Posts Tagged ‘given’

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, February 10, 2018 — Feeding the Multitude with Loaves and Fish

February 9, 2018

Memorial of Saint Scholastica, Virgin
Lectionary: 334

Image may contain: 2 people, outdoor

Feeding the Multitude by Bernardo Strozzi, early 17th century.

Reading 1 1 KGS12:26-32; 13:33-34

Jeroboam thought to himself:
“The kingdom will return to David’s house.
If now this people go up to offer sacrifices
in the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem,
the hearts of this people will return to their master,
Rehoboam, king of Judah,
and they will kill me.”
After taking counsel, the king made two calves of gold
and said to the people:
“You have been going up to Jerusalem long enough.
Here is your God, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.”
And he put one in Bethel, the other in Dan.
This led to sin, because the people frequented those calves
in Bethel and in Dan.
He also built temples on the high places
and made priests from among the people who were not Levites.
Jeroboam established a feast in the eighth month
on the fifteenth day of the month
to duplicate in Bethel the pilgrimage feast of Judah,
with sacrifices to the calves he had made;
and he stationed in Bethel priests of the high places he had built.Jeroboam did not give up his evil ways after this,
but again made priests for the high places
from among the common people.
Whoever desired it was consecrated
and became a priest of the high places.
This was a sin on the part of the house of Jeroboam
for which it was to be cut off and destroyed from the earth.

Responsorial Psalm PS 106:6-7AB, 19-20, 21-22

R. (4a) Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
We have sinned, we and our fathers;
we have committed crimes; we have done wrong.
Our fathers in Egypt
considered not your wonders.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
They made a calf in Horeb
and adored a molten image;
They exchanged their glory
for the image of a grass-eating bullock.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
They forgot the God who had saved them,
who had done great deeds in Egypt,
Wondrous deeds in the land of Ham,
terrible things at the Red Sea.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.

AlleluiaMT 4:4B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Gospel MK 8:1-10

In those days when there again was a great crowd without anything to eat,
Jesus summoned the disciples and said,
“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd,
because they have been with me now for three days
and have nothing to eat.
If I send them away hungry to their homes,
they will collapse on the way,
and some of them have come a great distance.”
His disciples answered him, “Where can anyone get enough bread
to satisfy them here in this deserted place?”
Still he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?”
They replied, “Seven.”
He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.
Then, taking the seven loaves he gave thanks, broke them,
and gave them to his disciples to distribute,
and they distributed them to the crowd.
They also had a few fish.
He said the blessing over them
and ordered them distributed also.
They ate and were satisfied.
They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets.
There were about four thousand people.

He dismissed the crowd and got into the boat with his disciples
and came to the region of Dalmanutha.

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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Look at the words: Taken, Blessed, Broken, Given.
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This is what Jesus does. This is what Jesus did with the loaves and the fish — and this is what Jesus does again at The Last Supper.
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Jesus does this over and over again in the Mass — and with us in our lives.
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Whenever we are broken we can return to Him. We can be taken, blessed, broken and given back to Him.
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Archbishop Goh has said, “Without hope, everything will end in nihilism.”
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Nihilism says that life is without objective meaning. Nothing could be further from the truth if we follow Jesus who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)
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Related:
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Our thanks and prayers go out to Fr. Henri Nouwen who has been my excellent teacher.
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Fr. Henri Nouwen

In Henri Nouwen’s book “Life of the Beloved” he outlines four words that he believes are central to the spiritual lives of Christians,

“To identify the movements of the Spirit in our lives, I have found it helpful to use for words: taken, blessed, broken and given. These words summarize my life as a priest because each day, when I come together around the table with members of my community, I take bread, bless it, break it and give it. These words also summarize my life as a Christian, because, as a Christian, I am called to become bread for the world: break that is taken, blessed, broken and given. Most importantly, however, they summarize my life as a human being because in every moment of my life somewhere, somehow the taking, the blessings, the breaking and the giving are happening.” (Life of the Beloved, 41-42)

The radical difference between the way God works and the way the world works is that the world only uses 2 of the four. The world takes and breaks with no idea of how to bless and give. Praise God that we have a Father who knows us and loves us enough to give us exactly what we need and then turn right around and use us to be a blessing to others through the experiences we have walking with God…being taken by him, blessed by him, experiencing brokenness through him and with him and then being given for others.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had blessed it, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” – Matthew 26:26

Nouwen says, we are now that bread….

http://mattdabbs.com/2014/07/28/taken-blessed-broken-given-we-are-the-bread/

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Commentary on Mark 8:1-10 from Living Space

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Today we have the second of two multiplication stories found in Mark. The first with 5,000 people was in a predominantly Jewish area while this one with 4,000 people is in mainly Gentile territory. Jesus is reaching out to both groups. The people have nothing to eat and are hungry. The meaning is both physical and spiritual.

