Posts Tagged ‘gratitude’

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, April 7, 2018 — “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

April 6, 2018

Saturday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 266

Image result for elders, and scribes recognize the companions of Jesus, art, bible, pictures

“The leaders, elders, and scribes were amazed, and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus.”

Reading 1 ACTS 4:13-21

Observing the boldness of Peter and John
and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men,
the leaders, elders, and scribes were amazed,
and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus.
Then when they saw the man who had been cured standing there with them,
they could say nothing in reply.
So they ordered them to leave the Sanhedrin,
and conferred with one another, saying,
“What are we to do with these men?
Everyone living in Jerusalem knows that a remarkable sign
was done through them, and we cannot deny it.
But so that it may not be spread any further among the people,
let us give them a stern warning
never again to speak to anyone in this name.”So they called them back
and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.
Peter and John, however, said to them in reply,
“Whether it is right in the sight of God
for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges.
It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”
After threatening them further,
they released them,
finding no way to punish them,
on account of the people who were all praising God
for what had happened.

Responsorial Psalm PS 118:1 AND 14-15AB, 16-18, 19-21

R. (21a) I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me.
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
The joyful shout of victory
in the tents of the just.
R. I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me.
R. Alleluia.
“The right hand of the LORD is exalted;
the right hand of the LORD has struck with power.”
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD.
Though the LORD has indeed chastised me,
yet he has not delivered me to death.
R. I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me.
R. Alleluia.
Open to me the gates of justice;
I will enter them and give thanks to the LORD.
This is the gate of the LORD;
the just shall enter it.
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
and have been my savior.
R. I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me.
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia PS 118:24

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Related image

Gospel MK 16:9-15

When Jesus had risen, early on the first day of the week,
he appeared first to Mary Magdalene,
out of whom he had driven seven demons.
She went and told his companions who were mourning and weeping.
When they heard that he was alive
and had been seen by her, they did not believe.After this he appeared in another form
to two of them walking along on their way to the country.
They returned and told the others;
but they did not believe them either.But later, as the Eleven were at table, he appeared to them
and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart
because they had not believed those
who saw him after he had been raised.
He said to them, “Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”Image may contain: 1 person, standing

He appeared to them walking along the road. Art by Greg Olsen



Reflection From Christian Women’s Corner

Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene.  Who he had cast out sevendemons from!

What does it mean to have demons?  In the New Testament demons often appeared in the form of mental illness.  Mary had seven; seven different demons each most likely of a different type.

Why in the world would Jesus appear first to a woman and one who happened to have had seven demons?

Throughout the New Testament Jesus had many interactions with women, he spoke to them freely, ignoring the social restrictions of the time.  They also served multiple important roles, such as preparing his body for burial using costly perfumed oils, they were the ones who were there as he made his way to his crucifixion; no woman denied Jesus.

Women had the role of being in tune intuitionally with Jesus.  They are receptive, where as the men disciples are doers.  Jesus counted on them for action, and on women for understanding.

Is it really so surprising then than Jesus appeared first to a woman; a woman who had been purified from the demons that possessed her.  She was the perfect person to be receptive to his rising from the dead, the perfect person to see, because he had opened her eyes.


Gospel Reflection From Father Afonse

Doubts, disbelief, fears and terror. These are the sights and sounds of the early Church as they waited for their eyes to see the Risen Lord.
Surprise, joy, boldness and outreach. These are the sights and sounds of those whom the Lord revealed himself to.
In the Acts of the Apostles we witness an on-going transformation that continues to rock our world today. The Eleven, who were once locked in fear, can no longer contain themselves. They must proclaim the Good News, not because they received a death threat from the Lord but because they received his life. What was once considered impossible or dangerous (like being recognized, going out into the streets and preaching the Truth; preaching Jesus as Lord and God; preaching to the Jews and standing before the leaders, the elders and the chief priests, etc.) they now do without hesitation. They believe in themselves because the Lord believes in them.
When we believe in God, we begin to believe in ourselves. Nothing is impossible! Nothing, for nothing matters more than the Lord. What will separate me from the love of God: tribulations, betrayals, fear, suffering and pain, anxieties, bitterness, ridicule, loss of life, death, even death on a cross? Nothing. Nothing will separate me from the love of God. The old man is dead, buried and gone away. The new man has risen from the dead, and has been sent by the Lord.
Here I am Lord, send me! And he does, like he always has, and he will continue to bear fruit through me and after me.
How many times have I said, Enough!? Too many. How many times have I said, I can’t do this anymore!? Too many. How many times have I said, I will never make a difference”? Too many. I could go on and on, so many more doubts come to my mind as I write this list. But the Lord loves me and loves sharing everything with me, even my dirty laundry list! The doubts we have the Apostles shared too. We, the modern-intelligentcreatures, have the same doubts as the Apostles, those uncivilized-uneducated men. Yes, they may have said the exact same thing, but look and see for yourself what they did. They lived for the Lord and not for themselves. They believed in God because God shared his belief in them. He lifted them up! He told them as he told me, “Go and sin no more.”God has more faith in us than we have in Him!
The Apostles woke up one morning and rocked the world. They had finally learned all things from the Master, and they began to imitate Him in everything – even his resurrection; for the Lord was the first to wake up one Sunday morning and change the world forever! We must do the same thing. Awake, O sleeper, arise from thy slumber. Christ is calling you by name!
Related image
Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
07 APRIL, 2018, Easter Saturday

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ACTS 4:13-21PS 118:1,14-21MARK 16:9-15 ]

Faith in the resurrection of our Lord is central to the Christian Faith.   Everything about the Christian Faith stands or falls with belief in the resurrection of Christ.  If Christ were not resurrected, then we cannot proclaim Him as Lord and we cannot accept His teachings without doubt and compromise.   Because He has been raised from the dead by the Father, we can believe all that Jesus said, taught and did as coming from God.

However, this central doctrine of the Church’s faith is always under challenge.  If many cannot accept the Christian Faith and Christ as the Son of God and their savior, it is understandable because they have not yet encountered the Lord as risen in their lives.   Without faith in the resurrection, Jesus remains just a prophet and a good teacher at most, but certainly not God to be worshipped and be given full submission of faith. Yet, we can understand why many find the resurrection of our Lord difficult to accept.  In the first place, not all have seen the Lord. St Paul wrote, “He appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time.”  (1 Cor 15:4f)

Furthermore, the resurrected Lord does not manifest Himself exactly the same way as the Jesus of Nazareth because He is transformed.   Indeed, the gospel said that He showed Himself to His disciples in different forms.  “After this, he showed himself under another form to two of them as they were on their way into the country.”  It appears that the transfigured Lord could appear in different ways.  His resurrected body transcends human imagination and space and time.  He could walk through walls to the room where the disciples were, appear and disappear at will when He was at Emmaus.  So the resurrected Lord is beyond conception.

But beyond these reasonable doubts about the resurrection of our Lord, some have questions about the resurrection, not because of intellectual doubt but because of incredulity and obstinacy.  Jesus “reproached them for their incredulity and obstinacy, because they had refused to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.”  The apostles, even though they had testimonies from the women and the two disciples at Emmaus that Jesus was alive, refused to believe.  What could be the reasons?  Perhaps, they really thought that Jesus was dead because of their cowardice and betrayal.   They could not come to terms that they had killed the Lord, or they were afraid to meet their master again because of shame.  Their mental block was not of the intellect but an emotional blockage.  Indeed, we are told that they did not believe until the Lord appeared to them and said to them, “Peace be with you” forgiving them for their abandonment of Him to death.

For the Jewish leaders, they too did not believe in Jesus because of obstinacy.  They were not ready to admit that they were wrong about Jesus and most of all, for causing His death.  They could not accept their responsibility for putting an innocent man to death.  They wanted to be seen right in the eyes of the people.  To admit that Jesus was the Christ would mean that they had to compromise their position in society as well.  They had too much to lose in accepting Jesus as the Messiah. However, the preaching and claims of the apostles embarrassed them and made them lose credibility with the people.  Yet, at the same time, they could not contradict the fact that the crippled man was healed and according to the apostles, it was done so in the name of the man they crucified and whom God raised from the dead.  (cf Acts 4:8-10)  So they had to find ways to silence the truth and the apostles’ proclamation to preserve their self-interests.   They were stubborn in admitting their faults.

Furthermore, they saw the transformation of the apostles.   “The rulers, elders and scribes were astonished at the assurance shown by Peter and John, considering they were uneducated laymen.”  From weak, uneducated and fearful men, they became self-assured and confident before the Sanhedrin, a group of educated men.  They were no longer timid or lacking self-confidence.  They spoke with conviction and without fear of anyone.  That is why their rejection of the message of the apostles went against reason.  It was not because the resurrection of our Lord was incredulous, but because they had too much to lose.  They could not give in to the apostles’ claim for fear of being stripped of their powers and security.  It was pure obstinacy, pride and selfishness.

Indeed, they were in a dilemma.   “The Sanhedrin had a private discussion. ‘What are we going to do with these men?’ they asked. ‘It is obvious to everybody in Jerusalem that a miracle has been worked through them in public, and we cannot deny it. But to stop the whole thing spreading any further among the people, let us caution them never to speak to anyone in this name again.”  Three times they warned the disciples not to speak about Jesus.   “So they called them in and gave them a warning on no account to make statements or to teach in the name of Jesus. The court repeated the warnings and then released them; they could not think of any way to punish them, since all the people were giving glory to God for what had happened.”   Instead of recognizing the truth, they silenced the truth.  This is what the world is seeking to do today.

Today, we can no longer speak about our faith and our beliefs openly, because those who do not believe in Christ will object to what we say, our claims and our beliefs. They will judge us to be discriminating and lacking respect for others.  We are now therefore permitted only to say things and make claims that others agree with.  Otherwise, we would be accused of superiority and triumphalism.  We have to say that our religion is just like the others and no better than theirs.  We cannot claim Christ to be the unique savior of the world because some might judge us to be making a sweeping statement and denigrating their own beliefs.  Could we say with the same conviction and courage that the apostles made, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved”?  (Acts 4:12)

Why was the command of the Sanhedrin not able to deter the disciples from speaking about Jesus?  “Peter and John retorted, ‘You must judge whether in God’s eyes it is right to listen to you and not to God. We cannot promise to stop proclaiming what we have seen and heard.”  Having encountered the Risen Lord and seeing Him at work in their lives, they cannot but do what He did when He was on earth, fulfilling His promise to His disciples that “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”  (Jn 14:12)  With such a deep experience of His power at work in their lives, it can only prove that Jesus is truly alive in the Spirit.

This was equally true of the women who encountered the Risen Lord and the two disciples on their way to the countryside.  When they saw the Lord in their own ways, they knew for certain that was the Risen Lord.  They were convicted and in turn went to tell the rest.  Eventually, when the Eleven also saw the Lord, they too became His witnesses.  The Lord said to them, “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.”   When we have a deep encounter with the Risen Lord, nothing can hold us back.  Not only are our lives transformed but we will have a deep desire to announce Jesus as the Good News, the Saviour of all humanity.

How, then, can we encounter the Risen Lord and find the same strength and conviction?  We are told that they were “associates of Jesus.”  We need to walk with Jesus like the apostles before we could encounter Him in His resurrection.  We need to know the Jesus of Nazareth through our contemplation of His humanity in the gospels so that we can recognize His Risen presence in our midst in the world today.  Spending time with Jesus in intimacy is the key.

