Posts Tagged ‘gratitude’

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, July 25, 2017 — “The surpassing power may be of God and not from us.” — “Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”

July 24, 2017

Feast of Saint James, Apostle
Lectionary: 605

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting

Art: James & John, Sons of Zebedee – John Chrysostom

Reading 1  2 COR 4:7-15

Brothers and sisters:
We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.
We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
For we who live are constantly being given up to death
for the sake of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since, then, we have the same spirit of faith,
according to what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke,
we too believe and therefore speak,
knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus
will raise us also with Jesus
and place us with you in his presence.
Everything indeed is for you,
so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people
may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 126:1BC-2AB, 2CD-3, 4-5, 6

R. (5) Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.
When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,
we were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with rejoicing.
R. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad indeed.
R. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like the torrents in the southern desert.
Those that sow in tears
shall reap rejoicing.
R. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.
Although they go forth weeping,
carrying the seed to be sown,
They shall come back rejoicing,
carrying their sheaves.
R. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.

Alleluia  SEE JN 15:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I chose you from the world,
to go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 20:20-28

The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons
and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.
He said to her,
“What do you wish?”
She answered him,
“Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom.”
Jesus said in reply,
“You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”
They said to him, “We can.”
He replied,
“My chalice you will indeed drink,
but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
When the ten heard this,
they became indignant at the two brothers.
But Jesus summoned them and said,
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and the great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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25 JULY 2017, Tuesday, St James, Apostle

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REMOVING THE OBSTACLES FROM SEEING AND HEARING

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ EX 19:1-29-1116-20DANIEL 3:52-56MT 13:10-17]

Why do some have faith and some don’t?  The same message is given to all and yet not all receive it.  This was the same question St Paul asked. “But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’ So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.  But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have; for ‘Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.’” (Rom 10:16-18)  Obviously, therefore faith does not depend on one’s intellectual capacity to grasp the message.  We have as many great scientists, doctors, and political leaders who believe in God, and as many who also do not.

So why do some people believe in God and some do not?  Jesus said, “So in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled:  You will listen and listen again, but not understand, see and see again, but not perceive. For the heart of this nation has grown coarse, their ears are dull of hearing.”  Many see and not perceive; hear and do not understand.  This is inevitable.  That is why some are converted and more convinced of something than another.  Again, as Jesus underscored, faith is not a matter of knowledge that comes from hearing or seeing, but understanding of the heart.

What are the causes that hinder us from perceiving with the heart? We have grown coarse because of sin and the temptations of the world.  The world is consumed by consumerism and ruled by materialism.   It is about satisfying the comforts of the human body.  The world wants immediate gratification of comfort and pleasure.  It cannot wait.  That is why there are so many products in the world that entice the eyes, the minds and the body.  We want to taste, see and experience all the good things of this world.  When we live like animals, merely attending to the insatiable needs of our body, we tend to neglect the Spirit.  We live the life of an animal, eat, work, enjoy and sleep, without real meaning and purpose, now and after death.

We grow coarse also because of routine, both in our religious practices and in our daily life. It is true that daily life is normally a routine but it is different to just go through the routine and not grow in depth in assimilating the richness of what we do every day.   Take the example of those attending mass daily or pray the Liturgy of the Hours, Rosary or Divine Mercy chaplet.   We can go through the routine of saying these prayers and yet not really benefiting from them because it is a routine that we go through.  We do not pause to understand more deeply what we are celebrating or doing each day.  This applies to the other areas of our life as well, be it the practice of customs, mundane tasks at home or work in the office.  Routine practices when not assimilated and reflected upon become a chore and reduce us to an automaton.

Thirdly, we become coarse because of indifference and neglect.  Why do we lose taste for God and for prayer or praying the Word of God?  This is because of neglect.  We begin by missing one Sunday mass, or skipping part of the Liturgy of the Hours and very soon, we will stop going for mass all together and the other pious practices as well.  We do not lose faith overnight.  But indifference sets in when we are no longer connected with God regularly.  So routine practices do have a role in our lives to keep us connected with God and with the meaning of life.  However, as I have said earlier, without deepening our understanding of what we do, they become meaningless and gradually we will fall into neglect and indifference because of a lack of appreciation and understanding.  Clearly, whether it is the temptations of the world, the sin of the flesh, or neglect and indifference or routine and perfunctory practices, when brought together, lead us to become distant from God.

What about those who are dull of hearing?  Today, many are dull of hearing because there is information overload.  There is so much information in the Media that we are simply spoilt for choice and even paralyzed by the plethora of choices.  We do not have time to consume all the information before us.  On the other hand, many of us do not make informed choices on what to read.   We end up reading fake news, sensational news and some are indoctrinated by radical ideologies. No wonder, in spite of mass communication, today there is a communication breakdown because there are simply too many emails to read, too much information to absorb.  As a consequence, whether it is on religious matters or others, people no longer have time to read serious and in-depth reflections.  This explains why Twitter and Instagram have taken over the other platforms of communication.

The second reason why we are dull of hearing is because of pride and intellectualization.  We think that knowing God is a matter of logical argument based on empirical science and experimentation.  At times, the study of theology and knowledge of science can become obstacles to come to know and encounter God.  This is not to say that theology and sciences are not important because they help us to purify our faith in God so that faith will not become a myth or some superstitious belief.  Faith in God must also be reasonable, that is to say, a human way to encounter Him.  But many of us mistake our knowledge of theology and sciences as real knowledge when they are means to encounter the Sacred and the Ultimate of life.  When we seek just to defend our clever arguments to win our case, then Jesus would say to us, “they have shut their eyes for fear they shall see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and be converted and be healed by me.”

The third factor that causes us to shut our ears is because of skepticism due to scandals and impropriety, injustices and mismanagement.  This by far is the most prevalent factor, especially those who have been hurt by religious leaders or believers.  They are bitter with God and with them.  They lose confidence in God and in the institution.  All are seen to be hypocrites, untrustworthy, uncaring, insincere and mercenary.   Indeed, many have left the Church because they have been hurt by the unjust practices of the Church and organizations and most of all, when they do not agree with the Church leaders.   They feel that the Church does not care except for herself, her institutions and structures.

Indeed, if we were to see and hear clearly today, then we must be disposed to seeing and hearing.  Moses told the people to prepare themselves and to consecrate themselves if they want to hear the voice of God.  To consecrate is to set apart all our preoccupations and our ideas, and be docile to the voice of God.  The Lord told Moses, “Go to the people and tell them to prepare themselves today and tomorrow.  Let them wash their clothing and hold themselves in readiness for the third day, because on the third day the Lord will descend on the mountain of Sinai in the sight of all the people.”   But this external purification of oneself must be an expression of the inner disposition of the purity and openness of one’s mind and heart and not something purely external.

Only when the people were prepared, did Moses then lead “the people out of the camp to meet God; and they stood at the bottom of the mountain.”   To stand at the bottom of the mountain means to be receptive, to be open and to be ready to act when the Word is spoken to them.  This is the kind of disposition needed if we are to hear the voice of God and perceive His presence and instructions.

When God comes, He will not come through logic and theories.  He comes through an event.  As the first reading tells us, He manifests Himself in nature, under the signs of peals of thunder, clouds, smoke and lightning.  Indeed, the reality of God and our conviction of Him will not come from intellectual faith or human wisdom and philosophy but from an encounter with Him in the mysteries of life.  This was why our Lord taught in parables.  “’Because the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them.’”   Parables are not meant to be rationalized or be explained away.  They are meant to enable us to enter into the experience that the parable is seeking to convey.  Only when we can identify with that experience, can we then relate with God who comes to visit us through the daily events of life.  This is what the Lord said, “The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding.”  The problem with many people is that they try to rationalize about God and hence are never able to encounter Him in their daily life.  The understanding that is needed is not of the mind but of the heart.

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

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St. John Chrysostom

John Chrysostom on James and John, the Sons of Zebedee, and their mother’s famous request that her sons sit at Jesus’ right and left in the kingdom.  St. James was born at Bethsaida and was martyred by Herod around the year 42. He is especially honored at Compostela, Spain, where a special church is dedicated in his name (“Santiago”).

The sons of Zebedee press Christ: Promise that one may sit at your right side and the other at your left. What does he do? He wants to show them that it is not a spiritual gift for which they are asking, and that if they knew what their request involved, they would never dare make it. So he says: You do not know what you are asking, that is, what a great and splendid thing it is and how much beyond the reach even of the heavenly powers. Then he continues: Can you drink the cup which I must drink and be baptized with the baptism which I must undergo? He is saying: “You talk of sharing honors and rewards with me, but I must talk of struggle and toil. Now is not the time for rewards or the time for my glory to be revealed. Earthly life is the time for bloodshed, war and danger”.

Consider how by his manner of questioning he exhorts and draws them. He does not say: “Can you face being slaughtered? Can you shed your blood?” How does he put his question? Can you drink the cup? Then he makes it attractive by adding: which I must drink, so that the prospect of sharing it with him may make them more eager. He also calls his suffering a baptism, to show that it will effect a great cleansing of the entire world. The disciples answer him: We can! Fervor makes them answer promptly, though they really do not know what they are saying but still think they will receive what they ask for.

How does Christ reply? You will indeed drink my cup and be baptized with my baptism. He is really prophesying a great blessing for them, since he is telling them: “You will be found worthy of martyrdom; you will suffer what I suffer and end your life with a violent death, thus sharing all with me. But seats at my right and left are not mine to give; they belong to those for whom the Father has prepared them.” Thus, after lifting their minds to higher goals and preparing them to meet and overcome all that will make them desolate, he sets them straight on their request.

Then the other ten became angry at the two brothers. See how imperfect they all are: the two who tried to get ahead of the other ten, and the ten who were jealous of the two! But, as I said before, show them to me at a later date in their lives, and you will see that all these impulses and feelings have disappeared. Read how John, the very man who here asks for the first place, will always yield to Peter when it comes to preaching and performing miracles in the Acts of the Apostles. James, for his part, was not to live very much longer; for from the beginning he was inspired by great fervor and, setting aside all purely human goals, rose to such splendid heights that he straightway suffered martyrdom.

This excerpt from a homily on the gospel of Matthew by Saint John Chrysostom (Hom 65, 2-4: PG 58, 619-622) discusses Saints James and John, the Sons of Zebedee.  It is used in the Roman Office of Readings for the Feast of St. James, Apostle, on July 25 aka Santiago de Compostela.

https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/media/articles/sons-of-zebedee-st-john-chrysostom/

St. John Chrysostom

St. John Chrysostom, one of the greatest Early Church Fathers of the 5th Century, was born around 347 AD.  St. John became a monk and was ordained a priest to serve the Church in Antioch where his eloquent preaching on the Sacred Scriptures earned him the title of“Chrysostom,” meaning golden-mouthed.”  In 398, Chrysostom was called upon to assume the responsibilities of the Patriarch Archbishop of Constantinople, much to his chagrin.  This reluctant patriarch nevertheless fulfilled his duty with extraordinary energy and courage.  St. John Chrysostom’s call to repentance and moral reform won him the enmity of the nominally Christian Empress who had him deposed and exiled on trumped-up charges.  But his preaching and intrepid boldness inspired the hearts of the people of Constantinople who held him in great affection.  His devotion to the written Word of God was matched by a love of the Eucharist and of divine worship.  To this day, the principal “Byzantine” liturgy celebrated by most Slavic, Greek, and middle-eastern Christians is known as the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.  St. John Chysostom, who died under the harsh conditions of his exile in 407, will always be remembered as one of the greatest of the Early Church Fathers and one of the greatest preachers of all time.  Due to his holiness and beautiful but always practical bible teaching, St. John Chrysostom is regarded as a “Doctor of the Church” by Catholics and one of the three Holy Hierarchs and Ecumenical teachers by Eastern Orthodox Christians.  (bio by Dr. Italy)

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
.• Jesus and the Disciples are on the way toward Jerusalem (Mt 20,17). Jesus knows that he will be killed (Mt 20,8). The Prophet Isaiah had already announced it (Is 50,4-6; 53,1-10). His death will not be the fruit of a blind destiny or of a pre-established plan, but it will be the consequence of the commitment freely taken of being faithful to the mission which he received from the Father together with the poor of the earth. Jesus had already said that the disciple has to follow the Master and carry his cross behind him (Mt 16,21.24). But the disciples did not understand well what was happening (Mt 16,22-23; 17,23). Suffering and the cross did not correspond to the idea that they had of the Messiah.
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• Matthew 20,20-21: The petition of the mother of the sons of Zebedee. The Disciples only not understand but they continue to think about their personal ambitions. The mother of the sons of Zebedee, the spokesperson of her sons John and James, gets close to Jesus to ask for a favour: “Promise that these two sons of mine may sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your Kingdom.”
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They had not understood the proposal of Jesus. They were concerned only about their own interests. This shows clearly the tensions in the communities, both at the time of Jesus and of Matthew, as also we see it in our own communities.
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• Matthew 20,22-23: The response of Jesus. Jesus reacts firmly. He responds to the sons and not to the mother: “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink? It is a question of the chalice of suffering. Jesus wants to know if they, instead of the place of honour, accept to give their own life up to death. Both answer: “We can!” This was a sincere response and Jesus confirms it: “You shall drink my cup”. At the same time, it seems to be a hasty response, because a few days later, they abandon Jesus and leave him alone at the hour of suffering (Mt 26,51). They do not have a strong critical conscience, and they are not even aware of their own personal reality. And Jesus completes the phrase saying: “But it is not mine to grant that you sit at my right hand and my left, these seats belong to those to whom they have been allotted by my Father”. What Jesus can offer is the chalice of the suffering of the cross.
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• Matthew 20,24-27: “Among you this is not to happen”. “When the other ten heard this, they were indignant with the two brothers”. The request made by the mother in the name of the sons, causes a heated discussion in the group. Jesus calls the disciples and speaks to them about the exercise of power: “The rulers of nations, you know, dominate over them and the great exercise their power over them. Among you this is not to happen: anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave”. At that time, those who held power had no interest for the people. They acted according to their own interests (cf. Mc 14,3-12).
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The Roman Empire controlled the world submitting it with the force of arms and, in this way, through taxes, customs, etc., succeeded to concentrate the riches through repression and the abuse of power. Jesus had another response. He teaches against privileges and against rivalry. He overthrows the system and insists on the attitude of service which is the remedy against personal ambition. The community has to prepare an alternative. When the Roman Empire disintegrates, victim of its own internal contradictions, the communities should be prepared to offer to the people an alternative model of social living together.
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• Matthew 20,28: The summary of the life of Jesus. Jesus defines his life and his mission: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”. In this definition of self given by Jesus are implied three titles which define him and which were for the first Christians the beginning of Christology: Son of Man, Servant of Yahweh and older brother (close relative or Joel). Jesus is the Messiah, Servant, announced by the Prophet Isaiah (cf. Is 42,1-9; 49,1-6; 50,4-9; 52,13-53,12). He learnt from his mother who said: “Behold the servant of the Lord!” (Lk 1,38). This was a totally new proposal for the society of that time.
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Personal questions
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• James and John ask for favours. Jesus promises suffering. And I, what do I seek in my relationship with God and what do I ask for in prayer? How do I accept the suffering that comes to my life and which is the contrary of what we ask in prayer?
• Jesus says: “May it not be like that among you!” Do our way of living in the Church and in the community agree with this advise of Jesus?
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Concluding Prayer
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Then the nations kept saying,
‘What great deeds Yahweh has done for them!’
Yes, Yahweh did great deeds for us,
and we were overjoyed. (Ps 126,2-3)
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Related:
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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25 JULY 2016, Monday, St James, Apostle
EARTHENWARE JARS BEARING THE MERCY OF GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  2 COR 4:7-15; MT 20:20-28 ]

Many of us are happy and excited to follow Jesus in the ministry.  We too are inspired by the life of Jesus who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Like the apostles who followed Jesus in the gospel, we have goodwill and apparently good intentions.  Indeed, in the Church, we have thousands of volunteers giving themselves generously in service, time and resources to the Christian community and society, especially the poor and the underprivileged.

But, often there is much infighting and competition among ministry members and even among priests and religious.  There is jealousy when others do well, or when others are appointed to positions and offices of power. Because of envy there is competition, sometimes leading to slander and backbiting.  This was the case of the apostles in today’s gospel.  Not only were James and John and their mothers seeking glory and power, but so were the other apostles. “When the other ten heard this they were indignant with the two brothers.” So we should not be surprised that even within the Christian community, many are also fighting for recognition and power and benefits, even though many claim that they are serving God and the Church freely and without expectations of return.

The truth is that many of us lack self-awareness.  Most of us are sincere in wanting to serve the Lord and His people.  Very few in the ministry render their services with the intention of serving themselves.  But most of us are unaware of our human imperfections and hidden motives. We lack the depth of self-realization. This was true with the apostles.  Clearly, they were not following Christ for His sake and the Kingdom, but for their own personal agenda.  They were seeking for power, security and recognition. They wanted to rule over others in Christ’s Kingdom.  When we search deeply and honestly in our hearts, we, too, are no different from them.  All of us want to be loved, to be known and to have security and freedom.  That is why we seek recognition, power and status.

As Catholics, at times we do not really have a deep spiritual life or a good doctrinal understanding of our faith.  Fresh from RCIA or from a Conversion Experience, we have this deep desire to serve God.  We are enthusiastic but we are quite naïve about who Jesus is to us, the realities of life; the truth about ourselves as sinners; and what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  Doctrinally, many of us are weak in understanding our faith, the teachings of the Church and have only a superficial knowledge of the scriptures.  The disciples were like that before the passion and the resurrection of Christ.  They were still thinking of Jesus as the earthly and political Messiah.  Hence, they held political ambitions.

