limitations.  That is why God only comes to those who need Him and acknowledge that only He is sufficient.  When we are self-sufficient, we live in fear of losing what we have.  But if our sufficiency is in God, we live a life of freedom and detachment.  St Paul wrote, “I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:12f)

Fourthly, it is the enemy of ingratitude.  When we are proud and self-sufficient, we lack gratitude for what we have because we feel that we have earned them and hence there is no one to whom we need to be grateful to.  An ungrateful person is an unhappy person because he is not appreciative of what he has.  Mary was a woman who felt blessed, not because of her merits but by the grace of God.  And so with great joy, she could say, “Yes, from this day on all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.” Her greatness, she knows, comes from God and therefore she did not rejoice in herself and become proud, but instead she remained always humble before the Lord and His people, for she did not merit her position as the Mother of the Savior, or whatever she has been blessed with.  For her, everything is pure grace.

So if we have lost our joy, we need to come back to the Lord.  The Lord wants to be with us but we must welcome Him like Mary, Elizabeth and St John the Baptist.  He wants to fill us with His joy and peace.

We begin this process by recounting the wonderful things that the Lord has blessed us with.  Like Mary, we must recall the good things that the Lord has done for us.  As the psalmist says, “Give thanks to the Lord, give praise to his name! Make his mighty deeds known to the peoples!  Declare the greatness of his name. Sing a psalm to the Lord for he has done glorious deeds; make them known to all the earth!  People of Zion, sing and shout for joy, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” Giving thanks and praise for all that He has done for us like Mary is the way to recover that joy which we have lost.

Secondly, we must then pass that joy to others, the same way that Mary did.  St Paul invites us to live a life of charity like Mary in reaching out to others.  He said, “Do not let your love be a pretence, but sincerely prefer good to evil. Love each other as much as brothers should, and have a profound respect for each other. Work for the Lord with untiring effort and with great earnestness of Spirit.”  (Rom 12:8-11)  When we share the joy that we have received from the Lord, that joy multiplies and increases.  Mary in bringing the joy to Elizabeth and John the Baptist augmented her own joy.  Whenever joy is shared, joy increases.  We do not keep joy to ourselves.  The sign of true joy is that of spontaneity in sharing that joy with others, just like the outbursts of Mary and Elizabeth and John the Baptist in thanksgiving. Again St Paul said, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and be sad with those in sorrow. Treat everyone with equal kindness; never be condescending but make real friends with the poor.” (Rom 12:15f)

 

 

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, August 15, 2015 — All Lives Matter — The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

August 14, 2015

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Mass during the Day
Lectionary: 622

 

Reading 1 RV 11:19A; 12:1-6A, 10AB

God’s temple in heaven was opened,
and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.
A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun,
with the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.
Then another sign appeared in the sky;
it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns,
and on its heads were seven diadems.
Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky
and hurled them down to the earth.
Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth,
to devour her child when she gave birth.
She gave birth to a son, a male child,
destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.
Her child was caught up to God and his throne.
The woman herself fled into the desert
where she had a place prepared by God.Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have salvation and power come,
and the Kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed One.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 45:10, 11, 12, 16

R. (10bc) The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.
The queen takes her place at your right hand in gold of Ophir.
R. The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.
Hear, O daughter, and see; turn your ear,
forget your people and your father’s house.
R. The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.
So shall the king desire your beauty;
for he is your lord.
R. The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.
They are borne in with gladness and joy;
they enter the palace of the king.
R. The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.

Reading 2 1 COR 15:20-27

Brothers and sisters:
Christ has been raised from the dead,
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since death came through man,
the resurrection of the dead came also through man.
For just as in Adam all die,
so too in Christ shall all be brought to life,
but each one in proper order:
Christ the firstfruits;
then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ;
then comes the end,
when he hands over the Kingdom to his God and Father,
when he has destroyed every sovereignty
and every authority and power.
For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death,
for “he subjected everything under his feet.”