Once again we see Mark indicating the emotional response of Jesus. He is filled with compassion for the people in their need. “I feel compassion for all these people… If I send them off home hungry they will collapse on the way… Some have come a great distance.”

They will collapse “on the way”, on the road. Jesus is the Way, the Road. To walk the road of Jesus, we need a certain kind of nourishment. This is what Jesus came to give.

The disciples, interpreting Jesus literally, as they usually do, ask: “Where could anyone get bread to feed these people in a deserted place like this?” In the presence of Jesus, the question answers itself but the disciples have not yet clicked. In Mark’s gospel they are often shown to be without an understanding of just who their Master is. That is because they represent us.

The disciples are asked what they can supply. Seven loaves and a few fish is all they have.

There is a strong eucharistic element in this, as in the former story. The people are told to sit down. “He took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks (eucharistesas, ’ eucaristhsas in the Greek), he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute. And they distributed them among the crowd.”

Again we note that Jesus himself does not give out the food the people need. It comes from him but his distributed by his disciples. The same is today. It is our task to feed the hungry – both physically and spiritually. All were filled – 4,000 people altogether – and even so there were seven (a perfect number) baskets left over. A sign of God’s abundance shared with his people.

Again, as before, “He sent them away and, immediately, getting into the boat with his

disciples, went to the region of Dalmanutha”, back to Jewish territory. Jesus was leaving no room for any misinterpretations of what he had done. The disciples too are quickly removed from the scene. There was to be no self-congratulation or glorying in their connections with Jesus the wonder worker. Through the miracle the teaching had been given and that was it.

Lord, teach me to serve you as you deserve;

to give and not to count the cost;

to fight and not to heed the wounds;

to labour and seek no reward

save that of knowing that I do your holy will.

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http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2057g/

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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10 FEBRUARY, 2018, Saturday, 5th Week, Ordinary Time
HEALING THROUGH ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS IN THE EUCHARIST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 KGS 12:26-3213:33-34PS 106:6-719-22MK 8:1-10  ]

Today’s readings should lead us to reflect on the close link between sickness and sin, whether remotely or proximately.  Sin is alienation from God and from each other.  As a result of our loss of focus, man has usurped the place of God and made himself a god.  That means he can no longer depend on anyone but himself.  Inevitably, he loses his balance in life and all integrity within himself and his relationship with the world.  This has brought about his bodily illness because there is a lack of integrity between his mind, body and spirit. The loss of the preternatural gifts, resulting in death, pain, ignorance and concupiscence, is the consequence of Adam’s disobedience.  Seduced and misled by the serpent who said to his wife Eve, “You will not certainly die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:4-5), his pride caused him to deceive himself into thinking that he can do without God.

The sin of the Israelites is the same sin as that of Adam’s.  It is a repetition of the sin of pride and disobedience.  Already in the Book of Exodus, we read how the Israelites made for themselves a golden calf whilst Moses was meeting the Lord at the Mountain.  Again, we see this same attempt of Jeroboam.  He “made two golden calves; he said to the people, ‘You have been going up to Jerusalem long enough.  Here are your gods, Israel; these brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’”  It was out of ambition, fear and selfishness that he turned away from the true God of Israel and erected his own sanctuaries, altars for sacrifices, appointed his own priests that were not of the Levi tribe.  He did all these to prevent his people from going to Jerusalem for fear that the people might return to the Kingdom of David.  So to restrain contacts between his people and those of Judah, he duplicated the shrines purely for his self-interest.  As a result, he led his people to sin, as their religion and worship became contaminated and diluted by pagan influences.  When God is abandoned, sin increases.  There is no greater sin than the sin of idolatry, for the sin of Adam is in fact the sin of idolatry.  Anyone who worships himself is committing the sin of idolatry, which will lead to every other sin.

It was for this reason that Christ come.  He came to reconcile us with God so that we can find focus in life again.  He came to show us who His Father really is.  He came to reveal to us the mercy and compassion of God.   Indeed, the healing ministry was central to the life of Jesus.  His healing miracles were signs that He has come to overthrow the reign of Satan and destroy sin.  The miracles of Jesus were, on one hand, the expression of God’s compassion for His suffering and afflicted people.  On the other hand, it was also a demonstration of the power of the Spirit at work in Jesus manifesting the divine presence in Him.  By healing the sick, which is the consequence of original sin and also quite often the fruits of our own personal sins, it shows that God has come to restore us.  By living a foolish, selfish, self-centered, ill-disciplined and wanton life, we cannot but bring misery upon ourselves and even our loved ones.  St Paul, warning the Galatians about living a licentious life, wrote, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”  (Gal 6:7-8)