Indeed, this was the case of Mary of Magdala as well.  She was so devoted to Jesus and so in love with Him and therefore was rewarded with the grace to see the Risen Lord before the apostles.  She knew the Jesus of Nazareth and how He delivered her from the seven devils.  So, too, the disciples on their way to the country.  They were downcast because they had great hopes in the Lord.  Jesus, the Risen Lord, appears to those who want to see Him and are receptive to His love.   If we want to see the Lord, then we too must be His constant companions and be His associates in prayer, in study and in fellowship.

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

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, March 20, 2018 — Gratitude in all Things!

March 19, 2018

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Lectionary: 252

No automatic alt text available.

Reading 1 NM 21:4-9

From Mount Hor the children of Israel set out on the Red Sea road,
to bypass the land of Edom.
But with their patience worn out by the journey,
the people complained against God and Moses,
“Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert,
where there is no food or water?
We are disgusted with this wretched food!”In punishment the LORD sent among the people saraph serpents,
which bit the people so that many of them died.
Then the people came to Moses and said,
“We have sinned in complaining against the LORD and you.
Pray the LORD to take the serpents away from us.”
So Moses prayed for the people, and the LORD said to Moses,
“Make a saraph and mount it on a pole,
and whoever looks at it after being bitten will live.”
Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole,
and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent
looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 102:2-3, 16-18, 19-21

R. (2) O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.
O LORD, hear my prayer,
and let my cry come to you.
Hide not your face from me
in the day of my distress.
Incline your ear to me;
in the day when I call, answer me speedily.
R. O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.
The nations shall revere your name, O LORD,
and all the kings of the earth your glory,
When the LORD has rebuilt Zion
and appeared in his glory;
When he has regarded the prayer of the destitute,
and not despised their prayer.
R. O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.
Let this be written for the generation to come,
and let his future creatures praise the LORD:
“The LORD looked down from his holy height,
from heaven he beheld the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoners,
to release those doomed to die.”
R. O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.

Verse Before The Gospel

The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower;
all who come to him will live for ever.

Gospel JN 8:21-30

Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“I am going away and you will look for me,
but you will die in your sin.
Where I am going you cannot come.”
So the Jews said,
“He is not going to kill himself, is he,
because he said, ‘Where I am going you cannot come’?”
He said to them, “You belong to what is below,
I belong to what is above.
You belong to this world,
but I do not belong to this world.
That is why I told you that you will die in your sins.
For if you do not believe that I AM,
you will die in your sins.”
So they said to him, “Who are you?”
Jesus said to them, “What I told you from the beginning.
I have much to say about you in condemnation.
But the one who sent me is true,
and what I heard from him I tell the world.”
They did not realize that he was speaking to them of the Father.
So Jesus said to them,
“When you lift up the Son of Man,
then you will realize that I AM,
and that I do nothing on my own,
but I say only what the Father taught me.
The one who sent me is with me.
He has not left me alone,
because I always do what is pleasing to him.”
Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.
Homily by Bob Fritz

Summary: To lead the people to understand that they can be forgiven of their sin sickness and made whole by placing their faith in Jesus Christ.

The Bronze Serpent – Numbers 21:4-9

1. Aim: To lead the people to understand that the can be forgiven of their sin sickness and made whole by placing their faith in Jesus Christ.

Illustration: Chuck Swindoll reports that a seminary student in Chicago faced a forgiveness test. Although he preferred to work in some kind of ministry, the only job he could find was driving a bus on Chicago’s south side. One day a gang of tough teens got on board and refused to pay the fare. After a few days of this, the seminarian spotted a policeman on the corner, stopped the bus, and reported them. The officer made them pay, but then he got off. When the bus rounded a corner, the gang robbed the seminarian and beat him severely. He pressed charges and the gang was rounded up. They were found guilty. But as soon as the jail sentence was given, the young Christian saw their spiritual need and felt pity for them. So he asked the judge if he could serve their sentences for them. The gang members and the judge were dumbfounded. “It’s because I forgive you,” he explained. His request was denied, but he visited the young men in jail and led several of them to faith in Christ.

2. Explanation of the Aim: Jesus Christ gives a perfect parallel explanation between what God did in healing the Israelites of their sickness when they trusted and obeyed and what will happen to everyone who believes in Him. Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. (John 3:14,15) Help the people to understand that saying that we believe in Christ involves being willing to obey His commands. Just as the Israelites demonstrated their faith by obeying God’s directives by looking at the snake on the pole, so New Testament believers need to trust and obey God’s instructions as evidence of genuine saving faith.

3. The Bible Story: When the people of Israel complained against God, He sent poisonous snakes among them. Many of the complainers were bitten and died a slow painful death. Yet when the people repented for their sin against God and Moses, the Lord told Moses, “Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to the top of a pole. Those who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!” (Numb 21:8) The people who looked at the snake were made completely well.

4. The Lord dislikes the sin of complaining because it is an expression of unbelief, disobedience and pride. When people fail to rejoice always, pray without ceasing and in everything give thanks to God, they often start to grumble. The Israelites forgot all the miracles and goodness of God when they face hardships. Instead of trusting God for their provisions they complained and shouted at Moses saying, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness? There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this wretched manna!” (Numb 14:5) When people grow discontented it is an indication they have failed to praise God for the good things He has given them. Help the people learn the importance of trusting, obeying and thanking God in every situation no matter how difficult it may seem.

Read more:




Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
20 MARCH, 2018, Tuesday, 5th Week of Lent


We can empathize with the Israelites in the desert.  Forty years is a long time to be wandering round and round without arriving. We can imagine their frustration and anger.  They were in the desert, in the hot and cold, no water and sometimes no food.  Some were losing hope that the Promised Land was just a dream.

In our trials and difficulties we too will feel that God has abandoned us, especially when we are walking through a tunnel, like suffering an incurable sickness, dealing with a rocky marriage or a job that is difficult.  When we see no end to our problems, we cannot but give up hope in God.  Some of us even become resentful of Him for not caring for us.  We too have our dreams of the Promised Land, but along the way, we lose our direction in life because of difficulties or challenges which seem too daunting for us to handle.

When we are tempted to give up hope, what must we do?  Complaining like them will do us no good.  St Paul wrote, “Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world.”  (Phil 2:14-18f)  Indeed, they were punished for their lack of faith and most of all, by their inability to accept God’s will and follow His divine plan.  They were bitten by the fiery serpents, symbolizing the consequences of their sins of impatience, resentment and bitterness.  So lamenting and entering into depression will lead us to other sins.  We will eventually commit more sins, such as stealing, lying, and drinking, destroying our lives.  Indeed, those who complain and whine cannot find life.

That was what Jesus said to the Jews as well.  “I am going away; you will look for me and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.”  Why cannot we join Jesus in life and in heaven?  According to Jesus, this is because “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I have told you already: You will die in your sins. Yes, if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”  Indeed, because we do not look towards God and believe in Him and accept His divine will, we will hurt ourselves by choosing our own path in life.

How, then, should we act when we are in a dilemma?

We must first begin by contemplating on our sins and the lack of faith.  We must examine our own lives.  Socrates says that an unexamined life is not worth living.  The truth is that the Lord made the Israelites go such a long and roundabout way round the Sinai Peninsula because He wanted them to mature in faith so that they could fight their enemies when they entered the Promised Land.  God’s intention was to strengthen them physically and spiritually, not to punish them.  They were to be taught to trust in Him alone and no one else.  They were to be tested in fidelity and faith.

Suffering in life too, is meant to strengthen us and transform us to be leaders in suffering for others.  Last Sunday we read in Heb 5:7-9 how Christ submitted Himself so humbly in obedience to the Father.  Indeed, through our suffering we learn obedience to God’s will.  If we are obedient and surrender ourselves to His will, we will find peace and freedom.  In turn, like Jesus, we become a source of inspiration to others.   Life is a question of walking the way and then showing the way.  If we have not trod the path of suffering and growth, we cannot be an inspiration to others to find their way.

This must be followed by a humble acknowledgement and confession of sins.  The people came and said to Moses, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede for us with the Lord to save us from these serpents.”  So long as we repent, the Lord will come to our help.  Truly, quite often in life, during our time of suffering, we seek to find scapegoats for our woes.  Instead of acknowledging our faults and failings, we point the faults at others, like the people who complained against Moses.

That is why the cure for their sickness was to contemplate on the serpent lifted up on the pole.  “Moses interceded for the people, and the Lord answered him, ‘Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live.’ So Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard, and if anyone was bitten by a serpent, he looked at the bronze serpent and lived.” The Lord invites us to look at ourselves instead of blaming others for their mistakes and folly.  It is important that we begin with self-examination if we want to seek healing and His divine wisdom.

We need to go beyond contemplating on our sins.  It is through knowing the consequences of our sins that we can be led to repent.  “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.  If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.  So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.  So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.”  (Gal 6:7-10) But it is not enough.  We do not have the strength to do the right thing.

Hence, this serpent anticipates the cross of Jesus when He too was lifted up.  We are invited to contemplate on the love of Christ on the Cross.  Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He and that I do nothing of myself: what the Father has taught me is what I preach; he who sent me is with me, and has not left me to myself, for I always do what pleases him’.  As he was saying this, many came to believe in him.”  In contemplating on His love, we can repent because of His love for us.  When we think of how much He suffered for us and how He was tempted for us and suffered for our sake, we will be able to carry our cross for the love of Jesus and our loved ones even though they might be difficult to love, especially our young people or unreasonable parents.

When we reflect on God’s wondrous love, we cannot but be assured that He will help us to overcome every trial.  “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”   (Rom 5:8-11)

But again love might not be enough to help us to continue because of the lack of certainty.  Reflecting on the resurrection will give us hope that suffering and death have been overcome and eventually those who have faith in God will find life.  Love can enable us to do many things but humanly we are weak.  That is why we need a clear confidence in the final victory and most of all, the Holy Spirit to give us the strength to love as He has loved us.   The Holy Spirit, we know, is the love of God that is poured into our hearts.  For that reason, we must contemplate on His resurrection.  Being lifted up is also a symbol of the resurrection when the Father raised Jesus from the dead.

However, this is not the crown of faith.  It is when we reflect on the mystery of the identity of Christ as the Son of God, the love of God in person.  Only by contemplating on the fact that this person who died for us is the Son of God, as in the letter of St Paul to the Philippians, can we find life.  Hence, the gospel asks, “Do we know who He truly is?”  Jesus answered, “What I have told you from the outset. About you I have much to say and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is truthful, and what I have learnt from him I declare to the world.”

He is none other than the Father’s only Son.  “You will know that I am He and that I do nothing of myself: what the Father has taught me is what I preach; he who sent me is with me, and has not left me to myself, for I always do what pleases him.”   The death and resurrection of Jesus will be the credentials that express the Father’s heart of love and mercy; and the resurrection as the endorsement of His message and identity.

As we prepare for the celebration of the Easter Mysteries, especially the Eucharist which is the celebration of His passion, death and resurrection, let us deepen our contemplation on His love and mercy in the passion and the resurrection.  Let us come to Jesus as He invites us, when He said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Mt 11:28)  May our contemplation on His death and resurrection lead us to share in His resurrection and glory as we die to ourselves with Him and find new life, love, and hope!

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
Image result for Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, bible, art, photos

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, February 17, 2018 — “If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted Then light shall rise for you in the darkness.”