What is this Kingdom that Jesus is offering to us if not the kingdom of lowliness in the service of truth and love?  In no uncertain terms, the Lord taught, “You know that among the pagans the rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave.”  The kingdom that Jesus preached is not so much an earthly kingdom but a kingdom of love, truth and justice expressed in compassion, lowly and humble service, and selflessness even unto death.  It is to love and care for our brothers and sisters to the end, to the extent of suffering, often unjustly, being misunderstood, unappreciated, misjudged, slandered and rejected by the very people we love and give our lives to.

Many of us are too weak to love in this manner.  In truth, our love is so imperfect.  Our love for others is more like that of the pagans, loving those who love us, serving those who appreciate us.  Even if we have no material motives in service, we seek affective recognition and appreciation.  To love our enemies, to love strangers, to love those who do not love us or cannot repay us is much more difficult.  Most of our so-called Christian love is confined to our loved ones, family members and friends.  But this is not the only kind of love that Jesus is asking of us.  He wants us to love beyond our circle of friends and community.  We are called to reach out to the marginalized, the wounded, the broken, those without friends and those abandoned by society.

Yet, the Lord accepts the fact that we cannot love purely and unconditionally like Him.  He knows we are weak.  Just as He accepted Peter’s inadequate love for Him and his mixed motives in serving Him, He too accepts our limited love.  He does not demand that we either love selflessly or not at all.  He did not give up on the apostles simply because they were jostling for power and status.  Instead, He continued with them on that journey.  The Lord knows, as St Paul says, “We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us.”  The Lord wants to work not through perfect people but through our brokenness and fallen nature.  St Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (1 Cor 2:4f)  Indeed, rather than be scandalized at the sins of priests, religious leaders, lay or clerical, or ministry members and active Catholics, we should give praise to God that in spite of their sinfulness and imperfections, God could use them in some way to give glory to Him and to serve His people.  

God has chosen us weaklings to be His messengers of Divine Mercy so that His glory can shine in and through us.  Only in weakness will we depend on the power of God and recognize our nothingness before Him.  This is what St Paul experienced when he wrote that this is “to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us. We are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered; we see no answer to our problems, but never despair; we have been persecuted, but never deserted; knocked down, but never killed.”  Until we have tasted the power of God, we will never be able to trust Him or surrender our lives to Him.  Even in ministry, we tend to rely on our powers, ingenuity and knowledge rather than on God.  This explains why few in the ministry really pray, intercede or rely on God’s grace.  It is all about planning, strategy, techniques, organization, except the importance and necessity of prayers!

Secondly, He chose us sinners to be His vessels of divine mercy because only in our sinfulness do we learn humility and compassion.  In the letter of Hebrews, the author wrote, “Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people.”  If God has chosen sinners to be His priests and leaders, it is so that we can learn to be more humble and compassionate towards others.  Those who have gone through difficult times or faced tremendous challenges and misfortunes in life will become great evangelizers and proclaimers of God’s mercy when they get out of their difficulties. They will come to understand the power of God and also the helplessness of man with regard to sin and temptation.  Because they are aware of their own sins and weaknesses, they do not condemn others or judge them.  Instead, they will reach out to them, healing them with the healing that they themselves had received.  Conversely those who are self-righteous, arrogant and proud are those who never know the power of God or recognize their finiteness and sinfulness.  They only know how to despise, condemn and judge. 

We must never forget that although we are baptized, we are not yet saints.  We are pilgrims along the way, growing in perfection.  As St Paul says, each day, “we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body. Indeed, while we are still alive, we are consigned to our death every day, for the sake of Jesus, so that in our mortal flesh the life of Jesus, too, may be openly shown.”  Every day is a call for us to die to self a little more, until eventually we, like St James and the other apostles, come to a stage when we are ready to die totally for the Lord, even in martyrdom.  So the path to martyrdom is not an instant decision but a gradual confidence and trust in the Lord, and letting go and letting God take over our lives.

Let us therefore never be afraid of making mistakes in life.  This is a necessary path to growth in virtues, in love and truth.  The only way to learn is to make mistakes.  Like the apostles, we learn as we go along with the Lord.  So if we find ourselves inadequate and imperfect in serving the Lord because of our sins and weaknesses, we must not be too harsh on ourselves.  We should be understanding and compassionate like Jesus towards His ignorant and self-centered apostles.  The only thing that we must not forget is that we need to grow in grace each day.  Whilst we should accept and learn from our mistakes, we must always be humble to fix our eyes on the Lord and seek His grace to grow in holiness, in truth and in love, so that at the end of our lives, we could also say with the psalmist, “When the Lord delivered Zion from bondage, it seemed like a dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, on our lips there were songs.   The heathens themselves said:  What marvels the Lord worked for them!’’  What marvels the Lord worked for us! Indeed we were glad. They go out, they go out, full of tears, carrying seed for the sowing; they come back, they come back, full of song, carrying their sheaves.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Homily By Rev. Andrew Eckert
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church
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Wellston, Oklahoma.Are you ready to drink the cup of the Lord?  The cup I am talking about is not a pleasant cup.  It is a cup of suffering.  To drink the cup of Christ is to carry your cross in humiliation, pain, and death.  It is to suffer the loss of your honor.To drink the cup of Christ is to be a slave.  It would be much easier to be a paid servant rather than a slave.  Then there would be some dignity and some recognition of your skills and service.But a slave is lower than low.  A slave might be whipped at the least provocation.  Beat him, take away his food, lock him up in isolation, remove friends and family, remove the pleasures of life.

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Christ Jesus tells you, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.”

Most people are willing to put in their time of service, even sometimes work hard for others.  But Jesus is not talking about occasional volunteer work.  He has called you to be a slave of all men.

He may also call upon you to be ridiculed and mocked.  He may send all manner of hardship into your life.  He may call upon you to give up your life.

Suffering separates the slave from the willing volunteer.  The slave must be emptied of all pride and self-worth, so that he is only the property of someone else.  There is no labor union for the slave to protest low wages or unsatisfactory work conditions.  The slave only suffers.

This is what you are for whomever God places in your life to serve.  You must be ready to give, ready to be hurt, ready for death itself if necessary, for the sake of Christ.

Those others are not only the nice people in your life.  You are to be a slave also to enemies, the wicked, those whom you do not like, those who annoy you, anyone at all whom Christ calls you to serve.

Who can truly live up to this?  This is a tall order, and a harsh burden.  Your sinful nature shrinks away from that bitter cup.  Your Old Adam might take a sip, but not too much!  Your flesh would rather have some other cup, perhaps the cup of mild irritation or the cup of slight unpleasantness, rather than the cup of suffering.

In fact, Christ only gives you a little of His cup.  Mortal flesh cannot drink too deeply.  Only He could drain it to the last drop upon Calvary, and no one can imagine His agony there.  You do not drink to atone from sin or drain the wrath of God.  You cannot do that.  Yet you must suffer in the image of Christ, if only in a lesser way.

So you need not be too upset if you suffer the loss of your honor and reputation.  No matter how much it is trampled in the dust, you will not descend as far as your Lord descended.

Do not fear the loss of your honor.  Be ready to be humbled, since in this way your honor is actually exalted even more in the Kingdom of God.  But if you desire to appear great in a visible, earthly way, then you shall not be great.

Everywhere Jesus turned things upside down for the disciples.  James and John tried to seek the first and highest place.  But they did not understand what that actually meant.  Jesus gave them what they desired, but in ways they did not expect.  James and John had to learn that the path to glory passes through cross and shame.

We also must learn this lesson.

Your flesh asks, “Where is the joy and comfort and peace of the Christian life if we can expect suffering and shame?” Many fall away from the faith because they cannot endure the pain and dishonor of drinking this bitter cup.  They did not sign on for this religion to carry a cross.  They wanted to escape suffering inside these doors and instead found it waiting for them.  Again, everything is turned upside down.

The true peace and joy are found even in the midst of strife.  It is not a fleshly joy, all giddy and happy, with never a tear.  Christians rejoice in Christ even as they weep.  They are at peace even when torn apart.  Your heart may be broken, yet Christ is your joy.

So be comforted in this, that you participate in Christ’s sufferings.  He chooses you, even you, a sinner, to drink from His own cup.  What sounds like a curse is actually the greatest blessing, for what is higher than to be like Christ?

You cannot earn this likeness to your Lord.  Can you be righteous as He is?  Certainly not!  Can your love equal His?  Can your works outshine the angels themselves for glory?  Hardly!

So when Christ makes you like Him in that you also taste His sufferings, it is not earned.  You do not choose your afflictions, but they are set for you in advance by your Father’s hand.  In this way He treats you like Christ, since He also sent Christ into the flesh to suffer.

Nothing is more central to the life of Christ than His passion and death.  These things He knew even before their unfolding.  He saw the betrayal, the mocking, the flogging, the crucifixion.  He knew the awfulness of His cup, and even prayed that He might not drink it.  Yet He submitted Himself to His Father’s will and drank it to the last drop as He went up to the Cross.

There is the true Slave, making His life expendable, to be struck and whipped and pierced and killed at the whim of sinful men.  In His suffering, He rendered the greatest service ever.  In His Blood, He showed Himself the faithful Slave who serves all mankind.

So the King of the powers above submitted Himself to be despised and spitefully treated.  Not even with this lowliness was He satisfied, but He submitted to death itself, the shameful death of a slave.

He chose the last place and became the first of all – the Firstborn from the dead, the First and the Last, and the Lord of all.  By paying the ransom for you, He became your Lord and King, just as He also paid the ransom for the vast number of all sinners.  Christ paid the price for the rebellion of mankind, who had violated and abused God’s holiness and righteousness.

In other words, it was not for an innocent damsel in distress that Christ died.  It was for His enemies, for you and me.  His life, the life of the Son of God, was exchanged for your life.

The deep descent of one Man has become the lifting up of us all.  When He submitted to pain and torture and crucifixion, His glory shone forth upon you.  Indeed, His majesty did not become less when cruel nails pinned Him to shame and horror and death.  His majesty was seen more clearly than ever there, since by His death He bought for Himself a kingdom, even His beloved Bride.

All glory be to this God of your salvation alone, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

http://lutheransermon.com/index.php?sn=1772

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Has this man found the secret of happiness? — Man’s Search for Meaning

July 21, 2017

Image result for vintage Rolls-Royce, photos

  • Mo Gawdat personally started many of the Google’s worldwide operations
  • He was a former stock market trader, and made ‘a ton of money’ in Dubai
  • His ‘life had ticked every box’ but he was still feeling miserable
  • Death of Mr Gawdat’s son, Ali, 21, made him realise an equation for happiness

One click — and I had bought a vintage Rolls-Royce. Another click — and I bought a second. Just like that. It might sound like something from your wildest dreams, but this was just an average evening for me. Successful, wealthy and at the pinnacle of my career, I had every luxury you could imagine.

A top executive at Google, I had personally started close to half of the company’s worldwide operations. And even before I made it big at Google, you could certainly say that I was at the top of the tree. A former stock market trader, I had made a ton of money while working in Dubai.

I had a huge house. My colleagues and friends were similarly rich and successful. And to top it all, I had married my university sweetheart and had two beautiful children. My life had ticked every box.

Formula: Mo Gawdat was a former stock market trader, and made 'a ton of money' in Dubai. His 'life had ticked every box' but he was still feeling miserable (file pic)

Formula: Mo Gawdat was a former stock market trader, and made ‘a ton of money’ in Dubai. His ‘life had ticked every box’ but he was still feeling miserable (file pic)

My Rolls-Royces soon arrived. Exquisitely engineered, they were as perfect as my own existence appeared. I looked at them for 20 minutes. Then I left them in the garage without even opening a car door — and returned to my unhappy thoughts.

Yes, that’s right. Despite attaining all the things the modern world tells us we need for happiness, I was profoundly miserable.

The bitter irony of my situation was deepened by the fact that one of my personal side projects was developing a scientific formula for happiness.

I wanted to find a ‘code’ that could be applied to deliver happiness every time. I spent thousands of hours trying to apply logic to the issue of happiness, in the hope of finding an algorithm to summarise how the brain processes joy and sadness. My son Ali, then a teenager, helped me, vetting many of my ideas.

Eventually, in 2010, young Ali and I came up with a formula: a few letters and mathematical symbols that I thought nailed the art of happiness.

Little did I imagine that the sudden death of my beloved boy when he was just 21 — an earth-shattering, pointless event — would show me what fleets of cars and algorithms never could: the true meaning of happiness and how to be content, every day.

My path to finding the meaning of happiness began with a vision of unimaginable catastrophe.

Machines bleeped, tubes wove their terrible path in and out of my boy’s body — and Ali lay there, unconscious in an intensive care unit. It was 2014, and my son had been rushed to hospital for the most routine of operations, an appendix removal.

Mo Gawdat (pictured) personally started many of the Google's worldwide operations

Mo Gawdat (pictured) personally started many of the Google’s worldwide operations

But something went wrong. A needle punctured a major artery and precious moments slipped by before the doctors realised the blunder.

Then a series of additional mistakes were made. The words ‘agony’ and ‘despair’ do not come even remotely close to how Ali’s mother and I felt at the moment we realised we were going to lose our precious son.

We stood helplessly by his bedside, and I kissed his forehead. He looked so handsome, even in that state — as peaceful as I’d ever seen him.

We’d endured the worst night of our lives, as Ali was hooked up to machines, his life hanging delicately in the balance. We were tormented by the thought he might be in pain as his organs failed one by one.

Then came the moment to say goodbye. And as we left the hospital, leaving our 21-year-old son behind, our minds collapsed as grief set in, and penetrated every cell in my body.

The pain was like a spear piercing my heart. There were countless hours of tears, guilt and anger about what had happened, as well as my fear about having to exist in a world I could no longer contemplate without my beloved son.

Ali was kind, clever, loving and in the prime of his life, and losing him unexpectedly to preventable human error seemed unbearably cruel. How was I going to cope?

My feelings were all the more painful because Ali was the one person I would ordinarily seek out for comfort when times were hard. But now he was gone. Nothing made sense.

Without my son to anchor me, my thoughts spiralled and became toxic. ‘That doctor murdered my son,’ I thought. Then: ‘What’s the point of living even a day without him?’.

I couldn’t stop wondering whether his death was somehow my fault. Could life be punishing me for something I’d inadvertently done? Was this a sort of karma for my success, for not realising how blessed my existence had been?

I spent excruciating days in this state, numb to the outside world. I was terrified of what might happen to my wife, my daughter — of what else this cruel life might take from me. How could I ever be happy again?

Someone suggested we pursue a medical negligence investigation and we were asked if an autopsy could be performed on Ali’s body. I asked my wife what she wanted to do. She paused, then uttered the words that saved us: ‘Will it bring Ali back?’

It was like a lighthouse cutting through the fog. Nothing we could do — nothing — would bring Ali back. Any thought beyond this simple truth was pointless.

It was the turning point I needed.

No doubt any parent reading this will wonder how I can say I am happy after I’ve lost a child. Of course, life today is nothing like what it was when Ali was alive. But I am happy, despite the tragedy of his death.

How? It’s thanks to Ali. Deep down, I knew if I’d asked him Ali would say, with the precocious wisdom he was blessed with, ‘I’ve already died, Papa. There is nothing you can do to change that, so make the best of it’.

In the purgatorial time after his death, I heard no other voice in my head but Ali’s repeating those sentences. So when a negative thought popped into my mind I asked myself: ‘What would Ali do or say in this situation?’ It became a healing process.

When I angrily thought, ‘That doctor murdered my son!’, I would hear Ali’s reply: ‘Is that true? What doctor wakes up in the morning and says: “Today is the day I’m going to kill someone”?’

I am happy, despite the tragedy of his death. How? It's thanks to Ali. Deep down, I knew if I'd asked him Ali would say, with the precocious wisdom he was blessed with, 'I've already died, Papa. There is nothing you can do to change that, so make the best of it'

I am happy, despite the tragedy of his death. How? It’s thanks to Ali. Deep down, I knew if I’d asked him Ali would say, with the precocious wisdom he was blessed with, ‘I’ve already died, Papa. There is nothing you can do to change that, so make the best of it’

To my despairing howl, ‘No one should die at such a young age,’ Ali would answer: ‘Is that true? Youngsters die by the thousands every hour of every day.’

As for the cry of all grieving parents, ‘This is the worst thing that could have happened!’, Ali’s voice echoed in my mind, saying: ‘Is that really true? I could have been diagnosed with a lingering cancer or drafted into the madness of war instead of leaving peacefully in my sleep.’

When I recriminated with myself, saying again and again, ‘I drove you to the hospital myself. I should have known better’, Ali would soothe me, saying: ‘Is that true? You did what you thought was right. You wanted me to recover. No one could have known this was going to be how things turned out.’

And to my most common thought of all, ‘I can’t bear this pain, it will torture me for years and years,’ Ali brought solace and clarity: ‘Is that really true? You will live, and time will pass. The days will be long, and the years will be short. Instead of thinking about the years to come, focus on now. Do the best you can. Make me proud.’

And so, 17 days after that terrible night, I began to write. I felt compelled to follow Ali’s advice and do something positive. Those writings eventually became a book, in which I sought to spread the true meaning of happiness — and it wasn’t to be found in flashy cars or expensive gadgets.

And as I wrote, it brought my mind back to that algorithm I’d created with Ali. Except now I finally understood the meaning of my equation for happiness.

Because, as I had found, the more successful I became, the more happiness seemed to elude me.