Jesus came to teach us about God’s love and the way to live a life of love and service.  This is brought out in today’s gospel story.  By the act of multiplying the loaves for the Seven Thousand, Jesus wanted the crowd to know that only God can satisfy their spiritual and physical hunger completely.  And when God gives, He gives abundantly, beyond human calculation.  This was what the disciples learnt in this miracle.  When they were wondering how to feed so many people, Jesus worked this miracle to let them know that He is the Bread of Life.  Just as God gave manna to their fathers in the desert, so now Jesus, the Bread of life, is doing the same by feeding them in a deserted place.

Accordingly, the best place to be healed is in the Eucharist.  Many Catholics who are seeking spiritual, physical, emotional and psychological healing fail to realize that they have the greatest means of healing before them, namely, the Eucharist.  Being the real presence of our Risen Lord, the Eucharist has the power to transmit the healing grace of God.  At every mass, just before the reception of Holy Communion, we repeat the words of the Centurion, saying, “Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  Indeed, since Jesus is personally present in the Eucharist, He too can heal us the way He healed the sick when He was in His earthly life at Palestine.

Today, as in the days of old, there are so many people who need healing from all kinds of illnesses. Like the apostles, we too ask: how can we find the strength and resources to help them?   The answer of course is to bring Jesus to them.  And what better way to do this than to give them the Eucharist, the presence of Jesus par excellence.  As the gospel tells us, after Jesus multiplied the loaves for them, they ate their fill and still they collected seven basket loads of leftover.  So with Jesus, all can be satisfied.

But how is this so?  Faith in the healing power of the Eucharist must not be reduced to mere superstition.  We must keep the unity between the Word and the Sacrament.  The gospel tells us that Jesus taught them for three days before He broke bread for them.  In other words, before we can celebrate the sacrament of the Eucharist, we must be converted in the mind through careful listening of the Word of God.  Unless the mind is renewed and converted, the heart cannot be changed.  Unless a person is brought to repentance and contrition, no effective healing can take place, and even if it does, the person will once again be wounded emotionally, psychologically and physically by his sins.  But if the mind is renewed and the heart is converted, then the person will avoid falling into sin again and save himself from the effects of sin.  Furthermore, unless we have heard the Word, then we can in faith recognize Jesus in the Eucharist.  This means that we must keep that integral and balanced unity between the celebration of the Word and the Sacrament.  Sometimes, we tend to overemphasize the Word at the expense of the Sacrament; or conversely, emphasize the sacrament and neglect to attentively listen to the Word of God proclaimed at mass.

In the final analysis, we must ask whether we have encountered Jesus, the Word made Flesh, incarnated in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  If we fail to have a personal faith encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist, then the Eucharist cannot feed us or heal us.  Once we encounter Jesus, we will be healed physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually.   Encounter with the person of Jesus will heal all our wounds.

However, the healing grace of the Eucharist extends beyond the reception of the sacrament.  We become what we eat.  So we become more like Jesus when we receive Him, putting on His mind and heart.  In turn we too become mediators of Christ’s love and compassion to others.  Like Jesus, we will also become healers ourselves, reaching out to others who are as wounded as we were.  Like Jesus, we too must in turn be motivated by pastoral charity, shown concretely in our actions, our compassion for them in their sufferings and needs.

For this to happen, we need priests chosen by the Lord.  If the Eucharist is the summit of the Church’s liturgy and life, then without priests, we will not have the Eucharist.  That is why we must continue to pray for young men to have the courage and generosity to give themselves to the priesthood.  Without the Eucharist, the people of God would be like those Seven Thousand, hungry for food.  Priests are chosen by God, not by men, as what Jeroboam did.  He tried to dissuade his people from going to the Temple of Jerusalem by erecting his own temples, appointing priests who were not from the tribe of Levi and established his own feasts.  The truth is that just because he was doing and imitating what was being done at the Temple of Jerusalem, it does not mean that he could bring about the presence of God for the people.  Similarly, without ordained ministers, the people of God will be impoverished and be deprived of the healing grace that comes from the Eucharist.  Let us therefore seek a deeper appreciation of the Eucharist, and at the same time pray for an increase of holy priestly vocations.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore 
 
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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, August 3, 2015 — Taken, Blessed, Broken, Given — “Our hearts are restless till they rest in thee.”

