Posts Tagged ‘gratitude’

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

The American Spirit Is Alive in Texas — Give Texas everything it needs, and do it right quick.

September 1, 2017

Give Texas what it needs. It has endured a disaster without precedent. Washington must move quickly, generously. There should be no “The relief bill must be offset by cuts in federal spending.” There should be no larding it up or loading it down with extraneous measures. This is an emergency.

This is no time to threaten government shutdowns. It’s no time to be dilating on debt ceilings. This is the time to know as never before that everything that holds us together as a nation must be strengthened wherever possible, and whatever sinks us in rancor avoided and shunned.

Give Texas everything it needs, and do it right quick.

Most Americans, including Texans, don’t have more than a few hundred dollars in available savings. Most live close to the edge, paycheck to paycheck. Most homeowners in Houston don’t have flood insurance. When they’re lucky enough to get out of the shelter, they’ll return to houses that are half-ruined—wet, moldy, dank, with no usable furniture—and with kids coming down with colds and stomach ailments from stress or from standing water that holds bacteria and viruses. It will be misery for months. When the trauma is over, there’ll be plenty of time for debate. Do we need to hold more in reserve for national disasters? Do local zoning laws need rethinking? All worthy questions—for later.

There is such a thing as tact. It has to do with a sense of touch—an ability to apprehend another’s position or circumstances, and doing or saying the right thing. There is, believe it or not, such a thing as political tact. It too involves knowing the positions of others, and knowing what time it is.

Politicians, don’t use this disaster to score points or rub your ideology in somebody’s face or make your donors smile by being small, not big.

Give Texas what it needs. Keep the government up and running. Don’t even consider doing otherwise.

Now another subject, which ties back to Houston. A lot of people this week were saying, “You should see that Mattis speech.” A frequent answer was: “I did. I play it over and over.”

A week or so ago, probably in Jordan, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had an impromptu meeting with what looked like a few dozen U.S. troops. Someone taped it. This is what Mr. Mattis said: “Hold the line.”

“For those of you I haven’t met, my name’s Mattis,” he began. “Thanks for being out here, OK? I know at times you wonder if any of us know . . . but believe me, I know you’re far from home every one of you, I know you could all be going to college you young people, or you could be back on the block. [We’re] just grateful. . . .

“The only way this great big experiment you and I call America is gonna survive is if we’ve got tough hombres like you. . . . We don’t frickin’ scare, that’s the bottom line.

“You’re a great example for our country right now. It’s got some problems—you know it and I know it. It’s got problems that we don’t have in the military. And you just hold the line, my fine young soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines. You just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it, of being friendly to one another. That’s what Americans owe to one another—we’re so doggone lucky to be Americans.”

He ended: “I flunked retirement, OK? Only reason I came back was to serve alongside young people like you, who are so selfless and frankly so rambunctious.”

This was the voice of true moral authority, authority earned through personal sacrifice. Speeches like that come only from love.

But it was particularly poignant that Mattis’s speech, with its refrain—“Hold the line”—spread so far and fast this week.

And so, to selfless and frankly rambunctious Texas:

If you gave just a few minutes to the news, you saw it all—the generosity and courage, the sense of community, of people who really care about each other. You saw the pontoons and air mattresses and bass boats and rowboats and pool floats in which people were rescued. No one knows how many were saved or how many saved them. Every disaster at some point becomes a jumble, and people stopped counting. But surely tens of thousands were saved.

We all saw it, often live, on television and the internet because of excellent reporters and crews:

A mother with little children was marooned, the water in her home rising dangerously. “I didn’t know who to call. I didn’t know if it was going to be too late.” Suddenly, there were men outside the house coming for her. “It was just an angel,” she said as she wept from the back of their boat.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo honored Steve Perez, the 60-year-old cop who drowned in his patrol car. When Mr. Acevedo spoke to Perez’s widow, she told him she’d begged her husband not to go in but he’d told her, “We’ve got work to do.” The chief told her: You know who he was, if he had to die, he wouldn’t want it to be home in bed, he would have wanted it to be on the job and trying to help. “Because he has that in his DNA,” said Mr. Acevedo.

On one channel they were looking for what they’d heard was a group of abandoned horses being led through the streets by a guy in a jet ski. In Columbia Lakes a local man showed a reporter the homemade barrier he’d built to protect his neighbors in case the levee broke. He wasn’t afraid: “We don’t do drama.”

On Facebook there was the story of the woman who went into labor while the waters quickly rose. Word spread through the apartment complex. Soon a huge, heavy truck made its way to her door. Neighbors formed a human chain to help her out. She got to the hospital and gave birth to a girl.

There were a lot of human chains. And often when they showed people being pulled from houses the families were all ethnicities and races, the whole American mix—black mamas, white papas, mixed kids, an Asian child. On the national level America always sounds like a constant argument over race. On the local level, meantime, everybody has been happily integrating in the most personal possible ways.

The local ABC station caught a young Catholic priest, a French Canadian assigned to a Houston parish, out in a kayak in heavy rain looking for people who could use a Mass. “I guess this is how the Americas were evangelized as well with a canoe,” he said, “and this is a kayak. I hope that can bring a smile to a few people.” Noticing the TV cameras, he said: “I guess we’re live. The Lord is alive, and the Lord is always with us as well.”

And of course there was the Cajun Navy, from Louisiana, performing its own spontaneous Dunkirk. Texas had taken them in after Katrina. Now it was “Sam Houston, we are here.”

We are a great nation. We forget. But what happened in Texas reminded us. It said: My beloved America you’re not a mirage, you’re still here.

If they’d done only that, they’d deserve whatever they need.

They held the line.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-american-spirit-is-alive-in-texas-1504221483

Related:

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, August 31, 2017 — “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all.”

August 30, 2017

Thursday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 428

No automatic alt text available.

Reading 1 1 THES 3:7-13

We have been reassured about you, brothers and sisters,
in our every distress and affliction, through your faith.
For we now live, if you stand firm in the Lord.

What thanksgiving, then, can we render to God for you,
for all the joy we feel on your account before our God?
Night and day we pray beyond measure to see you in person
and to remedy the deficiencies of your faith.
Now may God himself, our Father, and our Lord Jesus
direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase
and abound in love for one another and for all,
just as we have for you,
so as to strengthen your hearts,
to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father
at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 90:3-5A, 12-13, 14 AND 17

R. (14) Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!
You turn man back to dust,
saying, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in your sight
are as yesterday, now that it is past,
or as a watch of the night.
R. Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
R. Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!
Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.
And may the gracious care of the LORD our God be ours;
prosper the work of our hands for us!
Prosper the work of our hands!
R. Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!

