Posts Tagged ‘gratitude’

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

February 16, 2018

Saturday after Ash Wednesday
Lectionary: 222

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Art: Walk With Me by Greg Olsen

Reading 1 IS 58:9B-14

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

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

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

Verse Before The GospelEZ 33:11

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

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

Gospel  LK 5:27-32

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

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offering God’s grace to sinners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conversion: complete change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Calling of Matthew By Caravaggio

The Calling of Saint Matthew Inspirations for the Work

The Calling of Saint Matthew Analysis

The Calling of Saint Matthew Critical Reception

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Michael Phelps: ‘I am extremely thankful that I did not take my life’

January 19, 2018

Image result for Michael Phelps, photos

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

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

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

The ‘easy’ part

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

1. Do not leave the person alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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“I remember going to treatment my very first day, I was shaking, shaking because I was nervous about the change that was coming up,” Phelps told Axelrod. “I needed to figure out what was going on.”
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His first morning in treatment, a nurse woke him at 6 a.m. and said, “Look at the wall and tell me what you feel.”
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On the wall hung eight basic emotions, he recalled.
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“How do you think I feel right now, I’m pretty ticked off, I’m not happy, I’m not a morning person,” he angrily told the nurse, laughing now at the memory.
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Once he began to talk about his feelings, “life became easy.” Phelps told Axelrod, “I said to myself so many times, ‘Why didn’t I do this 10 years ago?’ But, I wasn’t ready.”
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“I was very good at compartmentalizing things and stuffing things away that I didn’t want to talk about, I didn’t want to deal with, I didn’t want to bring up — I just never ever wanted to see those things,” said Phelps.
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He has implemented stress management into programs offered by the Michael Phelps Foundation, and works with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
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Today he understands that “it’s OK to not be OK” and that mental illness “has a stigma around it and that’s something we still deal with every day,” said Phelps. “I think people actually finally understand it is real.
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People are talking about it and I think this is the only way that it can change.”
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“That’s the reason why suicide rates are going up — people are afraid to talk and open up,” said Phelps.
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Today, by sharing his experience he has the chance to reach people and save lives — “and that’s way more powerful,” he said.
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“Those moments and those feelings and those emotions for me are light years better than winning the Olympic gold medal,” said Phelps.
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“I am extremely thankful that I did not take my life.”
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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, January 3, 2018 — “We shall be like Him.” — “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

January 2, 2018

January 3, 2018
Christmas Weekday
Lectionary: 206

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

Reading 1  1 JN 2:29–3:6

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

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

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

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

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

Alleluia  JN 1:14A, 12A

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

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John baptizing Jesus, by Guido Reni

Gospel JN 1:29-34

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

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3 JANUARY, 2018, Wednesday, Weekday of Christmas Time

BECOMING WHO WE ARE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

https://christdesert.org/

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Commentary on John 1:29-34 from Living Space

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

The Baptist’s positive testimony about Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 22, 2017
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The story is told about a little boy who was throwing a terrible tantrum in a plane that was getting ready for departure. Nothing and no one could do anything, until an elderly man in an Army uniform came up to the boy and whispered something in his ear—whereupon the child stopped screaming and started behaving like a lamb.  When asked by the stewardess what he had said to the boy, the elderly man said: “I told him that I am a decorated war hero, and that I am entitled and authorized to throw out of the plane door any passenger I want.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A moment with the Lord:

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

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Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/109525/choose-joy#ixzz51zqPsCaK
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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, December 17, 2017 — “He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives…”

December 16, 2017

Third Sunday of Advent
Lectionary: 8

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

Reading 1  IS 61:1-2A, 10-11

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

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

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

Reading 2  1 THES 5:16-24

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

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

Alleluia  IS 61:1 (CITED IN LK 4:18)

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

Gospel  JN 1:6-8, 19-28

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

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

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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The Good Samaritan by Walter Rane.
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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13 DECEMBER 2015, 3rd Sunday of Advent
THE NEARNESS OF THE LORD AS THE CAUSE OF OUR JOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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

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Gratitude Is Joyful Expectation of What Comes Next

November 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.livejoy.org/joyful-blog/confident-joyful-expectation

Related:

Beyond Thankful: Cultivating a Life of Gratitude

November 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giving Thanks

Five ways to boost gratitude:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Turning Points

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

Write to Clare Ansberry at clare.ansberry@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/beyond-thankful-cultivating-a-life-of-gratitude-1510583400