Each time I reached the next rung of the corporate ladder, there would always be another goal just out of reach. Yet I couldn’t stop myself working, striving to be better, wealthier, and ultimately, I hoped, happier.

I was driven by the misguided assumption that, sooner or later, all this effort would pay off and I’d find a pot of gold — happiness — at the end of my high-achievement rainbow. But it seemed like the more literal gold I accrued, the more miserable I became.

In the years where I worked myself into the ground in pursuit of more success, I was probably pushy and unpleasant — even at home. I spent too little time appreciating the remarkable woman I’d married and not enough time with my wonderful children or pausing to enjoy each day as it unfolded.

All the while I treated happiness as something I needed to succeed at, a puzzle that my rational brain needed to solve. I spent almost ten years investigating the mathematics behind happiness, and eventually developed an equation: a well-engineered model of happiness and how to sustain it.

Yet despite finding the ‘secret’ to happiness, I did nothing to implement this into my own life.

Then came Ali’s death — and my own moment of reckoning when I was forced to confront my secret equation head-on.

So what is the magic formula, I hear you ask. It’s H ≥ e – E. Or in other words: happiness is greater than or equal to the events of life, minus the expectations of life.

What I discovered was that, for most, happiness is the default setting. Children are born happy. But as we move through life, we grow out of that happy state.

As we strive for more, flashes of unhappiness appear every time life misses our expectations. The key to happiness, I concluded, lay in controlling the way we compare the events of our life with our expectations. It lay in being content with what we have in the present moment, rather than striving for the intangible ‘more’.

Until Ali’s death, I didn’t apply this discovery to my own life. But his departure forced my hand.

That’s not to say the pain of losing my son isn’t still very real. Indeed, it will never go away. Every time I remember Ali I weep.

But I have learned there’s a difference between pain and suffering. Pain is a mechanism the body uses to keep us alive — it protects us from further suffering. We learn from our pain.

Suffering, however, is not useful. It is a cycle where a thought causes more anguish through feelings of guilt. Pain should be enough of a motivation to improve your life.

And so, the minute I feel the pain of Ali’s death, which I feel every time I miss him, instead of self-flagellation and guilt, I think ‘What can I do about it? How can I make the world slightly better even though Ali is not in it?’. It has taught me that we are all in charge of our lives, our destiny and, ultimately, our happiness.

Because happiness really can be controlled. Anyone can be happy — even in the face of what appeared to be an unparalleled catastrophe like mine. Happiness is about filling your mind with beautiful memories, and finding reasons to be truly thankful, despite the pain life can bring.

And so sometimes I find it easier to think of Ali as a kind guest who was just visiting, but who brought light and happiness to our home.

The 21 years with him zoomed by, and if we’d had another 21 years together, they would have zoomed by just as fast. And even that wouldn’t have been enough.

So instead of thinking about losing him, I try to be grateful that we had him at all. I’ve changed my expectations. Rather than thinking that my son should never have died, I choose to be grateful for the times we had, rather than mourn the times we didn’t.

Happiness is not about what the world gives you — whether it’s a lottery win or the loss of a child — it’s about what you think about what the world gives you.

It’s not always easy, but it’s an exercise I run through many times a day. I think of it like going to the gym — I’m getting better at it all the time.

I’m glad to say I’ve helped many others, too; those who have found peace through mine and Ali’s discovery. One interview I did with Channel 4 has had 32 million hits and counting.

Yes, my heart aches. Yes, I want my son back by my side more than anything in the world. But I understand that I can’t have him — and so I have made the commitment and choose to be happy instead.

Interview by LOUISE ATKINSON

  • Solve For Happy by Mo Gawdat, Bluebird, £10.49 on Amazon

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Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4716514/Google-executive-devises-scientific-formula-happiness.html#ixzz4nSJvVHqi
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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, June 20, 2017 — Are we in the service to the holy ones? — Do we pray for those who persecute us? — Can we hug the lepers?

June 19, 2017

Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 366

Image result for hugging the leper, art, pictures

We are called upon to hug and love the lepers — and all the “marginalized.”

Reading 1 2 COR 8:1-9

We want you to know, brothers and sisters, of the grace of God
that has been given to the churches of Macedonia,
for in a severe test of affliction,
the abundance of their joy and their profound poverty
overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.
For according to their means, I can testify,
and beyond their means, spontaneously,
they begged us insistently for the favor of taking part
in the service to the holy ones,
and this, not as we expected,
but they gave themselves first to the Lord
and to us through the will of God,
so that we urged Titus that, as he had already begun,
he should also complete for you this gracious act also.
Now as you excel in every respect,
in faith, discourse, knowledge, all earnestness,
and in the love we have for you,
may you excel in this gracious act also.

I say this not by way of command,
but to test the genuineness of your love
by your concern for others.
For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that for your sake he became poor although he was rich,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 146:2, 5-6AB, 6C- 7, 8-9A

R. (1b) Praise the Lord, my soul!
or:
R. Alleluia.
Praise the LORD, my soul!
I will praise the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God while I live.
R. Praise the Lord, my soul!
or:
R. Alleluia.
Blessed he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD, his God,
Who made heaven and earth,
the sea and all that is in them.
R. Praise the Lord, my soul!
or:
R. Alleluia.
Who keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free.
R. Praise the Lord, my soul!
or:
R. Alleluia.
The LORD gives sight to the blind.
The LORD raises up those who were bowed down;
the LORD loves the just.
The LORD protects strangers.
R. Praise the Lord, my soul!
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia JN 13:34

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I give you a new commandment:
love one another as I have loved you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 5:43-48

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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20 JUNE, 2017, Tuesday, 11th Week, Ordinary Time
BE PERFECT IN GIVING

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 Cor 8:1-9; Ps 145:2,5-9; Mt 5:43-48 ]

In the first reading, we read of Paul’s passionate appeal to the Corinthians to help the Mother Church in Jerusalem which was going through very difficult times especially financially.  The Mother Church was poor and in need of financial assistance. They would have failed in their duty if they did not support the Mother Church that gave birth to the local churches.  Indeed, it is only right that all churches are called to help the Mother Church.  Today, this is still being done.  The local Church remits money to the Mother Church in Rome.  The parishes continue to support the archdiocese in her activities both financially and in activities.   Besides supporting the Mother Church, local churches have a duty to help sister churches that are also in need.

What is the basis for giving generously to churches that are in need?  Firstly, Paul underscored the importance of gratitude to God’s generosity.  Paul reminded the Corinthians of their blessings.  He said, “You always have the most of everything – of faith, of eloquence, of understanding, of keenness for any cause, and the biggest share of our affection – so we expect you to put the most into this work of mercy too.”   Indeed, the Corinthians had received much from God.  They had all the blessings of both material and spiritual wealth.  They should not be selfish and be concerned with just their own community.

Consequently, those who have been blessed more should give more.  This is the basic principle of giving.  Everything we have comes from God; our talents, our health, our resources, our career, our business and our friends.  The responsorial psalm reiterates this truth.  “He is happy who is helped by Jacob’s God, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who alone made heaven and earth, the seas and all they contain.  It is he who keeps faith forever, who is just to those who are oppressed. It is he who gives bread to the hungry, the Lord, who sets prisoners free. It is the Lord who gives sight to the blind, who raises up those who are bowed down, the Lord, who protects the stranger and upholds the widow and orphan.”  So most of what we have were given, even before we can cooperate with the gifts that God has blessed us with.  Whilst we might have worked hard to be where we are today, without the prior gifts of health and opportunities, we would never have made it to where we are today.  Since God has blessed us, we have a responsibility to bless others with what we have received.

Giving is also a sign of our appreciation and gratitude to God.  Paul wrote, “It is not an order that I am giving you; I am just testing the genuineness of your love against the keenness of others.”   If we are truly grateful for what we have received, then we will want to share it with others.  This is the test of gratitude and true love of God.   We cannot claim that we are deeply in love with God if we do not care for His larger family, His brothers and sisters who are deprived of their needs.  How can any member of the family be living in plenty and in luxury when there are members within his family who are in poverty?  So if we love God and Christ’s Church, His mystical body, then we must endeavor to support our sister churches, particularly, the Mother Church.

Secondly, Paul gave the wonderful example of the Christians in Macedonia.  They were going through great trials and sufferings themselves, yet they were constantly cheerful and ironically, even in their “intense poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity.”  They did not wallow in self-pity.  On the contrary, because of their own sufferings and poverty, they could feel for the Mother Church in Jerusalem even more.  It is true that often the most generous people are not the rich but the poor people.  This is because unless you have been poor, you will never fully understand the meaning of poverty and deprivation.  These are just concepts without experience.  But those of us who have been poor before tend to be more generous because we feel for the poor.  Now that we are better off, we feel the need to help them just as we had been helped by God.  No one should ever say that he or she is too poor to help.  This is because even if we are poor, there will be some who are even poorer than us.  That makes us richer than them!

But the Christian churches in Macedonia were not only generous but they sincerely gave from the heart.  Paul wrote, “I can swear that they gave not only as much as they could afford, but far more, and quite spontaneously, begging and begging us for the favour of sharing in this service to the saints.”   They were giving not because they were compelled to give or even obliged, but simply because they sympathized with the poor Mother Church in Jerusalem and they truly wanted to send relief to their brothers and sisters in the faith.  It was considered a great privilege for them to participate in this work of mercy.  Such was the generosity and kindness of the Christians in Macedonia.

But what was the secret of the Macedonians’ generosity?  Paul said, “What was quite unexpected, they offered their own selves first to God and, under God, to us.”  From them, we learn another principle of giving.  Before we give things or resources or time to others, we must first offer ourselves to God.  All giving ultimately is giving to God.  Once we are clear that we are giving to God in thanksgiving and gratitude, and as a sacrifice of love, we will then decide practically how much to give.   When we give, the question should not be, “how much should I give?”  This is a secondary question.  The primary question is “have I given myself to God completely?”  Only when we have done so, may we then ask the secondary question, “how much should I give” in the context of our limited resources and responsibility towards those under our charge.

The exemplar of all giving is Christ Himself.  Paul said, “Remember how generous the Lord Jesus was: he was rich, but he became poor for your sake, to make you rich out of his poverty.”  Christ emptied Himself of His divinity and became poor for our sake.  He came to identify Himself with us so that He could be the compassionate high priest, one who has been with us in every way, including temptation, except sin.  (cf Heb 4:15)  “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  (Heb 4:16)  Because Jesus had shared our sufferings, we can be sure that He would be most compassionate towards us as well.

But we still have not arrived at the heart and depth of giving.  The greatest act of giving is for-giving. We can give away material things and share our resources with others.  But it is very difficult to forgive our loved ones and those who have hurt us badly.  True giving is when we forgive our enemies and love them.  This is what Jesus asks of us in the gospel. “You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy.  But I say to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’  To bless and love our enemies is the highest form of giving anyone can give.  This is why Jesus is the perfect example of giving.  He came to give not only of Himself through the Incarnation, His works of mercy, the miracles of healing and exorcism.  But He came to forgive us our sins and reconcile us with His Father by His death on the cross, praying and justifying us by saying, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”  (Lk 23:34)

In so doing, Jesus demonstrated the perfect love of His Father.  “You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  His perfection in giving is seen by the way He “causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike.”  Thus, Jesus remarked, “If you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit?  Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not?  And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional?  Even the pagans do as much, do they not?”  So if we want to be known as sons of our Father in heaven, then we must perfect ourselves in love through giving and forgiving.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Commentary on Matthew 5:43-48 From Living Space

Today’s passage, like yesterday’s, comes from the Sermon on the Mount. The two are not unrelated: both speak of dealing with people with whom we have difficulties.

It is a passage which many find difficult, too idealistic or just downright meaningless. The Mosaic Law said that one must love one’s neighbour. It does not actually say we should hate our enemies but in practice such hatred was condoned. Jesus rejects that teaching outright for his followers. We are to love our enemies and pray for them.

How can we possibly do that? It is important that we understand what ‘love’ here means.

In Greek it is the word agape , a deep concern for the good of the other that reaches out even if there is no return. It is not sexual, physical love (eros) nor is it the mutual love of intimate friendship or that between marriage partners (philia).

‘Enemy’ here too means those who do harm to us in some way. It does not include the people we turn into enemies because we don’t like them. The true Christian does not have this kind of enemy.

The main reason Jesus gives for acting in this way is that that is what God himself does.

God has many friends and many who are opposed to him, yet he treats them all exactly the same, his agape reaches out to all indiscriminately just as the welcome rain falls and the burning sun shines with equal impartiality on every single person.

Elsewhere we are told that God IS love, it is his nature; he cannot do anything else. And that love is extended EQUALLY to every single person – to Our Lady, Mother Teresa, to the murdering terrorist, the serial killer, the abusive husband, the paedophile…

Image result for Mother Teresa, photos

Mother Teresa

The difference is not in God’s love for each of these people but in their response to that love.

Jesus tells us that we must try to love people in the same way. It is important to note that he is not telling us to be IN love with those who harm us or to like them or to have them as our friends. That would be unrealistic and unreasonable to ask.

But if we just care for those who are nice to us how are we different from others? Even members of a murder gang, people with no religion or morals do the same. But we are called to imitate the God in whose image we have been made.

And is it so unreasonable to love, to care for, to have genuine concern for our enemies and pray for them? One presumes, as we have said, they are enemies in the sense that they are hostile to us even though we have not provoked them in any way. True Christians, from their side, do not have enemies. For someone to be my enemy, it means that person really hates me and may wish to do harm to me or may already have harmed me in some way.

What do I gain by hating that that person back? Then there are two of us. Why should I allow another’s person’s hate to influence my feelings towards them? A person who hates, is a person who is suffering, a person who is doing more damage to himself – rather than to the supposed enemy. As the gospel says, another person can hurt my body but not my inner self.

And, if he/she does harm me, they only harm themselves as well, even if they get a twisted pleasure in the short term. If I have a true Christian spirit I will reach out in compassion to that person. I will want that person to be healed, healed of their hatred, healed of their anger, and to learn how to love.

Surely it is much better and makes more sense to pray for that person than to hate them back. To bring about healing and reconciliation rather than deepen the wound on both sides.

What Jesus is asking us to do is not something impossible or unnatural. It is the only thing that makes sense and will bring peace to me and hopefully in time to the person who is hostile to me. We can literally disarm a hating person by acting towards them in a positive and loving way and refusing to be controlled by their negative attitudes. “Bless are the peacemakers; they will be called children of God.”

“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Obviously, this is an ideal that we can only reach out to. But it is a call to do our utmost to imitate God in extending our goodwill impartially and unconditionally to every single person. This is not just a commandment. When we reflect on it, it is simply common sense and it is as much in our own interest as it benefits others.

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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20 FEBRUARY 2016, Saturday, 1st Week of Lent
CONVERSION AS RESTORATION AND PERFECTION IN CHRIST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: Deuteronomy 26:16-19; Matthew 5:43-48In the first reading we are reminded that we are chosen to be God’s people.  Like the Israelites, we were nobody but God has called us to be His people.  We are not only called to be God’s subjects but also His sons and daughters.  To be called is a great privilege but also a great responsibility.  But this privilege brings with it the obligations arising from our dignity as God’s people.  Who we are requires us to live out our calling and our identity as the People of God.  Yesterday’s gospel reminds us that our virtues must go deeper than the scribes and Pharisees.

If we are God’s people, then necessarily, we have to live out the Covenant as taught to us by Moses and our Lord.  The people of Israel were reminded that it was not enough to claim that they were the People of God.  They were required to follow the Mosaic Laws so that they could live as a people united in love and in service, with each other and with God.  How could they do it unless they follow the commandments prescribed to them? Moses said to the people: “You have today made this declaration about the Lord; that he will be your God, but only if you follow his ways, keep his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and listen to his voice. And the Lord has today made this declaration about you; that you will be his very own people as he promised you, but only if you keep all his commandments; then for praise and renown and honour he will set you high above all the nations he has made, and you will be a people consecrated to the Lord, as he had promised.”

So what are the implications of being the people of God for us, the New People of God?  We must show ourselves to be really God’s people by our way of life.  As God’s people and members of the Body of Christ, we must live a life of charity and unity among ourselves.  Unless we are united with each other, we are merely a bunch of individuals.   We cannot say that we are God’s people and members of the Household of God with God as our Father when the children are living separate and individualistic lives.  The Church for that reason is called a Communion.  We are called to communion with each other in Christ.  This is what we pray and say at the very beginning of the Eucharistic celebration when the Presider says, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

To help us all to be in communion, we need order, guidelines and rules so that we can live in mutual respect.   Indeed, the purpose of commandments is to help us to live in unity and provide a common direction for the community as to what are the essentials of community life. This is reinforced in the responsorial psalm, “They are happy whose life is blameless, who follow God’s law! They are happy who do his will, seeking him with all their hearts.”   So laws are given not to enslave us or make our life miserable but to provide order and unity.  In every community, we need to have proper structures and forums to ensure that there is proper communication and order.

Secondly, we must recognize His Lordship over us.  If we are God’s people, we must realize that God is our Lord and our king, we are His subjects.  Hence, we must surrender everything to His Lordship. We must obey Him in all things.  This is what Moses says, “You have today made this declaration about the Lord; that he will be your God, but only if you follow his ways, keep his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and listen to his voice.”  We cannot claim that God is our Lord when we do not follow His ways and His direction in whatever we do.   We must listen to His voice, which is the Word of God.

Thirdly, we must be consecrated to Him.  We must consecrate our whole life, soul and being, returning to Him what He has given to us.  Moses told the people “you will be a people consecrated to the Lord, as he had promised.”  In whatever we do, we want to offer ourselves to Him.   Being consecrated to the Lord is to offer our entire being for His service and for His mission.   Whatever we have, our talents, our resources and our gifts must be surrendered for His service and for the good of the community.