February 16, 2018

Saturday after Ash Wednesday
Lectionary: 222


Image may contain: 1 person, sky and outdoor

Art: Walk With Me by Greg Olsen

Reading 1 IS 58:9B-14

Thus says the LORD:
If you remove from your midst oppression,
false accusation and malicious speech;
If you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
Then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday;
Then the LORD will guide you always
and give you plenty even on the parched land.
He will renew your strength,
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails.
The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake,
and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up;
“Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you,
“Restorer of ruined homesteads.”If you hold back your foot on the sabbath
from following your own pursuits on my holy day;
If you call the sabbath a delight,
and the LORD’s holy day honorable;
If you honor it by not following your ways,
seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice
Then you shall delight in the LORD,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

R. (11ab) Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.
Incline your ear, O LORD; answer me,
for I am afflicted and poor.
Keep my life, for I am devoted to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God.
R. Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.
Have mercy on me, O Lord,
for to you I call all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
R. Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.
Hearken, O LORD, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my pleading.
R. Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.

Verse Before The GospelEZ 33:11

I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, says the Lord,
but rather in his conversion, that he may live.

Image result for Jesus, Bible, art, pictures, And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him

Gospel  LK 5:27-32

Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.
Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house,
and a large crowd of tax collectors
and others were at table with them.
The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying,
“Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”
The Calling of Matthew
By Pope Benedict XVI

The call of Matthew and his following of Christ confirm that God offers his grace to sinners, and the biggest sinners can become the best saints


On Wednesday morning, 30 August, the Holy Father arrived by helicopter from his Summer Residence at Castel Gandolfo for the General Audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall. The Pope continued his Catecheses on the Church’s apostolic ministry, commenting this time on St. Matthew, the tax collector. The following is a translation of the Holy Father’s Catechesis, given in Italian.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Continuing the series of portraits of the Twelve Apostles that we began a few weeks ago, let us reflect today on Matthew. To tell the truth, it is almost impossible to paint a complete picture of him because the information we have of him is scarce and fragmentary. What we can do, however, is to outline not so much his biography as, rather, the profile of him that the Gospel conveys.

In the meantime, he always appears in the lists of the Twelve chosen by Jesus (cf. Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18; Lk 6:15; Acts 1:13).

His name in Hebrew means “gift of God”. The first canonical Gospel, which goes under his name, presents him to us in the list of the Twelve, labelled very precisely: “the tax collector” (Mt 10:3).

Thus, Matthew is identified with the man sitting at the tax office whom Jesus calls to follow him: “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, ‘Follow me’. And he rose and followed him” (Mt 9:9). Mark (cf. 2:13-17) and Luke (cf. 5:27-30), also tell of the calling of the man sitting at the tax office, but they call him “Levi”.

To imagine the scene described in Mt 9:9, it suffices to recall Caravaggio’s magnificent canvas, kept here in Rome at the Church of St. Louis of the French.

A further biographical detail emerges from the Gospels: in the passage that immediately precedes the account of the call, a miracle that Jesus worked at Capernaum is mentioned (cf. Mt 9:1-8; Mk 2:1-12) and the proximity to the Sea of Galilee, that is, the Lake of Tiberias (cf. Mk 2:13-14).

It is possible to deduce from this that Matthew exercised the function of tax collector at Capernaum, which was exactly located “by the sea” (Mt 4:13), where Jesus was a permanent guest at Peter’s house.

Offering God’s grace to sinners

On the basis of these simple observations that result from the Gospel, we can advance a pair of thoughts.

The first is that Jesus welcomes into the group of his close friends a man who, according to the concepts in vogue in Israel at that time, was regarded as a public sinner.

Matthew, in fact, not only handled money deemed impure because of its provenance from people foreign to the People of God, but he also collaborated with an alien and despicably greedy authority whose tributes moreover, could be arbitrarily determined.

This is why the Gospels several times link “tax collectors and sinners” (Mt 9:10; Lk 15:1), as well as “tax collectors and prostitutes” (Mt 21:31).

Furthermore, they see publicans as an example of miserliness (cf. Mt 5:46: they only like those who like them), and mention one of them, Zacchaeus, as “a chief tax collector, and rich” (Lk 19:2), whereas popular opinion associated them with “extortioners, the unjust, adulterers” (Lk 18:11).

A first fact strikes one based on these references: Jesus does not exclude anyone from his friendship. Indeed, precisely while he is at table in the home of Matthew-Levi, in response to those who expressed shock at the fact that he associated with people who had so little to recommend them, he made the important statement: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came, not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mk 2:17).

The good news of the Gospel consists precisely in this: offering God’s grace to the sinner!

Elsewhere, with the famous words of the Pharisee and the publican who went up to the Temple to pray, Jesus actually indicates an anonymous tax collector as an appreciated example of humble trust in divine mercy: while the Pharisee is boasting of his own moral perfection, the “tax collector… would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’”.

And Jesus comments: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 18:13-14).

Thus, in the figure of Matthew, the Gospels present to us a true and proper paradox: those who seem to be the farthest from holiness can even become a model of the acceptance of God’s mercy and offer a glimpse of its marvellous effects in their own lives.

St. John Chrysostom makes an important point in this regard: he notes that only in the account of certain calls is the work of those concerned mentioned. Peter, Andrew, James and John are called while they are fishing, while Matthew, while he is collecting tithes.

These are unimportant jobs, Chrysostom comments, “because there is nothing more despicable than the tax collector, and nothing more common than fishing” (In Matth. Hom.: PL 57, 363). Jesus’ call, therefore, also reaches people of a low social class while they go about their ordinary work.

Conversion: complete change

Another reflection prompted by the Gospel narrative is that Matthew responds instantly to Jesus’ call: “he rose and followed him”. The brevity of the sentence clearly highlights Matthew’s readiness in responding to the call. For him it meant leaving everything, especially what guaranteed him a reliable source of income, even if it was often unfair and dishonourable. Evidently, Matthew understood that familiarity with Jesus did not permit him to pursue activities of which God disapproved.

The application to the present day is easy to see: it is not permissible today either to be attached to things that are incompatible with the following of Jesus, as is the case with riches dishonestly achieved.

Jesus once said, mincing no words: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mt 19:21).

This is exactly what Matthew did: he rose and followed him! In this “he rose”, it is legitimate to read detachment from a sinful situation and at the same time, a conscious attachment to a new, upright life in communion with Jesus.

Lastly, let us remember that the tradition of the ancient Church agrees in attributing to Matthew the paternity of the First Gospel. This had already begun with Bishop Papias of Hierapolis in Frisia, in about the year 130.

He writes: “Matthew set down the words (of the Lord) in the Hebrew tongue and everyone interpreted them as best he could” (in Eusebius of Cesarea, Hist. Eccl. III, 39, 16).

Eusebius, the historian, adds this piece of information: “When Matthew, who had first preached among the Jews, decided also to reach out to other peoples, he wrote down the Gospel he preached in his mother tongue; thus, he aught to put in writing, for those whom he was leaving, what they would be losing with his departure” (ibid., III, 24, 6).

The Gospel of Matthew written in Hebrew or Aramaic is no longer extant, but in the Greek Gospel that we possess we still continue to hear, in a certain way, the persuasive voice of the publican Matthew, who, having become an Apostle, continues to proclaim God’s saving mercy to us. And let us listen to St. Matthew’s message, meditating upon it ever anew also to learn to stand up and follow Jesus with determination.

Taken from:
L’Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
6 September 2006, page 11

L’Osservatore Romano is the newspaper of the Holy See.
The Weekly Edition in English is published for the US by:

The Cathedral Foundation
L’Osservatore Romano English Edition
320 Cathedral St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
Subscriptions: (410) 547-5315
Fax: (410) 332-1069


Image may contain: 1 person, sitting

The Calling of Matthew By Caravaggio

The Calling of Saint Matthew Inspirations for the Work

The Calling of Saint Matthew Analysis

The Calling of Saint Matthew Critical Reception


Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
17 FEBRUARY, 2018, Saturday after Ash Wednesday

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ISAIAH 58:9-14PS 86:1-6LUKE 5:27-32 ]

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  How touching are these words spoken by our Lord.  He has come for the sick and for sinners.  This is a God who cares for us in our brokenness and in our sinfulness.  He came to heal us, body and soul.  He not only came to take away our infirmities but He came to take away our sins.   He came precisely for the tax-collectors and the sinners.  He came for the outcasts.  This is the reason for Jesus’ coming.   He is as what the first reading says, “Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”  Jesus came to reconcile us with God and with each other.  He came to repair our souls.

Levi the tax-collector was called by the Lord.  Jesus could have chosen better apostles and disciples to join Him.  But He came to call everyone irrespective of position and wealth.  Levi must have been moved by the Lord’s choice of him.  He was totally unworthy but the Lord counted him worthy.  This is how the Lord regards each one of us.  He wants us to follow Him.  No matter what our past was and our sins, the Lord is ever ready to forgive us and make us a new creation.  In His eyes, we are just ignorant and foolish.  He knows we are not conscious of our real identity as God’s children.

Hence, we should not be afraid to let go and allow Him to take over our lives.  This was what Levi did.   He “got up, left everything and followed him.”   Levi gave up his business and his security.  We can imagine the risk that Levi took in following Jesus.  He was giving up what sustained him all these years.  To give up one’s security and place our security in Jesus requires courage and faith.   Levi did that.  Without hesitation, when the Lord called him, he immediately responded and left his past and his security, his wealth and position to follow Jesus.  We, too, if we want to find new life, we must be ready to let go of our past and false security.   Many are not willing to give up their sins, their worldly pursuits and their pleasures because they think these give them happiness.  In fact, these are creating problems in their lives.  When we live in sin, we hurt ourselves and our loved ones.  When we are not living an honest life, there is no peace, joy or real security in this life.

The outcome of being loved and accepted by God is the feeling of joy, freedom and generosity.  We can imagine how Levi must have felt to be accepted by God.  All his life he was despised by his own people; and condemned as a sinner by the Jewish leaders.  Although he was making money, yet he had no friends.  He was considered an outcast and marginalized.  But with Jesus, he felt loved and accepted again.  This calls for a celebration. Any man who is in union with God is always joyful and at peace.  He wanted to celebrate.  For this reason, he called for a big banquet.

But Levi was not only celebrating for himself, he wanted his friends to celebrate with him.  So “Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.”  Levi wanted very much to share his new-found joy and freedom with his other tax-collectors.  He too had become a “Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”  Having been reconciled with the Lord, he became a bridge builder and a reconciler.  This was the same feeling of St Paul when he wrote, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”  (2 Cor 5:18-20)   We who have been healed and reconciled must now do the same for others by reaching out to those who are alienated from the Lord.  We must be reconcilers.

How can we be reconcilers during this season of Lent? Firstly, we must be reconciled ourselves.  We cannot bring peace to others when our hearts are not at peace.  We must therefore make ourselves available for the Lord to heal us.  He wants to cure us especially of our pride and selfishness.  The religious leaders could not find healing and they were not at peace within themselves because they were hypocritical. They found Jesus to be a threat to their insincerity.  So, before we can be reconcilers, we must humble ourselves to look for the divine physician.   We must be ready to admit that we are wrong and that we need healing.  As Jesus reminds us, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”  So in all humility we must come before the Lord to seek forgiveness.