AlleluiaMT 24:42A, 44

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Stay awake!
For you do not know when the Son of Man will come.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 24:42-51

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Stay awake!
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Be sure of this: if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant,
whom the master has put in charge of his household
to distribute to them their food at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so.
Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.
But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’
and begins to beat his fellow servants,
and eat and drink with drunkards,
the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day
and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely
and assign him a place with the hypocrites,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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31 AUGUST, 2017, Thursday, 21st Week, Ordinary Time
ALERT TO JESUS’ COMING IN OUR MIDST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [1 Thess 3:7-13Ps 90:3-4,12-14,17Mt 24:42-51 ]

We all have been given responsibilities in this world.  We have a part to play in the economy of salvation.  But many of us are not taking our responsibilities seriously.   Some of us are callous in the way we handle them.  Some of us are irresponsible, like the dishonest steward.  He said to himself, “‘My master is taking his time,’ and sets about beating his fellow servants and eating and drinking with drunkards, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know.”  Indeed, we think we have much time.  But this is an illusion, for our time is short.  As the psalmist says, “You turn men back to dust and say: ‘Go back, sons of men.’  To your eyes a thousand years are like yesterday, come and gone, no more than a watch in the night.”

As a result, we become complacent.  We fall into sin.  We act irresponsibly, thinking that we have all the time in this world to repent.  We fail to value the gifts and tasks that the Lord has entrusted to us.  We take them for granted and even get used to our offices.  Instead of using them for the service of all, we use the authority and privileges of our office for our self-interests, our own needs and convenience.  We lose the sense of urgency and fall into indifference.

Most of all, we waste the opportunity to meet the Lord who comes to us each day through the daily events in our lives.  He comes as a friend, as a beggar, as a mother in pain, a wife wounded by betrayal, a man in anxiety, a child in loneliness, a man who is suffering from an incurable sickness, a woman going through much pain.  We miss all these opportunities, like the dishonest steward who failed to exercise his responsibilities.  Instead, he was waiting for the master to return when he had already come in his fellow servants.  This was the mistake of the dishonest steward.  Hence the Lord said, “The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.’”  It will be too late when he comes to realize how much he had missed out in life.

Hence, the call of the gospel is to stay awake.  “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming.”  Indeed, life is short.  We must make the best of this life.  We need to live well and make use of all the blessings He has given us, for we are all stewards of His grace and blessings.  We are given such privileges not for ourselves or for our personal enjoyment but for the good of others. This was the mistake of the dishonest steward.  He was irresponsible and he was not aware of the Lord’s presence in his daily life.   He was not alert to the Lord because he allowed the devil to mislead him.   He was not alert to the devil’s strategy of leading him to do the wrong things, or the right things for the wrong reasons.  Hence, Jesus asks us to be alert to the burglar that comes into our lives.  Who is this burglar if not the evil spirit who steals our hearts away from God and His people.  Indeed, Jesus said, “You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break the wall of his house.”

But being alert to the Lord’s coming is more than just being responsible in our work.  We can be hardworking but we might have the wrong motives.  The heart is not there.  It is not done out of love.  It is just a job or a duty.  We can be involved in many projects and active in many programs.  But it is reducible to mere responsibility.  We do it out of duty, like many Catholics who fulfill their Catholic duties.  But there is no joy and no love in it.  They do them grudgingly and even with a hidden hostility against God and the Church for having placed such obligations on them.  For others, they can be doing their work but in a condescending manner, as if they are the generous ones giving away their precious time and resources, not realizing what they came from God.  Others still, are apparently responsible in their work.  They are very efficient and organized.  But their motivation springs from insecurity and ambition. They want to prove themselves to be the best organizer, administrator and leader.  They get defensive and discouraged when they are criticized.

But what we need to do is to do it out of love for Christ and our fellowmen.  Only when there is love, can we recognize the Lord in those whom we serve and those we serve can recognize the Christ in us.  This was the case of the apostles.  Paul in the first reading expressed his caring love for the early Christians.  It was one of his earliest letters to the Christian community.  He was ministering there with Silas and Timothy.  He wrote to them with much affection and gentleness to encourage them in their afflictions and to help them to form the right views about the Second Coming of the Lord.  It was not written out of anger or duty but purely out of love.  It was a letter written to encourage and console.  “We are earnestly praying night and day to be able to see you face to face again and make up any shortcomings in your faith.  May God our Father himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, make it easy for us to come to you.”

Where does this love come from?  It must come from the Lord Himself.  St Paul wrote, “May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you.”   We need to experience His love and mercy as St Paul did to be able to offer the Good News freely and in love. That is why the psalmist prayed,  “Fill us with your love that we may rejoice.  In the morning, fill us with your love; we shall exult and rejoice all our days.  Let the favour of the Lord be upon us: give success to the work of our hands.”.

Secondly, the love of God comes from encouragement from each other.  We are called to inspire each other by our faith.  “Brothers, your faith has been a great comfort to us in the middle of our own troubles and sorrows; now we can breathe again, as you are still holding firm in the Lord.  How can we thank God enough for you, for all the joy we feel before our God on your account?”  Truly, as Christians we can pull each other down or build each other up.  We are called to offer ourselves as an inspiration to each other.  If only we affirm and encourage each other more often, we will receive the love of God through each other.  We need mentors to help us grow and be firm in our faith and endeavors.

Thirdly, we are called to receive the love of God and be alert to His coming in prayer.   If we want to be conscious of His coming and presence in our lives, we need only to pray.  Prayer enables us to see Him in different ways with the heart of love.  So long as we are blind to His coming, we will not be able to find Him in daily life.  We need to pray so that we can see the love of God for us in the daily events in our lives.  Often we take the good things in life for granted.  We forget to see His presence in our daily encounters with people.  That is why we do not give thanks each day.  If only we spend each evening of the day to count our blessings and give thanks for all that happened in the day, and how His love was shown to us, and the joys we received, we will become more loving and grateful people.

Finally, we know that God is with us when we live our lives with a clear conscience.  St Paul says, “And may he so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all his saints.”   We must live a blameless life, which is to know that we have done all we could according to our circumstances in life to offer all back to God and for His people, keeping nothing for ourselves.   When we have done everything with purity of intention, for His greater glory and for the service of His people, and not for our glory or our interests, then we can surrender all that we do to God without feeling guilty or unsettled.  This is the joy of being ready at all times before the Lord, because our conscience is clear.

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Written by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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Lectio Divina From The Carmelites