But God is not contented to choose us as His people.  He wants us to be more than merely His subjects.  As Christians we are His sons and daughters because He is our Father and we share in His divine nature.  He wants each of us to reflect the perfection of Himself.  The implication is to reflect the face of God.  “You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”   This perfection is not a moral perfection, which is impossible for us to attain.  It is perfection in terms of compassion and forgiveness.   We must reflect the glory of God in us.  Hence, we must go beyond just observance of the laws in the way God loves us.

This means that we must love like the Father.  He is the Father of all humanity.  As sons of the Father, we must consider others as our brothers and sisters.  We must go beyond loving only our own kind.  We must reach out beyond our community, our family and our loved ones.  Christianity must embrace everyone, regardless of race, language or religion.   We are called to share God’s love and message with all.   Jesus made it clear when He remarked, “For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not?”  Christian love is a love without conditions and certainly not cliquish and inward looking. There are many Catholic groups.  They appear to be active in Church but they do not reach out beyond their members.  Many of our church groups do not even know each other and some are competing with each other for glory and power when we are supposed to be one Church, all working in different ways to glorify God by our lives.

The perfection of love would also mean that we are called to love not just beyond our own kind, but even our enemies.  Jesus has shown us what it means to love all the children of His Father when He forgave and loved His enemies on the cross.  What He taught us, He lived out Himself in His life.   “You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes the sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike.”  Loving our enemies means feeling with them, forgiving them for their weaknesses and praying for their conversion.  Unless we have prayed and fasted for our enemies and those who make life difficult for us, we have not really loved them yet.  But if we do, then we will come to empathize with them and feel sorry for them that they are hurting as much as they are hurting others.

How can this be possible? Perfection in Christ can only be attained by inserting ourselves into the paschal mystery shared by His death resurrection and the Holy Spirit which is given to us at baptism.  By baptism too, we share in Christ’s sonship and receive His Spirit to act like sons.  By virtue of our baptism, we belong to the new people of God.  The community of grace will assist us and help us to live out our sonship and daughtership.  That is why, no Christian needs to journey alone.  We need each other to live out this calling to be God’s people and His children.   At the same time, we must always remember that we cannot live out the unconditional love of God in our lives unless we are founded on God’s love.  We cannot love perfectly as parents, children and friends.  We cannot love with unlimited love.  Human love will always be a broken love.  But that should not throw us into despair because God’s unconditional love will heal us and empower us.  We must now reclaim our gift of sonship through repentance, prayers and works of charity.

Lent is a time to prepare us to renew our baptismal calling. The focus is not on fasting, although such spiritual exercises are useful means to help us identify with the poor, the suffering and reinforce some self-discipline when it comes to the weakness of the flesh.  Lent is a time to restore our dignity as baptized Christians called to be the people of God and children of God.   Ultimately, Lent wants to prepare us to live out the freedom and joy of the children of God who are capable of love, forgiveness and compassion.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, June 11, 2017 — “The LORD is a merciful and gracious God.” — “Pardon our wickedness and sins and receive us as your own.”

June 10, 2017

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Lectionary: 164

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Art: Moses gives a prayer of thanks after the Israelites go through the Red Sea, 1861 – Ivan Kramskoy

Reading 1  EX 34:4B-6, 8-9

Early in the morning Moses went up Mount Sinai
as the LORD had commanded him,
taking along the two stone tablets.

Having come down in a cloud, the LORD stood with Moses there
and proclaimed his name, “LORD.”
Thus the LORD passed before him and cried out,
“The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God,
slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”
Moses at once bowed down to the ground in worship.
Then he said, “If I find favor with you, O Lord,
do come along in our company.
This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins,
and receive us as your own.”

Responsorial Psalm DN 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56

R. (52b) Glory and praise for ever!
Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;
And blessed is your holy and glorious name,
praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages.
R. Glory and praise for ever!
Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,
praiseworthy and glorious above all forever.
R. Glory and praise for ever!
Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
R. Glory and praise for ever!
Blessed are you who look into the depths
from your throne upon the cherubim,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
R. Glory and praise for ever!

Reading 2 2 COR 13:11-13

Brothers and sisters, rejoice.
Mend your ways, encourage one another,
agree with one another, live in peace,
and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
All the holy ones greet you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

AlleluiaCF. RV 1:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit;
to God who is, who was, and who is to come.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 3:16-18

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

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From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit! For so many people, even today, the proclamation that there is a God is increasingly difficult.  Even more difficult to believe is that God is three persons and yet still one God.  It can take a person many years to believe completely in the Trinity.  And there is no way that we can ever understand this teaching completely.

For many, the only way to understand the Trinity is through Jesus Himself.  When we begin to walk with Jesus, we must begin to look at reality the way that He looks at reality.  We encounter Jesus as a young Jewish man and we must spend some time looking at the world from that perspective.  Jesus accepts the teaching of the Jews of the Pharisee school—for the most part.  We could say that Jesus is formed as a Pharisee but also by the presence of God in a very special way.  He calls God His Father and eventually also says that He and the Father are One.

Then Jesus begins to speak also about His Spirit, the Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of the Father.  The Father and the Spirit are not realities invented by Christ, but rather the deepest realities of all that is which Jesus is now beginning to speak about with His followers.  Jesus reveals reality to us and the relationships within reality.

Slowly Jesus reveals to us that God is a reality that is Triune and which reflects love within itself and outside itself. Most of the time we don’t spend much time reflecting on this reality because it is so far beyond our capacity to understand.  On the other hand, this mystery of the Trinity, this mystery of Jesus, this mystery of the Father’s love—this is the deepest nature of our world and draws us all to learn to accept God’s love and forgiveness.

We walked with Jesus through His life, to His death and then came to know His Resurrection.  All of these great mysteries point us to Father, Son and Spirit.  The more walk with Jesus and the more we are formed by Him, the more we can understand and delight in the Most Holy Trinity.  Amen.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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11 JUNE, 2017, Sunday, The Most Holy Trinity
THE TRINITY AS THE ANSWER TO GLOBALIZATION AND INDIVIDUALISM

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ EX 34:4-6, 8-9;  2 COR 13:11-13; JOHN 3:16-18  ]

We live in a very divided society.  Mass communication and social media are supposed to help human beings to communicate better.  The irony of it all is that it is one of the causes of breakdown in relationships. Instead of communicating with each other more personally, we have become impersonal with emails.  Instead of spending time with our loved ones at home or at meals, we are busy with our mobile phones.  Instead of using social media to transmit positive information, we use it to destroy people’s lives, shame those who make mistakes and worst of all, transmit fake news and distort information.

Indeed, society has become more individualistic and self-centered.  It is about the happiness of the individual over the rest of the community.  It is about me and my freedom to do what I like at the expense of the greater good of others.  In the name of freedom and human rights, the freedom and rights of the greater community is compromised.  When an individual claims complete autonomy from others, he becomes inward-looking.  He is selfish, arrogant and cares only for himself.  He puts himself before others. He cares for others only to the extent that they are of use to him in his promotion at work, business or personal needs.  People are used, not loved. Relationship is for fundamentally utilitarian purposes, not about mutual love.

What is the cause?  A godless society!  Whether we admit it or not, we model ourselves according to our values and conception of life.  A society without good role models to imitate but ourselves would be an impoverished community. Conversely, if we believe in God, we will imitate whom we believe.  Our concept of God determines how we live our lives.  The religion or faith we subscribe to will impact the way we relate to each other, especially in married and family life.  Our values originate from our faith.   How we perceive God is how we will relate to each other.  There cannot be another dichotomy between faith and life.  So those without God will operate from what they think life should be lived, since they have no models to live by except what they see in the lives of others, depending who they are attracted or inspired by.   If we choose the wrong models of success and happiness in life, we might end up destroying ourselves.  We can either imitate St Teresa of Calcutta or Hitler.   The implications are colossal.

So what is our concept of God?  In the first reading, we read about the attributes of God. He revealed Himself to Moses as “a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness.”  This concept of God is quite similar to that of Islam and Judaism.  Not surprisingly, we share the same Old Testament roots.  In Islam, God is known as the Compassionate One.  Interestingly, although Buddhism does not speak about God, yet the distinguishing mark of Buddha is that of an Enlightened One and of compassion.  This explains why Jews, Muslims and Buddhists emphasize the need for compassion for our fellowmen. Charity and almsgiving are important practical expressions of our faith.  So followers of such religions at least tend to emphasize much on compassion, fraternal love for their brothers and sisters, forgiveness and helping each other.  Thus, our beliefs in God determine very much how we relate to our fellowmen.  If God is merciful to us and forgiving, then necessarily, we who receive His mercy and forgiveness would extend the same blessings to others as well.

However, Christian Faith goes beyond proclaiming that God is compassion.  The gospel reading speaks of the being of God as love.  “God loved the world so much.”  When we speak of God as love, then we are claiming that God is relationship.  If the being of God is love, He could not possibly love Himself, as this would be narcissism.  And how could He be love from all eternity when the world, the universe and human beings were still not around for Him to love? So He would be loving Himself!  Flowing from this truth that God is love, we must posit that although the substance of God is One, since God must be a unity, yet within God there must be relations.  Consequently, Christian doctrine defines God as One in being but three in persons.

God is subsistent relations.  This is to say that the three persons in the Trinity do not have relations like you and I.  We have relations outside of us.  We are related to our parents, our spouse, our children, but we are not constituted of these relations because we are also unique individuals.  We can stand alone but we are also social beings.  In God, however, He is pure relations; that is, the Father cannot exist without the Son and the Son without the Father and both without the Holy Spirit.  This explains why the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is an advancement of monotheism.  Christianity, although monotheistic, does not conceive of God as a monad, as in Judaism and Islam.  In the One God, the three persons share in the same divine substance.  This is what unites the three persons.  But within the one divine substance, there are three persons in relations.

This doctrine of the One God in three persons is not a philosophical deduction but is rooted in the experience of God in the life of a Christian.  Clearly, in the gospel, we read that God is not merely love but He is also a Father, that is, the origin of life and love.  Jesus revealed to Nicodemus that “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.”  God is more than love.  He is our Father.  Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father, the expression of the Father on earth.  He is the incarnation of God, the Word made flesh.  Together, the Father and the Son saved the world by bestowing their mutual love and mercy on the world.  This is summed up by St Paul when he described the love of God.  “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”  In this Trinitarian greeting, we have the summary of the Christian experience of God’s love and mercy through our Lord Jesus Christ made present in the Holy Spirit, especially in the fellowship of the Christian community.

What is the implication of this doctrine of the Holy Trinity for us all?  It means that our happiness and joy in life depends on the depth of our relationship with each other.  Just as the happiness and fulfilment of God is found within the mutual relationship of the Father and the Son sharing in the same Spirit of love, our completion and fulfilment must come in our relationships with our fellowmen.  Although we are individuals, yet we are called to be one with others.  We are unique so that we can complement each other in love, in resources and blessings.  No man is an island.  He needs to relate with others to find himself.  Man is therefore an individual and social being.  He needs to be himself but never without the others.  To love himself is to love his neighbours.

The three persons of the Holy Trinity live from each other, by each other, from each other and in each other.  The unity of the three persons is complete and yet they are distinct from one another.  We too are called to love in such a manner.  We are called to be united in our diversity.  We need each other and we are called to live for each other, with each other and from each other as well.  In all that we do and act, we do it out of love.  It is love that unites us in our distinctions as individuals.  When we define God and human beings as love, it means that we need each other.   God must be a Trinity of persons. We are social beings.

This is also our answer to a world that wavers between globalization and individualism.  The recent political developments in the world exemplify this tension. Some countries are going back to protectionism in the face of globalization. They view others as a threat to their economy and their homogenous society.  So instead of reaching out, they are excluding others by promoting themselves at the expense of other countries. At the other end of the spectrum are those who promote globalization, free trade and welcoming migrants.  They believe in free competition and mutual promotion of each other’s interests.  The first is a win-lose approach.  The latter is a win-win approach.  What we need to promote today is the uniqueness of the individual which cannot be denied.  But we must also underscore that no individual and no country can exist for herself but also for and with others.  This is the kind of communion that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is offering to the world.  Instead of alienating others, we are called to build bridges of love.  In this way, through mutual love, we can truly transform this humanity into the family of God united as one in love.

Now we can appreciate why the Lord tells us that the greatest commandments are these “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  (Mk 12:29-31)  The concept of God as Trinity therefore reveals to us the key to true happiness, which is the love of God manifested in our love for others, a love that is in imitation of the Blessed Trinity, a love that is mutually giving, caring, and empowering.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, April 22, 2017 — “He rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart.” — It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.

April 21, 2017

Saturday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 266

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

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.
or:
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.
or:
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.
or:
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.
or:
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.

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 result for Jesus appeared to those walking along the road, art, photos

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Reflection From Christian Women’s Corner

Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene.  Who he had cast out seven demons 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.

https://christianwomenscorner.wordpress.com/tag/reading-and-reflection-from-the-gospel-of-mark-169-15/

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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.
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Surprise, joy, boldness and outreach. These are the sights and sounds of those whom the Lord revealed himself to.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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-intelligent creatures, 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!
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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!
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 APRIL, 2017, Saturday within Easter Octave
IRRESISTIBLE POWER OF GRACE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 4:13-21; PS 117:1,14-21; MARK 16:9-15 ]

It is man’s nature to want to be in control of their lives.  This was the sin of Adam and Eve.  The devil promised them that if they ate the forbidden fruit, “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  (Gn 3:5) That is why we do not like situations that are unpredictable.  We want our lives to run like clockwork, precise and in a mechanical manner.  We hate surprises because it means upsetting our program and our schedule.  Things must go according to our way and according to our plan.  This, too, was the attitude of the Jewish leaders.  They sought to be in control of the situation and to ensure that everyone toed the line.  The scriptures clearly spelt out the laws, and the traditions had kept the Jews together for centuries.  So, too, the Romans were always fearful of rebellion, social and political upheavals.

But this God is a God of surprises.  He does not follow the laws all the time!  Not even the laws of nature!  Indeed, we are always being challenged to think out of the box.  This God works out of the box and brings us new situations that we have no control over.  When the Jewish leaders saw “the man who had been cured standing by their side, they could find no answer.”  Indeed, no human, scientific or natural explanation could be found.  They themselves admitted this fact.  “It is obvious to everybody in Jerusalem that a miracle has been worked through them in public, and we cannot deny it.”

This was also the experience of the apostles in encountering the power of grace.  They initially could not believe in the resurrection of Jesus.  They were “in mourning and in tears!”  When Mary Magdalene and the two disciples from Emmaus recounted their encounter with the Risen Lord, they did not believe them.  Only when the Lord appeared to them, did they come to believe.  “He reproached them for their incredulity and obstinacy, because they had refused to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.”  We can appreciate their reluctance because it was too good to be true, and it was a trans-historical event.  Their fears, sadness and despair prevented them from looking beyond the fact of the crucifixion.  Once again, one has to drop all logic and human reasoning to accept this event of encountering the Risen Lord.  Furthermore, this encounter was beyond description as they were encountering someone that came from the future to the present.

In the face of the power of grace, we can take two approaches.  One is to reject and the other is to accept.  The Jewish leaders took the path of denial and rejection.  “So they ordered them to stand outside while the Sanhedrin had a private discussion. ‘What are we going to do with these men?’ they asked.”  And the decision reached was “to stop the whole thing spreading any further among the people, let us caution them never to speak to anyone in this name again.”  Instead of dealing and reflecting on the marvelous event, they sought to quash it for fear of losing their status quo, their position in society and their institutions.  And they knew that they were wrong.  Instead, “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.”   They refused to recognize the facts that were so obvious before their eyes.

How true for many of us as well.  When we see miracles happening, we still do not want to admit that it is the power of grace and the power of God.  There are many agnostics who would not surrender themselves to the power of grace.  They see the facts and conclude that science cannot explain, but they would not ascribe the event to the power of God’s grace at work in their lives.  We are simply too proud to submit to a higher authority because we think we are in control and we have the answers to everything.  Human pride and fear are the causes of unbelief.

The other response is to bow down before the power of God, as St Peter asks of us.  “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you.”  (1 Pt 5:6)  That was what the apostles did even when they were under threat not to repeat what they said and especially  “on no account to make statements or to teach in the name of Jesus. But 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.’”  For the apostles, it was clear that the healing of the crippled man was the power of God, regardless whether they believed it or not.  It was in the name of the Lord Jesus that the man was healed.  Indeed, if we have seen and heard the power of God at work in our lives, there is no way for us to remain quiet.  This in itself is the proof of the work of God!  The grace of God is irresistible and overwhelming for anyone who encounters Him.  

So, what brought about the powerful grace of God? What gave the apostles who were uneducated, ordinary men such boldness, courage and confidence to preach the Good News about Jesus?  The cause of their radical change, they came to realize, was that they were simply “associates of Jesus.”  Indeed, those who associated with Jesus were radically transformed after the resurrection and the bestowal of the Holy Spirit.  Their fears were removed completely and they could stand tall before the Jewish leaders testifying to the power of the Risen Lord.  Once, they were fearful of the authorities and afraid of suffering and prosecution.  But now they were ready to suffer anything for the Lord Jesus.  We can explain such radical change only because they walked with Jesus, they saw Him, they loved Him and they were inspired by Him and, last but not least, they encountered Him alive after being put to death.  The resurrection as the radical expression of grace was enough to transform their lives radically.