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Mary is taken up to heaven;
a chorus of angels exults.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 1:39-56

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

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.”

Mary remained with her about three months
and then returned to her home.

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Commentary on Revelation 11:19a;12:1-6a;10ab; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26; Luke 1:39-56 From Living Space

Today’s feast celebrates the special place that Mary has in the life of the Church. This place is first of all defined by her being chosen to be the mother of Jesus, his only human parent. This alone gives her a uniqueness which is shared by no other person who has ever lived.

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As with the case of Jesus’ resurrection, we need to look at the meaning of what the feast is about rather than being too literal in our understanding of how it is described. It is probably not helpful to try to imagine that, as soon as Mary’s dead body was laid in the grave, it immediately as it were escaped from its earthly darkness and floated up “body and soul” into “heaven”.

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By using the image “assumed body and soul into heaven” what is really being said is that Mary, because of the dignity of her motherhood and her own personal submission to God’s will at every stage of her life, takes precedence over everyone in the sharing of God’s glory which is the destiny of all of us who die united with Christ her Son.

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She remains, of course, fully a human being and infinitely lower in dignity than her Son and much closer to us. With us but leading us, she stands in adoration of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. She cannot even in glory be given in any way the worship that is proper to the Persons of the Trinity. What she can do is to intercede for us in our needs, offering her human prayers on our behalf. This is something our non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters do not always understand and perhaps we Catholics have by our words and actions given a distorted idea of the place of Mary in our Christian living.

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Mary’s role is well described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “By her complete adherence to the Father’s will, to his Son’s redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church’s model of faith and charity. Thus she is a ‘pre-eminent and… wholly unique member of the Church’; indeed, she is the ‘exemplary realisation’ (typus) of the Church” (CCC 967)

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Today’s Gospel is the story of Mary’s visitation to her cousin, Elizabeth, when both were expecting their first child. The story contains most of the elements which contribute to the status we give to Mary in our Church.

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First, we see Mary setting out with haste from Nazareth to a small town in the hills of Judea, not far from Jerusalem (where Zechariah served as a priest in the Temple), to visit her older cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant with the child we know as John the Baptist. Mary herself, of course, is carrying her own child, Jesus. It is highly significant that it is Mary and Jesus who go to visit Elizabeth and John. Already in the womb, Jesus is showing that urge to serve rather than be served. Mary, too, shares that urge. And, at the presence of Jesus and his mother, the child in Elizabeth’s womb jumps for joy.

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Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, excitedly bursts out into praise. She recognises the special position of Mary and her Son: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Mary is indeed unique and blessed in being chosen to be the mother of our saving King and Lord. Elizabeth is deeply moved that it is Jesus and his Mother that come to her and John: “And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” And yet that is what is happening to each of us all the time, and especially in every celebration of the Eucharist when the Lord comes to us in the sharing of his Word and in the breaking of the bread and our sharing in the cup.

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And there is a special word of praise for Mary also: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” This brings us to the second characteristic of Mary: her faith and total trust in God. That was expressed in her fiat (‘Let it be done to me…’), when, even though not fully understanding what was being asked of her, she unconditionally accepted to submit to God’s plan.

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It is now Mary’s turn to sing God’s praises in the lovely song we called the Magnificat, which the Church sings at its evening prayer every day. It is full of reflections on what makes Mary great in the eyes of God.

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“He has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.” Mary was a simple unmarried girl living in obscurity in a small town in an out of the way Roman province. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

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Nathanael asked rather cynically when told where Jesus came from. But in the New Covenant, reflecting God’s own bias, it is the lowly and obscure who are specially favoured. Mary’s greatness does not come from her social status; it has no relevance whatever in God’s eyes, except in so far as those at the bottom of the social ladder tend to be denied a fair share of this world’s goods.