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Reflection

• The Gospel today speaks about the coming of the Lord at the end of time and exhorts us to be watchful, to watch. At the time of the first Christians, many persons thought that the end of this world was close at hand and that Jesus would have returned afterwards. Today many persons think that the end of the world is close at hand. And therefore, it is well to reflect on the meaning of vigilance, of watching.
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• Matthew 24, 42: Watch. “So stay awake! Watch, because you do not know the day when your master is coming”. Concerning the day and the hour of the end of the world, Jesus had said: “But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, no one but the Father!” (Mk 13, 32). Today, many people live concerned thinking about the end of the world. Have you seen when walking through the streets of the city that it is written on the walls: “Jesus will return!” And how will this coming be? After the year 1000, basing themselves on the Gospel of John, people began to say (Rev 20, 7): “1000 years have gone by, but 2000 will not pas by!”
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This is why, as the year 2000 approached, many were worried. There were even some people who were anguished because of the proximity of the end of the world, so much so that they committed suicide. Others, reading the Apocalypse of John, even were able to foretell the exact hour of the end. But the year 2000 came and nothing happened. The end of the world does not arrive! Many times, the affirmation “Jesus will return” is used to frighten people and oblige them to belong to a given church! Others, because they have waited so long and have speculated so much concerning the coming of Jesus, are not aware of his presence among us, in the most common things of life, in the facts of every day.
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• The same problems existed in the Christian communities of the first centuries. Many persons of the communities said that the end of this world was close at hand and that Jesus would have returned. Some of the community of Thessalonica in Greece, basing themselves on the preaching of Paul said: “Jesus will return!” (1 Th 4, 13-18; 2 Th 2, 2). And this is why, there were even persons who no longer worked because they thought that the coming of the end was so close at hand, within a few days or a few weeks so, “Why work, if Jesus will return afterwards?” (cf. 2 Th 3, 11).
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Paul responds that it was not so simple as they imagined. And to those who had stopped working he would say: “Anyone who does not want to work, has no right to eat!” Others remained looking up at the sky, waiting for the return of Jesus in the clouds (cf. Ac 1, 11). Others rebelled because he delayed coming back (2 P 3, 4-9). In general the Christians lived with the expectation of the imminent coming of Jesus. Jesus was coming to realize or carry out the Final Judgement to end with the unjust history of this world and to inaugurate the new phase of history, the definitive phase of the New Heaven and the New Earth. They believed that this would have taken place within one or two generations. Many persons would still be alive when Jesus would have appeared again, glorious in Heaven (1Th 4, 16-17; Mc 9, 1). Others, tired of waiting would say: “He will never come back!” (2 P 3,).
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• Up until now the coming of Jesus has not arrived! How can this delay be understood? It is because they are not aware that Jesus has already returned and lives in our midst: “I am with you always, till the end of time.” (Mt 28, 20). He is already at our side, in the struggle for justice, for peace, for life. The fullness has not as yet been attained, but a guarantee of the Kingdom is already in our midst. This is why, we expect with a firm hope the full liberation of humanity and of nature (Rm 8, 22-25). And while we wait and struggle, we say with certainty: “He is already in our midst” (Mt 25, 40).
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• Matthew 24, 43-51: The example of the householder and of his servants. “Consider this: if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house.” Jesus says this very clearly. Nobody knows anything regarding the hour: “Concerning this day and this hour, nobody knows anything, neither the angels, or the Son, but only the Father
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What is important is not to know the hour of the end of this world, but rather to be capable to perceive the coming of Jesus who is already present in our midst in the person of the poor (cf. Mt 25, 40) and in so many other ways and events of our daily life. What is important is to open the eyes and to keep in mind the commitment of the good servant of whom Jesus speaks about in the parable.
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Personal questions
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• On which signs do people base themselves to say that the end of the world is close at hand? Do you believe that the end of the world is close at hand?
• What can we respond to those who say that the end of the world is close at hand? Which is the force which impels you to resist and to have hope?
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Concluding Prayer
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Day after day I shall bless you, Lord,
I shall praise your name for ever and ever.
Great is Yahweh and worthy of all praise,
his greatness beyond all reckoning. (Ps 145,2-3)
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

From Last Year

25 AUGUST 2016

GOD COMES WHENEVER WE ARE PRESENT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1Cor 1:1-9; Mt 24:42-51]

 

As we approach the last chapters of Matthew’s gospel, the parable of the conscientious steward reminds us of the need to be alert and be watchful of Christ’s coming.  The context of today’s pericope cannot but give us the impression that Jesus is telling us to be prepared for the last day when His Kingdom would come in its fullness.  In other words, just like the community of Matthew, we are called to be prepared for judgment on the last day.  Such interpretation on the level of the evangelist and his community is of course correct and valid.

Nevertheless, such an interpretation does not do justice to the real intention of Christ when He told this parable.  This is because when this parable is interpreted as keeping ourselves prepared for the final judgment, it can be misunderstood that eternal life begins only after death.  That being the case, some would adopt an attitude of postponement. Since judgment would only come on the last day, many of us would then live in such a way that heaven can wait.  So long as I die a happy death (meaning having received the last sacraments or make my conversion before deathbed) it does not matter how I live my life now.  In fact such is the attitude of many people.  Believing that they are still young or still healthy with many more years to come, they live an irresponsible life, just like the dishonest servant in the parable.  They are not concerned about their spiritual and personal life, least of all about the kingdom life that God wants to give us, here and now.  Eat, drink and be merry; living a selfish, superficial and unproductive life seems to be the order of the day.  This certainly is not the life of the Spirit because it is a self-centered, sensual and impoverished way of living.  A life that is not lived in love and service cannot be considered a godly or a happy and liberating life.

On the other hand, they do fear the last day and want to be assured of a place in heaven.  As such, their only prayer is simply to ask that they have the privilege of receiving the sacraments before they die.  Not surprisingly, we can understand why many Christians are not looking forward to death or to the last day of the world.  On the contrary, the talk of the last day is often approached with great trepidation and anxiety.  As is often uttered by most people when we speak to them about the next life, “heaven can wait.”   But such a view of the coming of Christ is totally opposed to the early Christians’ joyful expectations of the last day.  For them, they were looking forward intensely to the coming of Christ and His kingdom.  This is something they yearned and prayed for.  Like Paul, they could not wait to be with Christ. The early Christians were always living in such a way that being with Christ is their goal and joy.  St Paul said, “while you are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed; and he will keep you steady and without blame until the last day, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, because God by calling you has joined you to his Son, Jesus Christ; and God is faithful.”

When such an attitude is applied to our daily life, the implications are far reaching.  If we are only concerned about the last day, then it would also mean that we need not bother very much about our lives, even now.  Consequently, we can take life easy; not expending ourselves in our work, not really bothering whether we are advancing in our spiritual life or not.  And so we find ourselves living a life of mediocrity, a life sloth, without purpose and direction.  At the end of our lives, we will of course regret, albeit it might be a bit too late at times.  Then Christ’s prophecy would come true for there will be “weeping and grinding of teeth” because we know that we have wasted the golden opportunities to enrich ourselves by growing in the life of the Spirit through using our gifts for the service of others.  We could have grown in wisdom, grace and understanding through the many opportunities that come our way but we have not been faithful to the graces we have received.

Consequently, we must balance such a view of eschatology with that of the original message of Jesus.  In the original preaching of Jesus, this parable was not concerned with the end-time specifically but the messianic time.  Of course, the messianic time is already the beginning of that end-time.  Hence, what Jesus wants His listeners to be aware was that the Kingdom of God has already come.  The master is already here.  If the people are not aware of the presence of the master, it is because they are too drunk with themselves to be sensitive to the presence of the master.

So how can one be present to the reality of the Kingdom which has come with the Son of man?  Simply by attending to what we have to do and be faithful to our duties and ourselves.  Jesus says, “Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment.”  Similarly, if only we are fully engaged in what we have to do each day, be it sleeping, praying, recreating, studying, all according to their proper time, then we would have already experienced the joys of the kingdom.  For how do we suppose the kingdom to be present if it is not experienced in the concrete situations in our lives?