For grave sins, the Lord will say to us, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” Many do not avail themselves of this sacrament of reconciliation, because of pride.  They know that they need to hear the words of forgiveness from God’s representative because they are human beings.  So let us not allow pride to imprison us.  We must not allow shame to have a hold over us for that is what the devil uses. We all need assurance from those appointed by God to know that our sins are forgiven.  We also need to unload and speak about our past and our sins so that we can be healed.  What is unknown and unspoken cannot be healed.  So, we must prepare ourselves so that with a contrite heart, we can make a good sacrament of reconciliation.  With courage and confidence, and with humility, we must pray for the grace of a good confession.  Find a good confessor and unload all your sins and you will find a peace and freedom that only God can give.

Secondly, we must be like Levi who became a bridge builder.  We must bring others to Jesus or bring Jesus to them.  Many are like the friends and colleagues of Levi.  They are lost, rejected and lonely.  Their lives are without meaning and purpose even though they might have all that they want.  We must find opportunities to introduce Jesus to such people.  We can be sure that many of Levi’s friends must have been touched by the Lord. We too can be the link between Jesus and those who are searching for the Lord.  If we have discovered Jesus and the difference He makes in our lives, it is only natural to introduce Him to others.  The failure to speak about Jesus to them means that we are not too sure whether Jesus can make any real difference in the lives of others.  Introducing them to Jesus is not proselytizing but just an offer, just as we tell people about a product that we bought and found to be good.

Finally, we can become healers of souls and bodies when we become the light that “rise in darkness.”  More importantly, we are now called to be living the life of Christ. This means that like Levi we must live a new life of justice and charity.  The Prophet Isaiah says, “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”   Instead of doing evil, oppressing people and blaming people for our woes, we should focus less on ourselves but on those who need our help.  Reaching out to those who are suffering will help us to identify with their pain and also to appreciate the blessings that we have received.  Charity covers a multitude of sins. (cf 1 Pt 4:8)

By doing good works, we help ourselves as much as we help others.  As we do good, our capacity to do more good will increase.  He will increase our capacity to do more.  “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”  So let our prayer be that of the psalmist, “Show me, Lord, your way so that I may walk in your truth. You are my God, have mercy on me, Lord, for I cry to you all the day long. O Lord, you are good and forgiving, full of love to all who call.  Give heed, O Lord, to my prayer and attend to the sound of my voice.”  With Levi, let us seek to follow Jesus and give glory to our God.  “If you call the Lord’s holy day honorable, if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord.”

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

Michael Phelps: ‘I am extremely thankful that I did not take my life’

January 19, 2018

Image result for Michael Phelps, photos

Updated 5:29 AM ET, Fri January 19, 2018

(CNN)  Far from the familiar waters of an Olympic pool, swimmer Michael Phelps shared the story of his personal encounter with depression at a mental health conference in Chicago this week.

“You do contemplate suicide,” the winner of 28 Olympic medals told a hushed audience at the fourth annual conference of the Kennedy Forum, a behavioral health advocacy group.
Interviewed at the conference by political strategist David Axelrod (who is a senior political commentator for CNN), Phelps’ 20-minute discussion highlighted his battle against anxiety, depression. and suicidal thoughts — and some questions about his athletic prowess.

The ‘easy’ part

Asked what it takes to become a champion, Phelps, 32, immediately replied, “I think that part is pretty easy — it’s hard work, dedication, not giving up.”
Pressed for more details, the Baltimore native described the moment his coach told his parents he could become an Olympian and he recalled the taste of defeat when losing a race by “less than half a second” at his first Olympics in Sydney in 2000, which meant returning home without a medal.
“I wanted to come home with hardware,” said Phelps, acknowledging this feeling helped him break his first world record at age 15 and later win his first gold medal at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004.
“I was always hungry, hungry, and I wanted more,” said Phelps. “I wanted to push myself really to see what my max was.”
Intensity has a price.
“Really, after every Olympics I think I fell into a major state of depression,” said Phelps when asked to pinpoint when his trouble began. He noticed a pattern of emotion “that just wasn’t right” at “a certain time during every year,” around the beginning of October or November, he said. “I would say ’04 was probably the first depression spell I went through.”
That was the same year that Phelps was charged with driving under the influence, Axelrod reminded the spellbound audience.
And there was a photo taken in fall 2008 — just weeks after he’d won a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics — that showed Phelps smoking from a bong. He later apologized and called his behavior “regrettable.”
Drugs were a way of running from “whatever it was I wanted to run from,” he said. “It would be just me self-medicating myself, basically daily, to try to fix whatever it was that I was trying to run from.”
Phelps punctuated his wins at the Olympic games in 2004, 2008 and 2012 with self-described “explosions.”
If you suspect someone may be at risk:

1. Do not leave the person alone.

2. Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.

3. Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

4. Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.

Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. For more tips and warning signs,click here.


The “hardest fall” was after the 2012 Olympics, said Phelps. “I didn’t want to be in the sport anymore … I didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
What that “all-time low” looked like was Phelps sitting alone for “three to five days” in his bedroom, not eating, barely sleeping and “just not wanting to be alive,” he said.
Finally, Phelps knew he needed help.

‘I wasn’t ready’


“I remember going to treatment my very first day, I was shaking, shaking because I was nervous about the change that was coming up,” Phelps told Axelrod. “I needed to figure out what was going on.”
His first morning in treatment, a nurse woke him at 6 a.m. and said, “Look at the wall and tell me what you feel.”
On the wall hung eight basic emotions, he recalled.
“How do you think I feel right now, I’m pretty ticked off, I’m not happy, I’m not a morning person,” he angrily told the nurse, laughing now at the memory.
Once he began to talk about his feelings, “life became easy.” Phelps told Axelrod, “I said to myself so many times, ‘Why didn’t I do this 10 years ago?’ But, I wasn’t ready.”
“I was very good at compartmentalizing things and stuffing things away that I didn’t want to talk about, I didn’t want to deal with, I didn’t want to bring up — I just never ever wanted to see those things,” said Phelps.
He has implemented stress management into programs offered by the Michael Phelps Foundation, and works with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Today he understands that “it’s OK to not be OK” and that mental illness “has a stigma around it and that’s something we still deal with every day,” said Phelps. “I think people actually finally understand it is real.
People are talking about it and I think this is the only way that it can change.”


“That’s the reason why suicide rates are going up — people are afraid to talk and open up,” said Phelps.
Today, by sharing his experience he has the chance to reach people and save lives — “and that’s way more powerful,” he said.
“Those moments and those feelings and those emotions for me are light years better than winning the Olympic gold medal,” said Phelps.
“I am extremely thankful that I did not take my life.”

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, January 3, 2018 — “We shall be like Him.” — “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

January 2, 2018

January 3, 2018
Christmas Weekday
Lectionary: 206

Image may contain: one or more people, sky and outdoor

Art: Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist ~ artist Val Bochkov

Reading 1  1 JN 2:29–3:6

If you consider that God is righteous,
you also know that everyone who acts in righteousness
is begotten by him.

See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.
The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure,
as he is pure.

Everyone who commits sin commits lawlessness,
for sin is lawlessness.
You know that he was revealed to take away sins,
and in him there is no sin.
No one who remains in him sins;
no one who sins has seen him or known him.

Responsorial Psalm PS 98:1, 3CD-4, 5-6

R. (3cd) All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
R. All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.
R. All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.
Sing praise to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and melodious song.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
sing joyfully before the King, the LORD.
R. All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.

Alleluia  JN 1:14A, 12A

 R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us.
To those who accepted him
he gave power to become the children of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Image may contain: 3 people, outdoor
John baptizing Jesus, by Guido Reni

Gospel JN 1:29-34

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
He is the one of whom I said,
‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’
I did not know him,
but the reason why I came baptizing with water
was that he might be made known to Israel.”
John testified further, saying,
“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky
and remain upon him.
I did not know him,
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”


Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore


3 JANUARY, 2018, Wednesday, Weekday of Christmas Time


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 JOHN 2:29-3:6PSALM 98JOHN 1:29-34  ]

“Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are.”  This is such great news for all, regardless of whether we are Catholic or otherwise.  In these words, we confess that all of us are children of God and we have the same Father.  This is what the Lord said, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  (Mt 5:44f)

But this reality is not known to all; especially for those without faith.  This is because they do not know that God is their Father.  Cut off from God, they live a life without origin, identity and destiny.  They do not know who they are.  Without knowing their identity and origin, how can anyone live a purposeful and meaningful life?  For them, life on earth is just doing without being; surviving and waiting for the day to depart from this world forever.  They reduce themselves to living a life of an animal; working, eating, enjoying and sleeping.  There is no meaning to life beyond this.

For this reason Jesus came to reveal to us our identity by showing us the Father.  “I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them to me, and they have kept thy word.”  (Jn 17:6)  “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves.”  (Jn 14:10f)

However, this presupposes that we believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. This is because “no one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.”  (Jn 1:18)  In another text, Jesus said, “All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”  (Mt 11:27)  Necessarily, to know the Father, we must come to believe in Jesus.  “And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” (Jn 17:3)

Jesus not only reveals to us the identity of the Father, He shows us the Way to the Father.  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.”  (Jn 14:6f)  By His life, passion, death and resurrection, Jesus points the way to the love of the Father.

If we claim to be God’s children, we must become who we are.  So while in principle we are God’s children, we have not fully arrived at who we are.  Christian life is a process and a journey of reclaiming our sonship and daughtership in Christ.  St John reiterates this when he wrote, “we are already the children of God but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that when it is revealed we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is.”  Becoming Christ, so that we will be truly God’s adopted children not just in name but in fact, is a lifelong process.  How can we become more like Christ and share in His sonship?  Not by our power but by His Might.

Firstly, we must recognize our lack of capacity to do the right thing.  Just because we know the law and what is right, does not mean that we can do it or follow the law always.  We are in many ways powerless when temptations come.  So we are sinners and will always remain sinners.  But so long as we are striving to overcome our imperfections, God will forgive us our sins.  God wants to assure us that in Christ, He has already forgiven us, so long as we are repentant of our weaknesses, even though we might fall again and again.  He is “the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”   Jesus who is that unblemished lamb, was offered as a sacrifice for the atonement of our sins.  In Christ, His death on the cross cancelled all our sins when He showed us the mercy of God.  Indeed, St John said,  “Now you know that he appeared in order to abolish sin, and that in him there is no sin.”

As we come to know Jesus more and more, we will sin less and less.  His love and mercy for us will give us the capacity to do everything that the law requires, not out of fear but out of love and understanding of the truth.  Truly, “anyone who sins has never seen him or known him.”   Knowing Jesus is what helps us to walk more closely with Him.  Jesus is “the true light that enlightens every man.”  (Jn 1:9)   “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”  (1 Jn 1:6f)

But Christian life is not just a matter of exercising the will and making efforts to follow the way of Christ.  We are given that capacity to live the life of Christ.  “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  (1 Jn 1:12)  How is one born of God if not through the Holy Spirit?  Jesus told Nicodemus, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”  (Jn 3:5f)  Only the Holy Spirit can give us the capacity to live the life of Christ.  For this reason, John the Baptist made it clear that purification by baptism of water, which he was administering to the people, was only a symbolic expression of repentance and the forgiveness of sins.   But he said, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is going to baptize with the Holy Spirit.”  Jesus is the One who can bestow upon us the gift of sonship and daughtership in the Holy Spirit.