August 2, 2015

Monday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 407

Reading 1 NM 11:4B-15

The children of Israel lamented,
“Would that we had meat for food!
We remember the fish we used to eat without cost in Egypt,
and the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks,
the onions, and the garlic.
But now we are famished;
we see nothing before us but this manna.”Manna was like coriander seed and had the color of resin.
When they had gone about and gathered it up,
the people would grind it between millstones or pound it in a mortar,
then cook it in a pot and make it into loaves,
which tasted like cakes made with oil.
At night, when the dew fell upon the camp, the manna also fell.When Moses heard the people, family after family,
crying at the entrance of their tents,
so that the LORD became very angry, he was grieved.
“Why do you treat your servant so badly?” Moses asked the LORD.
“Why are you so displeased with me
that you burden me with all this people?
Was it I who conceived all this people?
Or was it I who gave them birth,
that you tell me to carry them at my bosom,
like a foster father carrying an infant,
to the land you have promised under oath to their fathers?
Where can I get meat to give to all this people?
For they are crying to me,
‘Give us meat for our food.’
I cannot carry all this people by myself,
for they are too heavy for me.
If this is the way you will deal with me,
then please do me the favor of killing me at once,
so that I need no longer face this distress.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 81:12-13, 14-15, 16-17

R. (2a) Sing with joy to God our help.
“My people heard not my voice,
and Israel obeyed me not;
So I gave them up to the hardness of their hearts;
they walked according to their own counsels.”
R. Sing with joy to God our help.
“If only my people would hear me,
and Israel walk in my ways,
Quickly would I humble their enemies;
against their foes I would turn my hand.”
R. Sing with joy to God our help.
“Those who hated the LORD would seek to flatter me,
but their fate would endure forever,
While Israel I would feed with the best of wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would fill them.”
R. Sing with joy to God our help.

Alleluia MT 4:4

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
One does not live on bread alone, but by every
word that comes forth from the mouth of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel MT 14:13-21

When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist,
he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.
The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late;
dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages
and buy food for themselves.”
He said to them, “There is no need for them to go away;
give them some food yourselves.”
But they said to him,
“Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”
Then he said, “Bring them here to me,”
and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples,
who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied,
and they picked up the fragments left over–
twelve wicker baskets full.
Those who ate were about five thousand men,
not counting women and children.
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Commentary on Matthew 14:13-21 From Living Space

The announcement of John the Baptist’s death is followed immediately in Matthew by the feeding of the 5,000 in the desert.

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Matthew says that Jesus, on hearing of his cousin’s tragic death, withdrew by boat to a desert place by himself. He clearly wanted time to reflect. He knew that, if things continued as they were, he too could be facing trouble.

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However, the crowds knew where he had gone and followed along the shore on foot. “When he disembarked and saw the vast throng, his heart was moved with compassion, and he cured their sick.” His own troubles were set aside as he saw the greater need of the people. We have here, of course, an image of our God, filled with compassion for all of us and anxious to bring us healing and wholeness.

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As evening comes down, the disciples suggest that the people be sent to neighbouring villages for food. It is the first mention of the disciples’ presence. In Mark’s version of this story, the disciples had accompanied Jesus in the boat at his invitation, so that they could all have a period of quiet away from the crowds. Jesus’ response is simple and to the point: “You give them food to eat.” They reply: “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish. What good is that?”

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This, of course, is a sign of the future. It will be the responsibility of Jesus’ followers to give the people the nourishment they need for their lives. At times, their resources will seem very inadequate but time will show that wonders can be done with very little. Just look at what Mother Teresa achieved with nothing of her own.

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The people are then ordered to sit down on the grass. Jesus takes the loaves and fish, looks up to heaven in the direction of his Father, blesses the food, breaks it, gives it to the disciples who in turn distribute it among the people. The whole action clearly prefigures the Eucharist and leads up to it.

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It is not explained how it all happened but five thousand men not counting women and children had their fill. Matthew alone notes the presence of women and children. As Jews did not permit women and children to eat together with men in public, they would have been in a place by themselves.

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And what was left over filled 12 baskets – a perfect number symbolising abundance and also the number of the apostles.

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There are two clear lessons. God takes care of his people. We can read the feeding in two ways. On the one hand, we can simply take it as a miraculous event, pointing to the divine origins of Jesus. On the other hand, there is another possibility with its own meaning. Once the disciples began to share the little food they had with those around, it triggered a similar movement among the crowd, many of whom had actually brought some food with them. When everyone shared, everyone had enough. A picture of the kind of society the Church should stand for.

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Some people might say that this is explaining away the miracle but it also makes an important point. The second lesson is that it was the disciples and not Jesus who distributed the bread and fish. And so it must be in our own time. If the followers of Jesus do not share with others what they have received from him, the work of Jesus and the spreading of the Gospel will not happen.