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“From now on all generations will call me blessed.” This is not a statement made in arrogance but in humble thanksgiving and, of course, has been true since the day it was uttered. It was indeed an extraordinary grace to be chosen to be the mother of the world’s Saviour. Why Mary? we might ask; and Mary herself would be the first to agree. But she rejoices and is deeply grateful for being chosen for this privilege.

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Her being chosen is simply another sign of God’s desire that the poor, the weak, the marginalized, the exploited and discriminated against in this world should be the special recipients of God’s love and care. Mary expresses this in the last part of her song:

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“He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.”

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The rich and powerful of Mary’s day: where are they now? Who were they? For the most part they have disappeared from sight while the little girl of Nazareth is still celebrated round the world.
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4. But Mary’s greatness does not stop at the graces and privileges which were showered on her. These, after all, were purely passive in the sense they were gifts given to her.. In a telling scene in the Gospel, a woman who had been listening to Jesus suddenly cried out in a loud voice: “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that you sucked!” In our own language today we might say: “May God bless the mother who produced such a wonderful son as you!” And there is a deep truth here, namely, the influence that Mary (and Joseph, too) actually had in the formation of her Son. But Jesus immediately picked up the woman’s words and said: “No, blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” In other words, it is not the graces that God gives us which make us great but the manner in which we receive and respond to them.

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Mary’s greatness was not just in being chosen to be Jesus’ mother but in her total acceptance of that responsibility in faith and trust, accepting blindly all that it might entail. And, indeed, she had no idea the price she would have to pay to be the mother of Jesus. But, again, like her Son she had emptied herself in total service to him and to day we celebrate her reward, her being raised to the highest place among the human race.

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This is indirectly expressed in the Second Reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians where Paul is speaking of the resurrection of Christ as crucial to the validity of our Christian faith. And Christ, the Son of God made flesh, who died on the cross is indeed the very first among the risen, seated at the right hand of his Father. He is, in Paul’s words, “the first fruits of those who have died”.

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But, further on he says, “for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in their own order”. Jesus is first of all but next in order surely comes his Mother.

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The First Reading from the Book of Revelation has clearly been chosen as a symbolic description of Mary in glory.

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There is first a brief vision of God’s temple in the New Jerusalem opening and revealing the ark of the covenant within. The original ark, of course, a chest made of acacia wood, contained the tablets of the Law and was kept in the Holy of Holies as the pledge of God’s promise, his covenant, to be with his people. But this is the ark of the New Covenant, the permanent home of God among his people, the Risen Jesus in his Body, the Church. On today’s feast, the image is applied to Mary, who bore the maker of the New Covenant within herself. And so she is called in the Litany of Our Lady, “Ark of the Covenant”.

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Next, there is a much longer description of the vision of a woman appearing from heaven. The woman is Israel from whom was born the Messiah and the community which believed in him. The description of the woman is often applied to Mary in statues and images: “Clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet… on her head a crown of twelve stars”.

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The woman is described as being pregnant, crying out in birth pangs and in the agony of giving birth. This recalls the words God to our first parents after the fall of the pain that would accompany childbirth. But the child being born is the Messiah, seen both as an individual and leader of the new Israel. The mother who bears him is suffering from persecution and oppression. As tradition holds that Mary was a virgin before, during and after the birth, the image cannot be applied fully to her.

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There follows an apocalyptic description of a dragon threatening to devour the child as soon as it is born. The dragon (with the serpent) was seen in Jewish tradition as representing the power of evil, the enemy both of God and his people. Its tail sweeping a third of the stars from the sky is an allusion to the fall of those angels who sided with Lucifer. Nevertheless, the child is born. He is a son, who will rule all the nations with a rod of iron. He is the promised Messiah. However, he is described as immediately being snatched away and taken up to God. This refers to the ascension and triumph of the Messiah which follows the dragon’s fall.

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Meanwhile, the woman, the mother, flees into the wilderness, the traditional refuge for the persecuted. God has prepared a place there for her where she can be nourished for 1,260 days, which corresponds to the time of the persecution.