This means that we can already live in the kingdom when we live our vocation according to the state that we are in to its fullest.  If we only learn to enjoy our state of life, we would have experienced the joys of the kingdom.  Regardless of our state of life or vocation, we must put our whole heart and soul into what we do.  Fidelity to our state of life and our vocation itself is the cause of our joy and freedom.  Accepting and being content with God’s will for us will give us peace and joy.  If we are miserable, it is because we are fighting against the will of God, living a double-life and most of all, an irresponsible life of self-indulgence like the unfaithful servant.  Indeed, if one is fully absorbed in what one is doing then one would find life such a joy because in giving oneself to love and service, one is empowered and enriched as a person.   There will be no boredom nor would our mind be so free as to let it be the devil’s workshop to disturb our peace.

That is why, while we certainly await the full revelation of Jesus Christ as St Paul tells us in the second reading, we are already experiencing His presence from the gifts of the Spirit given to us.  These gifts of the Spirit are meant for the service of love and the building of the community.  Whenever we exercise our talents in this manner, we will keep ourselves “steady and without blame”.  In expending ourselves for the service of the kingdom, we live the kingdom life at the same time.  This has been the way of Jesus as well, for we know that He fulfilled the kingdom of God in His life and ministry by simply carrying out the mission that His Father had entrusted Him to do.   In doing the Father’s will even unto death, the kingdom was accomplished in Him.  We too, as we fulfill the Father’s will by maximizing all the graces He gives to us for His greater glory, living our lives to the fullest, will share in the joy of the kingdom now and in its fullness on the last day.

In the final analysis, of course, there is no dichotomy between the kingdom that will come at the end of time and the kingdom which is already present.  When we live our lives fully wherever we are, then we are already living the life of the kingdom that is to come. Thus, we are always prepared for the final consummation of the kingdom.  Hence, the coming of Christ would not be looked upon with fear but as the fulfillment of what we are already experiencing here on earth.  When we exhaust the joys of living our life on this earth, we cannot but desire to move to a higher level of life given to us by Christ in the resurrection.  The transition from this life to the next should be like that of Mary in her Assumption when she seamlessly moved from an earthly life to the heavenly life.  She who already lived the life of the kingdom entered into the fullness of life in heaven without any struggle or tension.

For us, because of our fallen nature, we know that we live in this tension of wanting to be faithful to the Lord and wanting to please ourselves.  Again and again, especially in times of struggles, trials and sufferings, we do feel like giving up being good and loving.  We know that quite often, like God, we feel that our kindness has been taken advantage of by those whom we love or serve.  At times we are misjudged and unappreciated.  In such times as these, we feel like doing what the lazy servant did, giving up the life of the kingdom and living just for ourselves.  When we feel like giving up, let us take courage from the words of St Paul when he said, “God by calling you has joined you to his Son, Jesus Christ; and God is faithful.”  In other words, let us share in Christ’s sonship both in suffering, death and resurrection.  Just as the Father was faithful to Jesus, He too will be faithful to us when we are going through tough and demanding times living out our vocation.  Let us, whilst waiting for deliverance from our suffering and misery, cling to the fidelity of God’s love for us.  Most of all, by being faithful in times of trials, we will become stronger and readier to embrace the fullness of God’s life which requires ultimately a total self-emptying.  That is why Jesus said, “Happy that servant if his Master’s arrival finds him at this employment.  I tell you solemnly, he will place him over everything he owns.”

reminds us of the need to be alert and be watchful of Christ’s coming.  The context of today’s pericope cannot but give us the impression that Jesus is telling us to be prepared for the last day when His Kingdom would come in its fullness.  In other words, just like the community of Matthew, we are called to be prepared for judgment on the last day.  Such interpretation on the level of the evangelist and his community is of course correct and valid.

Nevertheless, such an interpretation does not do justice to the real intention of Christ when He told this parable.  This is because when this parable is interpreted as keeping ourselves prepared for the final judgment, it can be misunderstood that eternal life begins only after death.  That being the case, some would adopt an attitude of postponement. Since judgment would only come on the last day, many of us would then live in such a way that heaven can wait.  So long as I die a happy death (meaning having received the last sacraments or make my conversion before deathbed) it does not matter how I live my life now.  In fact such is the attitude of many people.  Believing that they are still young or still healthy with many more years to come, they live an irresponsible life, just like the dishonest servant in the parable.  They are not concerned about their spiritual and personal life, least of all about the kingdom life that God wants to give us, here and now.  Eat, drink and be merry; living a selfish, superficial and unproductive life seems to be the order of the day.  This certainly is not the life of the Spirit because it is a self-centered, sensual and impoverished way of living.  A life that is not lived in love and service cannot be considered a godly or a happy and liberating life.

On the other hand, they do fear the last day and want to be assured of a place in heaven.  As such, their only prayer is simply to ask that they have the privilege of receiving the sacraments before they die.  Not surprisingly, we can understand why many Christians are not looking forward to death or to the last day of the world.  On the contrary, the talk of the last day is often approached with great trepidation and anxiety.  As is often uttered by most people when we speak to them about the next life, “heaven can wait.”   But such a view of the coming of Christ is totally opposed to the early Christians’ joyful expectations of the last day.  For them, they were looking forward intensely to the coming of Christ and His kingdom.  This is something they yearned and prayed for.  Like Paul, they could not wait to be with Christ. The early Christians were always living in such a way that being with Christ is their goal and joy.  St Paul said, “while you are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed; and he will keep you steady and without blame until the last day, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, because God by calling you has joined you to his Son, Jesus Christ; and God is faithful.”

When such an attitude is applied to our daily life, the implications are far reaching.  If we are only concerned about the last day, then it would also mean that we need not bother very much about our lives, even now.  Consequently, we can take life easy; not expending ourselves in our work, not really bothering whether we are advancing in our spiritual life or not.  And so we find ourselves living a life of mediocrity, a life sloth, without purpose and direction.  At the end of our lives, we will of course regret, albeit it might be a bit too late at times.  Then Christ’s prophecy would come true for there will be “weeping and grinding of teeth” because we know that we have wasted the golden opportunities to enrich ourselves by growing in the life of the Spirit through using our gifts for the service of others.  We could have grown in wisdom, grace and understanding through the many opportunities that come our way but we have not been faithful to the graces we have received.

Consequently, we must balance such a view of eschatology with that of the original message of Jesus.  In the original preaching of Jesus, this parable was not concerned with the end-time specifically but the messianic time.  Of course, the messianic time is already the beginning of that end-time.  Hence, what Jesus wants His listeners to be aware was that the Kingdom of God has already come.  The master is already here.  If the people are not aware of the presence of the master, it is because they are too drunk with themselves to be sensitive to the presence of the master.

So how can one be present to the reality of the Kingdom which has come with the Son of man?  Simply by attending to what we have to do and be faithful to our duties and ourselves.  Jesus says, “Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment.”  Similarly, if only we are fully engaged in what we have to do each day, be it sleeping, praying, recreating, studying, all according to their proper time, then we would have already experienced the joys of the kingdom.  For how do we suppose the kingdom to be present if it is not experienced in the concrete situations in our lives?