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Lastly, there are clear Eucharistic elements in the story. Especially the ritualistic way in which Jesus prayed, blessed, broke and distributed the bread. The breaking of the bread (a name for the Mass) is very important because it indicates sharing and not just eating. The Eucharist is the celebration of a sharing community. If sharing of what we have in real life is not taking place, then the Eucharist becomes a ritualistic sham, a whited sepulchre full of dead people’s bones.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o1182g/

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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Look at the words: Taken, Blessed, Broken, Given.
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This is what Jesus does. This is what Jesus did with the loaves and the fish — and this is what Jesus does again at The Last Supper.
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Jesus does this over and over again in the Mass — and with us in our lives.
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Whenever we are broken we can return to Him. We can be taken, blessed, broken and given back to Him.
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Archbishop Goh has said, “Without hope, everything will end in nihilism.”
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Nihilism says that life is without objective meaning. Nothing could be further from the truth if we follow Jesus who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)
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Related:
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Our thanks and prayers go out to Fr. Henri Nouwen who has been my excellent teacher.
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Fr. Henri Nouwen

In Henri Nouwen’s book “Life of the Beloved” he outlines four words that he believes are central to the spiritual lives of Christians,

“To identify the movements of the Spirit in our lives, I have found it helpful to use for words: taken, blessed, broken and given. These words summarize my life as a priest because each day, when I come together around the table with members of my community, I take bread, bless it, break it and give it. These words also summarize my life as a Christian, because, as a Christian, I am called to become bread for the world: break that is taken, blessed, broken and given. Most importantly, however, they summarize my life as a human being because in every moment of my life somewhere, somehow the taking, the blessings, the breaking and the giving are happening.” (Life of the Beloved, 41-42)

The radical difference between the way God works and the way the world works is that the world only uses 2 of the four. The world takes and breaks with no idea of how to bless and give. Praise God that we have a Father who knows us and loves us enough to give us exactly what we need and then turn right around and use us to be a blessing to others through the experiences we have walking with God…being taken by him, blessed by him, experiencing brokenness through him and with him and then being given for others.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had blessed it, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” – Matthew 26:26

Nouwen says, we are now that bread….

http://mattdabbs.com/2014/07/28/taken-blessed-broken-given-we-are-the-bread/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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ONLY THE BREAD OF LIFE CAN SATISFY US

SCRIPTURE READINGS: NUM 11:4-15; MT 14:13-21

We see a parallel between the incidents presented in today’s scripture readings.  Both groups of people were at the desert and they were hungry.  Moses and the disciples of Jesus were also challenged to feed the crowd.  In the end, both groups were given the Bread of Heaven.  But the similarities between them go only as far as these.   The contrast between them is more remarkable.

In the first place, the Israelites during the time of Moses were always grumbling and complaining.  They were never satisfied.  They complained that they did not have the basic necessities, that is, they had no bread.  After God had showered the manna on them; they complained about not having meat.  Then God sent them the quails.  But the demands of the Israelites did not end here.  Yes, the desires of the people could not be satisfied.   In exasperation, Moses, burdened by his responsibility of leading the people from Egypt, complained to God and wanted to end his life.  He felt he could no longer lead the people whom God asked him to deliver from the hands of the Egyptians.

In contrast, the Jews during the time of Jesus never complained.  They were hungry undoubtedly.  But it was the disciples of Jesus who were sensitive to their predicament.  They proposed to Jesus that He dismiss the crowd so that they could buy food for themselves.  However, Jesus responded by telling His disciples that they feed the people themselves.  And in the end, the people were fed with just five loaves and two fish and they had leftovers.

The question is, why did the people during the time of Jesus not complain and could easily be satisfied with a few loaves and two fish whereas the Israelites in the desert were dissatisfied even though they had manna and meat?   The real problem lies in this – they did not receive the Bread of Life before they received the bread for their physical needs.  That is to say, because they had not received the heart of God, they remained restless and discontented.  Furthermore, because they failed to listen to God’s word, they began to lack trust in God’s love and providential care.

On the other hand, the disciples and the Jews listened to the preaching of Jesus first.  Thus, after receiving the Bread of Life from Jesus, they began to understand the essentials of life.  Firstly, they understood the Father’s love and His providence.  They did not doubt that God would look after their needs.  The disciples trusted in Jesus when He told them to bring the five loaves and two fish so that these could be shared by all.

Secondly, after listening to Jesus, the disciples and the Jews realized that more than physical food, love and service are even more important.  And it is not improbable that the five loaves and two fish symbolized each person taking out what little he or she had to share with the others.  In this way, the food was multiplied and there were leftovers at the end of the meal.  Whatever it is, the fact remains that all of them were truly satisfied even if they had not much to eat.