This means that if we are to see the Risen Lord in our lives, the first thing we need to do is to associate with Jesus!  Unless we are in contact with Jesus, reading the scriptures, studying about the faith, reading spiritual books and making contact with the disciples of Christ, we cannot know Jesus sufficiently to have faith in Him. Hearing and seeing open our hearts and minds to the grace of God.  This is the purpose of preaching;to help potential believers to respond to the grace of God.  That is why sharing of faith among Catholics, finding a faith community for spiritual and moral support is so critical for anyone who wants to be an associate of Christ.  Where is Christ today if not in His Church, in the liturgy, in the priests and in their fellow Catholics?

This, however, is just the first stage.  The second stage to respond to grace is through intimacy and love.  It is significant to take note that it was not to Peter that the Risen Lord first appeared but to “Mary of Magdala from whom he had cast out seven devils.”  St Peter was using too much of his head, logic and reasoning.  But the Lord appeared to those who loved Him.  Mary Magdalene had been forgiven much and liberated from her severe bondages to her sins and her past.  For that, she loved Jesus deeply and passionately.  She was the first to arrive at the Tomb on Sunday.  She could not wait to see Jesus, even if He were just a corpse.   Love enables us to see the Lord that reason cannot.  Jesus said, “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”  (Jn 14:21)

So today, we are invited to come to God not through reason but in faith and in love.  Only faith and love can allow the grace of God to open our hearts and our minds.  It is not wrong to have a rationalizing and empirical spirit, but it should come only after the experience of the power of grace.  We are called to take the leap of faith, relying not on our own strength but the power of God.  If we behave like the Sanhedrin, we will end up fighting against God. The question of Peter is also ours when he retorted, “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.”  We ignore the power of grace to our disadvantage.  Those who seek to smother grace will be the ones who will lose out to the greater things of life that the Lord wants to offer them.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/
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Holy Thursday: The importance of studying the Lord and Evangelization

April 13, 2017
Angel Rock, ABS-CBN News

Posted at April 13 2017 04:55 PM

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle. file Photo

Thousands of Catholics flocked to the Manila Cathedral to attend the Chrism Mass 7:00 am, Thursday.

Led by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Mass attended by hundreds of priests from various parish in Metro Manila.

Evangelization or spreading the good news was the theme of the Chrism Mass that lasted more than two hours.

Tagle said, not only about the renewal of vows of the priests and the simple blessing of the oil mass, but regarded it as a celebration of the people of God and communion of communities.

In the homily, Tagle said the importance of studying the Lord especially this week of Semana Santa. According to him, not only priests had the responsibility to spread the good news. Anya should ask all of the Holy Spirit to be part of the good news and share the true freedom and salvation given by God for all.

After the homily, the offering of oil, conducted the renewal of vows and pinagdasal all the priests gratitude to God.

Before the Mass, also gave awards are celebrating their 25th and 50th anniversary of his priesthood.

The carrying balloons and plakards gathered and congratulate the supporters of the priest outside the cathedral.

Annual tradition of the Catholic churches to perform the Chrism Mass every day of Maundy Thursday, a symbol of unity of the clergy in the church. Blessing of the bishop or cardinal also the oil which is used by priests throughout the year in the sacraments.

http://news.abs-cbn.com/%20News%20/%2004/13/17%20/%20cardinal-tagle-in-the-catholic-be-part-you-a-good-news

Related:

 (2016)

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Pope Francis performs the Holy Thursday ritual of washing feet in 2016. The Holy Thursday rite re-enacts the foot-washing ritual Jesus performed on his apostles [L”Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP]

In past years the pope has spent the holiday washing the feet of inmates at a prison in Rome. While the Holy Father will continue that tradition, he will instead wash the feet of asylum seekers and immigrants, many of whom will not be Christians. Below are other traditions associated with Holy Thursday:

1. Thursday night church services. Services are traditionally solemn observances, unlike the celebration of Easter on Sunday. Most services are held in the evening, as the Last Supper was said to take place during sundown.

2. The Eucharist. The Eucharist is a Christian rite meant to symbolize the Last Supper. It involves eating bread and drinking wine, which symbolize the body and blood of Jesus, respectively.

3. Feet washing. The religious rite of washing feet was described in the Bible as a symbolic gesture of breaking social barriers between the religious elite and the poor. Jesus told his disciples, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet,” according to the Gospel of St. John. “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”

4. Visiting seven churches. The tradition of visiting seven churches on Maundy Thursday to pray is practiced most notably in the Philippines and Latin America. The practice is thought to have originated in ancient Rome when religious followers visited Rome’s seven basilicas.

5. Alms giving. In the U.K., the giving of “alms,” which comes from the Greek word for pity, is traditionally practiced by the monarch and involves offering coins to the elderly.

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Book: Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic by Matthew Kelly.

(Might also be called, “Four Signs of a Dynamic Christian” or “Four Signs of A Dynamic Person in Recovery”)

  1. We Pray and Meditate
  2. We study (spiritual works, like the scripture — For alcoholics and drug addicted people, we study the 12 Step literature)
  3. We pour ourselves out in loving service to others
  4. We evangelize. A Christians talks about his faith — he is not ashamed. A person in AA or another 12 Step recovery program, does 12 Step work.

We don’t hear too much about “practicing Catholics” these days but we should. “Practicing” means doing the daily orderly things required of our God and our faith, like praying at dedicated times each day. We have to choose order over disorder and others should readily see the result in us!

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, February 3, 2017 — “Let marriage be honored among all and the marriage bed be kept undefiled.”

February 2, 2017

Friday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 327

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Reading 1 HEB13:1-8

Let brotherly love continue.
Do not neglect hospitality,
for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.
Be mindful of prisoners as if sharing their imprisonment,
and of the ill-treated as of yourselves,
for you also are in the body.
Let marriage be honored among all
and the marriage bed be kept undefiled,
for God will judge the immoral and adulterers.
Let your life be free from love of money
but be content with what you have,
for he has said, I will never forsake you or abandon you.
Thus we may say with confidence:

The Lord is my helper,
and I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?

Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you.
Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Responsorial Psalm PS 27:1, 3, 5, 8B-9ABC

R. (1a) The Lord is my light and my salvation.
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart will not fear;
Though war be waged upon me,
even then will I trust.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
For he will hide me in his abode
in the day of trouble;
He will conceal me in the shelter of his tent,
he will set me high upon a rock.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Your presence, O LORD, I seek.
Hide not your face from me;
do not in anger repel your servant.
You are my helper: cast me not off.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.

Alleluia LK 8:15

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart,
and yield a harvest through perseverance.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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John The Baptist in the prison cell

Gospel MK 6:14-29

King Herod heard about Jesus, for his fame had become widespread,
and people were saying,
“John the Baptist has been raised from the dead;
That is why mighty powers are at work in him.”
Others were saying, “He is Elijah”;
still others, “He is a prophet like any of the prophets.”
But when Herod learned of it, he said,
“It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.”
Herod was the one who had John arrested and bound in prison
on account of Herodias,
the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married.
John had said to Herod,
“It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
Herodias harbored a grudge against him
and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so.
Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man,
and kept him in custody.
When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed,
yet he liked to listen to him.
Herodias had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday,
gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers,
and the leading men of Galilee.
His own daughter came in and performed a dance
that delighted Herod and his guests.
The king said to the girl,
“Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.”
He even swore many things to her,
“I will grant you whatever you ask of me,
even to half of my kingdom.”

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Salome Dancing Before King Herod by Georges Rochegrosse (French, 1859–1929)

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She went out and said to her mother,
“What shall I ask for?”
Her mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”
The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request,
“I want you to give me at once on a platter
the head of John the Baptist.”
The king was deeply distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests
he did not wish to break his word to her.
So he promptly dispatched an executioner
with orders to bring back his head.
He went off and beheaded him in the prison.
He brought in the head on a platter
and gave it to the girl.
The girl in turn gave it to her mother.
When his disciples heard about it,
they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

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Head of Saint John the Baptist by an anonymous Spanish painter, circa 1600, in the Collectioin of the Cleveland Museum of Art
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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03 FEBRUARY, 2017, Friday, 4th Week, Ordinary Time
SENSITIVITY TO ONE’S CONSCIENCE AS A PREREQUISITE FOR GROWTH IN CHRISTIAN LIFE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ HEB 13:1-8; MK 6:14-29   ]

Christians are called to imitate Christ the High Priest in perfection and holiness.  To grow in holiness presupposes that we are purified of our sins, which means in the first place that we need to grow in sensitivity to our conscience.  This is particularly important, especially with regard to the question of justice and truth. Hence, the gospel presents to us the different kinds or levels of conscience which one can grow or diminish in our spiritual life.

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The conscience that most of us have is that of Herod’s, which is a weak and feeble conscience. When we examine the interior struggles of Herod, we find that actually he was not a bad man.  In fact, he was a generous man who wanted to walk in the truth.  He was not a man without conscience at all.  Indeed, Mark recounts, “Herod was afraid of John, knowing him to be a good and holy man, and gave him his protection.  When he had heard him speak he was greatly perplexed, and yet he liked to listen to him.”  He wanted to live an authentic life.  But he was torn between being true to himself and gaining the respect of others.

Unfortunately, he was a man who chose to please everyone for love of himself, his pride and reputation.  The fact that he could, without thinking, offer the daughter of Herodias anything she asked for, even “half of his kingdom”, shows that he must have been quite a show off.  Of course, he had to pay a high price for such an irresponsible act, since it cost the head of John the Baptist, which was not what he wanted.  This made him “deeply distressed, but thinking of the oaths that he had sworn, and of what his guests would think of him, he was reluctant to break his word to her.”  Here again, we see the tension between his conscience and his desire to please, and also the need to protect his ego.

We can easily identify with Herod.  Like him, we want to please everyone.  We have generally a good heart.  But we tend to compromise because of our weakness in love.  We do not know, or rather, we do not have the heart to say “no” to things that are wrong, or anything that would compromise our vocation. Like Herod, we compromise in our irregular relationships with others; we compromise when it comes to honesty with regard to money or things entrusted to our care; we compromise by being hypocritical, saying nice things to people in front of them but destroying their character behind their backs.

For this reason, we suffer guilt and fear, like Herod, whose conscience continued to haunt him throughout his life, for whenever he heard of John the Baptist he would say, ‘It is John whose head I cut off; he has risen from the dead.’    We too will suffer the same fate with him if we are not careful.

But what is even more dangerous is that a person who has a weak and feeble conscience can end up with a lax, evil and immoral conscience.  Sin increases and snowballs if we do not deal with it head-on.  In living a hypocritical lifestyle, we are actually living in darkness.  Those who live in the dark always fear the light; those who are living in sin fear the truth.  This was certainly the situation of Herodias.  When the truth was exposed, she became defensive and vindictive.  Because her security, ego and interests were threatened, she began to plot the death of John the Baptist: “she was furious with him and wanted to kill him; but she was not able to, because Herod was afraid of John.”  The only reason she did not carry out her act was because the opportunity was not available, but she had already murdered him in her heart.  So she began to scheme and wait for a chance to take her revenge.

The same thing will also happen to us.  We know that dishonest and immoral living will somehow come to surface in due time.  What is hidden cannot be kept for long. It is understandable that when such wrongs are exposed, whoever is accused would want to defend and justify himself at all costs.  Few would have the courage and humility to admit the truth, because like Herodias, we need to save face.  Even Herod, who made the foolish promise to Herodias’ daughter, came under pressure to give in so as to show himself a man of his word before his nobles and army officers.

Of course, the tragedy is that an unscrupulous conscience does not stop here.  One would think that Herodias must have been the most evil and deceitful woman with the worst kind of conscience one could think of.  Yet, even for Herodias, there is still hope for salvation because she was simply insecure and angry to the point of being revengeful.  Hatred had consumed and blinded her.  The danger for us all is that, like her, hatred and revenge can overwhelm us in such a way that we can no longer differentiate between what is right and wrong anymore.

The daughter of Herodias exemplifies this outcome of a conscience that has turned lax and then dead.  She must have been so influenced by Herodias’ plotting and scheming that she could no longer distinguish between truth and falsehood.  She had an indifferent conscience, oblivious to truth and goodness. With such a conscience, one does not think anymore.  One acts according to one’s whims and fancies.  It is good to take note that she had no part in the condemnation of John the Baptist.  In fact, she was not even an enemy of John the Baptist.  Yet, when her mother told her to ask for the head of John the Baptist, she could obey without even thinking of the consequences.  Such indifference is brought out so poignantly today when Mark narrates how the executioner, after beheading John the Baptist in prison; “brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother.”  How can a person be so unfeeling at the sight of a decapitated head and yet show no emotion?  It was all done in a perfunctory and nonchalant manner.  She could even give up half the kingdom that could have been hers, just for the head of John the Baptist!  She must be the epitome of apathy towards the values of life.

We, too, can also become as dead to our conscience after some time.  This is true for those of us who rationalize our sinful actions.  The truth is that one sin always leads to another.  This has been true since the days of Adam and Eve.  The first sin of disobedience led to murder by Cain.  Indeed, it is said that the trauma one feels the first time one kills another person, as in a war, is the most acute.  But after the first killing, the killer is no longer restrained.  He becomes more courageous and numbed as he goes on to kill more and more. This is very true of murderers.

In contrast we have the exemplary Christian life of John the BaptistHe was a man who was so true to himself and to his conscience.  He bore all the characteristics that the Jewish Christians were exhorted to practice in their lives in the first reading. For Indeed, John the Baptist loved everyone like brothers, even when they were strangers, unrelated to him. This explains why he spoke out against Herod for betraying his brother, Philip. John the Baptist wanted to protect the sanctity of marriage for the good of society.  He recognized that “marriage is to be honoured by all, and marriages are to be kept undefiled, because fornicators and adulterers will come under God’s judgement.”  Finally, John the Baptist understood what it means to care for prisoners, for he himself was in prison for the sake of the truth.  Certainly, the exhortation to “keep in mind those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; and those who are being badly treated, since you too are in the one body” must have been part of his outlook in life.

No wonder, the life of John the Baptist is often seen as parallel to that of Jesus.  He was the forerunner of Jesus in a very real way.  For like Jesus, he was a prophet; condemned to an innocent death although his executor reluctantly consented to his killing; his accusers were members of his own family and race; he was buried by his disciples and allegedly raised from the dead.  Indeed, the tragic ending of John prepares us for the fate of Jesus.

Today, John the Baptist shows himself to be the true and authentic Christian.  Let us take heed of the advice of the author in the first reading to “remember your leaders, who preached the word of God to you, and as you reflect on the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith.”  Yes, if we are to be faithful to Jesus and to our Christian conscience, then we must be like the Jewish Christians who affirmed with confidence that God would not fail or desert them.  With them, we must say, “with the Lord to help me, I fear nothing: what can man do to me? …   Jesus Christ is the same as he was yesterday and as he will be for ever.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

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Commentary on Mark 6:14-29 Living Space

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Jesus was now becoming well known over a wide area. There was much speculation as to who he was (a major theme of Mark’s gospel). Some were suggesting that he was John the Baptist (who had by this time been executed) come to life again, or that he was the prophet Elijah, who was expected to return just before the coming of the Messiah, or that he was a prophet in his own right, “like the prophets we used to have”. We know, of course, that all those speculations were wrong. The answer will emerge very soon.

King Herod, steeped in superstition and full of fear and guilt was convinced that Jesus was a re-incarnation of John the Baptist whom he had beheaded. We then get the story as to how this happened.

Herod Antipas, also known as Herod the Tetrarch, was the son of Herod the Great, who was king when Jesus was born. When the older Herod died his kingdom was divided among his three surviving sons. Archelaus received half of the territory, Herod Antipas became ruler of Galilee and Perea, while Philip was the ruler of the northern territory on the east side of the Jordan. The title ‘Tetrarch’ indicates that he was ruler of one quarter of the whole territory.

It is clear that Herod had great respect for John as he would also have for Jesus later on. The problem arose because of John had denounced Herod’s taking the wife of his half-brother Herod Boethus, as his wife. This was in clear violation of Jewish law. The historian Josephus also says that Herod feared that John, so popular with the people, might instigate a riot against him.

It was this woman, Herodias, who now wanted to be rid of John but could not do so because of Herod’s respect for John. Herod had gone as far as arresting John but even when John was in prison, Herod loved to listen to him even though he was puzzled by John’s preaching.

Herodias saw her opportunity when Herod threw a party for his court to celebrate his birthday. She knew her husband’s weaknesses. Herodias’s daughter was brought in to dance and utterly captivated Herod. Deep in his cups, he made a rash promise. He would give her anything, even half of the territory he governed. Under the prompting of the mother, the girl makes the gruesome request for John’s head on a dish.

Herod was aghast but because of his oath and the presence of his guests, he dared not renege on his promise. John was beheaded and the head given to the mother. John’s disciples then take the body and give it a decent burial.

We might notice some similarities between this story and the passion of Jesus:

Both Herod and Pilate recognised in John and Jesus respectively people of obvious goodness of life, wisdom and integrity. The hatred of Herodias for John parallels the hatred of the Jewish leaders for Jesus – both called for execution by the ruler (Herod in one case, Pilate in the other). After the deaths of John and Jesus, disciples asked and received permission for a decent burial.

John is the precursor of Jesus not only in announcing the coming of Jesus but also in giving his life for the integrity of his beliefs and in bringing God’s message to the people.

We are called to do the same. To prepare the way for Jesus and his message must become an integral part of every Christian’s life. Without our cooperation, without our going ahead of Jesus, his message will not be heard.