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It must be first of all emphasised that the writer is not directly thinking of Mary here and clearly, not all of this passage can be directly applied to her. But Mary is the mother of Jesus, who in his Body, is the continuation of God’s presence among us. Mary now stands glorious and bejewelled in the presence of her Son and his Father with the Spirit.

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Today we join in her happiness. We look forward to the day when we too can share it with her. In the meantime, we ask her to remember us as we continue our journey on earth and to intercede for us with her Son that we may remain faithful to our call as faithful disciples. May we know God’s will for us at all times and, like Mary, say our unconditional Yes to what he wants for us.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/F0815g/

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First Thought from Peace and Freedom
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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? You are not your own…. ” (1 Corinthians 6:19)
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How about that? Is your body the temple of the Holy Spirit? Are YOU in control of your life or is God?
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Related:
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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!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brass_ring

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Moments of prayerful silence:

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Silence is a quality of the one who knows how to listen to God. Try to create in yourself an atmosphere of peace and of silent adoration. If you are capable to be in silence before God, you will be able to listen to his breath which is Life.
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MEDITATIO
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Key to the Reading:
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Blessed are you among women
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In the first part of today’s Gospel, the words of Elizabeth resound: “Blessed are you among women”, preceded by a spatial movement. Mary leaves Nazareth, situated in the North of Palestine, to go to the South, approximately fifty kilometres, to a place which tradition has identified as the present day Ain Karem, not too far from Jerusalem. The physical movement shows the interior sensibility of Mary, who is not closed on herself, to contemplate, in a private and intimate way, the mystery of the Divine Maternity which is being accomplished in her, but she is projected to the path of charity. She moves in order to go and help her elderly cousin.
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Mary’s going to Elizabeth has the added connotation ‘in haste’ which Saint Ambrose interprets as follows: “Mary set out in haste to the hill country, not because she did not believe the prophecy or because she was uncertain of the announcement or doubted of the proof, but because she was pleased with the promise and desirous to devotedly fulfil a service, with the impulse that she received from her intimate joy… The grace of the Holy Spirit does not entail slowness”.
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The reader, though, knows that the true reason of the trip is not indicated, but can get it through information deduced from the context. The angel had communicated to Mary the pregnancy of Elizabeth, already in the sixth month (cfr. v. 37).
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Besides the fact that she remained there three months (cfr. v. 56), just the time so that the child could be born, allows us to understand that Mary intended to help her cousin. Mary runs, and goes where there is an urgent need, the need for help, showing, in this way, a clear sensibility and concrete availability.
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Together with Mary, Jesus, in his mother’s womb, moves with her. From here it is easy to deduce the Christological value of the episode of the visit of Mary to her cousin: above all, the attention is for Jesus. At first sight, it could seem to be a scene concentrated on the two women, in reality, what is important for the Evangelist is the prodigious fact present in their conceiving. Mary moving tends, in last instance, to have the encounter between the two women.
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As soon as Mary enters into the house and greets Elizabeth, the small John leaped in her womb. According to some this leaping is not comparable to the changing place of the foetus, which is experienced by every pregnant woman. Luke uses a particular Greek verb which precisely means “jumping”. Wishing to interpret the verb a bit literally, it could be indicated with “dancing”, thus excluding a physical phenomenon only.
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Someone has thought that this ‘dance’ could be considered as a form of ‘homage’ which John renders to Jesus, inaugurating, though not yet born, that attitude of respect and of subjection which will characterize his life: “After me is coming someone who is more powerful than me, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals” (Mk 1, 7). One day, John himself will give witness: “it is the bridegroom who has the bride; and yet the bridegroom’s friend, who stands there and listens to him, is filled with joy at the bridegroom’s voice. This is the joy that I feel and it is complete. He must grow greater, I must grow less” (Jn 3, 29-30).
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Thus Saint Ambrose comments: “Elizabeth was the first one to hear the voice, but John is first to perceive the grace”. We find a confirmation of this interpretation in the words themselves of Elizabeth which, repeating the same Greek verb in v. 44. which was already employed in v. 41, says: “The child in my womb leapt for joy”. Luke, with these particular details, has wished to evoke the prodigies which took place in the intimacy of Nazareth. It is only now, thanks to the dialogue with an interlocutor, the mystery of the divine maternity leaves aside its secrecy and its individual dimension, to become a notable fact, and object of appreciation and of praise.