This means that we can already live in the kingdom when we live our vocation according to the state that we are in to its fullest.  If we only learn to enjoy our state of life, we would have experienced the joys of the kingdom.  Regardless of our state of life or vocation, we must put our whole heart and soul into what we do.  Fidelity to our state of life and our vocation itself is the cause of our joy and freedom.  Accepting and being content with God’s will for us will give us peace and joy.  If we are miserable, it is because we are fighting against the will of God, living a double-life and most of all, an irresponsible life of self-indulgence like the unfaithful servant.  Indeed, if one is fully absorbed in what one is doing then one would find life such a joy because in giving oneself to love and service, one is empowered and enriched as a person.   There will be no boredom nor would our mind be so free as to let it be the devil’s workshop to disturb our peace.

That is why, while we certainly await the full revelation of Jesus Christ as St Paul tells us in the second reading, we are already experiencing His presence from the gifts of the Spirit given to us.  These gifts of the Spirit are meant for the service of love and the building of the community.  Whenever we exercise our talents in this manner, we will keep ourselves “steady and without blame”.  In expending ourselves for the service of the kingdom, we live the kingdom life at the same time.  This has been the way of Jesus as well, for we know that He fulfilled the kingdom of God in His life and ministry by simply carrying out the mission that His Father had entrusted Him to do.   In doing the Father’s will even unto death, the kingdom was accomplished in Him.  We too, as we fulfill the Father’s will by maximizing all the graces He gives to us for His greater glory, living our lives to the fullest, will share in the joy of the kingdom now and in its fullness on the last day.

In the final analysis, of course, there is no dichotomy between the kingdom that will come at the end of time and the kingdom which is already present.  When we live our lives fully wherever we are, then we are already living the life of the kingdom that is to come. Thus, we are always prepared for the final consummation of the kingdom.  Hence, the coming of Christ would not be looked upon with fear but as the fulfillment of what we are already experiencing here on earth.  When we exhaust the joys of living our life on this earth, we cannot but desire to move to a higher level of life given to us by Christ in the resurrection.  The transition from this life to the next should be like that of Mary in her Assumption when she seamlessly moved from an earthly life to the heavenly life.  She who already lived the life of the kingdom entered into the fullness of life in heaven without any struggle or tension.

For us, because of our fallen nature, we know that we live in this tension of wanting to be faithful to the Lord and wanting to please ourselves.  Again and again, especially in times of struggles, trials and sufferings, we do feel like giving up being good and loving.  We know that quite often, like God, we feel that our kindness has been taken advantage of by those whom we love or serve.  At times we are misjudged and unappreciated.  In such times as these, we feel like doing what the lazy servant did, giving up the life of the kingdom and living just for ourselves.  When we feel like giving up, let us take courage from the words of St Paul when he said, “God by calling you has joined you to his Son, Jesus Christ; and God is faithful.”  In other words, let us share in Christ’s sonship both in suffering, death and resurrection.  Just as the Father was faithful to Jesus, He too will be faithful to us when we are going through tough and demanding times living out our vocation.  Let us, whilst waiting for deliverance from our suffering and misery, cling to the fidelity of God’s love for us.  Most of all, by being faithful in times of trials, we will become stronger and readier to embrace the fullness of God’s life which requires ultimately a total self-emptying.  That is why Jesus said, “Happy that servant if his Master’s arrival finds him at this employment.  I tell you solemnly, he will place him over everything he owns.”

Written by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore.

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

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Can we comprehend Christ’s way from his birth in the Spirit and his baptism in the Spirit to his self-surrender on Golgotha. To see it all makes it possible to understand the path of Christ as the way leading from his resurrection to his parousia—the way he takes in the Spirit to Israel, to the nations, and into the breadth and depth of the cosmos.

The symbol of the way makes us aware that every human christology is historically conditioned and limited. Every human christology is a ‘christology of the way,’ not yet a ‘christology of the home country,’ a christology of faith, not yet a christology of sight. So christology is no more than the beginning of eschatology; and eschatology, as the Christian faith understands it, is always the consummation of christology.

Finally, but not least important: every way is an invitation. A way is something to be followed. ‘The way of Jesus Christ’ is not merely a christological category. It is an ethical category too. Anyone who enters upon Christ’s way will discover who Jesus really is; and anyone who really believes in Jesus and the Christ of God will follow him along the way he himself took. Christology and christopraxis find one another in the full and completed knowledge of Christ. This christology links dogmatics and ethics in closer detail than in the previous volumes.

http://fortresspress.com/product/way-jesus-christ-christology-messianic-dimensions

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, August 28, 2017 — “How St. Augustine Found Me”

August 27, 2017

Memorial of Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 425

Image result for Saint Augustine, art, pictures

Saint Augustine by Antonio Rodríguez

Reading 1  1 THES 1:1-5, 8B-10

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the Church of the Thessalonians
in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
grace to you and peace.

We give thanks to God always for all of you,
remembering you in our prayers,
unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love
and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ,
before our God and Father,
knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God, how you were chosen.
For our Gospel did not come to you in word alone,
but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.
You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake.
In every place your faith in God has gone forth,
so that we have no need to say anything.
For they themselves openly declare about us
what sort of reception we had among you,
and how you turned to God from idols
to serve the living and true God and to await his Son from heaven,
whom he raised from the dead, Jesus,
who delivers us from the coming wrath.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 149:1B-2, 3-4, 5-6A AND 9B

R. (see 4a) The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Sing to the LORD a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches;
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia!
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaJN 10:27

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 23:13-22

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men.
You do not enter yourselves,
nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You traverse sea and land to make one convert,
and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna
twice as much as yourselves.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say,
‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’
Blind fools, which is greater, the gold,
or the temple that made the gold sacred?
And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’
You blind ones, which is greater, the gift,
or the altar that makes the gift sacred?
One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it;
one who swears by the temple swears by it
and by him who dwells in it;
one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God
and by him who is seated on it.”

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Homily By The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
(First published on Monday August 26 2013)
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Where do you stand in your faith?  Is your faith more like that of the scribes and Pharisees or that of the early Christians in Thessalonica?   The answer to this question determines our happiness in this life and hereafter for the warning of Jesus is this, “Alas for you … you hypocrites!  You who shut up the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to.”

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What then is wrong with the so called faith of the scribes and Pharisees?  Their faith was merely an intellectual and legalistic faith.   Perhaps, it would not even be right to call it faith!  More correctly, their faith was a religion in so far as one uses religion to fulfill one’s selfish interests.  In the first place, their faith in God was based on merit.  They did not believe in grace.  They believed one can earn his place in the eyes of God.  The corollary of this is that even when they obeyed the laws of God or when they performed good works, it was done more out of selfish interests than out of pure love for God and for others, since such works were done simply to accumulate merits.   For those who were less authentic, good works were not motivated by love but by egoism or at most, by fear of rejection.

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This explains why they sought ways to circumvent the laws by rationalizing them or finding loopholes in the laws so that they could break them without being faulted.  Religion then became like a game of rules.  Observe the rules and you will be saved.  The spirit of the laws is forgotten.