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom:

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Today we might ask ourselves: Is my life being responsive to God’s will — God’s calling to me? Am I doing his will or my will? Am I accepting his invitation to the banquet or turning my back toward him?

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

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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The Gospel today describes how John the Baptist was victim of the corruption and of the arrogance of the Government of Herod. He died without being judged by a tribunal, in the course of a banquet given by Herod with the great men of the kingdom. The text gives much information about the time of the life of Jesus and on the way in which the powerful of the time exercised power. From the beginning of the Gospel of Mark we perceive or see a situation of suspense. He had said: “After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God!” (Mk 1, 14).
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In today’s Gospel, almost suddenly, we know that Herod had already killed John the Baptist. Therefore, the reader asks himself: “What will he do now with Jesus? Will he suffer the same destiny? Rather than drawing up a balance of the opinions of the people and of Herod on Jesus, Mark asks another question: “Who is Jesus?” This last question grows throughout the Gospel until it receives the definitive response from the centurion at the foot of the Cross: “Truly, this man was the Son of God!” (Mk 15, 39)
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Mark 6, 14-16. Who is Jesus? The text begins with a balance on the opinions of the people and of Herod on Jesus. Some associated Jesus to John the Baptist and to Elijah. Others identified him with a Prophet, that is, with someone who spoke in the name of God, who had the courage to denounce the injustices of the powerful and who knew how to animate the hope of the little ones. Persons tried to understand Jesus starting from the things that they themselves knew, believed and hoped. They tried to make him fit into familiar criteria of the Old Testament with its prophecies and its hopes, and of the Tradition of the Ancient, with their laws. But these criteria were not sufficient. Jesus could not fit in those criteria. He was much greater!
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Mark 6, 17-20. The cause for the killing of John. Galilee, the land of Jesus, was governed by Herod Antipas, the son of King Herod, the Great, from the year 4 BC up to the year 39 after Christ. In all, 43 years! During the whole life time of Jesus, there had been no changes in the government of Galilee! Herod Antipas was the absolute Lord of everything; he listened to no one and did whatever he pleased! But the one, who really commanded in Palestine, from the year 63 BC, was the Roman Empire. Herod, in order not to be removed from office, tried to please Rome in everything. He insisted above all, in an efficient administration which would provide income for the Roman Empire. The only thing that concerned or worried him was his security and promotion. This is why he repressed any type of subversion.
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Falvio Giuseppe, a writer of that time, says that the reason for the imprisonment of John the Baptist was the fear that Herod had of a popular revolt. Herod liked to be called benefactor of the people, but in reality he was a tyrant (Lk 22, 25). The denouncement of John against him (Mk 6, 18), was the drop which filled up the cup, and John was thrown into prison.
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Mark 6, 21-29: The plot of the murdering. The anniversary and the banquet of the feast, with dancing and orgies! This was an environment in which the alliances were plotted.
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To the feast attended and were present “the great of the court, the officials and important persons from Galilee”. In this environment the murdering of John the Baptist was plotted. John, the prophet, was a living denouncement in this corrupt system. This is why he was eliminated under the pretext of a problem of personal vengeance. All this reveals the moral weakness of Herod. So much power accumulated in the hands of a man who did not control himself! Under the enthusiasm of the feast and of the wine, Herod swore lightly to give something to the young dancer. And superstitious as he was, he thought that he had to maintain his oath. For Herod, the life of his subjects counted nothing had no value. He used them as he wanted and decided what to do with them just as he decided where to place the chairs in his house. Mark gives an account of how things happened and lets the community draw the conclusions.
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Personal questions
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Do you know the case of persons who have died victims of corruption and of the dominion of the powerful? And do you know persons in our community and in our Church victims of authoritarianism and of an excess of power?
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Herod, the powerful who thought to be the owner of life and death of the people, was a great superstitious person, and feared John the Baptist. He was a coward before the great, a corrupt man before the girl. Superstition, cowardice, and corruption distinguished the exercise of the power of Herod. Compare this with the religious and civil power today in the various levels of society and of the Church.
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Concluding prayer
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This God, his way is blameless; the word of Yahweh is refined in the furnace, for he alone is the shield of all who take refuge in him. (Ps 18,30)
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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, January 30, 2017 — They lived by faith, did what was righteous, obtained the promises — Getting free of bondage

January 29, 2017

Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 323

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Jesus Healing the Man Possessed with a Devil by Gustave Doré

Reading 1 HEB 11:32-40

Brothers and sisters:
What more shall I say?
I have not time to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah,
of David and Samuel and the prophets,
who by faith conquered kingdoms,
did what was righteous, obtained the promises;
they closed the mouths of lions, put out raging fires,
escaped the devouring sword;
out of weakness they were made powerful, became strong in battle,
and turned back foreign invaders.
Women received back their dead through resurrection.
Some were tortured and would not accept deliverance,
in order to obtain a better resurrection.
Others endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment.
They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at sword’s point;
they went about in skins of sheep or goats,
needy, afflicted, tormented.
The world was not worthy of them.
They wandered about in deserts and on mountains,
in caves and in crevices in the earth.

Yet all these, though approved because of their faith,
did not receive what had been promised.
God had foreseen something better for us,
so that without us they should not be made perfect.

Responsorial Psalm PS 31:20, 21, 22, 23, 24

R. (25) Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
How great is the goodness, O LORD,
which you have in store for those who fear you,
And which, toward those who take refuge in you,
you show in the sight of the children of men.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
You hide them in the shelter of your presence
from the plottings of men;
You screen them within your abode
from the strife of tongues.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
Blessed be the LORD whose wondrous mercy
he has shown me in a fortified city.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
Once I said in my anguish,
“I am cut off from your sight”;
Yet you heard the sound of my pleading
when I cried out to you.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
Love the LORD, all you his faithful ones!
The LORD keeps those who are constant,
but more than requites those who act proudly.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.

AlleluiaLK 7:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
A great prophet has arisen in our midst
and God has visited his people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 5:1-20

Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the sea,
to the territory of the Gerasenes.
When he got out of the boat,
at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him.
The man had been dwelling among the tombs,
and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain.
In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains,
but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed,
and no one was strong enough to subdue him.
Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides
he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones.
Catching sight of Jesus from a distance,
he ran up and prostrated himself before him,
crying out in a loud voice,
“What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?
I adjure you by God, do not torment me!”
(He had been saying to him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”)
He asked him, “What is your name?”
He replied, “Legion is my name. There are many of us.”
And he pleaded earnestly with him
not to drive them away from that territory.

Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside.
And they pleaded with him,
“Send us into the swine. Let us enter them.”
And he let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine.
The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea,
where they were drowned.
The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town
and throughout the countryside.
And people came out to see what had happened.
As they approached Jesus,
they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion,
sitting there clothed and in his right mind.
And they were seized with fear.
Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened
to the possessed man and to the swine.
Then they began to beg him to leave their district.
As he was getting into the boat,
the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him.
But Jesus would not permit him but told him instead,
“Go home to your family and announce to them
all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.”
Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis
what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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30 JANUARY, 2017, Monday, 4th Week, Ordinary Time
FREEING OURSELVES FROM OUR BONDAGES

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Heb 11:32-40; Ps 30:20-24; Mk 5:1-20]

We are created in the image and likeness of God.   We are created in freedom and for freedom.  This explains why the desire for freedom is in the DNA of every human person.  Without freedom, we cannot be truly happy in life.  Even God respects our freedom so much so that He would not even stop us from choosing Hell instead of choosing Him if we so desire.  We know that conscience is also paramount in making decisions and the person’s conscience must be respected.   Of course, the judgment of conscience presumes that the person takes into account in his or her discernment process, the objective norms.

Consequently, to be under bondage in any way violates the dignity of the human person.  We can feel and identify with this man who was under the bondage of the Evil Spirit.  “The man lived in the tombs and no one could secure him anymore, even with a chain, because he had often been secured with fetters and chains but had snapped the chains and broken the fetters, and no one had the strength to control him.  All night and all day, among the tombs and in the mountains, he would howl and gash himself with stones.”  If one of us or our loved ones were possessed, we can imagine the trauma and the anxiety that we would have to go through.  Indeed, we do not have to go that far in speaking about demonic possession.   Some of us and our loved ones suffer from various types of obsessions and compulsive disorders.   Handling such sufferers is never easy and can be extremely trying for the care givers.   But the sufferers too are going through extreme loneliness of being misunderstood and often ridiculed and ostracized.

What are these obsessions?  The most common is pornography and lust.  Some people are not able to get over our obsession for lewd sex.  They cannot live without masturbating or watching pornography.  Others suffer from addiction to gambling, drinking and smoking.  Such addictions cause much harm not just to the person himself but to his or her loved ones who live in fear that something untoward would happen to the person.  Many are not able to control their temper and would often easily take it out on innocent victims.  At times, they can even be violent, hitting out at their loved ones.  Of course, some of the obsessions are internal and these deal with envy and greed.  They are voices inside us, making us lose our peace and happiness, yet we find ourselves powerless to silence these voices in our hearts.

In truth, the greatest bondage is fear!  All sins originate from fear.  The greatest irony of today’s gospel story is that the real person under bondage was not the man that Jesus delivered but the townsfolks who became fearful of the implications of accepting Jesus into their lives.  Instead of welcoming Jesus to stay, they were fearful of further economic losses.  “They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his full senses – the very man who had had the legion in him before – and they were afraid.  And those who had witnessed it reported what had happened to the demoniac and what had become of the pigs.  Then they began to implore Jesus to leave the neighbourhood.”

Indeed, when we examine our obsessions and bondages, we will realize that they are rooted in fear. All the sins we commit are due to our fear of pain and suffering.  Most of all, we fear death, which is our greatest enemy because we think that with death, everything is finished.  So long as we fear suffering and death, we cannot live a life of freedom.  This explains why the richest and most powerful people in the world are the most insecure people because they have everything to lose; their wealth, power and glory.  Whereas for the poor people, those who are suffering because of illnesses or oppression and injustices, they have nothing to lose.  They can only hope for the fullness of life hereafter.

But with Christ all fears are overcome.   St Paul says, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Rom 6:22f)  In his letter to the Corinthians, we read of Christ’s total victory over the last enemy of humanity.  “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”  (1 Cor 15:22-25)

So for those who fear, it is because of their ignorance, like the swineherds.  They thought that with Jesus around, they would lose their livelihood and their business would be affected.  It is true as well for those of us who cling to sins.  We think that if we are chaste in our relationships, we will lose our loved ones.  What we lose is inauthentic and selfish love, not true love!  Those of us who gamble are afraid that if we stop gambling, we will not have enough.  On the contrary, their health will get better, there will be peace of mind, less stress, less family squabbling and they will be able to work better.  Most of all they will have more money because no one can be a winner in gambling except the gambling operators!   Again, some cannot give up drinking and smoking for fear that their lives will be more stressful without alcohol and cigarettes.  On the contrary, with less dependence on them, life will become freer and they will enjoy better health and be more sober to deal with life’s challenges.

Indeed, when we choose the illusory security offered by the world, we will be the ultimate loser as we could even lose our life, our health, our job and family, and even God!  In asking Jesus to leave, the villagers might have retained their herds, but they lost a great opportunity to find the fullness of life.  For the Jews, a pig symbolizes contamination by uncleanness.  So to choose the life of a pig is to live in that manner, under bondage, no direction and a life without happiness.  Which is a better option?  Do we want to choose the fullness of life?  For this, it means giving up something and everything that is detrimental to our well-being and peace of mind.  We cannot expect to find peace and joy if we allow ourselves to be under the bondage of the Evil One.

Today, the gospel invites us to take care and make a decision for Christ, like the man who was delivered from the Evil Spirit.  “As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed begged to be allowed to stay with him.  Jesus would not let him but said to him, ‘Go home to your people and tell them all that the Lord in his mercy has done for you .’  So the man went off and proceeded to spread throughout the Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him.  And everyone was amazed.”   He not only became a disciple of Jesus but an apostle to his own people.  If we are liberated, we too will have a change of perspective towards life, like those who suffered from a near death experience or remission from a terminal illness.

How do we overcome our fears?  Firstly, we must name it.  This was what Jesus sought to do when He asked, “What is your name?”  And the Evil Spirit answered, “My name is legion, for there are many of us.”   So acknowledging the fact that we are obsessed or under bondage is the primary step towards healing and freedom.  Unfortunately, the truth is that those of us who are addicted or under some kind of bondage would deny the fact.  Without the humility to call a spade a spade, there can be no cure or effective liberation. Rather, in all honesty, when we name the fear we have, the paralysis of shame is immediately overcome.  That is why when the name of the Evil Spirit was revealed, they knew that they could no longer stay in the house of the possessed man.   Getting people to acknowledge their sins, their wrong doings, their addictions and fear is the most challenging part because of pride.   We are all too proud to admit we need help or that we are sinners.  So if we want to be set free from our fear and bondages, name your sin specifically and it will have lost its power.

Secondly, we must rely on the strength that comes from Jesus alone.  The name of Jesus on the other hand puts fear into the hearts of the Evil Spirit.  “Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and fell at his feet and shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What do you want from me, Jesus, Son of the Most high God?  Swear by God you will not torture me!’  – For Jesus had been saying to him, ‘Come out of the man, unclean spirit.’”   We too cannot depend on our own strength but on Jesus who is our mighty hero to defend us.  He is the Lord of hosts, the army commander of our almighty God.   When we have faith in the name and authority of Jesus over sin and evil, we no longer have to live in fear.  He is our strength and our stronghold.

We are called to imitate the faith of our fathers.  With the psalmist, we pray, “Let your heart take courage, all who hope in the Lord.  How great is the goodness, Lord, that you keep for those who fear you, that you show to those who trust you in the sight of men.  You hide them in the shelter of your presence from the plotting of men; you keep them safe within your tent from disputing tongues.”  With the heroes of faith in the Old Testament, we must be strong in our faith and our battle against our enemies. “Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets – these were men who through faith conquered kingdoms, did what is right and earned the promises.  They could keep a lion’s mouth shut, put out blazing fires and emerge unscathed from battle.  They were weak people who were given strength, to be brave in war and drive back foreign invaders.”

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

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

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What I Have Learned from the Healing of a Demon-Possessed Man:

1. This man knew where to turn for help. When we are tired, hurting, struggling, etc. the Lord wants us to come to him. He is the only one who can really help us. We try so many other things in our lives to cope with our problems. We eat, sleep, and drink too much. We watch way too much TV. We drown ourselves in romance novels. We gamble on sporting events or the lottery. We shop for stuff we don’t need. We are obsessive about our home and work. Sometimes we just pretend the issues aren’t there by isolating ourselves. It doesn’t matter what we use to cope; it all leads to destruction. Destruction of our bodies, our minds and our spirits. Destruction of our relationship with God and others. Remember, we live in a sinful world that will always have problems. So the question is how do we deal with the problems?

They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs (Luke 8:26-27).

2. When we ask for God’s help, we need to be willing to submit to his authority. There are times in my life that I want God to help me, but I want him to help me in my way. God is the ultimate authority. We can’t go to God and ask for his help if we aren’t willing to accept what he gives us. The problem is, we are afraid of what he may give us. I understand in that in my own life I asked for a change in my schedule. I, of course, wasn’t sure what that was going to mean. I knew I couldn’t keep going at the rate I was going, but at the same time didn’t want to just stop. So he gave me something in-between, allowing me to rest and heal as he made some changes in me.

When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” (Luke 8:28).

3. Jesus has power over all demons. Jesus commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. I know that the only reason I fall into the devil’s schemes is that I listen to his lies and allow it to happen. I know God’s Word tells me that I have the power through Jesus Christ to tell the devil to leave me alone. I have the power through his Word to bind the enemy. I have the power through his spirit to know truth from the lies. The issue is do I use this power or do I try to solve everything in my power. We must remember also that the devil and his demons are real.

For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places (Luke 8:29).

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).

4. God’s timing is perfect. Some would ask why he would allow these demons to live at all. Why not put them into the Abyss (Revelation 9:1 and Revelation 20:1-3)? Well, this was not the appointed time for this to happen. We all know that God’s timing is perfect. We may not think so sometimes, considering some of the decisions we feel he wants us to make. But, if we look back at our lives, we see God’s handprint. You can be assured that things happen for a reason. All things work for God’s purpose. Sometimes we just have to believe and let it go by trusting him.

Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss (Luke 8:30-31).

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

5. Jesus sometimes takes away the things we treasure the most to get our attention. The area of land where all of this happened was a place called Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. These were Greek cities (10 of them) and self-governed. These cities had both Jews and Gentiles in them. Now based on what we know of Jews and Gentiles, a Jew would not herd pigs due to the fact they were considered unclean. So we can assume that these pigs were owned by Gentiles. What better way to get the Gentiles to notice what Jesus had done then to have the demons enter the pigs and subsequently drown? Pigs, like most animals of that time, were a valuable commodity much like our homes, cars, computers, jewelry, relationships, etc. are today. Like the people in Jesus’ time, we can easily put things above the Lord. Don’t wait till the Lord has to take something away that you value most to get your attention. Ask him today what you are putting more value on than him, repent and receive his forgiveness. Take the next steps to put the right value on the “things” of this world.

A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into them, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned (Luke 8:32-33).

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The First Reading (HEB 11:32-40) speaks about gaining the promises. This is a frequent theme in the scriptures:
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There are promises in many Segments of Life: These Are the Promises of Alcoholics Anonymous

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

The Promises (pg. 83, Big Book)

We first put the AA promises with the reading for the Feast of Saint Anthony. It seems fitting that we put the AA promises on the feast of Saint Anthony, who, preached above all, love of God and proper order. Alcoholism is, above all else, a disease of disorder.