Indeed, as Christians we can truly rejoice in our salvation.  With the psalmist, we too sing, “Sing a new song to the Lord for he has worked wonders. His right hand and his holy arm have brought salvation.  All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Shout to the Lord, all the earth, ring out your joy. Sing psalms to the Lord with the harp with the sound of music. With trumpets and the sound of the horn acclaim the King, the Lord.”  In Christ, we are saved because He enlightens us in the truth, shows us the way and empowers us to walk the way of the Spirit.  Following Jesus, we will come to the fullness of truth and love, and at the end of our journey come to meet the Father face to face.  We shall be like Jesus because we shall see Him as He really is.

In the meantime, let us also invite others to come to know the Lord.  We are called to witness to Jesus as John the Baptist did when he said in no uncertain terms, “Yes, I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God.”  We too have seen the Lord and so we are called to invite others to reclaim their dignity as God’s children. John the Baptist recognized that he was only a precursor to the coming of Christ.  “A man is coming after me who ranks before me because he existed before me.  It was to reveal him to Israel that I came baptizing with water.”   We must be humble in recognizing who we are and our calling in life.   We must not pretend to be what we are not.  Like John the Baptist, we must recognize our sinfulness and our limitations.  Nevertheless, having found new meaning in Christ, we are called to point others to Jesus by living out our sonship and daughtership.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh





Reflection from The Abbot in The Desert

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Jesus is our Lord!  John the Baptist gives this testimony but it also reflects the testimony of the whole of Jewish Scripture, which we call our Old Testament.  Jesus is God with us, Emmanuel.  Jesus comes to take the burden of our sins on Himself and becomes the Paschal Lamb.  All of this simply reflects the fact that God loves us and give Himself to us and for us.  And we can respond:  Thanks be to God.

The Gospel of Saint John speaks to us today about John the Baptist once more, but in a special way.  John the Baptist is called to point to the Lord, the Messiah.  Today John the Baptist is so clear:  Jesus is the One that I have been proclaiming.  Listen to Him.

Just as Jesus is called to fulfill the will of the Father, so also we are called to live in our personal lives the call that God has put within us.  Holiness is not about doing things but about responding to God because God has called us.  Jesus is also called, even as He is the one who calls.  Jesus always leads us to our Father.

What we must always remember is that the path which we are called to walk is always a path of suffering.  We must die to ourselves in order to live more in God and in Christ Jesus.  Most of are not happy about suffering and so we often do not embrace the Lord.  May this New Year help us all embrace the Lord fully and walk with Him on the way to salvation.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

Monastery of Christ in the Desert


Commentary on John 1:29-34 from Living Space

Yesterday we saw John the Baptist denying that he was the Messiah or any of the great prophets. Today he gives testimony to Jesus as the one he had been talking about.

The Baptist’s positive testimony about Jesus.

The passage begins with “The next day…”. We mentioned already that the opening section of John up to the wedding at Cana represents a week, echoing the seven days of creation in Genesis. We will see that phrase occurring three more times in the first chapter and that brings us to the fourth day of the week. There is then a gap but the wedding at Cana is introduced as taking place “on the third day”, that is, after the previous four, and hence is the seventh day.

As John saw Jesus approaching he said to those around him, “Look, there is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Another feature of this first chapter is that the author introduces the various titles of Jesus which he uses later on.

Why the Lamb? The central feature of the Jewish Passover feast was the lamb which was eaten during the Passover meal. It recalled the lamb which the families of the Israelites ate on the eve of their escape from Egypt and whose blood was painted on the doorposts of their houses. When the angel of God came to destroy all the firstborn, it “passed over” the houses of the Israelites, which had been smeared with the lamb’s blood. This became then a symbol of liberation and one of the most important celebrations in the Jewish calendar.

For us, however, there is now a new symbol of liberation, a new Lamb. Jesus is both the offerer of the sacrifice and its victim and his death and resurrection inaugurate a New Covenant between God and his people. It is perhaps significant that in all the gospel accounts of the Last Supper there is no mention of a lamb being eaten during the meal. Because there was, of course, a new Lamb, who told his companions to take and eat, take and drink the bread and wine “handed over for you”. And it is through the blood of this Lamb that we find salvation and liberation.

The title Lamb of God also recalls the suffering servant led like a lamb to the slaughter which we read about in Isaiah (53:7,10). In Revelation, too, we read of the victorious apocalyptic lamb who will destroy the evil in the world (Revelation 5-7; 17:14).

The Baptist then indicates the superiority of Jesus over himself. “He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man existed before me’.” In the context of the Prologue we read earlier, this is an intimation of Jesus’ pre-existence as the Word with God. (For, chronologically, John was slightly older than Jesus.) John also explains why he was baptising; it was to make Jesus known to the people of Israel. His baptism did not have the power to forgive sin; this would be the prerogative of Jesus and his disciples. (He also says that up to this he had not known Jesus, which conflicts with the other gospels, where he is presented as a close relative.)

He then continues to talk about the baptism of Jesus, whereas the event itself is described in Matthew and Luke. He says he personally saw the Spirit of God come down on Jesus like a dove and it stayed with him, indicating the enduring relationship between God and his Father. The dove is a symbol of new life, recalling the dove which brought the olive branch back to Noah’s ark and indicated that the Flood was over. At the same time, the One who told John to baptise with water also said that the One on whom the Spirit came down would in turn baptise with the Holy Spirit. And the Baptist concludes: “Now I have seen and give witness that he is the Son of God.” Here we have another title of Jesus.

Each one of us has also received the same Spirit in our baptism. It was that Spirit which inspired Jesus in all his Messianic work climaxing in his death on the cross. May the same Spirit inspire us to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and join with him in his work to build the Kingdom.



Just Before Christmas — Remember to Choose Joy — The true joy which the world cannot give or take away

December 22, 2017
Image may contain: 3 people
 / 05:04 AM December 17, 2017

The story is told about a little boy who was throwing a terrible tantrum in a plane that was getting ready for departure. Nothing and no one could do anything, until an elderly man in an Army uniform came up to the boy and whispered something in his ear—whereupon the child stopped screaming and started behaving like a lamb.  When asked by the stewardess what he had said to the boy, the elderly man said: “I told him that I am a decorated war hero, and that I am entitled and authorized to throw out of the plane door any passenger I want.”

In today’s Gospel (John 1, 6-8, 19-28), we hear of how people listened to John the Baptist in earnest. Not only that: They began changing their ways and behaving better. John the Baptist was a man with a mission, and a clear message. What made him such a powerful preacher?  He spoke his truth quietly and clearly, and he was a man who walked his talk.  Indeed, actions speak louder than words.

“Words move people but example draws people.”  How true!  We, modern-day preachers, have much to learn from John the Baptist.  More than eloquence, gimmicks, or gadgets, what we need to have is a clear and simple message, and the appropriate lifestyle that goes with it.

Image result for father Jerry M. Orbos SVD, photos

We just celebrated Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday, and we light the third (pink) candle of the Advent wreath to remind us that joy is one of the marks of a true Christian.  Let our wait for the birth of our Savior be filled with expectant joy.  In spite of trials, difficulties, setbacks, or oppressions, let us rejoice and be glad because we have a God who knows everything. He is with us and He loves us.

“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (Thessalonians 5:16).  What is the secret of joy?  A person who is prayerful, who is grateful, and who is obedient to God’s will is a joyful person!

We pray to the Lord today as we light the candle of joy, to give us “joy in the face of apathy, joy in the face of sorrows, and joy in the face of uncertainty.”  Yes, let the joy of the Lord be our strength.

By the way, true joy is a choice we make, a grace we receive, and it is not dependent on people or situations around us.  As we prepare for Christmas, may we experience true joy which the world cannot give or take away. And may we spread joy to people around us in the most beautiful time of the year. Yes, may we become radiators of joy!

Sharing with you this joyful prayer: “Because of you, God … I can smile in my storms; I can pray in my persecutions; I can be gracious in my grief; I can dance in my depression.  I can praise in my prison; I can sing in my sickness; I can clap while I bear my cross; I can worship in my weakness. Amen.”

Someone suggested that as we prepare for Christmas, let us focus less on buying presents and more on being present; less on buying food and more on donating food; less on partying and more on praying;  less on decorations and more on our relations; less on getting and more on giving. Any more suggestions?  Perhaps you can make your own suggestions to make Christmas less a holiday and more a holy day?

“For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son” (Jn. 3:16).  This is what Christmas is all about, and it’s all about a God who chose to get involved with us, His lowly creatures. In response to His tremendous love, let us all strive to love Him, and to love others because we are brothers and sisters, with Him as our Father.

For those of us who are missing loved ones especially at Christmas, let us thank God for the gift of eternal life, with the promise that we will all meet again someday.  And as we ourselves don’t know when we will go, let us make this Christmas our best Christmas ever.  Let us not postpone our conversion, and let us not postpone our loving.

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, with all the sham, drudgery, and broken dreams around us, let us choose joy, and choose to spread joy! Amen.

No automatic alt text available.

Read more:
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, December 17, 2017 — “He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives…”

December 16, 2017

Third Sunday of Advent
Lectionary: 8

Image result for rejoice in the lord always! Again I say rejoice, art, pictures

In all circumstances give thanks for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus

Reading 1  IS 61:1-2A, 10-11

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.I rejoice heartily in the LORD,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice,
like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,
like a bride bedecked with her jewels.
As the earth brings forth its plants,
and a garden makes its growth spring up,
so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise
spring up before all the nations.

Responsorial Psalm  LK 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54

R. (Is 61:10b) My soul rejoices in my God.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
R. My soul rejoices in my God.
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
R. My soul rejoices in my God.
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.
R. My soul rejoices in my God.

Reading 2  1 THES 5:16-24

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit.
Do not despise prophetic utterances.
Test everything; retain what is good.
Refrain from every kind of evil.

May the God of peace make you perfectly holy
and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body,
be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful,
and he will also accomplish it.

Alleluia  IS 61:1 (CITED IN LK 4:18)

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 1:6-8, 19-28

A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.And this is the testimony of John.
When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests
and Levites to him
to ask him, “Who are you?”
He admitted and did not deny it,
but admitted, “I am not the Christ.”
So they asked him,
“What are you then? Are you Elijah?”
And he said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
So they said to him,
“Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?
What do you have to say for yourself?”
He said:
“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘make straight the way of the Lord,'”

as Isaiah the prophet said.”
Some Pharisees were also sent.
They asked him,
“Why then do you baptize
if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?”
John answered them,
“I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”
This happened in Bethany across the Jordan,
where John was baptizing.


Image may contain: one or more people and text


Homily From The Abbott At The Monastery of Christ in the Desert

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

The Prophet Isaiah gives us the theme for reflection today: “In my God is the joy of my soul.” When that is true in our lives, we are walking the road and we know the truth of these words from the same Prophet: “He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God.”

This great Prophet Isaiah believed with his whole being that God would send salvation and redemption for His people. Each one of us can have that same trust and confidence in God: God loves us and will bring us salvation. God invites us to live according to His laws and His wisdom—let us walk the way of the Lord!

This is the 3rd Sunday of Advent and called “Gaudete” Sunday in Latin. It is a Sunday of rejoicing. The entrance song for some centuries was always from the Letter to the Philippians: Rejoice in the Lord always!  Again, I say, rejoice!