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Conversely, one can observe the laws so strictly without taking into the peculiar circumstances that it becomes ludicrous and even unjust.  This is how civil lawyers try to get their clients out of trouble.  So long as they can circumvent the letter of the law, they are not guilty.  That is why, at times, one wonders how just the laws are as it depends on whether one engages a good legal counsel to fight the case. A good lawyer can often go round the law to get us out of trouble.  So it is not just a matter of whether one is guilty or innocent, but about having someone present our case convincingly before the judge who is obliged to judge based on the facts presented within the limits of the laws.

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Jesus exposed their insincerity in the way they fulfilled the Laws. He cited the ludicrous attempts of the Jews to avoid any obligation to their promises made to God by splitting hairs over when a promise would be considered valid.  When Moses gave them the Laws, it was meant to help them to live a life of love and harmony. If observing the law makes us less loving, then the purpose of the law is defeated.  Laws are not observed for laws’ sake but for the service of love.   Otherwise, such observance of the law is mere hypocrisy.

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If Jesus’ words appeared to be harsh, it was not spoken in anger but in compassion for them, for as religious leaders, not only were they misleading their flock, but they would also miss out on the life of the kingdom.  We must not be misled into thinking that Jesus’ reprimand of the scribes and Pharisees lacked love.  On the contrary, at the end of the same chapter of the gospel we read Jesus lamenting, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.  Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Mt 23:37-39)

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For Jesus, everything is done in the name of love and for love.

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Similarly, we have the exemplary and lively faith of the Thessalonians.  These Christians knew little about their faith, for we will read later how they misunderstood the second coming of Christ.  However, they were people docile to the Spirit, open to the Word of God and sincere in living out the gospel life.  St Paul was full of admiration for them when he wrote how he constantly thanked God for how they “have shown (their) faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The faith of the Thessalonians was not simply an intellectual faith, but a faith that acts.  In the first place, St Paul commended them, “We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen, because when we brought the Good News to you, it came to you not only as words, but as power and as the Holy Spirit and as utter conviction.” In other words, they surrendered in obedience to the preaching of the apostles and accepted their words as from God in faith.  This was demonstrated in the way they broke with idolatry, the worship of false gods.  They might not be schooled in theology and scriptures, but in their simplicity, they accepted the teaching of the apostles as the Word of God.

Secondly, this faith in God was demonstrated in right living, as St Paul praised them saying, “You observed the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction” and how “When you were converted to God and became servants of the real, living God.”   In other words, they became servants of God and of each other in animated charity.   Theirs was not simply faith in God but for this faith to be real and true it must issue in love.  This was what they did.  They put their faith into action by works of charity.

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Thirdly, this faith was a faith that lived in hope, for they were waiting in hope for the coming of Jesus to save them from retribution.  The early Christians were so full of faith that in their simplicity, they thought that the Second Coming was near.  They were willing to abandon everything for the hope that was before them.  Faith, therefore, is the basis of hope.  Without faith, hope would be weak and be reduced to mere wishful thinking.  A firm hope must be rooted in faith and our faith is not in oneself but in God who alone can restore the world and redeem us.  Because of the surety of the hope before them, they could continue to love and give themselves to others even when they had to suffer for Christ.

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What about us?  Is our faith animated by charity and strengthened by hope?  Or do we give up easily and become disillusioned in times of difficulties and trials?  We must evaluate our faith seriously today.  Has my faith in God grown each day?  Do I trust in God more and more in living out my vocation in life?  Is this faith expressed in a growing charity manifested in generosity, kindness and compassion both for the poor, the marginalized and for members of the community?  Is our faith lived beyond this world and do we have a persevering hope in Jesus, especially in those moments when we face crises in our faith or in our struggles to be faithful in carrying our daily cross after Jesus?  Most of all, have we become more sensitive to sin in our lives so that we can grow in holiness and charity?

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As St Paul said, “We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen.”  Indeed, the key to a real living faith is to know that we are loved by the Lord and chosen by Him.  Only when we have experienced His love can we then in turn be empowered to love and continue to hope in Him, especially when trials come into our lives.   Yes, only this kind of faith can save us.  We can love God more and more when we know that He loves us because faith is the foundation of love and also the basis for the augmentation of love.  When we open ourselves to someone in faith, love will soon develop.  As we love, we learn to trust a person even more.  So faith and love accompanies each other and strengthens each other.  A legalistic faith will only make us self-righteous and unable to love freely from our hearts.  Let us pray that the faith of the Thessalonians will also be ours as we open our lives to Him in faith.

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Written by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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First Thoughts From Peace and Freedom

In yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter, but will not be strong enough.” (Luke 13:24)

Part of this process is understanding who we are as human beings — all the good we can do and all the mistakes we can make!

But we don’t stop there. Throughout our lives, Jesus expects us to get better and better. Our journey may be a tough one — but He promises all the support and help he can give, plus the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” inside of us as we encounter tougher and tougher challenges.

Related:

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From Bishop Robert Barron — “Strive to enter through the narrow gate”

To gain eternal life is to participate to the fullest degree possible in the very life of God. It is to walk the path of love, surrendering to grace and allowing this grace to flow through you to the wider world. Is this an easy task? No. The Gospel of Luke tells reminds us that the gate is narrow precisely because it is in the very shape of Jesus Himself, and entrance through the gate involves conformity to his state of being. The path of love is traveled by taking up one’s cross every day.

http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/homily/the-narrow-gate/5249/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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28 AUGUST, 2017, Monday
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A LIVING COMMUNITY OF FAITH IN THE SPIRIT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [1 TH 1:1-58-10PS 149:1-69MT 23:13-22 ]

The first reading presents to us a primitive Church that was very much alive in the faith, life-giving and fulfilling.  In contrast, the gospel presents to us a religion that is sterile and not life-giving.   These two illustrations show us what living faith entails and what causes a religion to lose favor with the people. Consequently, we must reflect on the struggles between those who have been institutionalized over a period of time and those who are still in their infancy.   

Firstly, St Paul praised his fellow Christians for breaking away from idolatry “when you were converted to God and became servants of the real, living God.”   They became aware that there was only one God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.   He is whom we are called to place our absolute trust.  Only this God is to be worshipped and served.  In Jesus, they came to know who God is.   In contrast, while the religious leaders during the time of Jesus claimed to love and serve God, they were worshipping themselves.  The real focus was not the worship of God but it was about their glory, status and appearing good before others.   Religion was made use for their own benefits.

Secondly, Paul commended the Thessalonians for observing “the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction.”  They were living out the Christian life of which Paul was a shining example of what it meant to worship the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul was conscious that he was setting himself to be a model of how Christian life should be lived.    They in turn were serious in living the life of the gospel and the life of Christ.  It was not just a nominal faith, like that which many of us subscribe to. This precisely was the case of the religious leaders.  They were finding fault with others who could not observe the laws.  Although they observed the laws meticulously, it was done more out of guilt and pride than out of love.  They knew that the poor could never observe the laws adequately.  Theirs was a religion for the rich and the elite.