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The demon-possessed man was bound and dwelling in tombs.
The demon-possessed man was bound and dwelling in tombs. (Valentine Svensson/Flickr/Creative Commons)

In Mark 5:1-13, it gives us a remarkable story of a man that was set free from 1,000 demons by the power of God through Jesus Christ. I want to dig deeper into this story and reveal to you a blueprint of revival for a city!

They went to the other side of the sea to the region of the Gadarenes. When He had come out of the boat, immediately a man with an unclean spirit came out of the tombs and met Him. He lived among the tombs. And no one could constrain him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. But he had pulled the chains apart and broken the shackles to pieces. And no one could subdue him. Always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.

But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran up and kneeled before Him, and cried out with a loud voice, “What have You to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure You by God, do not torment me.” For Jesus said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”

Then He asked him, “What is your name?”

He answered, “My name is Legion. For we are many.” And he begged Him repeatedly not to send them away out of the country.

Now there was a great herd of swine feeding near the mountains. All the demons pleaded with Him, asking, “Send us to the swine, so that we may enter them.” At once, Jesus gave them leave. Then the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine. And the herd, numbering about two thousand, ran wildly down a steep hill into the sea and were drowned in the sea.

Here are five events that will spark a flame of revival in a community or city as pictured in this story.

1. The demon-possessed man was bound and dwelling in tombs.

Many Christians today are bound in compromise and complacency or even demonically oppressed of the enemy and have made their dwelling in Dead churches and hang with spiritually dead people. The longer you and I are out of the presence of the Lord and absent from the light of the Word of God the more comfortable we will become with the darkness. We will purposely avoid other believers that convict us. We will avoid going to church, reading the Word and being in the presence of God. Sin and bondage will drive you from God and not to God.

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Years ago, I went to a cave in Kentucky and the tour guide showed us fish that were blind because they had spent so much time in the absence of light that the darkness had penetrated them to the point of them losing their eyesight. Many believers have drifted from the light and without being delivered from the tombs, and the dead environment they are in they will soon become spiritually blind to the truth.

2. Men tried to bind him with chains and fetters.

Many dead churches that are full of religion and void of the Spirit of God will continually attempt to bind people with their formulas, programs and traditions of men rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to operate in their services. What this ends up doing is creating a congregation full of people with addictions and bondages that no one has any power to set them free from.

When Jesus entered the synagogue in Luke Chapter thirteen there was a woman that was present that was bound with a “spirit of infirmity” for 18 years and was set free by the power of God! think about that! First off, the woman was not a sinner! She was a “Daughter of Abraham,” and secondly, she went to the same place of worship week after week for 18 years, and no one was present who had the power to set her free! Why on earth would anyone want to attend a place where there is no moving of the Holy Spirit. Was there no power and no anointing to break every yoke? Paul warned that the time would come when men would have a “form of godliness” but deny the power thereof!

3. The man cried out day and night.

This brings me to the next point. Many people that are in bondage are crying out day and night for deliverance and looking for a real anointing and move of the Spirit that will set them free. Many of these people are sitting right beside us in church every week, and we don’t even realize it. Despite what many people believe, there are a lot of people who want out of their cycles of sin and bondage but have no one to come into agreement with, no church to run to and no pastor who has the power of the Holy Ghost to lay hands on them and pray for them to be set free in Jesus name!

4. The man was cutting himself.

Many people who are “cutters” and who self-afflict themselves are in deep depression and even demonic bondage. They are desperate for deliverance and peace. They are in need of someone like the “Daughter of Abraham” to come along and loose them from their bondage! There has been a huge rise of young people over the years that have fallen victim to this.

There are estimates of about 1 percent of the total U.S. population, or between 2 and 3 million people who exhibit some type of self-abusive behavior. But that number includes those with eating disorders like anorexia as well as those who self-injure.

5. When Jesus showed up, the man immediately was delivered and in his right mind.

Notice that immediately when the presence of Jesus showed up that the man was set free from the demonic power and even requested to follow Jesus! Could you imagine that? Someone comes into your church bound by a thousand demons and lived in the graveyards and gets set free in one of your services?. I’m pretty sure this would result in a full blow revival in the church and even the community.

The next thing I want to show you here is that Jesus insisted that the man returns to his household and city in which he was from and share his testimony and no doubt this man’s testimony turned the city upside down when they saw him set free.

However, many of the people were struck with fear and insisted that Jesus leaves their region. What’s sad is how many churches have rejected a move of God out of fear. Fear of the power of God, fear of the supernatural, fear of the “normal” being turned upside down! You see real revival will turn you upside down, and not everyone embraces that. When a church allows the Holy Spirit and the gifts to operate in the church, there will be deliverances of this example. When the Spirit of God is allowed to flow into a church or an individual’s life, whatever is dead will be made alive again. Notice this man went back to share his testimony of what the Lord had done.

If you want revival in your church or home let God have his way and ask for the Power of the Holy Ghost to invade your home and church, and soon all will say “Surely the Lord is among you!”

This article originally appeared on End Times Headlines.

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, January 26, 2017 — For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice — The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you

January 25, 2017

Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, bishops
Lectionary: 520/320

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Reading I 2 TM 1:1-8

Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God
for the promise of life in Christ Jesus,
to Timothy, my dear child:
grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father
and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am grateful to God,
whom I worship with a clear conscience as my ancestors did,
as I remember you constantly in my prayers, night and day.
I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears,
so that I may be filled with joy,
as I recall your sincere faith
that first lived in your grandmother Lois
and in your mother Eunice
and that I am confident lives also in you.

For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control.
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel
with the strength that comes from God.

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Ti 1:1-5

Paul, a slave of God and Apostle of Jesus Christ
for the sake of the faith of God’s chosen ones
and the recognition of religious truth,
in the hope of eternal life
that God, who does not lie, promised before time began,
who indeed at the proper time revealed his word
in the proclamation with which I was entrusted
by the command of God our savior,
to Titus, my true child in our common faith:
grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our savior.

For this reason I left you in Crete
so that you might set right what remains to be done
and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 96:1-2A, 2B-3, 7-8A, 10

R. (3) Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Give to the LORD, you families of nations,
give to the LORD glory and praise;
give to the LORD the glory due his name!
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Say among the nations: The LORD is king.
He has made the world firm, not to be moved;
he governs the peoples with equity.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.

AlleluiaPS 119:105

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
A lamp to my feet is your word,
a light to my path.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 4:21-25

Jesus said to his disciples,
“Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket
or under a bed,
and not to be placed on a lampstand?
For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible;
nothing is secret except to come to light.
Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.”
He also told them, “Take care what you hear.
The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you,
and still more will be given to you.
To the one who has, more will be given;

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Commentary on Mark 4:21-25 from Living Space

We are still with Mark in a section of parables and images.  Today we see a number of disparate sayings.

No one lights a lamp and then covers it up.  Our Christian faith is a light for the world and not to be kept hidden. Our message is not meant to be kept secret but to be broadcast and shared.  How many know that we are Christians?  How many see us practise our faith openly?  How many are influenced by our living according to the Christian vision?  Our faith, our knowledge of Jesus and his Gospel, is not something private to be kept to ourselves.

A “good” Catholic is not just one who keeps all the Commandments, goes often to Mass, stays in the “state of grace” but, rather, one who radiates his/her faith, shares it generously with others, is as much concerned with others having the experience of loving and being loved by God that he/she has.  If we are not SEEN to be Christians we have somehow failed, no matter how good our inner lives may be. To be a Christian is not just to be a good person but an apostle, an evangeliser, a sharer of faith by word and action.

What we give out to others is what we will ourselves receive – and even more.  “To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”  That is what happened to the man who buried his master’s money in the ground so as not to lose it.  Those who invested it got even more in return.  In the Christian life, we gain by giving, not by getting.  It is only when we give that we can get.  When everyone gives, everyone gets.

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http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o1035g/

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Today’s readings reminded us of this marvelous book by Matthew Kelly:
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Kelly says that only about 7% of all Catholics are engaged Catholics or what he calls Dynamic Catholics. What makes someone a Dynamic Catholic? Here are the four signs:

  • Prayer Description: Specifically, Kelly notes that this consists of a daily routine of prayer. “Am I saying the other 93 percent of Catholics don’t pray? No. Their prayer tends to be spontaneous but inconsistent. The 7% have a daily commitment to prayer, a routine” (p. 8).
  • Study Description: “[Dynamic Catholics] see themselves as students of Jesus and his Church, and proactively make an effort to allow his teaching to form them” (p. 14). Kelly also notes that on average they spend 14 minutes each day learning about the faith.
  • Generosity Description: Generosity covers not only time and money, but also generosity in all things. This generosity is a way of life. (In AA this is called “Twelve Stepping” of “service to others.”)
  • Evangelization Description: While many Dynamic Catholics don’t consider themselves to be evangelists, they “regularly do and say things to share a Catholic perspective with the people who cross their paths.”
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Related:
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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The lamp which gives light. At that time, there was no electric light. Imagine all that follows. The family is at home. It begins to get dark. The father lifts up the small lamp, he lights it and places under the tub or under the bed. What will the others say? They will began to scream: “Father, place it on the table!” This is the story that Jesus tells. He does not explain. He only says: Anyone who has ears to listen, should listen! The Word of God is the lamp which should be lit in the darkness of the night. If it remains closed up in the closed Book of the Bible, it is like a small lamp under the tub. When it is united to the life in community, there it is placed on the table and it gives light!
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Be attentive to preconceptions. Jesus asks the disciples to become aware of the preconceptions with which they listen to the teaching which he offers. We should be attentive to the ideas which we have when we look at Jesus! If the colour of the eyes is green, everything seems to be green. If they are blue, everything will be blue! If the idea with which we look at Jesus were mistaken, everything which I think about Jesus will be threatened of being an error. If I think that the Messiah has to be a glorious King, I will understand nothing of what the Lord teaches and I will see that everything is mistaken.
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Parable: a new way of teaching and of speaking of Jesus. Jesus used parables, above all, to teach: this was his way. He had an enormous capacity to find very simple images to compare the things of God with the things of the life which people knew and experienced in the daily struggle to survive. This presupposes two things: to be inside, involved in the things of life, and to be inside, involved in the things of the Kingdom of God.
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The teaching of Jesus was diverse from the teaching of the Scribes. It was a Good News for the poor, because Jesus revealed a new face of God, in which people could recognize themselves and rejoice. “I bless you, Father, Lord of Heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do!” (Mt 11, 25-28).
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Personal questions
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The Word of God, a lamp which gives light. What place does the Bible have in my life? What light do I receive?
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Which is the image of Jesus that I have within me? Who is Jesus for me and who am I for Jesus?
Concluding prayer
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Taste and see that Yahweh is good. How blessed are those who take refuge in him. (Ps 34,8)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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26 JANUARY, 2017, Thursday, SS Timothy and Titus
FAN INTO A FLAME THE GIFTS THAT GOD GAVE YOU

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 TIM 1:1-8 OR TIT 1,1-5; PS 95:1-3,7-8,10; LK 10:1-9 ]

We all receive gifts from the Lord.  Like Timothy, we have been blessed with the gift of faith.   For some of us, we receive it as a child; for others as they grew older, through their friends; and for others, it is through a long search for God.  But it is not just the gift of faith alone, but the other gifts as well.  There is also the gift of vocation, whether it is to the priesthood or marriage or singlehood.  Besides one’s state of life, we also receive the gift of vocation in service.  Some of us are called to be teachers, doctors or social workers.  Regardless, all gifts come from the Lord.

The question that is posed to us is, whether we have treasured the gifts we have received and grown them accordingly.  It is said that new brooms sweep clean.  But what if we have become “old brooms”?  This is where the danger lies.  The reality is that we begin something with passion and enthusiasm but along the way, we become jaded and lose interest.  We start with big dreams and excitement but over the days, the flame fades away and slowly it is extinguished from our life.  This is true of marriage.  Just think of those courtship days when you were so deeply in love with each other, and always wanting to share your life, joys, woes and struggles with your spouse or your fiancée/fiancé.   But now you hardly share with each other and often take each other for granted.  No longer do you feel excited or happy to see each other or listen with your heart to each other.  Now you have become indifferent, cold and insensitive.  Marriage life is just a routine and your spouse has become intimate strangers at most.

This was the case with Timothy, the young Bishop of Ephesus.  As the bishop, he faced many challenges from within and without. It must have been tough for the young bishop.  St Paul would have heard of the difficulties he was going through in uniting the community together.  These problems were hinted in his farewell speech to the Ephesians when he wrote, “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”  (Acts 20:29-31)

What is important to consider is why does one lose one’s zeal and passion?  Firstly, this happens when we meet with opposition to our plans.  In marriage life, love is lost when our spouse is always negative and critical towards us.  They have nothing good to say about us.  Instead of affirming and encouraging us, they often take us for granted, picking on our faults and failures.  After some time, we do not feel like sharing and talking about our dreams and aspirations anymore because they are wet blankets.  They have nothing positive to say and speaking to them makes us more discouraged than ever.  Again, what is said of marriage and family is also true in our work place.  Instead of working and helping each other to build our dreams, colleagues are often jealous of each other, seeking to tear each other down.  When we meet with opposition all the time and people are always wrecking our plans, then we just give up.

Secondly, we can become jaded in relationships and in our work because we get used to things and people.  We take them for granted.  We do not consciously appreciate and value what we have, the work we do and the people around us.  This is because we have become demanding.  We are too absorbed with ourselves and our needs that we no longer look at the needs of others.  Once we become self-centered instead of other-centered, we do not treat them as persons with respect and sensitivity but just as tools to accomplish our tasks.   Instead of using our work to serve others, we are basically serving ourselves.

Thirdly, if we lack zeal and passion, it could be because we are out of touch with the ground.  In the gospel, Jesus urged His apostles to reach out.  “Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, ‘The kingdom of God is very near to you’”.  Only when we live amongst the people, walking with them in their journey, can we begin to understand and feel with them.  The real problem is that often we fail to journey with people.  We tend to sit on our high chair in our office and make decisions without understanding the struggles of those under our care.  Parents are always dictating to their children what they must do without understanding the challenges they are facing.  Husbands and wives are not communicating with each other, their needs, their loneliness and anxieties.  Zeal will be renewed once again, when we start hearing the stories, their joys, sorrows, struggles, aspirations of our people.

Finally, if the flame is dying it is because we have forgotten our dreams, our mottos and our visions.   That is why St Paul told Timothy, “Fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control.”  We need to be renewed in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Everyone needs to be constantly renewed in his or her vocation.   We should not be surprised that our staff does not even know the vision, mission and core values of our organization!   At times, the leaders themselves forget their calling and purpose or mission in life.  They are so involved in the daily affairs that they forget the big picture and the goal they are working towards.  So too for married couples, have they forgotten their dreams in building a loving relationship and family?

Thus, to recover that dream and our hopes, we need to constantly go back to our original goal and starting point.  This was what St Paul did when he recalled the faith imparted to him and Timothy.  He said, “Night and day I thank God, keeping my conscience clear and remembering my duty to him as my ancestors did, and always I remember you in my prayers; I remember your tears and long to see you again to complete my happiness. Then I am reminded of the sincere faith which you have; it came first to live in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I have no doubt that it is the same faith in you as well.”  By being grateful for the faith we have received, we will begin to cherish and relish it.  We must not forget our past or the wonderful times we had with our loved ones.  We celebrate anniversaries precisely to recall the past and what we hope we will be.   It is important that we connect with our past so that we can renew our love, hope and dreams, making them alive again.  Gratitude is always the beginning of the process of service.  When we are grateful to those who love us and sacrificed for us, we will want to do the same for them and for others.

Most of all, to renew our fervor and zeal for our vocation and dreams, we must pray.   We think the harvest depends on what we do.  But Jesus made it clear.  We cannot depend on ourselves.  He said, “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.”  He did not simply ask us to work but to pray.  All vocations must come from prayer.  Career comes from our desire or ambition to do something. But vocation springs from what is within us, something that comes from the depths of our heart.  Only when we begin to pray, would we then never lose focus and courage to persevere.  St Paul wrote, “So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy.” When we pray, we will never lose hope or get discouraged because we know that the battle belongs to God, not to us.  Our task is simply to cooperate with Him to the best of our ability.  He will send us the necessary help to realize His dream for us and for humanity. “Grace, mercy and peace (comes) from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, January 22, 2017 — The people who walked in darkness, have seen a great light. — The Lord is my light and my salvation.

January 20, 2017

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 67

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Reading 1 IS 8:23—9:3

First the Lord degraded the land of Zebulun
and the land of Naphtali;
but in the end he has glorified the seaward road,
the land west of the Jordan,
the District of the Gentiles.

Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness:
for there is no gloom where but now there was distress.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing,
as they rejoice before you as at the harvest,
as people make merry when dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.

Responsorial Psalm PS 27:1, 4, 13-14

R. (1a) The Lord is my light and my salvation.
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
One thing I ask of the LORD;
this I seek:
To dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
That I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD
and contemplate his temple.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.

Reading 2 1 COR 1:10-13, 17

I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that all of you agree in what you say,
and that there be no divisions among you,
but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.
For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers and sisters,
by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you.
I mean that each of you is saying,
“I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,”
or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.”
Is Christ divided?
Was Paul crucified for you?
Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel,
and not with the wisdom of human eloquence,
so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.

AlleluiaMT 4:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus proclaimed the Gospel of the kingdom
and cured every disease among the people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 4:12-23

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested,
he withdrew to Galilee.
He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea,
in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali,
that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet
might be fulfilled:
Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles,
the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,
Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,
casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
He said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
At once they left their nets and followed him.
He walked along from there and saw two other brothers,
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.
He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father
and followed him.
He went around all of Galilee,
teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom,
and curing every disease and illness among the people.