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

October 22, 2017

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

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

We should always keep our eyes on death…

Reading 1 ROM 4:20-25

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

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

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

Alleluia MT 5:3

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

Gospel LK 12:13-21

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

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

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

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

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

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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Not too long ago while I was assisting a homeless man, he looked me square in the eyes and said:  “We have everything we need.”
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Dang. I hate that!
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Actually, this man travels around the neighborhoods near where I live with no possessions most of us would care anything about. He has few articles of clothing and he often cuts up old trash bags to make himself a hat, a cap, or a kind of serape. He never begs or asks for anything.
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And he’s happier than most people you’ll meet in suburbia these days.
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I offered him a crisp new twenty dollar bill on Easter Sunday morning. He rushed inside the first convenience store and gave that money to the charity collection jar! “Jerry’s Kids”  got my $20.00.
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Indeed I have experienced what Jesus tells the disciples: “We have everything we need.”
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A homeless woman seemed to be a messenger from God to me a short time later when she said, “Cherish what you have.”
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Many of us in our modern world have way more than we need. We have lots of toys and possessions. We sometimes seem wedded to our possessions or maybe we are in love with them.
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A neighbor of mine used to spend so much time loving his car while washing it each Sunday that the other men in the neighborhood used to say,  “Jim can’t come to the game, he’s making love to his car!”
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Jesus also instructs us, and the disciples, to carry the message of his love, his care for us, and the redemption he earned for us on the cross. We need to be evangelists — and to do that well we need to be unencumbered!
Like the man that first suggested to me: “We have everything we need.”
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People who are already unencumbered have every reason to trust in God. Actually some of the poorest people I know in terms of material good are the richest in the faith.
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Sometimes I tell people I took a vow of poverty, which was easy because, “I was already VERY poor!”
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So each day I try to keep in my mind — “Cherish what you have” and “We have everything we need.”
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One final thought: I believe “we cannot keep it unless we give it away.”
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Once we have been touched by the Holy Spirit we need to share in gratitude: we need to carry the message, just the way Jesus instructed the apostles.
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John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
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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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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, October 13, 2017 — “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste.”

October 12, 2017

Friday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 465

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Jesus Casts a Devil Out of the Mute Man

Reading 1 JL 1:13-15; 2:1-2

Gird yourselves and weep, O priests!
wail, O ministers of the altar!
Come, spend the night in sackcloth,
O ministers of my God!
The house of your God is deprived
of offering and libation.
Proclaim a fast,
call an assembly;
Gather the elders,
all who dwell in the land,
Into the house of the LORD, your God,
and cry to the LORD!

Alas, the day!
for near is the day of the LORD,
and it comes as ruin from the Almighty.

Blow the trumpet in Zion,
sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all who dwell in the land tremble,
for the day of the LORD is coming;
Yes, it is near, a day of darkness and of gloom,
a day of clouds and somberness!
Like dawn spreading over the mountains,
a people numerous and mighty!
Their like has not been from of old,
nor will it be after them,
even to the years of distant generations.

Responsorial Psalm PS 9:2-3, 6 AND 16, 8-9

R. (9) The Lord will judge the world with justice.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart;
I will declare all your wondrous deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, Most High.
R. The Lord will judge the world with justice.
You rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;
their name you blotted out forever and ever.
The nations are sunk in the pit they have made;
in the snare they set, their foot is caught.
R. The Lord will judge the world with justice.
But the LORD sits enthroned forever;
he has set up his throne for judgment.
He judges the world with justice;
he governs the peoples with equity.
R. The Lord will judge the world with justice.

Alleluia JN 12:31B-32

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The prince of this world will now be cast out,
and when I am lifted up from the earth
I will draw all to myself, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel LK 11:15-26

When Jesus had driven out a demon, some of the crowd said:
“By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons,
he drives out demons.”
Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.
But he knew their thoughts and said to them,
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste
and house will fall against house.
And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?
For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons.
If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul,
by whom do your own people drive them out?
Therefore they will be your judges.
But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons,
then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.
When a strong man fully armed guards his palace,
his possessions are safe.
But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him,
he takes away the armor on which he relied
and distributes the spoils.
Whoever is not with me is against me,
and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

“When an unclean spirit goes out of someone,
it roams through arid regions searching for rest
but, finding none, it says,
‘I shall return to my home from which I came.’
But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order.
Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits
more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there,
and the last condition of that man is worse than the first.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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13 OCTOBER, 2017, Friday, 27th Week, Ordinary Time
PUTTING THE INTERIOR HOUSE IN ORDER

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Joel 1:13-152:1-2Ps 9: 2-3,6,16,8-9Lk 11:15-26 ]

In the first reading from prophet Joel, we hear the call to repentance.  “Priests, put on sackcloth and lament. Ministers of the altar, wail.”  By so doing, the prophet was inviting Israel, especially the religious and political leaders, to put their house in order.  This call is addressed in a special way to priests, but also to the whole Church. This is the same message of Pope Francis when he wrote the encyclical, “The joy of the gospel”, calling the whole church to ongoing conversion, a prerequisite for the mission of the Church.