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The words of Elizabeth, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?” (vv. 42-43). With a Semitic expression which is equivalent to a superlative (“among women”), the Evangelist wishes to attract the attention of the reader on the function of Mary: to be the “Mother of the Lord”. And, then, a blessing is reserved for her (“Blessed are you”) and a blessed Beatitude.
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In what does this one consist? It expresses Mary’s adherence to the Divine Will. Mary is not only the receiver of a mysterious design which makes her blessed, but also a person who knows how to accept and adhere to God’s will. Mary is a creature who believes, because she trusts in a plain, simple word and which she has vested with her “yes” of love. And Elizabeth acknowledges this service of love, identifying her as “blessed as mother and blessed as believer”.
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In the meantime, John perceives the presence of his Lord and exults, expressing with that interior movement the joy which springs from that contact of salvation. Mary will be the interpreter of that event in the hymn of the Magnificat.
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A song of love:
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In this song Mary considers herself part of the anawim, of the “poor of God”, of those who “fear God” placing in Him all their trust and hope and who, on the human level, do not enjoy any right or prestige. The spirituality of the anawim can be synthesized with the words of Psalm 37, 79: “In silence he is before God and hopes in him”, because “those who hope in the Lord will possess the earth”.
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In Psalm 86, 6 the one who prays, turning to God says: Give your servant your force”: Here the term ‘servant’ expresses his being subjected, as well as the sentiment of belonging to God, of feeling secure with him.
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The poor, in the strictly Biblical sense, are those who place their trust unconditionally in God; this is why they are to be considered, qualitatively, the best part, of the People of Israel.
The proud, instead, are those who place all their trust in themselves.
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Now, according to the Magnificat, the poor have a thousand reasons to rejoice, because God glorifies the anawim (Psalm 149, 4) and humbles the proud. An image taken from the New Testament, which expresses very well the attitude of the poor of the Old Testament, is that of the Publican who with humility beats his breast, while the Pharisee being complacent of his merits is being consumed by his pride (Lk 19, 9-14). Definitively, Mary celebrates all that God has done in her and all that he works in every creature. Joy and gratitude characterize this hymn to salvation which recognizes the greatness of God, but which also makes great the one who sings it.
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c) Some question for meditation:
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– Is my prayer, above all, the expression of a sentiment or celebration and acknowledgement of God’s action?
– Mary is presented as the believer in the Word of the Lord. How much time do I dedicate to listening to the Word of God?
– Is your prayer nourished from the Bible, as was that of Mary? Or rather am I dedicated to devotions which produce a continuous tasteless and dull prayer? Are you convinced that to return to Biblical prayer is the assurance to find a solid nourishment, chosen by Mary herself ?
– Are you in the logics of the Magnificat which exalts the joy of giving, of losing in order to find, of accepting, the happiness of gratuity, of donation?
ORATIO
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a) Psalm 44 (45)
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The Psalm in this second part, glorifies the Queen. In today’s Liturgy these verses are applied to Mary and celebrate her greatness and beauty.
In your retinue are daughters of kings,
the consort at your right hand in gold of Ophir.
Listen, my daughter,
attend to my words and hear;
forget your own nation
and your ancestral home,
then the king will fall in love with your beauty;
he is your lord, bow down before him.
Her companions are brought to her,
they enter the king’s palace with joy and rejoicing.
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Final Prayer:
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The prayer which follows is a brief meditation on the maternal role of Mary in the life of the believer: “Mary, woman who knows how to rejoice, who knows how to exult, who allows herself to be invaded by the full consolation of the Holy Spirit, teach us to pray so that we may also discover the source of joy. In Elizabeth’s house, your cousin, feeling accepted and understood in your most intimate secret, you burst out in a hymn of exultation of the heart, speaking of God, of you about your relationship with him, and of the unprecedented adventure already begun of being the Mother of Christ and of all of us, holy people of God.
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Teach us to give our prayer a rhythm of hope and tremors of joy, sometimes worn out by bitter whining and soaked with melancholy almost as obliged. The Gospel speaks to us about you, Mary, and of Elizabeth: both of you kept in your heart something, which you did not dare or you did not wish to manifest to anyone. But each one of you, felt understood by the other, on that prophetic day of the Visitation and you pronounced words of prayer and of feast. Your encounter becomes Liturgy of thanksgiving and of praise to your ineffable God. You, woman of a profound joy, you sang the Magnificat, in rapture and amazed at all that the Lord was operating in his humble servant. Magnificat is the cry, the explosion of joy, which explodes within each one of us, when one feels accepted and understood”.
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CONTEMPLATIO
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The Virgin Mary, the temple of the Holy Spirit, accepted with faith the Word and surrendered herself completely to the power of Love. Because of this she became the Icon of interiority, that is all recollected under the look of God and abandoned to the power of the Most High. Mary keeps silence about herself, because everything in her can speak about the wonders of the Lord in her life.
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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RE-MEMBERING: AFFIRMING AND BEING AFFIRMED