Thirdly, their faith was not an abstract faith but with consequences in terms of relationship with others.  Paul said that we “constantly remember before God our Father how you have shown your faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ.”   Their faith was translated into works of love and charity.  They cared for and loved each other and reached out to those who were in need.  Faith was not a private affair or simply an escape into mystification but manifesting God through their lives of love and service.   But for the religious leaders, faith was simply about observance of the ritual laws.  It was not about their brothers and sisters.  There was no love for those who were sinners.  They were ever ready to condemn those who failed in their weaknesses to observe the laws.   In truth, the religious leaders were selective in choosing those laws that made them superior to the rest.  But they were not primarily concerned with whether what they were doing were really done out of love and compassion for their fellowmen.  

What is our analysis of the faith of the early Christians and that of the Jewish people? In the same way, we can also compare the vibrant and evangelistic fervor of the early Christians with that of our institutionalized churches today.  It is true that even today, new-found Christian evangelical communities tend to be more alive, adaptive and creative.  But those that have been established over the years, particularly, the traditional Churches like the Catholic and the reformed Churches, tend to be much more protective of their traditions. Indeed, this seems to be the sociological development of any community or organization.  The founders and the pioneers of the movements tend to be prophetic, zealous and filled with the spirit.  But over the years, the members of that movement or organization that carries the spirit of the founder would tend to become ritualistic, routine and mechanical.

What is the cause?  It is the absence of the Spirit at work in our lives.   St Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, saying, “We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen, because when we brought the Good News to you, it came to you not only as words, but as power and as the Holy Spirit and as utter conviction.”   Indeed, the early Christians felt strongly the presence of God in their lives.  They encountered the love of God in Jesus Christ.  They were deeply grateful for encountering the Good News and to be chosen as Jesus’ adopted brothers and sisters.   And because they believed wholeheartedly the Good News, they in turn became people who acted under the power of the Holy Spirit.  In the early Church, we read of the use of their charisms and the working of miracles that testify to the power of the Spirit of the Risen Lord at work in their lives.

Unfortunately for us today, many of us are born into the faith.  We were brought up in a Catholic ambiance.   We breathe the faith the moment we were born because of our parents’ faith and religious upbringing.   Many of us through habit and custom, inherited the faith and practise them without questioning.   At times we can experience, like our parents, the love and mercy of God.   But if our parents are not faith-filled, then our experience of God is going to be rather shallow and weak.  We will only end up doing all the Catholic practices such as attending mass and abstinence, but there is no real personal relationship with the Lord as there are no family prayers, no sharing of the Word of God, no personal testimony of how God is at work in our lives.   It is reduced to mere observance of the commandments of the Church, going for boring masses and listening to uninspiring homilies that do not speak to our needs.  In such a situation, we lose the zeal and the fire of our forefathers’ faith in Christ.

This is what the Lord is warning those of us who are supposedly to be leaders in faith, whether we are religious or lay.  “You who shut up the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to.”   If we ourselves have not encountered God like the Jewish leaders, how can we ever help people to experience the love and mercy of God?  Instead of leading people closer to God, we lead them further away from Him.  If we have not learnt the meaning of prayer and who God is, how can we ever instruct others to pray rightly.   If we do not have faith in God and the Bible as the Word of God, how can we teach?  The truth is that the blind is leading the blind.

We will be like the religious leaders, using our knowledge of the doctrines and the laws to find loopholes so that we can circumvent from having to observe the laws.  They were not interested in observing the laws but finding ways and means to bypass the laws and feel justified before God and men.  Such people twist and turn the gospel, as many do today, to justify their rationale for subscribing to teachings that are contrary to the bible.  Of course we can always rationalize for all that we want to do.  We can make the bible fit our ways rather than fit our ways to the Word of God.   Unlike the early Christians, we do not take the Word of God as God’s words.  “We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.”  (1 Th 2:13)

Indeed, as Jesus sighed, “You who travel over sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when you have him you make him twice as fit for hell as you are.”   Instead of helping people to become more Christ-like by converting them to Catholicism, we form them to become bigoted, legalistic, judgmental.  Then there is also the irony of bringing new converts to the faith every year when there are many more who have left the Church without us batting our eyelids, because their faith is weak and they are ill-formed in the faith?

So let us renew our love for the Lord.  This is what the psalmist is inviting us, Sing a new song to the Lord, his praise in the assembly of the faithful. Let the praise of God be on their lips: this honour is for all his faithful.”   Only in praising God and worshipping Him in faith and love, can we find the strength to live out our faith in hope and confidence.

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

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How St. Augustine came into My Own Life

Troubled in the middle of the night, I went to an  Adoration Chapel to pray. After an our or so, I paced around and noticed a bookshelf. I pulled out “Confessions” by St. Augustine and opened it at random to this page and read:

But when a deep consideration had from the secret bottom of my soul drawn together and heaped up all my misery in the sight of my heart; there arose a mighty storm, bringing a mighty shower of tears. Which that I might pour forth wholly, in its natural expressions, I rose from Alypius: solitude was suggested to me as fitter for the business of weeping; so I retired so far that even his presence could not be a burden to me. Thus was it then with me, and he perceived something of it; for something I suppose I had spoken, wherein the tones of my voice appeared choked with weeping, and so had risen up. He then remained where we were sitting, most extremely astonished. I cast myself down I know not how, under a certain fig-tree, giving full vent to my tears; and the floods of mine eyes gushed out an acceptable sacrifice to Thee. And, not indeed in these words, yet to this purpose, spake I much unto Thee: and Thou, O Lord, how long? how long, Lord, wilt Thou be angry for ever? Remember not our former iniquities, for I felt that I was held by them. I sent up these sorrowful words: How long, how long, “to-morrow, and tomorrow?” Why not now? why not is there this hour an end to my uncleanness?

So was I speaking and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo! I heard from a neighbouring house a voice, as of boy or girl, I know not, chanting, and oft repeating, “Take up and read; Take up and read.” Instantly, my countenance altered, I began to think most intently whether children were wont in any kind of play to sing such words: nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the book, and read the first chapter I should find. For I had heard of Antony, that coming in during the reading of the Gospel, he received the admonition, as if what was being read was spoken to him: Go, sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me: and by such oracle he was forthwith converted unto Thee. Eagerly then I returned to the place where Alypius was sitting; for there had I laid the volume of the Apostle when I arose thence. I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell: Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, in concupiscence. No further would I read; nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.

Then putting my finger between, or some other mark, I shut the volume, and with a calmed countenance made it known to Alypius. And what was wrought in him, which I knew not, he thus showed me. He asked to see what I had read: I showed him; and he looked even further than I had read, and I knew not what followed. This followed, him that is weak in the faith, receive; which he applied to himself, and disclosed to me. And by this admonition was he strengthened; and by a good resolution and purpose, and most corresponding to his character, wherein he did always very far differ from me, for the better, without any turbulent delay he joined me. Thence we go in to my mother; we tell her; she rejoiceth: we relate in order how it took place; she leaps for joy, and triumpheth, and blesseth Thee, Who are able to do above that which we ask or think; for she perceived that Thou hadst given her more for me, than she was wont to beg by her pitiful and most sorrowful groanings. For thou convertedst me unto Thyself, so that I sought neither wife, nor any hope of this world, standing in that rule of faith, where Thou hadst showed me unto her in a vision, so many years before. And Thou didst convert her mourning into joy, much more plentiful than she had desired, and in a much more precious and purer way than she erst required, by having grandchildren of my body.