This same message resounds in today’s gospel when Jesus invites us to examine the state of our interior life.   Whilst we might not be possessed by Beelzebul, the prince of devils, our lives are not in order as well.  For most of us, our real inner struggle is to live a consistent lifestyle befitting our calling as Christians.  The truth is that many of us are living in a divided house.  There is a contradiction between faith and life; ministry and life.  What we believe and what we teach is not how we live.

The warning of Jesus in living such a life is that we will collapse sooner or later. Our hypocrisy will be exposed.  “Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses.  So too with Satan: if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand?”  Indeed, by failing to live the gospel life, we would ultimately hurt ourselves.  Living a hypocritical life might deceive others but we know we cannot deceive ourselves.  Realizing that we are not what we should be will make us sad and unsettled.  Living a double life cripples us from enjoying a life of authentic freedom.

Hence, it is important today to examine what Christ wants us to do as Church. Vatican II presents ecclesial conversion as openness to a personal renewal of faith in Jesus Christ, which would impact one’s moral life as well as the structures of the Church.  “Every renewal of the Church is essentially grounded in an increase of fidelity to her own calling. Christ summons the Church to continual reformation as she sojourns here on earth. The Church is always in need of this, in so far as she is an institution of men here on earth.”  (Unitatis Reintegratio, no 6.)

Indeed, there is a need to take growth in holiness seriously as Catholics.  Holiness of life is not for some extraordinary heroes but is a calling for all.  St Theresa of the Child Jesus tells us that holiness is to live an ordinary life in an extraordinary way.  We do not have to do great things but small things in a great way.  Pope St John Paul II wrote in the Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennio Inenunte, “First of all, I have no hesitation in saying that all pastoral initiatives must be set in relation to holiness.  But the gift in turn becomes a task, which must shape the whole of Christian life.”    It is a duty which concerns not only certain Christians as  all “are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity.  It would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity.”  (NMI, no 30)  So the first conversion is a call to holiness of life, the perfection of charity according to our circumstances.

Secondly, we must focus on cultivating a Spirituality of communion.   Unless we live in communion with each other, we cannot speak of mission since our mission is communion.   It would be a contradiction to proclaim the gospel if Catholics cannot live in communion with each other.  “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:35).  The Church is called to be a sign and sacrament of unity with God and the whole human race.  Division among Christians and within the Catholic Church is a source of scandal to the proclamation of the gospel.

The call to communion presupposes that we live a life of communion by living in love with each other.  Pope St John Paul II proposes that a spirituality of communion “indicates above all the heart’s contemplation of the mystery of the Trinity dwelling in us, and whose light we must also be able to see shining on the face of the brothers and sisters around us. A spirituality of communion also means an ability to think of our brothers and sisters in faith within the profound unity of the Mystical Body, and therefore as ‘those who are a part of me’. This makes us able to share their joys and sufferings, to sense their desires and attend to their needs, to offer them deep and genuine friendship. A spirituality of communion implies also the ability to see what is positive in others, to welcome it and prize it as a gift from God: not only as a gift for the brother or sister who has received it directly, but also as a ‘gift for me’. A spirituality of communion means, finally, to know how to ‘make room’ for our brothers and sisters, bearing ‘each other’s burdens’ (cf Gal 6:2) and resisting the selfish temptations which constantly beset us and provoke competition, careerism, distrust and jealousy.”  (NMI, 43)

Only when we change our selfish and self-centered attitudes towards our fellow Catholics, can we then focus on the change and updating of the structures of communion.  Pope St John Paul II warns us, “Let us have no illusions: unless we follow this spiritual path, external structures of communion will serve very little purpose. They would become mechanisms without a soul, “masks” of communion rather than its means of expression and growth.’  (NMI No. 43)  Without this interior disposition, we will not have the humility and the appreciation of the structures of communion; Pope and bishops, bishops and priests, priests and laity, clergy and religious; and all the councils, committees, organizations, associations, ecclesial movements in the Church.