The second reading this Sunday picks up the theme of rejoicing: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.” We need to hear both of these realities: rejoice and pray! We can only rejoice always if we are praying without ceasing. God is not asking the impossible of us. We are able to walk through a normal day while keeping Him always in our heart. It is not easy and we shall fail but when we see that God is not in our heart, we can invite Him once more to make us aware of His presence. In that way, we can rejoice and pray all the day long.

The Gospel from Saint John today brings us back to Saint John the Baptist. John the Baptist was a central focus of the Gospel last Sunday and once again is here for us to consider. We should note that John the Baptist is not at all concerned about being considered great or important. His one concern is to point to Jesus Christ: the One who is to come, whose sandal strap he is unworthy to untie.

Saint John the Baptist is a saint of joy because he points always to Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. We also can become people of joy when our lives point to Jesus our Lord. We don’t have to be perfect but we do have to keep pointing to the Lord. Just as in the life of John the Baptist, the more we decrease, the more the Lord may increase. It is a challenge for us to live in such a way that we are always witness to the presence of God and God’s love.

The Offertory in the Latin Mass is clear: “Lord, you have blessed your land. You have forgiven the iniquity of your people.” It is because God loves us and forgives us that we can rejoice and be glad. It is because Jesus invites us to live His life that our lives can be witnesses to Him. Let us rejoice and be glad this Sunday as we delight in God’s love.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip






Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
17 DECEMBER, 2017, Sunday, 3rd Week of Advent

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ISA 61:1-2.10-11; 1 THESS 5:16-24JN 1:6-8.19-28  ]

We are mid-way into our preparation for Christmas. This Sunday, which is the third Sunday of Advent, is celebrated as Gaudete Sunday, which means a Sunday of rejoicing.  To mark the change in sentiment, the liturgical color for this Sunday is pink, a symbol of joy.  Indeed, all the three readings for this Sunday echo the theme of  joy.  In the first reading, the prophet says, “I exult for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God, for he has clothed me in the garments of salvation, he has wrapped me in the cloak of integrity, like a bridegroom wearing his wreath, like a bride adorned in her jewels.”  In the responsorial psalm taken from the magnificat, Mary sang for joy. “My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour. He looks on his servant in her nothingness; henceforth all ages will call me blessed.”  In the second reading, St Paul urges the Christians, “Be happy at all times.”  Of course, the fullness of joy comes at Christmas when we celebrate the birth of Christ and most of all, the birth of Christ in our hearts.

However, this does not mean that from now until Christmas we live a life of sadness and emptiness.  The Church invites us to anticipate the joy of Christmas here and now.  Indeed, the truth of every great celebration is not just the day of the celebration itself, which of course is the climax.  Rather, the joy of the celebration is dependent on two factors; the preparation before it and the day itself.  Both are very much inter-related.  The depth of the joy of the day of the celebration is very much dependent on how much we have prepared ourselves for it.  On the other hand, in the very act of the preparation, we are already entering into the joy of the celebration.

This is true in a wedding, the symbol of joy as mentioned in today’s first reading.  The climax of the celebration in a person’s life is his or her wedding.  But it takes months, if not years, to come to this day.  There are so many things to be done before the wedding day.  The relationship between the couple must be intensified.  Rough corners and disagreements must be sorted and ironed out.  Reconciliation and forgiveness for each other’s negligence or wrongs should take place before the wedding so that the couple can start on a new chapter.  Then there is the material preparation for the wedding, the dinner, the gowns, the invitations, etc.  Most of all, the couple needs spiritual preparation for their wedding so that they know what they are entering into, their commitments, responsibilities and the important role that God and faith play in their relationship.   Until all these have been done, the couple would not be ready to enter into marriage.

This is the real problem facing marriages today.  Many are taking marriage lightly and that is why many marriages do not last. Today, there is a tendency to secularize the wedding and make it into a mundane and everyday affair.  The solemnity and sacredness of the wedding is emptied from the celebration.  Many think that the wedding is an entertainment.  They marry in the sky, in the sea, underneath the water, on the cliff, etc.   There is no seriousness in wanting the marriage to last.  There is a lack of emotional and spiritual preparation of the couple for the wedding.  Many get married when they are emotionally not ready, because they are still suffering the loss of a previous relationship and in their vacuum, they readily jump into another relationship.   When marriages are not well prepared, we do not expect any solemn celebration.  It is just another social gathering.

But if there is preparation, the marriage will become sacred and meaningful.  The love that is celebrated on the wedding day will be intense.  Most of all, the preparations for the wedding itself will bring great joy for the couple as they get ready for that big day together, sharing the joys, the difficulties and the partnership.

What is true for the celebration of marriage is true for all other celebrations, especially the feast of Christmas.  The question is whether we are seriously preparing for the feast of Christmas.  This is what the Church is asking of us through John the Baptist.  The gospel tells us, “A man came, sent by God. His name was John.  He came as a witness, as a witness to speak for the light, so that everyone might believe through him. He was not the light, only a witness to speak for the light.”   It is the task of John the Baptist to do what the prophet Isaiah said, to be “a voice that cries in the wilderness: Make a straight way for the Lord.”

The work of John the Baptist was to prepare the people to meet the bridegroom.  The Church is called the bride of God and Jesus is our bridegroom.  St John calls himself the friend of the bridegroom.  He said later, “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full. He must increase, but I must decrease.”  (Jn 3:28-30)

How can we be prepared to meet the bridegroom?  What kind of wedding preparations must we make to welcome the bridegroom on Christmas day?  Firstly, we need to “make a straight way for the Lord.”  This was what St Paul wrote to the Christians, “Hold on to what is good and avoid every form of evil. May the God of peace make you perfect and holy; and may you all be kept safe and blameless, spirit, soul and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. God has called you and he will not fail you.”  If we want to enter into the joy of Christmas, and to welcome the birth of Jesus in our hearts, we must free our hearts from all sins, evil and selfishness.  When we live a life of integrity, there will be peace and joy in our hearts.  This is what the prophet says, “I exult for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God, for he has clothed me in the garments of salvation, he has wrapped me in the cloak of integrity, like a bridegroom wearing his wreath, like a bride adorned in her jewels.”   Without living a life of integrity and honesty, our conscience will haunt us and take away whatever joy and peace the Lord wants to give to us at Christmas.  If we have begun to walk a straight path, we are already entering into the joy of the Lord.

Secondly, we need to pray.  St Paul said, “Be happy at all times; pray constantly.”  There can be no peace in our hearts unless we make space for Him in our hearts and in our minds.  The problem is that our hearts and minds are cluttered with worries, anxieties, unforgiveness, anger, resentment, envy and greed.   We need to make time for prayer.  Give yourself a break, a real holiday by spending a day or even a few days in solitude and prayer, whether in a retreat house or in the garden, or take a walk or sit before the Blessed Sacrament.  We need to have some quiet time each day, especially when we come to the end of the year.  We need to take stock of how we have lived our life this entire year.  We need to rethink and reprioritize the way we live our lives.  Unless we live purposeful and meaningful lives, we cannot find happiness and peace.  Prayer gives us peace, direction, focus and most of all, surrender to the plan of God.

Thirdly, we must give thanks.  St Paul says, “And for all things give thanks to God, because this is what God expects you to do in Christ Jesus.”   Unless, we know how to thank God for the gifts which we have received, we will not be grateful to Him.  Happiness in life is about thanksgiving.  Those of us who are ingrates are always looking at what we do not have instead of what we already have.  When we give thanks, we become grateful for what we have received and we are open to God who wants to give us more.  When we are grateful, we also become generous ourselves. We begin to share with others what we have received.  By sharing with others our joys, our resources, our wealth and our things, we in turn receive the joy of making a difference in the lives of others.  We become happier when we act like God in being life-givers, bringers of joy and peace into the lives of others.  That is why we invite people to give gifts to each other at Christmas, especially to the poor, so that we can partake in His joy of giving and loving.

Finally, we must ask for a renewal of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  St John the Baptist said, “I baptise with water; but there stands among you – unknown to you – the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo his sandal-strap.”  St Luke elaborated, “I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”  (Lk 3:16)   To ask for the Holy Spirit is to ask for a rebirth.  The baptism of John the Baptist brings about the forgiveness of sins.  Christian baptism brings about the bestowal of the Holy Spirit.  This is what it means to speak about Christ being born again in our hearts.

This is what will enable us to be like John the Baptist, to be a witness to Christ.  Like the Messiah prophesied in the first reading, we can also say, “The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken; to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to those in prison; to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.”  We must allow the Spirit and His gifts to be used for the service of God and our people.   As we bring Christ to others, we reinforce the Christ in us.  It is the Holy Spirit living in us that will ensure we bear fruits in our mission.  “For as the earth makes fresh things grow, as a garden makes seeds spring up, so will the Lord make both integrity and praise spring up in the sight of the nations.”

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
Image may contain: one or more people, outdoor and nature
The Good Samaritan by Walter Rane.
Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
13 DECEMBER 2015, 3rd Sunday of Advent

SCRIPTURE READINGS: ZEPH 3:14-18; PHIL 4:4-7; LK 3:10-18

We have just passed the halfway mark of Advent.  This third Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as “Rejoice Sunday”. What is the reason for the Church’s joy this Sunday?  Simply this: because the Lord is very near.   Yes, we have every reason to be happy today because God has forgiven us unconditionally.  There is no need to think of our past.  We must let go of our crippling past, which is our greatest enemy, so that the new life of joy and happiness can be ours.  We need not let fear and guilt control our lives.  We must not allow our narrow outlook of life and resentment to blind us to the goodness that God has given to us.

For this reason, the mood of today’s liturgy is one of joy and festival.  We might think that we are hopeless, great sinners and condemned to a life of misery and unhappiness.  But to us all, the scriptures want to tell us that happiness is within our reach.  Happiness is so near to us.  God is coming into our hearts.  But we must open our hearts to receive Him.

How?  By removing the obstacles that prevent Him from coming into our lives and being present to us; for it is His absence that results in emptiness and sadness since there is no love in us.  What then are these obstacles?

Firstly, we must remove the obstacle of selfishness and a closed heart.  This is what John demanded of the people.  He said, “If anyone has two tunics he must share with the one who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.”  In saying this, John is not simply asking us to share our abundance.  He is not saying, “You have three shirts, please give away one.”  No, he is saying, “Keep only one for yourself.  The rest, please give to those who do not have.”  In other words, John is saying that anything above our basic needs must be shared with others.

The truth is that unless we have a compassionate, loving and generous heart, we cannot share the heart of Christ.  The inability to share and to love will make us inward looking.  As a result, we become cut off not only from God but from others as well.  To be able to have a greater capacity to love and to share means to have a larger heart, which is to share in the heart of God.

Secondly, John says that we must live an honest life.  To the tax collectors, John said, “Exact no more than your rate.”  Why?  Because it was bad enough that they were collecting taxes for the Romans, their oppressors but to collect more than what they should so that they could keep the balance for themselves is to cheat the poor and increase the misery of the poor.  The flip side of this dishonesty and greed is that we will find no peace in our hearts.  We will live in guilt and fear.  Indeed, without a life of honesty and integrity, we cannot find peace in our hearts.  We live in fear that one day the truth might be out.

Thirdly, we are called to live a contented life.  Indeed, contentment is a necessary pre-requisite for happiness.  When we are not contented with what we have, then we become envious, jealous and greedy.  We begin to find fault with others.  We become vindictive and revengeful.  Some of us might even use unscrupulous means to get what we want.  As a result not only do we create competitors and enemies, robbing ourselves of our happiness, but also the happiness of others.  Contentment is the key to peace and happiness in our hearts.