SCRIPTURE READINGS: JOSHUA 24:14-29; MT 19:13-15

Most of us have very short memories. We forget very easily the blessings that God has given to us.  We forget the talents we have; the success we have had; the love that people have given to us. Ironically, we tend to have long memories of unpleasant events in our lives, as when people hurt us either with their words or actions; or when we meet with failures and setbacks.  Yes, we remember bad things, but good things are easily forgotten.  When unpleasant things happen to us, we blame God and accuse Him of abandoning us.  How often too, in relationships, because of a mistake or a betrayal, we forget so quickly all the good times we have had, the sacrifices our friend or loved one has done for us.  On account of one mistake, we want to break the relationship completely.  Although it is true that those whom we love hurt us most when they fail us, yet we forget that we are not perfect in love and sometimes because of selfishness and fear, we might not be able to love perfectly. In a nutshell, we forget who we are and that we are loved.

Whatever it is, memory points to the fact that remembering is essential to life.  It is when we remember that we stay connected within ourselves and with others.  To remember is to re-member our fragmented self.  To remember the values of our culture, our country and our faith makes us members of the community. In forgetting, we dis-member ourselves from the community; whether it is our social or faith community.  But most of all, we lose our integrated-ness.   However, it is not just simply remembering that is important to life, but how and what we remember. How then should we remember? By affirming and being affirmed.

It is a fact of life that we need to be constantly affirmed that we are loved and that we are somebody. That is why people need to be told constantly that they are loved.  This also explains why Jesus in the gospel today prayed over the children and affirmed them in the love of God.  By so doing, Jesus is also relaying the message that regardless of age, whether we are one day old or 100 years old, we need to be reassured of our importance and dignity.  We need to be told explicitly that we are loved, and we also need to experience it physically. Many peoples’ talents and potential have not been tapped, simply because parents, educators and leaders did not affirm them sufficiently to help them become conscious of their strengths and work further on them.