All of us are called to be for each other and work with each other for the greater good of the Church and the spread of the gospel.  It is this parochial-mindedness, of protecting one’s turf and enriching one’s organization at the expense of the larger body that causes much division and competition in the life of the Church.   The irony is that the laity and non-Catholics see us as one Church.  If anything happens or a scandal is caused by a Catholic organization or even a person of standing, the whole image of the Catholic Church is tarnished and put in question.  But in reality, many of our Catholic organizations and even parishes work as if they are not connected or responsible to the local Church or the universal Church. It is this unhealthy competition among ourselves as Catholics that cause the mission of the Church to be compromised because it leads to disunity, jealousy and division.

Finally, there is still yet another pitfall that the call to conversion is warning us, namely, the sin of complacency.  Even though some of us might live good lives, it might not mean that our house is in order.  The temptation to complacency will lead to minimalism and indifference.  The longer we are as Catholics or in an organization, there is always that danger of us falling into mediocrity due to routine, repetition and boredom.  When creativity and enthusiasm is lacking, boredom will lead us to other sins.  We will try to find other means to fill our emptiness, restlessness and sadness.  Without enthusiasm and motivation, we will lose our zeal for the gospel.  Complacency always springs from neglect in our prayer life, in the regular celebration of the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, and daily contemplation on the Word of God; and living a life of communion with fellow Catholics.

This explains why Jesus warns us through the story of the unclean spirit who invited seven other spirits to live in the man who had tidied his house.  Putting our house in order is not sufficient to live a life of faith.  We must be proactive.  We cannot simply just sit and wait for things to happen.  Rather, we must use our ingenuity to find new ways to proclaim the gospel and reach out to people.  Indeed, Jesus makes it clear “He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.”  Either we are actively for Jesus or against Him.  Our faith in Christ cannot be that of indifference or complacency.  Being complacent about our faith in itself a counter-witness.   More than just a counter-witness, it means that we are in danger of losing our faith because the temptations of the world and the falsehood of the world will draw us away from our faith in the Lord.  Conversely, we evangelize ourselves by evangelizing others.

Today, we must consciously pray to Jesus who is the strong man who can help us to overcome our sins.  For Jesus assures us, “So long as a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed.”  We must therefore turn to Jesus who can heal us of our wounds and forgive our sins.  We must rely on Jesus who will help us to remain faithful to our calling.  Only through Jesus could we find true peace and joy.  The battle against Satan and his works cannot simply be fought using our human effort but by the grace of God.

Let us take heed of the invitation to conversion by putting our house in order.  But unlike the Israelites, we do not do so simply because we are fearful of the judgment of the coming of the day of the Lord.  For us Christians, the Day of the Lord is as near to us as the moment we welcome the Lord into our house and invite Him to put our house in order.  For us, then, the day of the Lord is not a day of judgment but a day of liberation for authenticity of life and love.  When the Lord enters into our life, we will be filled with joy and peace.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Commentary on Luke 11:15-26 From Living Space

“There are none so blind as those who will not see.”

In today’s passage Jesus frees a person from enslavement to an evil power which had rendered him mute, so that he could not speak. (In Matthew’s version of this story, the man is also blind.) As Christians, many of us can suffer from the same evil influence when we refuse or are afraid to acknowledge openly our Christian faith. We hide and we remain silent, especially when the values we hold are attacked or ridiculed. Once liberated, the man could speak and he did so, much to the amazement of the crowd. Let us, too, pray for this gift of speech, to be able to say the right thing at the right time.

But there were those present who accused Jesus of using the demon’s power to drive out the evil spirit. At the same time, in spite of the extraordinary signs that Jesus was initiating on almost a daily basis – including the one they had just witnessed which caused such astonishment among the people – his enemies asked him for a sign from God.

There is a clear gap between the leaders and the people here. While the leaders keep asking Jesus for his credentials, the people are shown as constantly praising and thanking God for all that is being done among them through Jesus.

Jesus then shows the self-contradictions in his opponents’ charges. A kingdom that is split by internal rivalries cannot survive. Why would evil spirits attack each other and so frustrate their goals? And, Jesus asks his accusers, when their own people drive out demons, by whose power do they do it? “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out devils, then the reign of God is among you.”

When people are liberated from the control of evil spirits, that is a sure sign that the loving power of God is at work. Any other interpretation does not make sense. And the ‘reign of God’ is personified and embodied in Jesus himself. It will also become present in his disciples who do his work.