Hence, we can see that people who have no spiritual life and who have no desire for the deeper things of life will always live on the peripheral level, pursuing mundane things which do not give them real and lasting satisfaction.  Inevitably, they will always remain dissatisfied.  But when a person has been touched by the love of God; or when he comes to understand the deeper realities of life as he comes to know God, then he would realize that all that he has in life are insignificant, compared to the greater joy he has found in being with God and his fellow human beings.  Why is that so?  As scripture says “Man does not live by bread alone but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God.” Because man is a spiritual being, he constantly searches to be united with His Creator. St Augustine understood this when he exclaimed in revelation “Our hearts are restless till they rest in thee.” When we have found true joy and love in the Lord, there is very little else that we need.

Consequently, if we want lasting fulfillment, we should “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these other things will be given as well.” How then, do we seek God and His Kingdom? It is by getting to know Jesus, the Bread of Life come down from Heaven. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, says the Lord; No one can come to the Father except through me.” We have thus to be nourished by the Lord in prayer, the Word and the Eucharist. We are told that when the people heard that Jesus had left with his disciples in the boat, “leaving the towns, they went after him on foot.” Are we hungry for God? Do we make time in the hustle and bustle of our lives to be nourished by the Lord? Are spiritual retreats or holidays more a priority for us? More often than not, it is only when we are in crisis that we turn to the Lord, even blaming Him as the Israelites did.

Hence, unless we have received Jesus as the Bread of Life, the manna from Heaven, the Word of God, we can never be contented in life and our cravings will never cease.  But once we have the Life of God in us, everything else will be accepted gratefully; and even if we do not have them, we will not really miss them nor desire them. So today, let us not be afraid to bring our meager desire and efforts at spiritual growth to the Lord. “Bring them here to me” He said. “Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, raised His eyes to heaven and said the blessing. They all ate as much as they wanted.” Let us therefore take the first step to the Lord, and surely in His infinite mercy and love, He will not only satisfy our needs but will multiply the blessings abundantly, so that they will be shared joyfully with others.

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Holy Thursday: The Last Supper; Jesus Washes Their Feet

March 28, 2013

Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet 1852-6 Ford Madox Brown 1821-1893

Holy Thursday: Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper Lectionary: 39

Reading 1 Ex 12:1-8, 11-14

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall stand at the head of your calendar; you shall reckon it the first month of the year. Tell the whole community of Israel: On the tenth of this month every one of your families must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household. If a family is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join the nearest household in procuring one and shall share in the lamb in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it. The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish. You may take it from either the sheep or the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, and then, with the whole assembly of Israel present, it shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight. They shall take some of its blood and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel of every house in which they partake of the lamb. That same night they shall eat its roasted flesh with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.
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“This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight. It is the Passover of the LORD. For on this same night I will go through Egypt, striking down every firstborn of the land, both man and beast, and executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt—I, the LORD! But the blood will mark the houses where you are. Seeing the blood, I will pass over you; thus, when I strike the land of Egypt, no destructive blow will come upon you.
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“This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the LORD, as a perpetual institution.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 116:12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18

R. (cf. 1 Cor 10:16)
Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
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How shall I make a return to the LORD for all the good he has done for me? The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
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R. Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
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Precious in the eyes of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones. I am your servant, the son of your handmaid; you have loosed my bonds.
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R. Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
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To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving, and I will call upon the name of the LORD. My vows to the LORD I will pay in the presence of all his people.
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R. Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
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Reading 2 1 Cor 11:23-26

Brothers and sisters: I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,  that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over,  took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying,  “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,  you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.

Gospel Jn 13:1-15

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over. So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
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Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.
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He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?”
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Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.”
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Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”
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Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”
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Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.” Jesus said to him, “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.” For he knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
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So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
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Jesus’ Message on Christian Living

The Gospel links all this with the concrete reality of our lives. It says nothing about the Pasch or the Passover. It says nothing about the Eucharist, or the Body and Blood of Jesus. Instead it speaks of Jesus, Lord and Master, getting down on his knees and washing the feet of his disciples. It is this spirit of love and service of brothers and sisters which is to be the outstanding characteristic of the Christian disciple.

And this is the true living out of the Eucharistic celebration. To have one without the other is not to live the Gospel. And so the words of the Eucharist are also repeated here: “Do this in memory of me.”

Not to celebrate the Eucharist in community and not to spend our energies in love and service of each other is not to be living the Gospel. Our Christian living is a seamless robe between Gospel, liturgy and daily life and interaction.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1065g/

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Jesus also taught us how to pray (“The Lord’s Prayer) gave us his commandments and spoke on the beatitudes (“The Sermon on the Mount.”)