But how can we live a compassionate, honest and contented life?  If we rely only on our own strength, we will fail.  Humanly speaking, most of us are self-centered and discontented in life.  For this reason, we need to pray.  Yes, we need to pray for the grace of God to remove those obstacles in our lives that prevent us from being happy and at peace within ourselves.  What then should we pray for?

We must pray for the virtue of humility, which is the ultimate antidote to removing these blocks to happiness in our lives.  For good reason, therefore, St Paul urges us to pray with thanksgiving.   Unless, we are grateful to God, we cannot be open to others, we cannot be contented nor be generous with others.  Gratitude is a pre-requisite for compassion and generosity.

Why is humility so essential for us to overcome our unhappiness in life?  Only humility can make us compassionate, for we recognize whom we are and how much God has blessed us.   And because of what God has done for us in our poverty, we too begin to feel with and for others; especially when God had reached out to us in the first place through others.

Secondly, only humility can make us recognize our selfishness and our pride.  Very often we do not know the reason for our resentment against others.  We do not know why we are angry with them.  We find all kinds of excuses to justify our anger and unhappiness.  But quite often, when we examine deeper the reasons for our anger, it boils down to nothing else but pride and greed.  Being humble enables us to acknowledge the root of our problems and this prevents us from finding scapegoats to exonerate ourselves.

Thirdly, only humility can grant us the joy of contentment.  To be contented with what we already have is the secret to real happiness in life.  Contentment comes when we recognize that we are not deserving of what we have.  Instead of always thinking that we have not been paid enough or that we have not been given our rights, we must be grateful for all the blessings that we already have received.  Without the gift of contentment, we will always be hankering for more.  This will only increase our envy of others and bitterness in life.  Thus, when we are contented, we live an integral life and honest life.

But most of all, humility is the key to allowing the power of God to work in our lives.  When we are humble, we become more open to God’s grace.  Thus, when St Paul asks us to pray with thanksgiving, he is asking us to pray with faith that we have already received what we have prayed for. To pray with the expectation of our prayers being answered implies that we have surrendered ourselves to the Lord and we know that He will always grant us all that we need and is good for us.  And those petitions that He will not grant us, we consider them as not in accordance with His will because it will not bring us real happiness and joy.

Thus, when we have removed all these obstacles, the chaff of the wheat, as John would put it, then we will find the Lord is so near to us, in our midst and in our hearts.  Truly, like the Israelites who had been purified during their time of exile, we who are purified of our selfishness, guilt and greed will find the love and joy of God in us. His presence becomes real because we would have acquired His Spirit of love and compassion.

With the felt presence of God’s love in our hearts, we will naturally be freed from all anxiety. The anxieties and the ensuing fear in our lives will simply disappear by themselves because we live in trust in divine providence.  We will have the confidence that somehow the Lord is watching over us and protecting us.  With that confidence, we need not allow greed to dominate our lives.  Only trust in divine providence can truly free us from dishonesty, greed and selfishness, which are the fruits of fear of destruction.  With fear destroyed, now we will be able to love, to share and have compassion for others.

But above everything else, when we are filled with the Spirit of God, we will experience the peace of God in our hearts.  Yes, it is this peace within ourselves that will truly make us happy.  With peace in our hearts, we will look at others and this whole world with peace too.  Peace in our hearts empowers us to look at life, our sufferings and even our enemies differently.  We will no longer see them with hatred but with understanding, compassion and detachment.  That is why St Paul says that only the peace of God can guard our hearts and thoughts because we will be able to look at life with a horizon beyond ourselves.

Truly, with the presence of God within us, then we know that God is so near.  The more He is present to us, the nearer Christmas is for us.  This is because at Christmas we celebrate the Emmanuel, God with us, but not only with us but also in us.  So if we have not yet been purified of those chaffs in our lives, let us continue to pray with thanksgiving as Paul urges us so that by the time Christmas arrives, He would have been borne in our hearts once again; a birth that entails the giving of His Spirit peace, love and joy.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh




Gratitude Is Joyful Expectation of What Comes Next

November 23, 2017

No automatic alt text available.

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’ll believe it when I see it!” ? Perhaps you’ve even said that at one time or another. I know that’s just an expression, but the bible says, ‘out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks’.(Luke 6:45) Truthfully, there’s not any faith in that statement. Faith is, first, believing THEN seeing. Which is a hard thing for a lot of people to do. Let me just say that once someone comes to the place of being truly, in sincere confidence, they will see the results of their belief. That’s where faith and hope meet.

There are numerous people that think hoping is a desperate cry for their desire. These are the individuals that believe lamenting, longing, and yearning IS hope. Hope is really: Confident Joyous Expectation!  Think about that! Confidence – true trust, belief, and certainty.  It’s where we just know that we know!  Joyous – that place of happiness that nothing can deprive us from rejoicing. Expectation – the eager excitement of knowing we have something.  Heb. 11:1 (AMP) “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  In other words, faith is the practical expression of our confidence in God and His Word.  We may not actually SEE what we are believing, but we BELIEVE we already have it.  That’s faith! Because it doesn’t take faith to believe for something we already possess.

When we can begin to Praise the Lord and express our thanksgiving for something we are believing, before we actually have it, that’s genuine faith.  And faith pleases God! (Heb. 11:6) Our exhibition of trust through praise and thanksgiving is acknowledging what God has done, is doing and will do!

Remember Faith is like a seed, when it’s planted, the changes in that seed take place below the surface before it happens above the surface.  Our faith activated by our praise and thanksgiving is working in the unseen realm before it’s manifest in the seen realm.

I encourage you today to remain in faith, keep your conversation on what God’s promise is to you (don’t say anything about what you see), thank Him and praise Him for the result of your belief. Someone, just said, “so when do I stop?”  When you receive it! Never give up, never faint – God IS faithful!


Beyond Thankful: Cultivating a Life of Gratitude

November 13, 2017

Gratitude can strengthen the immune system, improve sleep and reduce stress and depression. But to reap the benefits, you have to express your thanks

A simple “thank you” isn’t always enough.

Yolanda Avram Willis has spent much of the past two decades finding out as much as she could about the families who risked their lives to save her Jewish family during the Nazi occupation of their island home of Greece. She wanted to chronicle their good deeds and give thanks—and do so before it was too late.

“I’m 83,” she says. “I don’t know how long I am going to be around. I wanted to do this while I have my mind.” Her mother and aunts suffered from some forms of dementia.

Ms. Willis recently completed a book about her family’s experience, “A Hidden Child in Greece, Rescue in the Holocaust,” which she self-published through Authorhouse.

The process helped her, too, giving her purpose and deepening her appreciation, says her son, Martin. “The act of writing can help flesh out experiences and makes you understand things better,” he says.

A photograph of Ms. Willis, left, with her mother and younger brother, as seen in her book, ‘A Hidden Child in Greece, Rescue in the Holocaust.’  Photo: Yolanda Avram Willis/Ross Mantle for The Wall Street Journal

Feeling gratitude starts with a realization of what we have received from others and what it cost them, says Robert Emmons, a psychologist and author at the University of California, Davis, who researches the effects of gratitude. It’s not surprising then, he says, that someone like Ms. Willis “has overwhelming gratitude.”

Gratitude is good for us in many ways. Studies have shown that it strengthens our immune systems, helps us sleep better, reduces stress and depression and opens the doors to more relationships. But to reap those rewards, we need to do more than feel grateful, says Dr. Emmons.

“The word ‘thanksgiving’ means giving of thanks,” says Dr. Emmons. “It is an action word. Gratitude requires action.” It might mean composing a letter, or posting a photo and caption on Instagram.

Most people aren’t very good at it. Only 52% of women and 44% of men express gratitude on a regular basis, according to a 2012 gratitude survey of 2,000 people in the U.S. funded by the John Templeton Foundation, a philanthropic organization that supports academic research. Those who are religious or spiritual tend to be more grateful, as are married couples, says Janice Kaplan, author of “The Gratitude Diaries,” who conducted the survey. Younger people—18 to 24 years olds—express gratitude less often than any other age group, and when they do, it’s often for self-serving reasons: in the hopes that people will be nicer to them in return.

Giving Thanks

Five ways to boost gratitude:

  • Keep a gratitude journal. Write one to three times a week. Go for depth, rather than breadth, elaborating on a particular benefit in detail. Focus on people to whom you are grateful, rather than focusing on things.
  • Write a thank-you note, email or text. Expressing thanks helps the giver and the receiver.
  • Go through the motions. Try smiling and saying thank you. Open the door for someone.
  • Avoid ingrates. It’s hard to initiate and sustain gratitude if you’re surrounded by people who feel entitled and gripe about things that didn’t go their way or things they don’t have. Gratitude is contagious. The inverse is true, too.
  • Remember the bad. Remembering difficult times can help keep things in perspective and help you appreciate the good.

Family and freedom top the list of things that those surveyed are most grateful for, says Ms. Kaplan. Jobs rank last, except among those who earn $150,000 or more. Apparently we don’t appreciate our co-workers, or at least we don’t tell them. Only 10% of the 2,000 people surveyed said they thanked their colleagues. One reason: a perception that expressing any gratitude could lead to co-workers taking advantage of them, Ms. Kaplan found—even though it actually encourages success. (Some 81% of people in the survey said they would work harder for a grateful boss, and 90% said a grateful boss is more likely to be successful.)

People can get better at being grateful, but it takes practice. Dr. Emmons recommends keeping a gratitude journal. Writing one to three times a week about people, events and things that make you feel grateful is more effective than daily entries—and don’t worry about grammar. It’s important to be specific so you can realize all that went into an effort. When giving thanks to someone, either in person or in writing, avoid the sweeping “Thanks for everything” or the “Thank You for Being You” approach, which can come across as impersonal.

Paul Mills tried out the idea with a group of about 50 to 60 heart patients at the Center of Excellence for Research and Training in Integrative Health at the University of California, San Diego, where he is director. The patients kept journals for two months, recording things they were grateful for. Family, friends and nature topped the lists.

Some wrote only a few words, others wrote pages several days a week. But everyone who kept a journal was less depressed, slept better and had lower levels of inflammation than those who received the usual care but didn’t keep a journal, Mr. Mills says.

“There seems to be real benefits to gratitude,” he says, noting that the old adage “A grateful heart is a healthier heart” rings true.

As she wrote the book, Ms. Willis realized that dozens of people had endangered their lives to hide her family in caves and on their farms and forge documents to give them Christian names. Here, her father’s last fake ID.Photo: Yolanda Avram Willis/Ross Mantle for The Wall Street Journal

People are understandably most grateful when something good happens. Finding gratitude in heartache, loss, pain or trauma is more difficult. But it can also help us become more resilient and deepen our appreciation of what we do have, including the people who helped us through.

Ms. Willis, who wrote about her experiences during the Holocaust, was 6 when war broke out in Greece, forcing her well-known Jewish family to flee their home. For the next four years, they were constantly relocating to avoid capture and bombings, hiding in caves and on farms, adopting Christian aliases.

She and her younger brother, Yannis, were separated from their parents, each sent to live in the homes of Christian strangers befriended by her father. A baker and his family took Ms. Willis in, saying she was their goddaughter whose parent’s couldn’t afford to feed her. Later, she lived with a widower she called aunt. Ms. Willis never knew her parent’s whereabouts, the thinking being that if she was captured, she might reveal their location.