And Jesus goes on to give another image. A strong man guarding his house and possessions remains undisturbed until someone stronger comes and overthrows him. That is clearly what is happening. Jesus is the stronger one and the evil spirits are being driven away by him. They are helpless before him. This liberation of people and society from evil powers is one of the most dramatic proofs that the all-powerful reign of God is present in the person of Jesus. What further signs could be asked for?

“The man who is not with me is against me, and the man who does not gather with me scatters.”

There can be no neutrality where Jesus is concerned. We have to make our choice – for him or against. Not to choose is itself a choice – against him. Compare this with the similar but actually quite different saying with one we saw earlier (9:50): “Anyone who is not against you is for you”.

This was in the context of the Apostle John complaining that he saw a man cast out demons in Jesus’ name. In so far as that nameless person was doing Jesus’ work and doing it in Jesus’ name, he was with Jesus. That surely has implications for the many good things that non-Catholics and others who are not Christians at all are doing.

And this saying about the non-acceptance of neutrality leads to another warning. It is not enough to have been liberated from the power of an evil spirit. Otherwise it may come back “to find the house swept and tidied” and bring even worse spirits with it. The end result is that the person’s situation is even worse than before. No, the emptiness left by the departure of the evil spirit has to be actively filled with the Spirit of Jesus.

Was Jesus referring to some of the people around him, especially his critics, who, by their meticulous observance of the Law, saw themselves as morally blameless but in whose lives the positive presence of the Spirit, as exemplified in Jesus himself, was totally absent?  This is something we need to reflect on with regard to our use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

It is easy to use the sacrament to get the forgiveness of our past sins and leave it at that. To have the feeling of now having a clean slate.  Nature may abhor a vacuum but the devil loves one! The true reconciliation that the sacrament calls for demands a new and stronger commitment to the living of our Christian life. The sacrament is intended to be an experience of conversion and change. It is much more concerned with the future than with the past.  The past is gone and there is nothing we can do about it. The present is in our hands and that is where we meet God.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2276g/

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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, September 12, 2017 — Even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured

September 11, 2017

Tuesday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 438

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Jesus addressed the Twelve by Tissot

Reading 1 COL 2:6-15

Brothers and sisters:
As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him,
rooted in him and built upon him
and established in the faith as you were taught,
abounding in thanksgiving.
See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy
according to the tradition of men,
according to the elemental powers of the world
and not according to Christ.

For in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily,
and you share in this fullness in him,
who is the head of every principality and power.
In him you were also circumcised
with a circumcision not administered by hand,
by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ.
You were buried with him in baptism,
in which you were also raised with him
through faith in the power of God,
who raised him from the dead.
And even when you were dead in transgressions
and the uncircumcision of your flesh,
he brought you to life along with him,
having forgiven us all our transgressions;
obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims,
which was opposed to us,
he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross;
despoiling the principalities and the powers,
he made a public spectacle of them,
leading them away in triumph by it.

Responsorial Psalm PS 145:1B-2, 8-9, 10-11

R. (9) The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.
I will extol you, O my God and King,
and I will bless your name forever and ever.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
R. The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
R. The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.

AlleluiaSEE JN 15:16

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

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Jesus chooses the Twelve

Gospel LK 6:12-19

Jesus departed to the mountain to pray,
and he spent the night in prayer to God.
When day came, he called his disciples to himself,
and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles:
Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew,
James, John, Philip, Bartholomew,
Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus,
Simon who was called a Zealot,
and Judas the son of James,
and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