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The New York Times
April 19, 2012

“Forget the church, follow Jesus” is the cover message on a recent issue of Newsweek, featuring an essay by Andrew Sullivan. He maintains that what’s really important about Christianity is the moral code of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, freed from the dubious theology and corrupting politics that have plagued the history of the institutional church.  The idea is widely attractive, with non-Christians and even some atheists professing admiration for what Sullivan (quoting Thomas Jefferson) calls  “the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered.”

Why should we think that the world would be a better place if everyone followed Jesus’ path of renunciation?

What is this code?  There’s no doubt that the core message is love.  In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The entire Law of the Gospel is contained in the new commandment of Jesus, to love one another as he has loved us.”  But what does it mean to love someone?  As Aquinas put it (citing Aristotle), at a minimum “to love is to will good for someone”; that is, to do what we can to see that a person has a good life.

But what is a good life?  We might, thinking of the core message of Jesus, say that it’s a life of loving others.  But this response just takes us in a circle.  Jesus tells us that to lead a good life we should love one another, but loving one another requires helping one another lead good lives.  Unless we first know what it is to lead a good life, Jesus’ law of love gives us little guidance on how to live. This is no mere abstract worry.  There are many competing conceptions of a good life.  Utilitarians like John Stuart Mill think it is one that maximizes the pleasure of mankind as a whole.  Others, like Immanuel Kant, think it is a life of virtue for its own sake, even if this requires renouncing pleasure.  Followers of Aristotle think it requires flourishing through various intellectual, psychological and social virtues.  How a life of love for others should be lived depends on which conception of a good life is correct.

The Sermon on the Mount, however, does not offer a clear view of what makes for a good life.  Many seem to think Jesus is saying little more than be nice to everybody.  Others see a call to a heroic life of total non-resistance or self-sacrifice.  Still others hear him as requiring little more than an enhanced version of the Ten Commandments  (e.g., avoiding not only murder but also anger, not only adultery but also lustful desires).

Almost all Christians ignore many of the things Jesus said on the Mount.  Who literally takes no thought for their lives or for tomorrow?  Who never resists evil?  Who gives to anyone who asks?  Who says “Hit me again” to an unjust attack?  There may be ways of integrating such injunctions into our morality without reducing them to banalities, but the bare text of Jesus’ sermon doesn’t tell us how to do this.

Some of the saints have tried to live up to something like Jesus’ literal sayings. Sullivan cites Francis of Assisi, who rejected all the ordinary human enjoyments and achievements in favor of what Sullivan calls a “religion of unachievement.” He even denied himself simple physical comforts.  (Sullivan cites Francis’ angry rejection of a pillow a friend offered to make him more comfortable on his deathbed.)

We can imagine that there might be a few individuals for whom such a life would make sense.  But this sort of “unachievement” is absurd as a general ideal of human excellence.   It is, as Sullivan says, a “renunciation” of all human values in order to “transcend our world and be with God.”  But what reason is there to think that the world would be better, even from God’s viewpoint, if everyone renounced all but the bare minimum of human goods?

Another problem is that Jesus does not explicitly or decisively endorse central contemporary values like  democratic government, the abolition of slavery and the equality of women.  Proponents of these values have found inspiration and support from his morality of love, but Jesus’ words alone do not push us in their direction.

None of this is to say that the Sermon on the Mount is not a source of profound moral truth.  But this truth is accessible only by reading the sermon in the light of 2,000 years of interpretation and development.   Much of the history of Christianity consists of trying to develop a viable way of life from Jesus’ puzzling sayings.

These efforts, moreover, have had to go far beyond interpreting Jesus’ words in their own terms.  Augustine and Aquinas, for example, used ideas from Plato, Aristotle and other pre-Christian thinkers to help them understand the “law of love.”  Conversely, Christian ideas and practices have inspired secular thinkers like Kant and Mill to develop ethical views that can provide plausible explications of Jesus’ teachings.

Sullivan is right that Christian churches, as fallible human institutions, have often been obstacles to the fruitful understanding of Christ’s moral message.  But these churches have also been central in sustaining the traditions of thought and practice that transformed Jesus’ passionate but enigmatic teachings into coherent and fruitful moral visions.  They have been the air — however polluted — that has fed the fire of his message.

Read alone, the Sermon on the Mount will either confuse us or merely reinforce the moral prejudices we bring to it.  To profit from its wisdom we need to understand it through traditions of thought and practice within or informed by Christianity.  This does not require membership in any particular church, but it does require immersion in the culture and history of the Christian world.   In this sense, to forget the church is to forget Jesus.