 

St. Augustine found me and encouraged me to read. Since that encounter I have read and studied many of the great “Christian Classics.”

John Francis Carey

Related:

The Ladder of St. Augustine
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Saint Augustine! well hast thou said,
That of our vices we can frame
A ladder, if we will but tread
Beneath our feet each deed of shame!

All common things, each day’s events,
That with the hour begin and end,
Our pleasures and our discontents,
Are rounds by which we may ascend.

The low desire, the base design,
That makes another’s virtues less;
The revel of the ruddy wine,
And all occasions of excess;

The longing for ignoble things;
The strife for triumph more than truth;
The hardening of the heart, that brings
Irreverence for the dreams of youth;

All thoughts of ill; all evil deeds,
That have their root in thoughts of ill;
Whatever hinders or impedes
The action of the nobler will;

All these must first be trampled down
Beneath our feet, if we would gain
In the bright fields of fair renown
The right of eminent domain.

We have not wings, we cannot soar;
But we have feet to scale and climb
By slow degrees, by more and more,
The cloudy summits of our time.

The mighty pyramids of stone
That wedge-like cleave the desert airs,
When nearer seen, and better known,
Are but gigantic flights of stairs.

The distant mountains, that uprear
Their solid bastions to the skies,
Are crossed by pathways, that appear
As we to higher levels rise.

The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.

Standing on what too long we bore
With shoulders bent and downcast eyes,
We may discern — unseen before —
A path to higher destinies,

Nor deem the irrevocable Past,
As wholly wasted, wholly vain,
If, rising on its wrecks, at last
To something nobler we attain.

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

July 24, 2017

Feast of Saint James, Apostle
Lectionary: 605

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting

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

Reading 1  2 COR 4:7-15

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

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

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

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

Alleluia  SEE JN 15:16

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

Gospel  MT 20:20-28

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

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

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REMOVING THE OBSTACLES FROM SEEING AND HEARING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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St. John Chrysostom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. John Chrysostom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We also must learn this lesson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 21, 2017

Image result for vintage Rolls-Royce, photos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was the turning point I needed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview by LOUISE ATKINSON

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

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

June 19, 2017

Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 366

Image result for hugging the leper, art, pictures

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

Reading 1 2 COR 8:1-9

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

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

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

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

Alleluia JN 13:34

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

Gospel  MT 5:43-48

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mother Teresa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 10, 2017

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Lectionary: 164

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

Reading 1  EX 34:4B-6, 8-9

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

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

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

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

Reading 2 2 COR 13:11-13

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

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

AlleluiaCF. RV 1:8

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

Gospel JN 3:16-18

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

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From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

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

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

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

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

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

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 21, 2017

Saturday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 266

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

Reading 1 ACTS 4:13-21

Observing the boldness of Peter and John
and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men,
the leaders, elders, and scribes were amazed,
and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus.
Then when they saw the man who had been cured standing there with them,
they could say nothing in reply.
So they ordered them to leave the Sanhedrin,
and conferred with one another, saying,
“What are we to do with these men?
Everyone living in Jerusalem knows that a remarkable sign
was done through them, and we cannot deny it.
But so that it may not be spread any further among the people,
let us give them a stern warning
never again to speak to anyone in this name.”

So they called them back
and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.
Peter and John, however, said to them in reply,
“Whether it is right in the sight of God
for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges.
It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”
After threatening them further,
they released them,
finding no way to punish them,
on account of the people who were all praising God
for what had happened.

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

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

Alleluia PS 118:24

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

Gospel MK 16:9-15

When Jesus had risen, early on the first day of the week,
he appeared first to Mary Magdalene,
out of whom he had driven seven demons.
She went and told his companions who were mourning and weeping.
When they heard that he was alive
and had been seen by her, they did not believe.

After this he appeared in another form
to two of them walking along on their way to the country.
They returned and told the others;
but they did not believe them either.

But later, as the Eleven were at table, he appeared to them
and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart
because they had not believed those
who saw him after he had been raised.
He said to them, “Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

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

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Reflection From Christian Women’s Corner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gospel Reflection From Father Afonse

Doubts, disbelief, fears and terror. These are the sights and sounds of the early Church as they waited for their eyes to see the Risen Lord.
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Surprise, joy, boldness and outreach. These are the sights and sounds of those whom the Lord revealed himself to.
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In the Acts of the Apostles we witness an on-going transformation that continues to rock our world today. The Eleven, who were once locked in fear, can no longer contain themselves. They must proclaim the Good News, not because they received a death threat from the Lord but because they received his life. What was once considered impossible or dangerous (like being recognized, going out into the streets and preaching the Truth; preaching Jesus as Lord and God; preaching to the Jews and standing before the leaders, the elders and the chief priests, etc.) they now do without hesitation. They believe in themselves because the Lord believes in them.
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When we believe in God, we begin to believe in ourselves. Nothing is impossible! Nothing, for nothing matters more than the Lord. What will separate me from the love of God: tribulations, betrayals, fear, suffering and pain, anxieties, bitterness, ridicule, loss of life, death, even death on a cross? Nothing. Nothing will separate me from the love of God. The old man is dead, buried and gone away. The new man has risen from the dead, and has been sent by the Lord.
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Here I am Lord, send me! And he does, like he always has, and he will continue to bear fruit through me and after me.
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How many times have I said, Enough!? Too many. How many times have I said, I can’t do this anymore!? Too many. How many times have I said, I will never make a difference”? Too many. I could go on and on, so many more doubts come to my mind as I write this list. But the Lord loves me and loves sharing everything with me, even my dirty laundry list! The doubts we have the Apostles shared too. We, the modern-intelligent creatures, have the same doubts as the Apostles, those uncivilized-uneducated men. Yes, they may have said the exact same thing, but look and see for yourself what they did. They lived for the Lord and not for themselves. They believed in God because God shared his belief in them. He lifted them up! He told them as he told me, “Go and sin no more.” God has more faith in us than we have in Him!
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The Apostles woke up one morning and rocked the world. They had finally learned all things from the Master, and they began to imitate Him in everything – even his resurrection; for the Lord was the first to wake up one Sunday morning and change the world forever! We must do the same thing. Awake, O sleeper, arise from thy slumber. Christ is calling you by name!
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 APRIL, 2017, Saturday within Easter Octave
IRRESISTIBLE POWER OF GRACE

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

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

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

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

In the face of the power of grace, we can take two approaches.  One is to reject and the other is to accept.  The Jewish leaders took the path of denial and rejection.  “So they ordered them to stand outside while the Sanhedrin had a private discussion. ‘What are we going to do with these men?’ they asked.”  And the decision reached was “to stop the whole thing spreading any further among the people, let us caution them never to speak to anyone in this name again.”  Instead of dealing and reflecting on the marvelous event, they sought to quash it for fear of losing their status quo, their position in society and their institutions.  And they knew that they were wrong.  Instead, “the court repeated the warnings and then released them; they could not think of any way to punish them, since all the people were giving glory to God for what had happened.”   They refused to recognize the facts that were so obvious before their eyes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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