Or MT 4:12-17

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested,
he withdrew to Galilee.
He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea,
in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali,
that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet
might be fulfilled:
Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles,
the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

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Reflection from The Abbot in The Desert
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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

The first reading today is from the Prophet Isaiah and is the same one that is used at Midnight Mass for Christmas.  We can hear the prophecy of the Savior to come.  Great joy can be present in our world because God has sent a Savior and has freed us from all bondage and sin.

The second reading comes from the First Letter to the Corinthians and encourages us to work together.  If Christ has come to free us from all bondage and sin, then we must all belong to Christ and there should be no divisions among us.  Yet as we look about in our world today, we Christians have all kinds of divisions.  Yes, in many ways we have less divisions and hatred among us than we had perhaps a 100 years ago or even 60 years ago, but we are still terribly divided.  Saint Paul wants there to be no divisions among us, but that we be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.

Part of the challenge of this Sunday is to work against divisions among us Christians, both with those who belong to other Christian denominations and with those who are alienated without our own Catholic Church.

The Gospel of Matthew today is at the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus Christ.  Matthew cites the portion of the Prophet Isaiah which we read as the first reading today and tells us that Jesus is the fulfillment of that prophecy.  Many times we Christians forget that Jesus is the fulfillment of the whole of the Old Testament, the whole of Jewish Scripture.  The more that we can understand the Old Testament, the more we can understand Jesus Himself.

Matthew tells us today of the call of Peter and Andrew and then the call of James and John.  We can only imagine the call of Jesus.  Why would these fishermen respond so readily to the call of Jesus?  Why don’t we respond as strongly to His call?  He will free us from all bondage to sin if we let Him!  He will help be united with one another and with all Christians, if we let Him.

My sisters and brothers, we are in Ordinary Time once more and we are ordinary followers of Christ.  Jesus Himself invites us to become extraordinary and to give our lives completely to Him.  This whole world can be transformed in the place of salvation if only we walk in the ways of Christ.

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Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

https://christdesert.org/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 JANUARY, 2017, Sunday, 3rd Ordinary Week
FORMING FISHERS OF MEN FOR THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ISA 8:23 – 9:3; 1 COR 1:10-13.17; MT 4:12-23 ]

All of us have different callings in life.  Every vocation is important in the unfolding of God’s plan for humanity.  We must respond accordingly.  Yet among the vocations, one of the most fulfilling and important calling in life is the work of formation and specifically the area of education.  We must not restrict education in the narrow sense of the word to that of intellectual and academic formation.  Rather, it entails the whole process of transforming someone, helping him or her to grow in emotional, affective, moral and intellectual capacity.  It also involves the cultivation of skills and knowledge for the work they do.  Education is more than getting good grades for work done but forming people holistically where they are balanced in life, realize their potentials and become happy people who have good self-esteem, and are positive and proactive.  The work of formation is therefore not restricted to teachers or catechists but it extends to all, whether as parents, guardians, superiors, in government, ecclesial and in society.

Education is to form people with wholesome and right values so that they can help to build humanity.   Education, in the final analysis, is to form young people for their vocations.  No greater gift can we give to someone than to form him or her to be leaders for tomorrow in society and the Church.  We can give many things to young people, but all these will be used up, discarded or worn out.  It is just like the gifts we received at Christmas.  Some of these are already thrown aside.  But the gift of education is one gift that is cumulative and remains not always just with the recipient but grows from strength to strength.  Most of all, the kind of formation they receive will determine their happiness in life, now and in the future.

Today, the apostles were asked to change their vocation from fishers of fish to fishers of men.   What does it mean to catch men, if not to form people to become what they are called to be in the plan of God?  In other words, they were asked to go beyond simply making a livelihood for themselves.  They were called by the Lord to help form men and women who could live their lives to the fullest by being disciples of the kingdom and proclaimers of the Good News in words and deeds.  By so doing, each person will realize his or her potentials as he or she gives himself or herself to service.

How, then, should we form young people for their vocation?  What kind of formation can see them through life?  Obviously, they must be grow in knowledge and acquire new skills.   This is the academic and practical part of formation.  Without knowledge and skills, we cannot be of use to anyone.  This aspect of formation cannot be under emphasized, yet it is not everything because they are only tools for service and for work.  Instead of focusing on skills, we must focus on the person who uses the skills.  If the person is not well formed or motivated rightly, he will not give his heart and soul to the learning process.

Over and above the intellectual component of formation is the cultivation of character.  Without a good character and good virtues, leaders will end up serving themselves and using others for their glory and interests.  They must be men and women of justice and integrity.  Without integrity and honesty, we cannot entrust our lives, wealth and power to them because they will use them to destroy people and to enrich themselves only.

Consequently, moral formation is of critical importance for leadership.   We must enlighten our future leaders to know what is right and what is wrong.  Today, many of our leaders are pragmatic and are ambivalent to justice and truth.  When leaders do not have a good grounding for morality and right conduct, we can rationalize everything we do.  We can justify all our decisions when they are made principally for self-gain and not for our people.

Indeed, as leaders we are called to lead the world in darkness out of slavery because of ignorance and sin.  The prophet says,The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone.”  As leaders we are called to set our people free from slavery, addictions, suffering and ignorance.  “You have made their gladness greater, you have made their joy increase, they rejoice in your presence as men rejoice at harvest time, as men are happy when they are dividing the spoils.”  Leaders therefore must be enlightened if they are to enlighten and lead others.

Among the most important virtues for leaders is the desire to serve God and humanity.  We read in the gospel that Jesus went about doing good.  “He went round the whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness among the people.” They must be people of humility and the aspiration to serve. They must be people who have compassion for the suffering.  They must be leaders where the greater good of the people transcends their needs.  They must work for something greater than themselves, which is for Christ, for God and for others.  This is why leaders must sacrifice their own interests for the greater good of the community. Leaders must not work for themselves but for the greater good of all.  St Paul warns the different factions who were taking sides with leaders.  He wrote, “it is clear that there are serious differences among you. What I mean are all these slogans that you have, like: ‘I am for Paul’, ‘I am for Apollos’, ‘I am for Cephas’, ‘I am for Christ’.”

Forming leaders today also means forming them to be leaders of communion.  The task of a leader is to foster unity in the organization they lead.  A leader must be inclusive and seeks to bring real unity among all the members.   Unity is founded on truth.  Unfortunately, today’s unity is superficial because it is not founded on common values or on truth. The unity of the world is so very fragile as it is based on relativism, pragmatism and subjectivism without any objective truth.  We must avoid the division that existed in the Corinthians Community when the members began to take sides with leaders.  St Paul said, “I appeal to you, brothers, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to make up the differences between you, and instead of disagreeing among yourselves, to be united again in your belief and practice.”  We must help our people to agree on the fundamental values. If we cannot even agree on basic values of life, like service, honesty, justice and integrity or the importance of our sexual identity, marriage and family institutions, we cannot agree on anything else.  Without common values accepted by all, we cannot build real unity. 

To form them in this manner requires that we form them in Christ.  This means that we must first walk in the light ourselves.  Unless we know Christ and the gospel, we cannot lead them to where they are called to be.  Leaders therefore must be familiar with the gospel and the teachings of the Church so that they can understand the mind of the Church and the mind of Christ in the gospel.  As leaders, we take our direction from the Word of God. With the psalmist, we say, “The Lord is my light and my help; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life; before whom shall I shrink.”  Catholic educators, parents and leaders must take their faith seriously if they are to be leaders after the heart of Christ our teacher.

But we need not travel this journey alone.  We need to align ourselves and collaborate with others in the work of formation for the greater good of everyone.  In today’s world, everything and everyone is inter-dependent.  So too, in forming our children, we cannot work in silo.  There needs to be greater coordination with parents, teachers, catechists, Family Life, Youth Office and those who are involved in forming young people to be holistic people and leaders.  Today, it must be made clear that no single person is responsible for the formation of the young people but all of us in different capacities have a part to play.  Hence, all formators and educators must work together as a team for a common goal.   Unity is strength. We must work and travel together so that we can form the best people for the next generation, leaders who are wise, compassionate and who serve with integrity, honesty and selflessness.

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

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

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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“Do not be afraid. God is light.”
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“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing….”    (Isaiah 9: 1-2)
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People who have successfully navigated the road we are on during a crisis, and mostly with the power of God’s love and His help, frequently report an even stronger faith than the one they held before the crisis.
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Many times, people who have recovered from addiction, cancer or something like a brain tumor, give all the credit for their recovery to God. And this truthful gratitude makes them better Christians — stronger believers.
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Certainly, St.  Paul “saw the light.”  And that  light changed his entire self, his entire being.
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For us, some two thousand years after the Apostles, we have the some opportunities in our everyday life — to see things clearly and in truth and to move from the darkness into the light.
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Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14: 6). When we forget the truth, we often get ourselves where no man wants to be.
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“Do not be afraid.”
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John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
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We are not called to stand still, but for us also to go by the sea, the sea of the world where people are the fish, immersed in bitter, salty and inhuman waters. Fishers of men. One cannot fish without the net of love, without a father who guards the boat, without a boat to launch into the deep. The net of human relationships is the only possible weapon of evangelisers, because with love we can go on a great fishing expedition, and love must not only be proclaimed but brought. To be called in pairs means precisely this bringing of a visible, concrete love, the love of brothers who enjoy the same parents, the love in whose veins flows the same blood, the same life.

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Follow me… to call others to walk, fish and witness. The nets break, but every fisherman is capable of repairing a broken net. Love is not a knick-knack that is broken with use! The art of accommodation makes precious every possible relationship among people. What matters is going, trusting in that new name, always and still called LIFE.

From The Lectio Divina of the Carmelites, 2014

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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From His Reflection, January 2014
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We are living in a critical age of crises. There is a crisis in humanity.  Many wars are being fought and terrorism in the world is growing. The family is in crisis because the sanctity of marriage is no longer recognized.  Values such as fidelity and commitment in love and relationships are no longer cherished.  Our young people are in crisis because they are raised in an environment that no longer supports a holistic formation in faith and love.  Many are dysfunctional because they come from one parent family or parents of the same sex.  Morality is in crisis for virtues such as humility, honesty, generosity, sacrifice and hard work are despised.  People want to be worshipped as idols, to be above all others and if possible by the shortest means, even if it involves cheating or using unscrupulous ways.  The loss of moral values has resulted in a decadent society. This has led to a crisis in meaning, for materialism cannot give meaning to humanity.  All these crises are rooted in the crisis of faith, a situation brought about by secularism and relativism.

Thus, to a great extent, we are just like the Israelites in the first reading.  They too were living in darkness because they were in bondage and misery.  Indeed, they were living “in a land of deep shadow.”  Like them too, we are waiting for someone to deliver us from the yoke that is weighing on us. Yes, in such a time, we need the Light to give us hope, courage and direction.

Christians are a people of hope.  We do not fall into despair.  The Good News today is that Jesus is our Light.  He is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah.  He is that great light that the people who walk in darkness have seen.  Indeed as Isaiah prophesied, He will make “their gladness greater … their joy increase.”  It is within this context that Matthew in today’s gospel cites from Isaiah the same text to situate the inauguration of the ministry of Jesus.  That Jesus began His ministry at Galilee, which is where Zebulun and Naphtali are located, implies that the mission of Jesus is to the Gentiles and to the whole world, beginning in Israel.

In place of the Kingdom of Darkness, Jesus has come to give us the kingdom of God. Hence, Jesus began His mission by proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.”  Yes, Jesus has come to give us the life of the kingdom, which is the life of God.  Only a life lived under the Lordship of God and of Christ can set us free from a useless way of life, a self-centered life focused on the pursuits of the world.  The kingdom life that Jesus comes to offer us is our reconciliation with God, for without the restoration of our relationship with God, we cannot know our purpose in life, nor ourselves.  Most of all, the Kingdom life is a life of unity and love, a hope that the world desires.

Two conditions are necessary to make the Kingdom a reality in our lives, namely, repentance and belief.  Repentance is not simply about confessing our sins or feeling sorry for our wrongdoings.  Rather, repentance is a change of mind and a change of lifestyle.  It calls for recognition of our sins and those attitudes in our lives that bring inner division within us, manifested in our broken relationships with others. So, repentance requires a life-change and a transformation of heart and mind.   Repentance is to turn away from a useless way of life and turn to Jesus.  It is not enough to turn away from sin.  In fact, it is impossible to turn away from sin directly because sin will run after us and overpower us.  Rather, the way to turn away from sin is by turning to Jesus.  When we turn to Jesus, naturally, we turn away from sin. When we turn to the light, darkness is vanquished.  So conversion is not so much about giving up our sins, but rather, giving ourselves to Jesus.  In the process of giving ourselves to Jesus, we give up our sins.

This is what Jesus meant when He said that the kingdom of God is near at hand.  It is so near.  How near? What is needed is an act of the will and an act of faith in Jesus. If that were the case, then why do people still refuse to give themselves to Jesus? This is because they do not believe in Jesus as the Good News.  So repentance must be accompanied by faith and belief.  Unless we have faith in Jesus as the Good News both in person and in His message, we will not give up our sins.  Truly, if we do not want to give up our sinful and selfish lives, it is because we have not yet encountered something or someone greater than what we already have.  Understandably, if you have not encountered Jesus as the Good News, why would you give your total surrender and love to Him?

But what does faith entail?  To have faith in Jesus is to take Jesus at His word, to believe that He is the Good News in person and the self-communication of God’s love in person.  So faith is to put your trust in someone or something.  From this perspective, faith is to put our total trust in Jesus as the unconditional love of God in person.  And we can put this trust in Jesus because His works and words demonstrate His claim as the incomprehensible love of God.  The gospel tells us that “He went round the whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness among the people.”  So Jesus is someone whom we can put our trust and hope in.

But faith is not simply trusting in what Jesus can do for us.  Faith is to believe in every word of Jesus, including His teachings as to how we can live in the kingdom.  So faith involves a concrete way of living, a lifestyle that corresponds with that of Jesus.  Faith requires a response not only of mind and heart but a total way of life in Christ.  That is why, after proclaiming the gospel of repentance, Jesus said, “Follow me.” The command to follow Jesus exacts from us an immediate and total response like that of the disciples.  Indeed, because it is a divine command, one cannot wait.  Only because we trust in Jesus, we can follow Him and leave everything behind.  It is in the following of Jesus in discipleship that what is promised becomes a reality experienced.  Indeed, those who give themselves to the gospel life cannot but find joy, freedom and meaning.

However, the privilege of knowing Christ and being called by Him is not for our sake only.  Rather, our calling to be Christ’s disciples is for the sake of mankind.  Like Israel, we are called to be the Light to all the nations. We are all called to be fishers of men. Indeed, all of us, no matter who we are, have a responsibility to be the Light of Christ in the world.  That Jesus chose fishermen as His first disciples means that Jesus wants to choose ordinary people for the extraordinary task of bringing others into the community of faith.  Yes, God has chosen ordinary people to shame the wisdom of the world.  As long as we give ourselves to Jesus, He can accomplish far greater things through us than we can imagine Through the ordinary circumstances of our daily lives and work situations, we can draw. people to Christ when they see us living in the light of truth and love.

This mission however is not to be accomplished alone.  We are not only called to be disciples of Jesus as individuals, we are called to be His Church.  We are called not only to belong to Jesus but also to belong to His Church, His Body.  Mission must always be accomplished in unity with each other.  Unless, we are united in faith, doctrines and Christian practice, we will not be credible witnesses of our Lord.  This is precisely the greatest challenge to our mission in the Church today.  Whilst the world suffers from a crisis of faith, the risk of the Catholic Church is that it has become divided. And once we are divided, the world will ignore our message as we lack credibility and the force of unity. This is what the world and Satan want to see in the Church.  The secularized world is hostile not to individual Christians or Catholics, but to us as a community of faith.  As individuals, each one of us cannot be a significant sign in the world but as a Body of believers, we will become a potent force and a sign that could not be ignored.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus’ calling of four fishermen to be His disciples indicates that He intends His Church to be in mission as a community.  That is why we must be careful not to reduce the mission of the Church to that of individual discipleship, but to a shared discipleship of the community in which all have fellowship and ministry.  Thus, when we undertake the mission of Church in an individualistic manner, we can cause greater harm to the Church than good.

Truly, we will make ourselves less a light of Christ if we fall into the same trap as the Christians in Corinth.  An individualistic mission is contrary to the Spirit of the gospel.  We must be careful of arrogance, pride and intolerance.  Instead of focusing on ourselves, we must center on Christ and on the power of His cross.  Instead of relying upon the teachings of some special teachers, we must rely on the teachings of the Magisterium, the Church.  Instead of giving allegiance to our favourite teachers or leaders, our allegiance must be given to Christ only, who speaks through the authorized leaders, that is, the Bishops appointed by Him for the Church.  Yes, we must be careful of misplaced loyalty or taking things into our own hands making ourselves self-appointed leaders.  There is nothing more divisive in the Church than to form ourselves into party, cliques, and factions.  Our loyalty must be placed in Christ and the successors of Christ.

Consequently, we must return to the basics and the foundation of our faith.  Following Christ is prior to mission and presupposes mission.  We cannot be a light to the world by the way we live or by the words we proclaim unless we are in touch with the Light. Living out our disciples in community therefore makes us a persuasive witness in the world of Christ as our Light and the source of truth and unity.

http://www.csctr.net/26-january-2014-3rd-sunday-in-ordinary-time/