This same need to be affirmed in love by our fellow human beings and by God is also seen in today’s first reading from Joshua, where we read of the renewal of the Covenant at Shechem. Joshua belonged to the second generation of leadership after the great Moses. The people too would have belonged to the newer generation and could have forgotten the great portents that God worked during the days of Moses.  Consequently, it was necessary for Joshua to reassure and remind them of God’s love for them if they were to continue to be faithful to Yahweh.  Thus, we have the recital of God’s great works for the Israelites.  Joshua took pains to go through the history of salvation, beginning from Abraham through the Exodus and arriving at the Promised Land.  He reminded them of the great works performed by God: “Was it not the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors out of the land of Egypt, the house of slavery, who worked those great wonders before our eyes and preserved us all along the way we travelled and among all the peoples through whom we journeyed?”  More importantly, Joshua also wanted to reiterate that these works of God were still happening in their midst.  Hence Joshua, knowing that his time to depart was near, called for a renewal of the Covenant with Yahweh so that they would never forget the power of Yahweh and His love for them when he was no longer around.

The need to be affirmed, however, is only part of the whole process of remembering. We also need to reaffirm our love for others as well.  In this case, we have Joshua and the people reaffirming and recommitting themselves to the Covenant.  In this act of reaffirmation, they relived their original calling, their identity and their relationship with Yahweh.  Hence, Joshua called for a decisive response to Yahweh’s love for them.  He told the people, “’Fear the Lord and serve him perfectly and sincerely; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the river and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if you will not serve the Lord, choose today whom you wish to serve, whether the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are now living. As for me and my House, we serve the Lord.”   And when the people replied, “we too will serve the Lord, for he is our God”, Joshua reiterated the seriousness of the commitment and the demands of that decision they made, failing which, evil and harm will fall upon them.  So solemn was this commitment that Joshua had the covenant marked by a stone saying, “See! This stone shall be a witness against us because it has heard all the words that the Lord has spoken to us: it shall be a witness against you in case you deny your God.”

Consequently, from today’s scripture readings, we must realize that reaffirming our love for others and for God is a necessary element of an integrated growth in our lives. When we reaffirm our love for God and for others, not only do we remember who we are and what we are called to do but we also help them to realize their goodness as well.  By reaffirming our love for God every day, we are reminded of His enduring and faithful love for us in the past and in the present.  Remembering how He has loved us gives us the confidence to go through our trials and tribulations without falling into despair.  This is also true in human relationships.  By affirming the goodness in our brothers and sisters, we draw out the strength in them, helping them to appreciate and love themselves.  The truth is that when they love themselves, then their love for us will become more genuine, since one cannot give what he has not got.  And indeed, we have so much beauty to affirm in each other.  In spite of our human imperfections, we must be objective and honest enough to realize that human beings by nature have more goodness than evil.  Most of us are generally loving and good people.  Instead of focusing on the imperfections we find in others, a wider analysis of them cannot but awaken us to the store of positive qualities in them, which certainly outweigh their weaknesses.

Of course, whilst affirming each other on the social, intellectual and personal level is surely important, there is also a need for us to be affirmed by God and to reaffirm our commitment to Him. Unless, we are affirmed by God that we are loved by Him, it would be impossible to love ourselves; and consequently if we cannot see any goodness in us, we will not be able to see goodness in others either.   Hence, we must avail ourselves of those occasions when we allow God to affirm us either in prayer, meditation or in Christian fellowship and especially during a retreat.

This need to remember and be affirmed in love finds its privileged place in the liturgical celebrations, especially when we pray the Liturgy of the Hours or when we celebrate Mass. This is because in the liturgy, we bring the needs of our fellow human beings to mind; we affirm our love for them and their goodness before God.  At the same time, we also hear God’s consoling words of mercy and forgiveness and experience His encouraging and healing love for us.  This remembering reaches its climax in the celebration of the Eucharist.  For in celebrating the memorial of the Lord’s Supper, we are once again reminded of His love for us in the past, in the present and in the future.  With this memory of Him and His love, we are now empowered to love in that same manner and we are able to affirm others even when they are apparently unlovable in the eyes of the world.  But with the eyes of God and with the eyes of Christ, we see everyone as loveable, unique and important, just as Jesus regarded the children with love in the gospel.

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