Gary Gutting is a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, and an editor of Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. He is the author of, most recently, “Thinking the Impossible: French Philosophy since 1960,” and writes regularly for The Stone.

Related:

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The Washing of Feet and the Supper, from the Maesta by Duccio, 1308-1311. Peter often displays amazement in feet washing depictions, as in John 13:8.

Then he took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them

June 24, 2012

I try to go to Catholic Mass and Holy Communion each morning, especially if there is some particularly stressful moment anticipated. Today I knew I was headed to see Thomas, who suffered a stroke just five weeks ago today.

So as I stood in line for Communion I asked the Holy Spirit for whatever strength He thought I might need and the ability to give that to Thomas, his family and to his many Care Givers.

Thomas had a stroke five weeks ago today: the same day I was trained as a Eucharistic Minister.

As I got closer to the Communion rail this morning, I heard Henri Nouwen in my head saying: “Taken, blessed, broken, given.”

Photo: Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)

Those are the key words of the Eucharist. The words of the Consecration.

When the hour came, he [Jesus] took his place at the table with the apostles . . . Then he took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you. Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:14,19).

The great Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, when conducting a retreat for teenagers, once gave a talk on the meaning of the Mass. He said, “If you don’t get anything out of Mass, it’s because you don’t bring the right expectations to it.”

Above: Bishop Sheen

I try to bring the right expectations: I need God’s help!  And most of all I need all the gifts God gives to me. I need to see them, grasp them and put them into practice. To use the gifts. That’s my journey of discovery. To use my gifts for the Glory of God.

We are, each of us, taken, blessed, broken, given.

We are taken into His arms and into His heart. We are taken into the hearts of many around us each day – if we allow that to happen.

We are blessed by God: an indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I think of this as a little pilot light within me; just like the small pilot light-flame in a gas stove.  When I add prayer, sacrifice, sacraments and other good fuel: my indwelling of the Holy Spirit turns up the flame. Sometimes I feel a bonfire. At other times I am famished and need to refuel.

And I am broken: I have fallen. I have crashed. I have failed.

And I no longer feel sorry for myself.

Who hasn’t fallen? Who hasn’t been broken? If we hang around the human race long enough we get to experience brokenness whether we want to or not. I mean; Thomas didn’t wake up five weeks ago and choose to have a stroke.

It was a gift from God. A hurdle of extreme brokenness.

How we get over these hurdles or climb these mountains determines our story.

Since we are Blessed and Given to others, we are also Taken. From time to time we get to be “Care Giver.” At other times I need all the “Care Givers” I can get.

Henri Nouwen believed that what is most personal is most universal; he wrote, “By giving words to these intimate experiences I can make my life available to others.”

So these words today from my heart are here to honor Henri Nouwen and as a gift to you.

We are all “Taken, blessed, broken, given.” And that’s a pretty great gift from God!

More will undoubtedly be revealed!

John Francis Carey

June 24, 2012

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The internationally renowned priest and author, respected professor and beloved pastor Henri Nouwen (pronounced Henry Now-win) wrote over 40 books on the spiritual life. He corresponded regularly in English, Dutch, German, French and Spanish with hundreds of friends and reached out to thousands through his Eucharistic celebrations, lectures and retreats. Since his death in 1996, ever-increasing numbers of readers, writers, teachers and seekers have been guided by his literary legacy. Nouwen’s books have sold over 2 million copies and been published in over 22 languages.

Born in Nijkerk, Holland, on January 24, 1932, Nouwen felt called to the priesthood at a very young age. He was ordained in 1957 as a diocesan priest and studied psychology at the Catholic University of Nijmegen. In 1964 he moved to the United States to study at the Menninger Clinic. He went on to teach at the University of Notre Dame, and the Divinity Schools of Yale and Harvard. For several months during the 1970s, Nouwen lived and worked with the Trappist monks in the Abbey of the Genesee, and in the early 1980s he lived with the poor in Peru. In 1985 he was called to join L’Arche in Trosly, France, the first of over 100 communities founded by Jean Vanier where people with developmental disabilities live with assistants. A year later Nouwen came to make his home at L’Arche Daybreak near Toronto, Canada. He died suddenly on September 21st, 1996, in Holland and is buried in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

Henri Nouwen believed that what is most personal is most universal; he wrote, “By giving words to these intimate experiences I can make my life available to others.” His spirit lives on in the work of the Henri Nouwen Society, Henri Nouwen Stichting, the Henri Nouwen Trust, the Henri J. M. Nouwen Archives and Research Collection, and in all who live the spiritual values of communion, community and ministry, to which he dedicated his life.You can get to know Henri by reading some of his great pile of written work; for which I am greatful to him and Father Thomas Ferguson who sent me to Henri or Henri to me!

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