And he came down with them and stood on a stretch of level ground.
A great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people
from all Judea and Jerusalem
and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon
came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases;
and even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured.
Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him
because power came forth from him and healed them all.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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• The Gospel today presents two facts: the choice of the twelve apostles (Lk 6, 12-16) and the enormous crowds who want to meet Jesus (Lk 6, 17-19). The Gospel today invites us to reflect on the Twelve who were chosen to live with Jesus, being apostles. The first Christians remembered and registered the name of these twelve and of some other men and women, who followed Jesus and who, after His Resurrection, began to create the communities for the world outside. Today, also, all remember some catechists or persons, significant for their own Christian formation.
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• Luke 6, 12-13: The choice of the 12 apostles. Before choosing the twelve apostles definitively, Jesus spent a whole night in prayer. He prays in order to know whom to choose and then chooses the Twelve, whose names are in the Gospels and they will receive the name of apostles. Apostle means sent, missionary. They were called to carry out a mission, the same mission that Jesus received from the Father (Jn 20, 21). Mark is more concrete and says that God called them to be with him and he sends them on mission (Mk 3, 14)..
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• Luke 6, 14-16: The names of the 12 Apostles. With small differences the names of the Twelve are the same in the Gospels of Matthew (Mt 10, 2-4), Mark (Mk 3, 16-19) and Luke (Lk 6, 14-16). The majority of these names come from the Old Testament. For example, Simeon is the name of one of the sons of the Patriarch Jacob (Gn 29, 33). James (Giacomo) is the same name of Jacob (Gn 25, 26), Judah is the name of the other son of Jacob (Gn 35, 23). Matthew also had the name of Levi (Mk 2, 14), the other son of Jacob (Gn 35, 23) Of the twelve apostles, seven have a name that comes from the time of the Patriarchs: two times Simon, two times, James, two times Judah, and one time Levi! That reveals the wisdom and the pedagogy of the people. Through the names of the Patriarchs and the matriarchs, which were given to the sons and daughters, people maintained alive the tradition of the ancestors and helped their own children not to lose their identity. Which are the names which we give our children today?
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• Luke 6, 17-19: Jesus goes down from the mountain and people are looking for him. Coming down from the mountain with the twelve, Jesus finds an immense crowd of people who were trying to hear his words and to touch him, because people knew that from him came out a force of life. In this crowd there were Jews and foreigners, people from Judaea and also from Tyre and Sidon. These were people who were abandoned, disoriented. Jesus accepts all those who look for him Jews and Pagans! This is one of the themes preferred by Luke!

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These twelve persons, called by Jesus to form the first community, were not saints. They were common persons, like all of us. They had their virtues and their defects. The Gospels tell us very little on the temperament and the character of each one of them. But what they say, even if not much is for us a reason for consolation.

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– Peter was a generous person and full of enthusiasm (Mk 14, 29.31; Mt 14, 28-29), but at the moment of danger and of taking a decision, his heart becomes small and cannot go ahead (Mt 14, 30; Mc 14, 66-72). He was even Satan for Jesus (Mk 8, 33). Jesus calls him Rock (Peter). Peter of himself was not ‘Pietra’ – Rock, he becomes Rock (Pietra) because Jesus prays for him (Lc 22, 31-32).

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– James and John are ready to suffer with and for Jesus (Mk 10, 39), but they were very violent (Lk 9, 54), Jesus calls them “sons of thunder” (Mk 3, 17). John seemed to have some sort of envy. He wanted Jesus only for his group (Mk 9, 38).

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– Philip had a nice welcoming way. He knew how to put others in contact with Jesus (Jn 1, 45-46), but he was not too practical in solving the problems (Jn 12, 20-22; 6, 7). Sometimes he was very naïve. There was a moment when Jesus lost his patience with him: Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? (Jn 14, 8-9).

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– Andrew, the brother of Peter and friend of Philip, he was more practical. Philip goes to him to solve the problems (Jn 12, 21-22). Andrew calls Peter (Jn 1, 40-41), and Andrew found the boy who had five loaves of bread and two fish (Jn 6, 8-9).

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– Bartholomew seems to be the same as Nathanael. This one was from there and could not admit that anything good could come from Nazareth (Jn 1, 46).

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– Thomas was capable of sustaining his own opinion, for a whole week, against the witness of all the others (Jn 20, 24-25). But when he saw that he was mistaken, he was not afraid to acknowledge his error (Jn 20, 26-28). He was generous, ready to die with Jesus (Jn 11, 16).

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– Matthew or Levi was a Publican, a tax collector, like Zaccheus (Mt 9, 9; Lk 19, 2). They were persons who held to the system of oppression of that time.

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– Simon, instead, seems that he belonged to the movement which radically opposed the system which the Roman Empire imposed on the Jewish people. This is why he was also called Zealot (Lk 6, 15). The group of the Zealots even succeeded to bring about an armed revolt against the Romans.

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– Judah was the one who was in charge of the money in the group (Jn 13, 29). He betrayed Jesus.

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– James, son of Alphaeus and Judas Taddeus. The Gospels say nothing of these two, they only mention their name.

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Personal questions

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• Jesus spends the whole night in prayer to know whom to choose, and then he chooses those twelve. Which conclusions can you draw?
• Do you recall the persons who began the community to which you belong? What do you remember about them: the content of what they taught or the witness they gave?

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Concluding Prayer

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They shall dance in praise of his name,
play to him on tambourines and harp!
For Yahweh loves his people,
he will crown the humble with salvation. (Ps 149,3-4)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-luke-612-19