After four years in hiding, Greece was liberated and the family was reunited. Her father, Salvator, was often gone, traveling for work. Her mother, Karolla, always kept his place set, with a starched white napkin for when he returned.

After the war broke out, the family was constantly relocating to avoid capture and bombings. Here, a chapel that sheltered Ms. Willis.Photo: Yolanda Avram Willis/Ross Mantle for The Wall Street Journal

Ms. Willis devoted herself to her studies and eventually went to the U.S. on a Fulbright Scholarship to study chemistry. She settled in Pittsburgh, married, raised three children and obtained her Ph.D. in sociology for the University of Pittsburgh.

Her parents and brother remained in Greece; her father died in 1965 and her mother in 1987. In 1992, her brother died. Troubled and erratic as a child, Yannis was eventually diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic.

Although they were never close, Ms. Willis says, his death touched her deeply and sparked her search of their past. She made the first of several trips back to Greece in 1994 and was reunited with her rescuers.

Over the course of decades and interviews, Ms. Willis discovered that the baker and his family who took her in were forced into hiding and hunted by the Nazis for hiding her.

“It took multiple encounters for the story to come out,” she says. “With each encounter, I learned how much they had given.” She remembers weeping in her hotel room while listening to her taped interviews.

It dawned on her, too, that the dozens of others who hid her family in caves and on their farms, who forged documents to give them Christian names, had likewise endangered their lives. In her book’s dedication, Ms. Willis lists each of the 20 people who helped along the way. Many of them have died, but some of their children and grandchildren are alive. It’s important for them to know their parents’ selflessness, she says.

Ms. Willis also dedicated her book to her parents, “who taught me gratitude.” During one of her return trips to Greece, she learned that her grateful father had returned to Crete every Easter to celebrate the Christian holiday with her rescuers.

The process of writing the book helped Ms. Willis, too, her son said, giving her purpose and deepening her appreciation. Photo: Ross Mantle for The Wall Street Journal

More Turning Points

  • The Science Behind Coincidence October 16, 2017
  • When Did You First Feel Old? October 2, 2017
  • Falling in Love With Autumn August 25, 2017

Write to Clare Ansberry at

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, October 23, 2017 — “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

October 22, 2017

Monday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 473

No automatic alt text available.

The fool stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God —

We should always keep our eyes on death…

Reading 1 ROM 4:20-25

Brothers and sisters:
Abraham did not doubt God’s promise in unbelief;
rather, he was empowered by faith and gave glory to God
and was fully convinced that what God had promised
he was also able to do.
That is why it was credited to him as righteousness.
But it was not for him alone that it was written
that it was credited to him;
it was also for us, to whom it will be credited,
who believe in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead,
who was handed over for our transgressions
and was raised for our justification.

Responsorial Psalm LUKE 1:69-70, 71-72, 73-75

R. (see 68) Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people.
He has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior,
born of the house of his servant David.
R. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people.
Through his holy prophets he promised of old
that he would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant.
R. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.
R. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people.

Alleluia MT 5:3

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are the poor in spirit;
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus,
“Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”
He replied to him,
“Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”
Then he said to the crowd,
“Take care to guard against all greed,
for though one may be rich,
one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

Then he told them a parable.
“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.
He asked himself, ‘What shall I do,
for I do not have space to store my harvest?’
And he said, ‘This is what I shall do:
I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.
There I shall store all my grain and other goods
and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you,
you have so many good things stored up for many years,
rest, eat, drink, be merry!”‘
But God said to him,
‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself
but is not rich in what matters to God.”


From Our Archives for Luke 12: 13-21 (From July 31, 2016)

The Gospel, today from Saint Luke, reminds once more that we should always keep our eyes on death, on the life of the world to come, so that our actions in this life will be guided by the eternal realities that await us.

It is so easy for us Christian to be seduced by the values of this world because they seem so pleasant and bring such pleasure.  The challenge is to keep our eyes on Jesus and allow ourselves to be formed by what He had told us.  Far too many teachers today preach a Gospel which is not from Jesus but is simply a Gospel of the values of this world. For us who accept that Jesus is always in His Church, we have the guidance of the Church to help us stay on the right path.  Again, many today want the Church to adjust to the values of this world.  Let us walk with the Lord Jesus and with His Church.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip


Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
23 OCTOBER, 2017, Monday, 29th Week, Ordinary Time

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Rom 4:20-25Luke 1:69-75Luke 12:13-21]

In the gospel, a man came to Jesus seeking His intervention to restore his right of inheritance from his brother.  He said, “Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.”   Such a request is understandable.  Many of us in that situation would surely fight for our rights.  This instinct for justice is deeply ingrained in our DNA. We all have a penchant for justice and especially when it affects our rights.

It is not wrong to demand for our rights, but it is also not the way of the gospel.  Although Jesus came to champion the cause of the poor and the marginalized, He refused to intervene in the case of this man.  He replied, “My friend, who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?”  Clearly, Jesus did not want to take sides and get Himself embroiled in a family squabble over money and property.  Instead, He went to the root of the problem, which lies beyond the question of strict justice.   He said to them, “Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.”

So what is the root of the problem?  Whether it was the one who violated his brother’s rights or the one who was deprived of his share of the inheritance, it had to do with greed.  In the first place, inheritance is a gift; not a right.  The deceased need not have bequeathed his or her property to us.  We never worked for it and we have no right to it.  It is given purely as a gift, not for anything we had done.  So strictly speaking, we cannot make a claim to it.  At the bottom of this family quarrel is greed.  We want to have more and we want to possess more and more.  We can never satisfy this animal called greed.  It is like a well that can never be filled.   No matter how much inheritance we receive from our loved ones, we will feel jealous when others receive more than us, even though what we have been given is more than enough to sustain us in our lifetime.   But the truth is that the word “enough” does not exist in our vocabulary.

The cause of greed is the lack of faith and trust in the divine providence of God.  We want more and more; and we hoard money and things because we are insecure about our future.  By holding on to things, money and property, we feel more secure about our future needs.  We are afraid of pain, suffering, illness and hunger.   So we keep money for our future so that we will not be in need.   In other words, we rely more on ourselves than in our trust in God’s providence.   We do not really believe that God will provide.  Hence, the tendency to keep more and more because nothing is secure in this life.

This explains why Jesus told them the parable of the rich man who stored his produce in the barn.  He “had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself ‘What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.’”   He was over-confident of himself.  He thought that security was in his hands.  But God said to him, “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?”  We all never learn from this lesson in life.  Many of us hoard our money and things and we never get round to enjoy the labour of our hands.  Instead, all that we have are passed on to undeserving people!

That is why Jesus came to the heart of justice.  What is justice?  It is to be in good relationship with everyone, including God and our neighbours.   “So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.”  To be rich in the sight of God is to be rich in love, in freedom and in forgiveness.  A person who is spiritually rich is not attached to things.  He sees them as means to be used to enrich people’s lives, for them to develop themselves, to grow in kindness and generosity, and most of all, to be like God, generous and giving.  To be truly rich, we must be free from all things.

This was why Jesus taught us to let go when we feel like retaliating and seeking justice for ourselves.  He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.”  (Mt 5:38-42) 

St Paul offers us a similar advice in countering evil by doing good.   “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’  No, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.’  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Rom 12:19-21)

Within this context, we can better appreciate St Paul’s doctrine on justification by faith alone through His grace.  St Paul reminds us that what we are today is but by the grace of God.  We are called to trust Him and His plans for us in our lives.  We cannot earn this grace but we can cooperate by allowing His grace to work in and through us.  In the case of Abraham, he accepted God’s promise to make him a great nation although this would not be realized until a 1100 years later when the kingdom was fully established by King David and fully realized 1000 years later in Christ.   This is what the responsorial psalm said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel! He has visited his people.  He has raised up for us a mighty saviour in the house of David his servant, as he promised by the lips of holy men, those who were his prophets from of old. A saviour who would free us from our foes, from the hands of all who hate us. So his love for our fathers is fulfilled and his holy covenant remembered. He swore to Abraham our father to grant us that free from fear, and saved from the hands of our foes, we might serve him in holiness and justice all the days of our life in his presence.”

Abraham’s faith in God’s promises justified his trust in God’s divine providence and fidelity to His promises.  Thus, St Paul concludes, “Since God had made him a promise, Abraham refused either to deny it or even to doubt it, but drew strength from faith and gave glory to God, convinced that God had power to do what he had promised.  This is the faith that was ‘considered as justifying him’.”   Abraham justified his foolishness in leaving Ur of the Chaldeans (Iraq) for a distant promised land that he could not see through faith in God.  Hence, God showed forth His fidelity to Abraham by making him the Father of many nations.

For us too, when it comes to the question of being reconciled with God, it is also pure grace.  On our own strength, we cannot do what the Law demands of us.  We will fail and break the laws.  But our hope of being saved does not come from our good works but from the fact that Christ our Saviour died for us and then resurrected for our sake so that through His death and resurrection, He may conquer the fear of eternal death and give us the promise of eternal life with Him.  This thought alone can help us to let go of our fears and to trust in the promise of God to look after us.  As St Paul wrote, “Scripture however does not refer only to him but to us as well when it says that his faith was thus ‘considered’; our faith too will be ‘considered’ if we believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, Jesus who was put to death for our sins and raised to life to justify us.”  So the justice of God is not legal justice, but He sought to make us right before His eyes by winning us over in love, mercy and forgiveness.  His mercy is His justice because He makes us right before Him unconditionally.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh


Related image

First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
Not too long ago while I was assisting a homeless man, he looked me square in the eyes and said:  “We have everything we need.”
Dang. I hate that!
Actually, this man travels around the neighborhoods near where I live with no possessions most of us would care anything about. He has few articles of clothing and he often cuts up old trash bags to make himself a hat, a cap, or a kind of serape. He never begs or asks for anything.
And he’s happier than most people you’ll meet in suburbia these days.
I offered him a crisp new twenty dollar bill on Easter Sunday morning. He rushed inside the first convenience store and gave that money to the charity collection jar! “Jerry’s Kids”  got my $20.00.
Indeed I have experienced what Jesus tells the disciples: “We have everything we need.”
A homeless woman seemed to be a messenger from God to me a short time later when she said, “Cherish what you have.”
Many of us in our modern world have way more than we need. We have lots of toys and possessions. We sometimes seem wedded to our possessions or maybe we are in love with them.
A neighbor of mine used to spend so much time loving his car while washing it each Sunday that the other men in the neighborhood used to say,  “Jim can’t come to the game, he’s making love to his car!”
Jesus also instructs us, and the disciples, to carry the message of his love, his care for us, and the redemption he earned for us on the cross. We need to be evangelists — and to do that well we need to be unencumbered!
Like the man that first suggested to me: “We have everything we need.”
People who are already unencumbered have every reason to trust in God. Actually some of the poorest people I know in terms of material good are the richest in the faith.
Sometimes I tell people I took a vow of poverty, which was easy because, “I was already VERY poor!”
So each day I try to keep in my mind — “Cherish what you have” and “We have everything we need.”
One final thought: I believe “we cannot keep it unless we give it away.”
Once we have been touched by the Holy Spirit we need to share in gratitude: we need to carry the message, just the way Jesus instructed the apostles.
John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

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!